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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.

 

Orinda!!! Katherine Philips: Her Letters & Her Poems

In my next montly catalogue  Fascicule no VI I will be Listing there Editions of Orinda’s Poems

The Unauthorized very rare edition of 1664 (#717G)

The first Authorized edition of 1667

And the fourth edition of 1678!

It is not usual to find a printed book which gives us such a vivid depiction of the literary world for 17th century women, this is a great book and I am constantly amazed by it.

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Please enjoy reading about it.

103gPhilips, Katherine.1631-1664

Letters from Orinda to Poliarchus
 London: printed by W.B. for Bernard Lintott, 1705                       $5,500
Octavo,6.75 X 3.75 inches.  First edition A-R8  Bound in original calf totally un-restored a very nice original condition copy with only some browning, spotting and damp staining, It is a very good copy.

It is housed in a custom Box.

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This is a collection of 48 ( XLVIII) actual letters written by Philips to her patron Sir Charles Cotterell published several decades after her death, there is quit a bit of discussion of the literary culture of the seventh century in Britain. Including insite to Philips writing and reading habits. she often mentions books she is reading and plays which she is working on.

The daughter of a London merchant, Katherine Fowler [her maiden name] was probably the first English woman poet to have her work published and the forst woman author to have one of her plays performed for the public. She married a gentleman of substance from Cardigan, James Philips, and seems to have moved effortlessly into the literary circle adorned by Vaughan, Cowley, and Jeremy Taylor. One of her first publications was a commendatory poem to the 1651 edition of Cartwright’s Poems.

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117F Cartwright Poems 1651
117F Cartwright Poems 1651

She was best known by her pseudonym  Orinda and the name appears on the collection of her Letters, which give a useful picture of the early seventeenth-century literary world. Her translation of Corneille’s Pompee was performed in Dublin in 1663 and a collection of her verses was published posthumously in 1664.  According to Beal, “Philips appeared in print at least five times during her life time” (p. 155)

Philips was interested in the epistolary form, she founded the Society of Friendship in 1651 until 1661 was a semi-literary correspondence circle made up of mostly women, though men were also involved. The membership of this group, however, is somewhat questionable, because the authors took on pseudonyms from Classical literature (for example Katherine took on the name Orinda, in which the other members added on the accolade “Matchless.”)

It is interesting to see the relations between the female members of the circle, especially Anne Owen, who is known in Philips’s poems as Lucasia.  Half of Katherine’s poetry is dedicated to this woman. Anne and Katherine seem to have been lovers in an emotional, if not in a physical, sense for about ten years. Also significant as correspondents and lovers were Mary Awbrey (Rosania) and Elizabeth Boyle (Celimena). Elizabeth’s relationship with Katherine, however, was cut short by Philips’ death in 1664.

In  “The Sapphic-Platonics of Katherine Philips, 1632-1664”   Harriette Andreadis

Source:Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 15, no. 1 (autumn 1989): 34-60.

Ms Andreadis, in this essay nicely gives a view of Orinda’s live (and Loves) in relation to her writing by using excerpts from her poems andThese letters;

“That these poems were not merely clever exercises in courtly convention by a woman seeking reputation and patronage (as were, perhaps, some of her Restoration poems addressed to royalty) is confirmed by the circumstances of Philips’s life and letters. Born Katherine Fowler, the daughter of a prosperous London cloth merchant, in 1648 she married James Philips, whom she was to call Antenor in keeping with her penchant for devising pseudo-classical names for her intimates. She was sixteen; he was fifty-four. Clearly, in this marriage, probably arranged by her mother, she loved and respected her husband as she was socially and morally bound to do. Yet, clearly also, there was much distance between them in addition to their respective ages. He lived on the remote west coast of Wales at Cardigan Priory, while she was attached to the intellectual and social amenities of London and took, or created, every opportunity to return to literary and court circles. Her politics were also different from his: she remained a royalist like her friends and courtly admirers, while he and her family were parliamentarians. This publicly recognized political difference at least once threatened his political career.19

Antenor’s absence never evoked the same metaphysical anguish in Philips as did that of Rosania or Lucasia; she wrote of him most often in terms of her “duty.” A telling contrast is that between the frequently unrestrained emotion in her many poems lamenting the absence of a female friend20 and the relative coolness of her single poem to Antenor upon his absence and of her descriptions of her “duty” to Sir Charles. On her immanent departure from Ireland and Lucasia, she wrote: “I have now no longer any pretence of Business to detain me, and a Storm must not keep me from Antenor and my Duty, lest I raise a greater within. But oh! that there were no Tempests but those of the Sea for me to suffer in parting with my dear Lucasia!” (Letter 19, 631). This passage succinctly points to a contrast that is apparent throughout Philips’s writing; it juxtaposes, on the one hand, her feelings of obligation to her husband and, on the other, her passion for Lucasia. As to the rest of her immediate family, her son is mentioned only twice in her writings, both times in poems, one of them a particularly dull one about his death at the age of forty-one days; her daughter, who survived her, is never mentioned at all, either in her poems or in her letters.21

Having endured, in 1652, Mary Aubrey’s (Rosania’s) defection from their friendship into marriage, Philips wrote at least one poem on her “apostasy,” and quickly replaced her with Anne Owen (Lucasia).22 In 1662, Anne Owen, too, married, and Orinda despised Owen’s new husband, Marcus Trevor, which added to her grief. Nevertheless, she accompanied the newlyweds to Dublin and stayed on for a year, ostensibly to conduct her husband’s business (he was now in some financial and political distress owing to his parliamentarianism) and to finish Pompey and see it played at the Theatre Royal, Smock Alley, Dublin. She had also begun to develop aristocratic connections: the earl of Orrery offered her encouragement, she frequented the duke of Ormonde’s salon, and she was becoming friendly with the countess of Cork.

She described her feelings to Sir Charles, whose suit to Anne Owen she had unsuccessfully encouraged, presumably in an attempt to keep Anne within her immediate social circle and in close geographical proximity: “I am much surpriz’d that she, who is so well-bred, and her Conversation every way so agreeable, can be so happy with him as she seems to be: for indeed she is nothing but Joy, and never so well pleas’d as in his Company; which makes me conclude, that she is either extremely chang’d, or has more of the dissembling Cunning of our Sex than I thought she had” (Letter 13, 603).23 She wrote repeatedly to Sir Charles of her grief and disappointment, not unmixed with bitterness, at the loss of her bond with Anne Owen. Her grief in these letters is as acute as the passion in the earlier poems is intense. From Dublin on July 30, 1662, she wrote:

I now see by Experience that one may love too much, and offend more by a too fond Sincerity, than by a careless Indifferency, provided it be but handsomly varnish’d over with civil Respect. I find too there are few Friendships in the World Marriage-proof. … We may generally conclude the Marriage of a Friend to be the Funeral of a Friendship. … Sometimes I think it is because we are in truth more ill-natur’d than we really take our selves to be; and more forgetful of past Offices of Friendship, when they are superseded by others of a fresher Date, which carrying with them the Plausibility of more Duty and Religion in the Knot that ties them, we persuade our selves will excuse us if the Heat and Zeal of our former Friendships decline and wear off into Lukewarmness and Indifferency: whereas there is indeed a certain secret Meanness in our Souls, which mercenarily inclines our Affections to those with whom we must necessarily be oblig’d for the most part to converse, and from whom we expect the chiefest outward Conveniencies. And thus we are apt to flatter our selves that we are constant and unchang’d in our Friendship, tho’ we insensibly fall into Coldness and Estrangement.

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Her letters to Sir Charles during this period are full of disappointed idealism, of highmindedness scorned. The scale of values Philips holds dear in these letters, and in her poetry, places the noble feelings of disinterested friendship far above the frequently compromised and banal motives of marriage and duty. Nevertheless, her notion of disinterested friendship is driven by intensely passionate commitment to the individual woman in question, so that when, in the usual course of things, her friend marries, she responds as a lover scorned. The feelings she expressed in her letters to Sir Charles concerning the defection of Anne Owen reverberate from the poems she had written ten years earlier on the apostasy of Mary Aubrey:

“Lovely apostate! what was my offence?

Or am I punish’d for obedience?”

…..

For our twin-spirits did so long agree,
You must undoe your self to ruine me.

…..

… Glorious Friendship, whence your honour springs,
Ly’s gasping in the croud of common things;

…..

For from my passion your last rigours grew,
And you kill me, because I worshipp’d you.

Thus Philips reveals a covert, innate rebelliousness; she protests with chagrin Mary Aubrey’s and Anne Owen’s replacement of such romantic sentiments with ones more suitable to the exigencies of social and economic life.

Her last known passionate attachment seems to have been to “Berenice,” whom she knew at least since 1658, when she wrote begging her to come to Cardigan and console her for Lucasia’s absence.24Philips evidently continued her correspondence with “Berenice” after returning from Ireland to her home at Cardigan Priory in Wales because the last letter is dated from there a month before her death in London. The tone of the four letters to “Berenice” is a combination of nearly fawning supplication to a social superior and breathless passion, the two inextricably fused:

All that I can tell you of my Desires to see your Ladiship will be repetition, for I had with as much earnestness as I was capable of, Begg’d it then, and yet have so much of the Beggar in me, that I must redouble that importunity now, and tell you, That I Gasp for you with an impatience that is not to be imagin’d by any Soul wound up to a less concern in Friendship then yours is, and therefore I cannot hope to make others sensible of my vast desires to enjoy you, but I can safely appeal to your own Illustrious Heart, where I am sure of a Court of Equity to relieve me in all the Complaints and Suplications my Friendship can put up.

[Letter 51, 773]25

It is impossible to disentangle the elements of Orinda’s passion for “Berenice,” complicated as their relationship was by social inequality and as our understanding of it is by an absence of any information external to the four letters. However, Philips’s tone in these letters seems desperate beyond any conventional courtliness; she yearns to fill the void left by Lucasia’s absence and, later, rejection.

After her success with Pompey on the Dublin stage, Philips found it difficult to remain immured at the Priory and finally was able to solicit an invitation from her friends, and her husband’s permission, to return to London, where she died of smallpox at the age of thirty-one. A major change had taken place in Philips’s life when the loss of her friendship with Lucasia was coincidentally accompanied by the foundering fortunes of her husband, which she attempted to remedy through her well-placed friends. That she had not succeeded in doing so when she died suggests that the double blow she had suffered left her depressed (as the anxiety in her last letters to Sir Charles shows), weakened, and vulnerable to disease.

After the defection of Lucasia, she wrote no more of the poetry that had won her such high praise; instead, she poured her energies into using her court connections to gain patronage for herself and, probably unsuccessfully, preferment for Antenor. She wrote numerous poems to royalty, self-consciously addressing public themes, and increasingly fewer intimate poems to particular friends. Also, she vied with the male wits for recognition of her theatrical translations, which are still considered the best English versions of Corneille.26 Philips’s immersion in Corneille and the adoption of a more neoclassical style may have been politically expedient in the early 1660s, but at this time in Philips’s life, Corneille’s subordination of personal passion to duty and patriotism in the long speeches that she translated also must have appealed to her own need to control her disordered emotions.27

Her royalist sympathies throughout the Interregnum no doubt now enabled her to advance the interests of her parliamentarian husband as well as her own literary ambitions. Souers comments on the notable change in her poems and in her stance toward literary circles: “The Cult of Friendship may be said to have died with the marriage of its inspirer. All that remained was the empty shell, which, in this case, means the names, so that when, later, poems addressed to new friends appear, it must be kept in mind that the old fire is gone.”28 Souers’s judgment is borne out by the poems Philips addressed to the Boyle sisters, daughters of the countess of Cork, a patron during Philips’s stay in Ireland. Though she attempts to continue, or perhaps to revivify, the traditions of her cult of friendship by bestowing pastoral nicknames, Philips reveals in her later poems the conflict and ambivalence with which more intimate approaches to her social superiors are fraught. She confronts this problem of friendship with aristocratic women directly in “To Celimena” (1662-64), addressed to Lady Elizabeth Boyle; the eight-line poem concludes: “Wouldst thou depose thy Saint into thy Friend? / Equality in friendship is requir’d, / Which here were criminal to be desir’d” (no. 107, 472). Her earlier passionate avowals of friendship have become reverential.2

The full essay is here :http://www.oocities.org/hargrange/philipsandreadis.html %5B(essay date 1989)]

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 For a Great Web Page on 17th Century Writing Please see the Luminarium

THERE is lots of wonderful connections to K.P. here…..

Butler, John. “The Life of Katherine Philips.”  Luminarium.15 Apr 2003.  <http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/philips/>

Also:

Friendship, Authorship, and Forms of Publication in Katherine Philipsmore

by 

http://www.academia.edu/2061377/Friendship_Authorship_and_Forms_of_Publication_in_Katherine_Philips

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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