Lord Rochester's monkey; being the life of John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester

by Graham Greene

Hardcover, 1974




New York, Viking Press [1974]


"John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester (1647-1680), was the most notorious of the Restoration rakes. He was also a fine lyrical and satirical poet whose work---in Graham Greene's opinion--has been underestimated because it was overshadowed by his life of lechery and drunkenness, wild pranks and practical jokes, and death-bed repentance. At Court, King Charles II suffered but respected Rochester's biting satires, joined in some of his erotic escapades, forgave his embarrassing japes, and rewarded him with distinctions. The heiress Elizabeth Mallet succumbed to his charm, eloped with him, and remained constant, though not always happy, throughout thirteen years of marriage. Elizabeth Barry, his favorite mistress, owed to him her success on the stage and gained his sincere devotion. Yet the last thirteen years of Rochester's short life were 'clouded by the fumes of drink' and were marked by outrageous buffoonery, an abortive duel, and literary quarrels that threatened to wreck his undoubted gifts of friendship. These notorious episodes, no less than the religious scruples that culminated in his deathbed call to Dr. Burnet in 1680, characterize the mental and psychological conflict which was the source of Rochester's finest poetry. His friend Etherege depicted him in the stage character of Dorimant: 'I know he is a Devil, but he has something of the Angel yet undefac'd in him.' "--Jacket.… (more)

Media reviews

Professor Pinto's book hadn't yet appeared when Graham Greene, an unsuccessful novelist in his twenties, wrote a biography of Rochester 40 years ago. It was turned down "without hesitation" by his publisher, Greene told us in his 1971 autobiography, "and I was too uncertain of myself to send it elsewhere." The typescript has now been retrieved from the University of Texas library, minimally revised and elaborately packaged by George Rainbird Ltd. of London



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