Rochester, John Wilmot, 2nd earl of

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Rochester, John Wilmot, 2nd earl of

biographical name

(born April 1, 1647, Ditchley Manor House, Oxfordshire, Eng.—died July 26, 1680, Woodstock, Oxfordshire) English poet and wit. The most notorious debauchee of the Restoration court, Rochester was also its best poet and one of the most original and powerful English satirists. A Satyr Against Mankind (1675) is a scathing denunciation of rationalism and optimism that contrasts human perfidy with animal wisdom, and “History of Insipids” (1676) is a devastating attack on the government of Charles II. In 1680 he became ill, experienced a religious conversion, and recanted his past, ordering “all his profane and lewd writings” burned. His single dramatic work is Valentinian (1685).

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