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John Wilmot 2nd Earl of Rochester

Who was The Earl of Rochester, John Wilmot…..?

I find it hard to pin down who Rochester was, maybe it is because he revealed of much contradictory emotion in his verse, or maybe it is his reputation of which so much is written about displays the uneasy relation between actions , feelings and expression. I highly recommend the Movie version of his life ,The Libertine (2004) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0375920/.

But there must be so much more, I read and (re)read some of his poems and wonder “How?” other poems fit easily into Restoration literature taken to its absurdist extreame.  Rochester was maybe never sure who he was himself, explaining his ‘inconstancy, his drinking, his syphilis, and is disguises…

“All I shall say for myself on this score is this, if I appear to any one like a counterfeit, even for the sake of that chiefly ought I to be construed a true man, [for] who is the counterfeit’s example, his original, and that which he employs his industry and pains to imitate and copy? Is it therefore my fault if the cheat by his wits and endeavours makes himself so like me, that consequently I cannot avoid resembling of him?”

-from Dr. Alexander Bendo’s advertisement of services (in the 1696 edition of Poems, page 138; see below)

All of these paradoxes keep me reading Rochester and finding New customers for his books , currently I have three editions of his works [1696,1705 and 1709. and a copy of Burnet’s “some Passages 1680]

Here is a link to the Poetry Foundations very good biography of him. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/john-wilmot

 

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Love and Life: A Song

BY JOHN WILMOT, EARL OF ROCHESTER

All my past life is mine no more,
         The flying hours are gone,
Like transitory dreams giv’n o’er,
Whose images are kept in store
         By memory alone.
The time that is to come is not;
         How can it then be mine?
The present moment’s all my lot;
And that, as fast as it is got,
         Phyllis, is only thine.
Then talk not of inconstancy,
         False hearts, and broken vows;
If I, by miracle, can be
This live-long minute true to thee,
         ’Tis all that Heav’n allows.

Rochester is generally considered to be the most considerable poet and the most learned among the Restoration wits. A few of his love songs have passionate intensity; many are bold and frankly erotic celebrations of the pleasures of the flesh. He is also one of the most original and powerful of English satirists. His “History of Insipids” (1676) is a devastating attack on the government of Charles II, and his “Maim’d Debauchee” has been described as “a masterpiece of heroic irony.” A Satyr Against Mankind(1675) anticipates Swift in its scathing denunciation of rationalism and optimism and in the contrast it draws between human perfidy and folly and the instinctive wisdom of the animal world.

In 1674 Rochester was appointed ranger of Woodstock Forest, where much of his later poetry was written. His health was declining, and his thoughts were turning to serious matters. His correspondence (dated 1679–80) with the Deist Charles Blount shows a keen interest in philosophy and religion, further stimulatedsc_0128d by his friendship with Gilbert Burnet, later bishop of Salisbury. Burnet recorded their religious discussions in Some Passages of the Life and Death of John, Earl of Rochester (1680).
(see a description below of a copy currently in my stock) In 1680 he became seriously ill and experienced a religious conversion, followed by a recantation of his past; he ordered “all his profane and lewd writings” burned.

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735F     Wilmot, John. Earl of Rochester.     1647-1680

 Poems, (&c.) on several occasions: with Valentinian: a tragedy. Written by the right honourable John late earl of Rochester.

London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, 1696      $6,600

dsc_0132Octavo, 11 x 17.5 cm.  Second edition. A8,a8, B-R8

The spine has been rebacked with the original boards so the binding is tight and secure throughout, and bound with new endpapers. A previous owner has written his name several times throughout but this does not affect the text and indeed adds to the book. The pages are clean, if browned. The only flaw is wormholes to the pages’ top margins. These are predominantly from page 200 to the end but with other smaller worming present in the book. There has also been some bookworm damage to the rear board, and this has now been repaired. Needless to say, the worms are long since gone.

“During Rochester’s lifetime only a few of his writings were printed as broadsides or in miscellanies, [Later this week I’ll write about Miscellanies]  but many of his works were known widely from manuscript copies, a considerable number of which seem to have existed. ( I do wish I could come apon one of these!) […] In February of 1690/91, Jacob Tonson, the most reputable publisher of the day, produced a volume entitled ‘Poems On Several Occasions.’ The appearance of the author’s name and title on the title-page is significant. It may indicate that this edition was produced with the approval of the Earl’s family and friends, and it is possible that they may have intervened to prevent the publication of Saunders’s projected edition [license obtained from the Stationer’s Company by Saunders in November of 1690, no edition was ever produced]. Tonson’s edition is introduced by a laudatory preface written by Thomas Rymer which states that the book contains ‘such Pieces only, as may be receiv’d in a vertuous Court’ and is therefore to be regarded only as a selection of Rochester’s writings. Nevertheless it contains, in addition to twenty-three genuine poems which had appeared in the [pirated] Antwerp editions of 1680, sixteen others, including some of Rochester’s best lyrics. No spurious material seems to have been admitted to this collection, but there is a possibility that salacious passages may have been toned down to suit the taste of a ‘virtuous Court.’”

“[Wilmot] is one of these English poets who deserve to be called ‘great’ as daring and original explorers of reality; his place is with such memorable spiritual adventurers as Marlowe, Blake, Byron, Wilfred Owen and D. H. Lawrence. Like Byron and Lawrence, he was denounced as licentious, because he was a devastating critic of conventional morality. Alone among the English poets of his day, he perceived the full significance of the intellectual and spiritual crisis of that age. His poetry expresses individual experience in a way that no other poetry does till the time of Blake. It makes us feel what it was like to live in a world which had been suddenly transformed by the scientists into a vast machine governed by mathematical laws, where God has become a remote first cause and man  an insignificant ‘reas’ning Engine.’ [See ‘A Satyr Against Mankind] In his time there was beginning the great Augustan attempt to found a new orthodoxy on the Cartesian-Newtonian world-picture, a civilized city of good taste, common sense and reason. Rochester’s achievement was to reject this new orthodoxy at the very outset. He made three attempts to solve the problem of man’s position in the new mathematical universe. The first was the adoption of the ideal of the purely aesthetic hero, the ‘Strephon’ of his lyrics and the brilliant and fascinating Dorimant of Etherege’s comedy. It was a purely selfish ideal of the ethical hero, the disillusioned and penetrating observer of the satires. This ideal was related to truth, but its relationship was purely negative. The third was the ideal of the religious hero, who bore a positive relation to truth. This was the hero who rejected the ‘Fools-Coat’ of the world and lived by an absolute passion for reality. In his short life Rochester may be said to have anticipated the Augustan Age and the Romantic Movement and passed beyond both. In the history of English thought his poetry is an event of the highest significance. Much of it remains alive in its own right in the twentieth century, because it is what D.H. Lawrence called ‘poetry of this immediate present, instant poetry … the soul and the mind and body surging at once, nothing left out.” (Quoted from Vivian de Sola Pinto’s edition of Wilmot’s Poems published by ‘The Muses Library’)

Wing 1757; Prinz XIV;Grolier’s Wither to Prior #987;  O’Donnell A 16  (Prologue), BB 4.1c.    

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756d     Burnet, Gilbert.   1643-1715

 

 Some Passages Of The Life and Death Of the Right Honourable John Earl of Rochester, Who died the 26th of July, 1680. Writen by his own Direction on his Death-Bed, By Gilbert Burnet, D.D.

 

London: Printed for Richard Chiswel, at the Rose and Crown in St. Pauls Church-Yard, 1680         $1,600   Octavo, 6.7 x 4.3 inches.  First edition, second issue without the errata on A8 verso. A-N8 (A1 and N8 blank). The portrait of the Earl of Rochester is bound opposite the title page. This copy is bound in contemporary full calf, blindstamped borders, with loss at the spine head. A previous owner’s ink and pencil notes to endpapers, and a previous owner has inked a simple design. The upper corner of the lower board is cracked.

 

John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester was known as a libertine and a poet, and often referred to as the “Rake of Rochester.” This work is the product of Rochester’s death-bed repentance, when he charged Burnet “not to spare him in anything which [he] thought might be of use to the Living.” Burnet, while obliged to mention the faults, added: “I have touched them as tenderly as the Occasion would bear: and I am sure with much more softness than he desired”. As Dr. Johnson wrote: “This is a work which the critic ought to read for its elegance, the philosopher for its arguments, and the saint for its piety.”

Wither to Prior 125; Wing B-5922.

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1007E Wilmot, John. Earl of Rochester.    1647-1680

 

     Poems, On several occasions: with Valentinian: a tragedy. Written by the right honourable John late Earl of Rochester.

 

London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, 1705    $4,500

 

Octavo, 7.5 X 4.5 inches .  The third edition of the authentic works. A8, a8 B- R8  This copy is bounds in modern panneled calf,in a early eighteenth style. It has the lighter than usual age spotting through out  for this edition, a very nice copy.

Prinz XVII* ( an exact reperint of the 1691 XIII {the best collection }

Grolier’s Wither to Prior #988;  O’Donnell A 16  (Prologue), BB 4.1c.

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349F  Rochester, John Wilmot, Earl of.    1647-1680

 

      The Works of the Right Honourable the Earls of Rochester, and Roscommon. With Some Memoirs of the Earl of Rochester’s Life, by Monsieur St. Evremont: In a Letter to the Dutchess of Mazarine. The Third Edition. To which is added, A Collection of Miscellany Poems. By the most Eminent Hands.      [bound with]                                                                                                                                                        Miscellaneous Works by the Right Honourable The Earl of Roscommon

London: Printed by E. Curll, at the Peacock without Temple-Bar, 1709    SOLD

Octavo, 7.6 x 4.75 inches.  Third edition. [π]2, c8, a-b8, A-D8, E6 (Leaves E7 and E8, and F1-5 [pages 76 to 90] have all been sliced out of this copy because of the licentious nature of the poems therein.), F6-8, G-L8; A-M8, N1. This copy lacks the portrait of Rochester. This copy is in good condition in contemporary boards.

The following poems were excised from this copy: “A Description of a Maidenhead,” “The Virgin’s Desire,” “The Perfect Enjoyment,” and “The Imperfect Enjoyment.”

ESTC T95392.

 

Seven English Restoration Plays!

“FROM 1642 onward for eighteen years, the theaters of England remained nominally closed. There was of course evasion of the law; but whatever performances were offered had to be given in secrecy, before small companies in private houses, or in taverns located three or four miles out of town. No actor or spectator was safe, especially during the early days of the Puritan rule. Least of all was there any inspiration for dramatists. In 1660 the Stuart dynasty was restored to the throne of England. Charles II, the king, had been in France during the greater part of the Protectorate, together with many of the royalist party, all of whom were familiar with Paris and its fashions. Thus it was natural, upon the return of the court, that French influence should be felt, particularly in the theater. In August, 1660, Charles issued patents for two companies of players, and performances immediately began.”


( published in A Short History of the Theatre. Martha Fletcher Bellinger. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1927. pp. 249-59)

273F Susanna Centlivre 1667?-1723

The gamester: a comedy. As it is acted at the New Theatre in Lincolns-Fields by Her Majesty’s servants. The prologue spoke by Mr. Betterton. Written by N. Rowe, Esq

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London: Printed for J. Knapton, in St. Paul’s Church-Yard, E. Curll at the Dial and the Bible, R. Gosling at the Mitre and Crown, both against St. Dunstan’s — Church in Fleetstreet, and A. Bettesworth on London-Bridge, 1714                             $950

Duodecimo 6.3 x 3.75 inches A4, B-D12, E2. 75 pages. Third edition. This copy has a pale splotch on the title page, and two leaves have a slight water stain. It is a large copy, and has been recently rebound in full parchment over boards.

“A sad lot were all these early feminine intruders into the field of letters, —Aphra Behn, Mrs. Manley, Mrs. Pilkington, and the rest. Mrs. Centlivre was the best of them.   Almost the first of her sex to adopt literature as a calling, she may well be regarded as an unconscious reformer, the leader of a forlorn hope against that literary fortress which was so long defended by the cruel sneers of its masculine garrison. She fell upon the glacis. But over her body the Amazons have marched on to victory.” (H. A. Huntington, “Mrs. Centlivre,” Atlantic Monthly, 1882, vol. 49, page 764DSC_0038 (1)

.“[Centlivre’s] plays have a provoking spirit and volatile salt in them, which still preserves them, from decay. Congreve is said to have been jealous of their success at the time, and that it was one cause which drove him in disgust from the stage. If so, it was without any good reason, for these plays have great and intrinsic merit in them, which entitled them to their popularity, and besides, their merit was of a kind entirely different from his own.” (William Hazlitt, 1818, “Lectures on the English Comic Writers,” Lecture viii.The original source for the plot line was Jean Francois Regnard’s “Le Joueur.” The prologue was written by Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718). ESTC T26857; NCBEL II, 781.

 

759F John Dryden 1631-1700

The Indian Emperour; or, the Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards. Being the Sequel of the Indian Queen.

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London, Printed for H. Herringman, and are to be sold by Joseph Knight, and Francis Saunders, at the Sign of the Blue Anchor in the Lower Walk of the New Exchange, 1686     $1,100

Quarto 15.5 x 20 cm A-I4  Fifth Edition Disbound, some spotting but otherwise in fine condition.

 The Indian Emperor or The Conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards 1665, rhymed heroic tragedy comes into full being. The Indian Emperor gave an adequate test of the heroic couplet in serious drama and established Dryden’s position as a dramatist. In the conflicts of love and honour between characters of high rank, including personages like Montezuma and Cortez, who move, before a foreign and semi historical background, through scenes of stirring incident toward the triumphant union of martial hero and angelic heroine and the death of those unable to survive the tragic stress, Dryden assembled many elements of earlier English plays, and wedded heroic action to the heroic couplet by the new formula of ‘heroic drama’.” (Nettleton, 55-56)

DSC_0037 (1)John Dryden , “English poet, dramatist, and literary critic who so dominated the literary scene of his day that it came to be known as the Age of Dryden…The son of a country gentleman, Dryden grew up in the country. When he was 11 years old the Civil War broke out. Both his father’s and mother’s families sided with Parliament against the king, but Dryden’s own sympathies in his youth are unknown.About 1644 Dryden was admitted to Westminster School, where he received a predominantly classical education under the celebrated Richard Busby. His easy and lifelong familiarity with classical literature begun at Westminster later resulted in idiomatic English translations.In 1650 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took his B.A. degree in 1654. What Dryden did between leaving the university in 1654 and the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 is not known with certainty. In 1659 his contribution to a memorial volume for Oliver Cromwell marked him as a poet worth watching.
His “heroic stanzas” were mature, considered, sonorous, and sprinkled with those classical and scientific allusions that characterized his later verse. This kind of public poetry was always one of the things Dryden did best.When in May 1660 Charles II was restored to the throne, Dryden joined the poets of the day in welcoming him, publishing in June Astraea Redux, a poem of more than 300 lines in rhymed couplets. For the coronation in 1661, he wrote To His Sacred Majesty. These two poems were designed to dignify and strengthen the monarchy and to invest the young monarch with an aura of majesty, permanence, and even divinity. Thereafter, Dryden’s ambitions and fortunes as a writer were shaped by his relationship with the monarchy. On Dec. 1, 1663, he married Elizabeth Howard, the youngest daughter of Thomas Howard, 1st earl of Berkshire. In due course she bore him three sons.Dryden’s longest poem to date, Annus Mirabilis (1667), was a celebration of two victories by the English fleet over the Dutch and the Londoners’ survival of the Great Fire of 1666. In this work Dryden was once again gilding the royal image and reinforcing the concept of a loyal nation united under the best of kings. It was hardly surprising that when the poet laureate, Sir William Davenant, died in 1668, Dryden was appointed poet laureate in his place and two years later was appointed royal historiographer…Soon after his restoration to the throne in 1660, Charles II granted two patents for theatres, which had been closed by the Puritans in 1642. Dryden soon joined the little band of dramatists who were writing new plays for the revived English theatre. His first play, The Wild Gallant,( see below) a farcical comedy with some strokes of humor and a good deal of licentious dialogue, was produced in 1663. It was a comparative failure, but in January 1664 he had some share in the success of The Indian Queen, a heroic tragedy in rhymed couplets in which he had collaborated with Sir Robert Howard, his brother-in-law. Dryden was soon to successfully exploit this new and popular genre, with its conflicts between love and honour and its lovely heroines before whose charms the blustering heroes sank down in awed submission. In the spring of 1665 Dryden had his own first outstanding success with The Indian Emperour, a play that was a sequel to The Indian Queen….Besides being the greatest English poet of the later 17th century, Dryden wrote almost 30 tragedies, comedies, and dramatic operas. He also made a valuable contribution in his commentaries on poetry and drama, which are sufficiently extensive and original to entitle him to be considered, in the words of Dr. Samuel Johnson, as “the father of English criticism.”After Dryden’s death his reputation remained high for the next 100 years, and even in the Romantic period the reaction against him was never so great as that against Alexander Pope. In the 20th century there was a notable revival of interest in his poems, plays, and criticism, and much scholarly work was done on them. In the late 20th century his reputation stood almost as high as at any time since his death. (Sutherland, encyclopedia Britannica)

Wing D 2293; Woodward & McManaway 420; MacDonald, H. John Dryden; 69f

 

252F John Dryden 1631-1700

The Wild Gallant: A Comedy. As it was Acted at the Theater-Royal, By His Majesties Servants. Written By John Dryden, Esq;

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London: Printed by H. Hills, for H. Herringman, at the Blew-Anchor, in the Lower-Walk of the New-Exchange, 1684                            $600

Quarto 8.5 x 6.5 inches A3, B-H4, [I]1. 55 pp. Second edition. This copy is bound in neat tan cloth and corners with marbled paper boards and a gold-lettered spine.

The Wild Gallant was Dryden’s first play, it was “acted at the King’s House on the fifth of February, 1662/3. It failed, and was withdrawn. An attempt waDSC_0040s made, under the auspices of Lady Castlemaine, to give it a little fashion at court, where it was acted on the twenty-third of February, but with no better result. The audience could not reconcile the title with the story, nor make out with certainty which was the ‘Wild Gallant.’ ‘The king,’ says Pepys, ‘did not seem
pleased at all the whole play, nor any body else.’ […] The comedy was revived, with considerable alterations, in the season of 1667, not 1669, as stated by Sir Walter Scott, who, in this and other instances, assumes the date of publication as determining the date of production. Dryden excuses himself in the prologue on the revival, for not having originally made the play sufficiently licentious, and promises to make amends in future. ‘It would be doing him a great injustice,’ says honest Mr. Genest, ‘not to acknowledge that he was as good as his word.’” (Annotated Edition of the English Poets, by Robert Bell) Wing D-2401; MacD 72c; W & M 487.

 

253F John Dryden 1631-1700

An Evening’s Love: Or, The Mock-Astrologer. As it is Acted By Their Majesties Servants. By Mr. Dryden.

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London: Printed for Henry Herringman, and are to be sold by Richard Bentley, at the Post-House in Russel-street, Covent-Garden, 1691                               $750

Quarto 8.6 x 6.5 inches A-K4. 63 pp. Fourth edition. This copy is disbound.

DSC_0037 (3)“Produced at the King’s House on the twenty-second of June, 1668. The descent of this comedy has been traced through the French from the Spanish. There is no mistaking its origin. The Spanish dances in its veins with a sprightliness Dryden has nowhere so pleasantly sustained. The most curious element in it is the intimate knowledge it reveals of the mysteries of astrology. The state of society that could have endured the prologue to this must have renounced even the affectation of decency.” (Annotated Edition of the English Poets, by Robert Bell) Wing D-2276; MacD 75d; W & M 413.

 

254F [John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester] Earl of Rochester & Fletcher, John 1647-1680

Valentinian: A Tragedy. As ‘tis Alter’d by the late Earl of Rochester, And Acted at the Theatre-Royal. Together with a Preface concerning the Author and his Writings. By one of his Friends.

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London: Printed for Timothy Goodwin at the Maiden-head against St. Dunstans-Church in Fleetstreet, 1685                                           $ 5,500

Quarto 8.7 x 6.6 inches A4, a-c4, B-L4, M2. 82 pp. First edition. This is bound in paper wrappers The title is a little stained and it is trimmed close but it is overall a decent copy.

Valentinian is a Jacobean era stage play, a revenge tragedy written by John Fletcher that was originally published in the first Beaumont and Fletcher folio of 1647. The play dramatizes the story of Valentinian III, one of the last of the Roman Emperors, as recorded by the classical historian Procopius.Like many plays in Fletcher’s canon, Valentinian was both revived and adapted during the Restoration period. This adaptation under the same title by the poet and playwright John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester was staged in 1684 at Drury Lane and published in 1685. Rochester changed the play’s order of scenes and eliminated the final act entirely, making Fletcher’s heroine Lucina the central focus of the drama.

The manuscript copy of Rochester’s version is titled “Lucina’s Rape.” Pinto regards Rochester’s work as a transforming of a loosely structured melodrama into a “symbolic poem full of profound meaning.” It may not have been performed until 1684, and it was not published until 1685. This text was taken from a prompt copy of Lucina’s Rape , and reveals that Rochester’s reworking itself had been further ‘Alter’d’ to the extent of having four scenes reordered and 86 lines removed.   Lucina’s Rape Or The Tragedy of Vallentinian , British Library Add. MS 28692 (title-page) What obviously appealed to Rochester was the basis for a satiric portrait of Charles II provided by Fletcher’s portrayal of a Roman emperor as a lustful monster. Rochester’s relationship with the King seems always to have been fragile, with the poet veering between seeing him as a father figure to respect and a fallen human being to despise

“An adaptation by Rochester, in poor taste, of Beaumont and Fletcher’s tragedy of ‘Valentinian’ appeared in 1685, under the title ‘Valentinian: a TrageDSC_0038 (2)dy.’ When the play was produced in 1685, Betterton played Aecius with much success and Mrs. Barry appeared as Lucina. Three prologues were printed, one by Mrs. Aphra Behn.

”The prologue by Aphra Behn is  a “long and eloquent defense of the character and writings of Rochester” (Pforzheimer)

 

 

 

 

 

Wing F-1354; W & M 1299; MacD 233; Pforzheimer 1069.

 

 

849G Sir George Etherege 1634?-1691

The comical revenge, or, love in a tub. Acted at His Highness the Duke of York’s Theatre in Lincolns-Inn-fields. Licensed, July 8. 1664.

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Roger L’Estrange London: Printed for Henry Herringman, and are to be sold at his shop at the Blew-Anchor in the Lower Walk of the New Exchange,1669                                $1,700

Quarto 8.75 x 6.5 inches A-I4, K4.(In this edition, there is a comma after title word “revenge” and leaf A2r has catchword “hope”. Another edition has a semi-colon after “revenge” and leaf A2r has catchword “the”.) This is a good copy, in boards. This is a rare edition Listing only 4 copies in ESTC.

The first work published by  Etherege was The Comical Revenge, or Love in a Tub. It was published in 1664 and may have been produced for the first time late in the previous year. This comedy was an immediate success and Etherege found himself, in a night, famous. Thus introduced to the wits and the fops of the town, Etherege took his place in the select and dissolute circle of Rochester, Dorset and Sedley. On one occasion, at Epsom, after tossing in a blanket certain fiddlers who refused to play, Rochester, Etherege and other boon companions so “skirmished the watch” that they left one of their number thrust through with a pike and were fain to abscond. Etherege married a fortune, it is not certain when, and, apparently for no better reason, was knighted. On the death of Rochester, he was, for some time, the “protector” of the beautiful and talented actress, Mrs. Barry. 63  Ever indolent and procrastinating, Etherege allowed four years to elapse before his next venture into comedy. She Would if She Could, 1668.“The reputation of Sir George Etherege has risen considerably in the present century, and although there is now some danger of his being given an importance that he would have been the first to disown, he undoubtedly stamped his own unemphatic image on the Restoration theater. The comic world of his first two plays, although it is almost as unreal to the modern playgoer as the world of Edwardian musical comedy, is still young and fresh; it has the cool fragrance of those early mornings in the sixteen-sixties that Etherege knew so well as he went rollicking home after a night of pleasure. […] His gentlemen never do anything that he and his friends would have been ashamed to do themselves. Whatever his moral standards may be, we have at least the satisfaction of feeling (as we do not with Dryden) that he is not consciously lowering them to make an English comedy. […] (Sutherland)

Wing E-3370; W & M 546; Hazlitt, page 45.

[Another edition]

137F Sir George Etherege 1634?-1691

The Comical Revenge: Or Love in a Tub. As it is now Acted By Their Majesty’s Servants. By Sir George Etherege.

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London: Printed by T. Warren for Henry Herringman, and are to be Sold by J. Tonson, F. Saunders, T. Bennet, and K.Bentley, 1697                                            $1,100

Quarto 8.75 x 6.5 inches A-I4, K2. Seventh edition. This play first appeared 1664. This is a good and clean copy. Bound in modern boards.

 Wing E-3373; W & M 550; Hazlitt, page 45.

 

 

 

 

 

Who was The Earl of Rochester, John Wilmot…..?

I find it hard to pin down who Rochester was, maybe it is because he revealed of much contradictory emotion in his verse, or maybe it is his reputation of which so much is written about displays the uneasy relation between actions , feelings and expression. I highly recommend the Movie version of his life ,The Libertine (2004) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0375920/.

But there must be so much more, I read and (re)read some of his poems and wonder “How?” other poems fit easily into Restoration literature taken to its absurdist extreame.  Rochester was maybe never sure who he was himself, explaining his ‘inconstancy, his drinking, his syphilis, and is disguises…

“All I shall say for myself on this score is this, if I appear to any one like a counterfeit, even for the sake of that chiefly ought I to be construed a true man, [for] who is the counterfeit’s example, his original, and that which he employs his industry and pains to imitate and copy? Is it therefore my fault if the cheat by his wits and endeavours makes himself so like me, that consequently I cannot avoid resembling of him?”

-from Dr. Alexander Bendo’s advertisement of services (in the 1696 edition of Poems, page 138; see below)

All of these paradoxes keep me reading Rochester and finding New customers for his books , currently I have three editions of his works [1696,1705 and 1709. and a copy of Burnet’s “some Passages 1680]

Here is a link to the Poetry Foundations very good biography of him. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/john-wilmot

 


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Love and Life: A Song

BY JOHN WILMOT, EARL OF ROCHESTER

All my past life is mine no more,
         The flying hours are gone,
Like transitory dreams giv’n o’er,
Whose images are kept in store
         By memory alone.
The time that is to come is not;
         How can it then be mine?
The present moment’s all my lot;
And that, as fast as it is got,
         Phyllis, is only thine.
Then talk not of inconstancy,
         False hearts, and broken vows;
If I, by miracle, can be
This live-long minute true to thee,
         ’Tis all that Heav’n allows.

Rochester is generally considered to be the most considerable poet and the most learned among the Restoration wits. A few of his love songs have passionate intensity; many are bold and frankly erotic celebrations of the pleasures of the flesh. He is also one of the most original and powerful of English satirists. His “History of Insipids” (1676) is a devastating attack on the government of Charles II, and his “Maim’d Debauchee” has been described as “a masterpiece of heroic irony.” A Satyr Against Mankind(1675) anticipates Swift in its scathing denunciation of rationalism and optimism and in the contrast it draws between human perfidy and folly and the instinctive wisdom of the animal world.

In 1674 Rochester was appointed ranger of Woodstock Forest, where much of his later poetry was written. His health was declining, and his thoughts were turning to serious matters. His correspondence (dated 1679–80) with the Deist Charles Blount shows a keen interest in philosophy and religion, further stimulated by his friendship with Gilbert Burnet, later bishop of Salisbury. Burnet recorded their religious discussions in Some Passages of the Life and Death of John, Earl of Rochester (1680).  (see a description below of a copy currently in my stock) In 1680 he became seriously ill and experienced a religious conversion, followed by a recantation of his past; he ordered “all his profane and lewd writings” burned.

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735F     Wilmot, John. Earl of Rochester.     1647-1680

 Poems, (&c.) on several occasions: with Valentinian: a tragedy. Written by the right honourable John late earl of Rochester.

London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, 1696      $6,600   Octavo, 11 x 17.5 cm.  Second edition. A8,a8, B-R8

The spine has been rebacked with the original boards so the binding is tight and secure throughout, and bound with new endpapers. A previous owner has written his name several times throughout but this does not affect the text and indeed adds to the book. The pages are clean, if browned. The only flaw is wormholes to the pages’ top margins. These are predominantly from page 200 to the end but with other smaller worming present in the book. There has also been some bookworm damage to the rear board, and this has now been repaired. Needless to say, the worms are long since gone.

“During Rochester’s lifetime only a few of his writings were printed as broadsides or in miscellanies, [Later this week I’ll write about Miscellanies]  but many of his works were known widely from manuscript copies, a considerable number of which seem to have existed. ( I do wish I could come apon one of these!) […] In February of 1690/91, Jacob Tonson, the most reputable publisher of the day, produced a volume entitled ‘Poems On Several Occasions.’ The appearance of the author’s name and title on the title-page is significant. It may indicate that this edition was produced with the approval of the Earl’s family and friends, and it is possible that they may have intervened to prevent the publication of Saunders’s projected edition [license obtained from the Stationer’s Company by Saunders in November of 1690, no edition was ever produced]. Tonson’s edition is introduced by a laudatory preface written by Thomas Rymer which states that the book contains ‘such Pieces only, as may be receiv’d in a vertuous Court’ and is therefore to be regarded only as a selection of Rochester’s writings. Nevertheless it contains, in addition to twenty-three genuine poems which had appeared in the [pirated] Antwerp editions of 1680, sixteen others, including some of Rochester’s best lyrics. No spurious material seems to have been admitted to this collection, but there is a possibility that salacious passages may have been toned down to suit the taste of a ‘virtuous Court.’”

“[Wilmot] is one of these English poets who deserve to be called ‘great’ as daring and original explorers of reality; his place is with such memorable spiritual adventurers as Marlowe, Blake, Byron, Wilfred Owen and D. H. Lawrence. Like Byron and Lawrence, he was denounced as licentious, because he was a devastating critic of conventional morality. Alone among the English poets of his day, he perceived the full significance of the intellectual and spiritual crisis of that age. His poetry expresses individual experience in a way that no other poetry does till the time of Blake. It makes us feel what it was like to live in a world which had been suddenly transformed by the scientists into a vast machine governed by mathematical laws, where God has become a remote first cause and man  an insignificant ‘reas’ning Engine.’ [See ‘A Satyr Against Mankind] In his time there was beginning the great Augustan attempt to found a new orthodoxy on the Cartesian-Newtonian world-picture, a civilized city of good taste, common sense and reason. Rochester’s achievement was to reject this new orthodoxy at the very outset. He made three attempts to solve the problem of man’s position in the new mathematical universe. The first was the adoption of the ideal of the purely aesthetic hero, the ‘Strephon’ of his lyrics and the brilliant and fascinating Dorimant of Etherege’s comedy. It was a purely selfish ideal of the ethical hero, the disillusioned and penetrating observer of the satires. This ideal was related to truth, but its relationship was purely negative. The third was the ideal of the religious hero, who bore a positive relation to truth. This was the hero who rejected the ‘Fools-Coat’ of the world and lived by an absolute passion for reality. In his short life Rochester may be said to have anticipated the Augustan Age and the Romantic Movement and passed beyond both. In the history of English thought his poetry is an event of the highest significance. Much of it remains alive in its own right in the twentieth century, because it is what D.H. Lawrence called ‘poetry of this immediate present, instant poetry … the soul and the mind and body surging at once, nothing left out.” (Quoted from Vivian de Sola Pinto’s edition of Wilmot’s Poems published by ‘The Muses Library’)
Wing 1757; Prinz XIV;Grolier’s Wither to Prior #987;  O’Donnell A 16  (Prologue), BB 4.1c.    

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756d     Burnet, Gilbert.   1643-1715

 

            Some Passages Of The Life and Death Of the Right Honourable John Earl of Rochester, Who died the 26th of July, 1680. Writen by his own Direction on his Death-Bed, By Gilbert Burnet, D.D.

 

London: Printed for Richard Chiswel, at the Rose and Crown in St. Pauls Church-Yard, 1680         $1,600   Octavo, 6.7 x 4.3 inches.  First edition, second issue without the errata on A8 verso. A-N8 (A1 and N8 blank). The portrait of the Earl of Rochester is bound opposite the title page. This copy is bound in contemporary full calf, blindstamped borders, with loss at the spine head. A previous owner’s ink and pencil notes to endpapers, and a previous owner has inked a simple design. The upper corner of the lower board is cracked.

 

John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester was known as a libertine and a poet, and often referred to as the “Rake of Rochester.” This work is the product of Rochester’s death-bed repentance, when he charged Burnet “not to spare him in anything which [he] thought might be of use to the Living.” Burnet, while obliged to mention the faults, added: “I have touched them as tenderly as the Occasion would bear: and I am sure with much more softness than he desired”. As Dr. Johnson wrote: “This is a work which the critic ought to read for its elegance, the philosopher for its arguments, and the saint for its piety.”
Wither to Prior 125; Wing B-5922.

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1007E Wilmot, John. Earl of Rochester.    1647-1680

 

     Poems, On several occasions: with Valentinian: a tragedy. Written by the right honourable John late Earl of Rochester.

 

London: Printed for Jacob Tonson, 1705    $4,500

 

Octavo, 7.5 X 4.5 inches .  The third edition of the authentic works. A8, a8 B- R8  This copy is bounds in modern panneled calf,in a early eighteenth style. It has the lighter than usual age spotting through out a very nice copy.
Prinz XVII* ( an exact reperint of the 1691 XIII {the best collection }
Grolier’s Wither to Prior #988;  O’Donnell A 16  (Prologue), BB 4.1c.

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349F  Rochester, John Wilmot, Earl of.    1647-1680

 

      The Works of the Right Honourable the Earls of Rochester, and Roscommon. With Some Memoirs of the Earl of Rochester’s Life, by Monsieur St. Evremont: In a Letter to the Dutchess of Mazarine. The Third Edition. To which is added, A Collection of Miscellany Poems. By the most Eminent Hands.      [bound with]                                                                                                                                                        Miscellaneous Works by the Right Honourable The Earl of Roscommon

London: Printed by E. Curll, at the Peacock without Temple-Bar, 1709    $950

Octavo, 7.6 x 4.75 inches.  Third edition. [π]2, c8, a-b8, A-D8, E6 (Leaves E7 and E8, and F1-5 [pages 76 to 90] have all been sliced out of this copy because of the licentious nature of the poems therein.), F6-8, G-L8; A-M8, N1. This copy lacks the portrait of Rochester. This copy is in good condition in contemporary boards.

The following poems were excised from this copy: “A Description of a Maidenhead,” “The Virgin’s Desire,” “The Perfect Enjoyment,” and “The Imperfect Enjoyment.”

ESTC T95392.

 

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