JOHN WILMOT, Earl of Rochester, British poet, born (d: 1680); was an English libertine, a friend of King Charles II, and the writer of satirical and bawdy poetry. He was the toast of the Restoration court and a patron of the arts. If you’ve never read the poetry of Rochester, run, don’t walk, to the nearest library and, after leafing through the pages, order a copy of your very own. He is easy to read, witty, very funny, and delightfully obscene.
He’s also proof positive that the world didn’t begin with Queen Victoria, his age being almost as unzipped as he. Rochester was an incomparably dissolute rake whose sexual philosophy was clearly “any port in a storm.” Consequently his poetry extols the joys of every possible type of human coupling.
One poem, possibly unique in the language, is about two men entering a woman fore and aft, but obviously making love to each other. Other poems are about the pleasures of boys: “If by chance then I wake, hot-headed and drunk, / What coyle do I make for the loss of my Punck? / I storm and I roar, and I fall in a rage, / And missing my Whore, I bugger my Page.”
Rochester was once banished from the court of Charles II for smashing the king’s clocks and dials when they refused to answer his drunken question, “Dost thou fuck?” He was like that; he was also burned out at age 33. The film “The Libertine“, based on Stephen Jeffreys’s play, was shown at the 2004 Toronto Film Festival and was released in the UK in 2005. While taking some artistic liberties, it chronicles Rochester’s life, with Johnny Depp as Rochester, Samantha Morton as Elizabeth Barry, John Malcovich as King Charles II, and Rosamund Pike as Elizabeth Malet.