Of the glittering, licentious court around King Charles II, John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester, was the most notorious. Simultaneously admired and vilified, he personified the rake-hell. Libertine, profane, promiscuous, he shocked his pious contemporaries with his doubts about religion and his blunt verses that dealt with sex or vicious satiric assaults on the high and mighty of the court. This account of Rochester and his times provides the facts behind his legendary reputation as a rake and his deathbed repentance. However, it also demonstrates that he was a loving if unfaithful husband, a devoted father, a loyal friend, a serious scholar, a social critic, and an aspiring patriot.
An Emeritus professor of English at the University of Rochester, James William Johnson is the author or editor of nine books and many articles treating British and American Literature.