John Earl of Rochester Wilmot Criticism - Essay

Thomas H. Fujimura (essay date 1958)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Fujimura, Thomas H. “Rochester's ‘Satyr Against Mankind’: An Analysis.” Studies in Philology 55 (October, 1958): 576-90.

[In the essay below, Fujimura argues that A Satire Against Mankind is divided into two parts, that the first, which deals with epistemology, favors sensory-based “right reason” over speculation, and that the second part, which deals with moral satire, emphasizes the baseness and fear-driven nature of human conduct.]

The Earl of Rochester's Satyr Against Mankind is generally regarded as a powerful satire and an intimate revelation of a striking personality; but beyond this, there is little unanimity of...

(The entire section is 5784 words.)

C. F. Main (essay date 1960)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Main, C. F. “The Right Vein of Rochester's Satyr.” In Essays in Literary History, Presented to J. Milton French, edited by Rudolf Kirk and C. F. Main, pp. 93-112. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1960.

[In the essay which follows, Main seeks to uncover the “true vein” of Rochester's A Satire Against Mankind and argues that the work is a formal classical verse satire, as it contains typical elements of such a work, including the arraignment of one vice and commendation of its opposite virtue; a two-part structure; a single theme; the use of an unpleasant, satirical person; and a retraction at the end of the poem.]

John Aubrey...

(The entire section is 5276 words.)

Howard Erskine-Hill (essay date 1966)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Erskine-Hill, Howard. “Rochester: Augustan or Explorer.” In Renaissance and Modern Essays Presented to Vivian de Sola Pinto in Celebration of his Seventieth Birthday, edited by G. R. Hibbard, pp. 51-64. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1966.

[In the following essay, Erskine-Hill considers whether Rochester should be a viewed as an explorer/adventurer—one who lacks a stable pattern of any but the most elementary values—or as an “Augustan,” like John Dryden and Alexander Pope, who is confident in a Christian-classical world-view, and concludes he is most clearly the former.]


Rochester, the man and his work, is a major...

(The entire section is 5821 words.)

Anne Righter (essay date 1967)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Righter, Anne. “John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester.” Proceedings of the Royal British Academy 53 (1967): 42-69.

[In this essay, Righter interprets Rochester's poetry in terms of the roles he played in real life, nothing that Rochester mythologized himself, used a variety of voices in his poems, and freely imitated other literary styles.]

In the second act of Jonson's Volpone, the Fox disguised as a mountebank harangues a crowd of Venetians beneath Celia's window. His aim is quite straightforward. By pretending to be Scoto of Mantua, the possessor of a marvellous elixir, he hopes to obtain a glimpse of Corvino's young and jealously guarded wife. Volpone's...

(The entire section is 9089 words.)

Charles A. Knight (essay date 1970)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Knight, Charles A. “The Paradox of Reason: Argument in Rochester's ‘Satyr Against Mankind.’” Modern Language Review 65, no.2 (April, 1970): 254–60.

[In the essay below, Knight argues against previous critics' contentions that A Satire Against Mankind should be seen in terms of Rochester's interest in seventeenth-century materialism and his eventual conversion, and maintains that the poem is more complex and playful than previously supposed, which is evident from Rochester's handling of his argumentative method and his paradoxical treatment of reason.]

One of the most apparently pessimistic elements of Rochester's Satyr against Mankind is...

(The entire section is 3888 words.)

Kristoffer F. Paulson (essay date 1971)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Paulson, Kristoffer F. “Pun Intended: Rochester's ‘Upon Nothing.’” English Language Notes 9 no. 2 (December, 1971): 118-21.

[In the following essay, Paulson charges that most critics have treated Upon Nothing with too great seriousness, arguing that one needs to understand the bawdy pun on “what” in the second stanza to appreciate its wit and tone of exuberant irreverence.]

Critics of the satire Upon Nothing, written by John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, agree that it is a paradoxical and witty poem, a profound satire based on skeptical philosophy, and a parody of the creation myth found in the first chapter of Genesis.1 It...

(The entire section is 1323 words.)

Howard D. Weinbrot (essay date 1972)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Weinbrot, Howard D. “The Swelling of the Volume: The Apocalyptic Satire of Rochester's Letter from Artemisia in the Town to Chloe in the Country.Studies in the Literary Imagination 5, no. 2 (October, 1972): 19-37.

[In this essay, Weinbrot claims that Artemisia to Chloe demonstrates Rochester's breadth of satiric talent, especially his adept use of the most pessimistic or “apocalyptic” form of contemporary satire, as the work presents the degeneration of the chief character Artemisia from a worthy voice to an agent for the propagation of infamy.]

Modern revaluation of Restoration and eighteenth-century literature has helped Rochester's...

(The entire section is 8233 words.)

Ronald Paulson (essay date 1972)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Paulson, Ronald. “Rochester: The Body Politic and the Body Private.” In The Author in His Work: Essays on a Problem in Criticism, edited by Louis L. Martz and Aubrey Williams, pp. 103-21. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1978.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1972, Paulson claims that obscenity, which is at the center of Rochester's best poems, is used as a analogy for private life.]

A man could not write with life, unless he were heated by Revenge; for to make a Satyre without Resentments, upon the cold Notions of Phylosophy, was as if a man would in cold blood, cut men's throats who had never...

(The entire section is 8092 words.)

Howard D. Weinbrot (essay date 1972)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Weinbrot, Howard D. “‘An Allusion to Horace’: Rochester's Imitative Mode.” Studies in Philology 69, no. 3 (July, 1972): 348-68.

[In the essay which follows, Weinbrot contends that “An Allusion to Horace” is unsatisfying because it lacks complexity and depth of the Horatian satire to which it alludes, and states that the main reason for this lack of depth is that the creative strengths of Imitation as a genre are not yet clear in Rochester's work.]

In recent years students of Restoration and eighteenth-century satire have learned a new respect for the variety and sophistication of the Augustan Imitation.1 No longer do we praise the modern...

(The entire section is 8196 words.)

Reba Wilcoxon (essay date 1975)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Wilcoxon, Reba. “Pornography, Obscenity, and Rochester's ‘The Imperfect Enjoyment.’” Studies in English Literature 15, No. 3 (Summer, 1975): 375-90.

[In the following essay, Wilcoxon claims that Rochester's poem “The Imperfect Enjoyment” is not pornographic because it satisfies three aesthetic criteria: it uses complex linguistic devices to achieve psychic distancing; it is linked to a classical traditional of “imperfect enjoyment” poems; and it explores not only sexual but emotional, psychological, and ethical relationships between human beings.]

In the right-hand drawer of his writing desk, where he normally kept his flutes and music books,...

(The entire section is 6135 words.)

K. E. Robinson (essay date 1979)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Robinson, K. E. “Rochester's Dilemma.” Durham University Journal 40 (June, 1979): 223–31.

[In the essay below, Robinson discusses the oppositions in Rochester's poetry, noting, for example, that A Satire Against Mankind starts out advocating appetitive values and ends by espousing more traditional ideas, and that Upon Nothing can be seen as a struggle between reason and intuition.]

Dr. Johnson once remarked to Topham Beauclerk (great-grandson of Charles II and Nell Gwynne): ‘Thy body is all vice, and thy mind all virtue’.1 He might equally well have been talking of that well-known associate of Beauclerk's great-grandfather,...

(The entire section is 6141 words.)

David Sheehan (essay date 1980)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Sheehan, David “The Ironist in Rochester's A Letter from Artemisia in the Town to Chloe in the Country.Tennessee Studies in Literature 25 (1980): 72-83.

[In this essay, Sheehan argues that previous interpretations of Artemisia and Chloe failed to pay sufficient attention to the main character's most distinguishing characteristic—her ironic outlook on the world.]

Critics are presently unanimous in regarding A Letter from Artemisia in the Town to Chloe in the Country as perhaps Rochester's masterpiece, but there is no such unanimity about how to interpret the poem's central character, Artemisia herself. Some critics offer an...

(The entire section is 4684 words.)

Barbara Everett (essay date 1982)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Everett, Barbara. “The Sense of Nothing.” In Spirit of Wit: Reconsiderations of Rochester, edited by Jeremy Treglown, pp. 1-41. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1982.

[In the following essay, Everett examines Rochester's work in the context of Restoration England and the Court of King Charles II, discussing the poet's need to follow fashion and the way his poems point to a void beneath a smooth social surface.]

Rochester's general character as a poet is evident to any reader. He is a realist, his world bounded by the limits of King Charles II's court and the London that lay immediately beyond. If this makes his field seem narrow, then so it is—compared at any...

(The entire section is 12552 words.)

Pat Rogers (essay date 1982)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Rogers, Pat. “‘An Allusion to Horace.’” In Spirit of Wit: Reconsiderations of Rochester, edited by Jeremy Treglown, pp. 166-76. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1982.

[In this essay, Rogers provides a detailed analysis of “An Allusion to Horace” to show that Rochester's poem is written in a different cultural, linguistic, and critical context than the Horatian satire on which is depends, and argues that the work should be assessed as a seventeenth-century English poem and not compared too strictly with its first-century Latin inspiration.]

The poem based on Horace's satire I. 10 has had its share of attention in recent years. It slithers in and out of the...

(The entire section is 3358 words.)

Helen Wilcox (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Wilcox, Helen. “Gender and Artfulness in Rochester's ‘Song of a Young Lady to Her Ancient Lover.’” In Reading Rochester, edited by Edward Burns, pp. 6-20. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1995.

[In the essay below, Wilcox discusses the challenges of interpreting the highly sexual lyric “Song of a Young Lady to Her Ancient Lover” in a contemporary academic setting, and notes that the poem raises issues of voice, gender experience, wit, art, and compassion.]

As to the Work itself, the very Name of Rochester is a sufficient Passport wherever English is spoken or understood: And we doubt not but it will give the...

(The entire section is 4938 words.)

Stephen Clark (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Clark, Stephen. “‘Something Genrous in Meer Lust’?: Rochester and Misogyny.” In Reading Rochester, edited by Edward Burns, pp. 21-41. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1995.

[In the essay that follows, Clark points out that female readers and critics have been surprisingly uncritical of the misogynistic elements in Rochester's poetry, concluding there must be a quality in his poetry that elicits this response. Clark seeks to discern this quality by assessing the degree of “progressivism” in his libertinism, analyzing his plaintiveness and vulnerability, and exploring the paradoxes of the failure of the body in his poetry.]

Given Rochester's...

(The entire section is 7633 words.)

Tony Barley (essay date 1995)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Barley, Tony. “‘Upon Nothing’: Rochester and the Fear of Non-entity.” In Reading Rochester, edited by Edward Burns, pp. 98-113. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1995.

[In this essay, Barley explores Rochester's treatment of “nothing” and finds that even as he appears to be advocating non-entity the poet is anxious to distance and distinguish himself from it.]

Because of its knowing exhibitionism, because of its flair, because of its mock-solemn pride in its own achievement, Rochester's poem Upon Nothing brushes aside the kind of readerly interrogation invited by similarly impressive metaphysical displays. If Donne's ‘Lecture on...

(The entire section is 5187 words.)

David Quentin (essay date 2000)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Quentin, David. “The Missing Foot of Upon Nothing and Other Mysteries of Creation.” In That Second Bottle: Essays on John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, edited by Nicholas Fisher, pp. 89-100. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2000.

[In the following essay, Quentin examines the relationship of form and content in Upon Nothing, considering the question of whether the missing metrical foot at the end of line 42 reveal something about the qualities of nothing discussed in the poem.]

In John Lennard's Poetry Handbook, subtitled ‘A Guide to Reading Poetry for Pleasure and Practical Criticism’, there is a section intended to bring...

(The entire section is 6535 words.)

Gillian Manning (essay date 2000)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Manning, Gillian. “Artemiza to Chloe: Rochester's ‘Female’ Epistle.” In That Second Bottle: Essays on John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, edited by Nicholas Fisher, pp. 101-18. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2000.

[In the essay below, Manning points out that in Artemisia and Chloe Rochester presents a favorable picture of the female condition largely because of the subtly argued point of view presented by Artemisa, which is especially effective because to the powerful use of intertextual reference.]

In a virulent, anti-feminist satire of 1691, Robert Gould invokes Rochester, and appropriates lines 26-7 from A Letter from...

(The entire section is 8657 words.)

Brean Hammond and Paulina Kewes (essay date 2000)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Hammond, Brean and Kewes, Paulina. “A Satyre Against Reason and Mankind from Page to Stage.” In That Second Bottle: Essays on John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, edited by Nicholas Fisher, pp. 133-52. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2000.

[In the following essay, Hammond and Kewes examine the impact of A Satire Against Mankind upon Restoration dramatists and claims that the poem should be understood in the context of the contemporary theater, especially considering its importance for the libertine debates of the 1670s, which were conducted through the medium of drama.]

Rochester's A Satyre against Reason and Mankind, written in...

(The entire section is 10978 words.)