John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester



Pierre Danchin, ‘A Late Seventeenth-century Miscellany’, Cahiers Élisabéthains, 22 (Université Paul Valéry-Montpellier, October 1982), 51-86.


Graham Greene, Lord Rochester's Monkey being the Life of John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester (Oxford, 1974; reprinted London, 1976).


The Works of John Wilmot Earl of Rochester, ed. Harold Love (Oxford, 1999).


Johannes Prinz, John Wilmot Earl of Rochester His Life and Writings (Leipzig, 1927).


The Letters of John Wilmot Earl of Rochester, ed. Jeremy Treglown (Oxford, 1980).


The Complete Poems of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, ed. David M. Vieth (New Haven & London, 1968; reprinted 1974).

Vieth, Attribution

David M. Vieth, Attribution in Restoration Poetry: A Study of Rochester's ‘Poems’ of 1680 (New Haven & London, 1963).

Vieth, Gyldenstolpe

The Gyldenstolpe Manuscript Miscellany of Poems by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, and other Restoration Authors, ed. Bror Danielsson and David M. Vieth, Stockholm Studies in English 17 (Stockholm, 1967).


The Poems of John Wilmot Earl of Rochester, ed. Keith Walker (Oxford, 1984).


Autograph Manuscripts

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, the most celebrated and most controversial of Charles II's Court wits, has left a small group of autograph drafts, together with a substantial number of autograph letters and a few miscellaneous documents signed. Numerous surviving manuscript copies bear witness to the vigorous circulation of his poems both before and after his death.

The principal extant manuscript of works by Rochester is the ‘Portland MS’: University of Nottingham, Pw V 31, which includes, inter alia, autograph drafts of nine poems by him and a fragment of a comedy by him. These papers (as well as British Library, Harley MS 7003 noted below) were formerly in the library of Edward Harley (1689-1741), second Earl of Oxford, and were probably inherited from his father, the statesman Robert Harley (1689-1741), first Earl of Oxford (1661-1724).


Otherwise the most notable series of surviving autograph manuscripts by Rochester is of letters by him. The texts of some 104 letters by him are known today, of which just under half, 46, survive in his originals. Of these, 101 are edited in Treglown (1980). Both autograph letters and the various known copies of letters by Rochester are summarised in entries below (RoJ 648-664).

Over thirty original letters sent to Rochester by various of his cronies, such as Henry Savile, Lord Buckhurst, the Duke of Buckingham, Sir Robert Howard, Lord Clifford, Lord Falkland, John Dryden and others, are also preserved: twenty of them in British Library Harley MS 7003, a further dozen in the library of the Marquess of Bath, Longleat (Portland Papers, Vol. II), and another, in an official copy, in the National Archives, Kew (SP 44/43, p. 59). These are likewise edited in Treglown, as well as three others known only from printed sources.

These surviving letters must, of course, represent only a fraction of the number that Rochester actually wrote and received during his lifetime. It is even rumoured, by Horace Walpole in 1775, that after Rochester's penitent death his ‘devout’ mother ‘burnt a whole trunk of letters’ by him — ‘for which’, added Walpole characteristically, quoting Bentley, ‘her soul is now burning in heaven’ (The Letters of Horace Walpole, ed. Mrs Paget Toynbee, 19 vols (Oxford, 1903-25), IX (1904), 308, cited in Treglown, p. xiii).


A few business and other documents signed by Rochester (or formal copies thereof) are also known to survive: and have been given entries below (RoJ 665-671). They include Rochester's will in 1680, not seen since 1908 (*RoJ 672).

The Circulation of Rochester's Poems in Manuscript

Except for a few of his more formal and ‘public’ satires, which got published in broadsides in the 1670s, Rochester's poems remained, for the most part, unprinted during his lifetime. Neither was there anything especially authoritative about the multiple editions of Poems on Several Occasions By the Right Honourable, the E. of R---, an indiscriminate octavo anthology of 61 poems, possibly as many as 34 of them actually by Rochester, the rest by various of his contemporaries, which appeared immediately after his death and whose printer representatives of Rochester's family attempted in vain to discover. As Anthony Wood noted: ‘no sooner was his breath out of his body, but some person, or persons, who had made a collection of his poetry in manuscript, did, meerly for lucre sake (as 'twas conceiv'd) publish them under this title, Poems on several Occasions. Antwerp (alias Lond.) 1680’ (Athenae Oxonienses, ed. Philip Bliss, 4 vols (London, 1813-20), III, 1230). Instead, Rochester's poems generally went through the highways and byways of what can justly be described as ‘scribal publication’. Like so many of the lampoons, satires and bawdy jeux d'esprit of the late seventeenthth century, they found a ready circulation in the form of manuscript copies, the majority of them produced for purely commercial reasons by professional scribes. Such copies could range from single transcripts of individual poems commissioned by an author for limited circulation within a small, private coterie (according to Robert Wolseley in 1685, Rochester's work was written solely ‘for the private Diversion of those happy Few, whom he us'd to charm with his Company and honour with his Friendship’), to wholesale multiplication of copies (so-called ‘factory manuscripts’ rapidly produced in back-street scriptoria or stationers' shops) for remunerative distribution to a fairly large and receptive public in town and country alike. The manuscripts themselves could vary from, for instance, single leaves, folded, addressed on the outside and sent to people as letters, to small pamphlets containing linked groups of poems, and ultimately to large gilt calf- or morocco-bound folio or quarto volumes containing substantial, neatly arranged collections of such poems. It is clear from extensive evidence that there was a considerable, eager and paying clientele, both open and clandestine, for such literary wares — ranging from the Court and City to families living in the wilds of rural England. Paying readers evidently included both men and women and comprised a fairly wide social spectrum of people with a taste for news, scandal or fashionable gossip, not to mention occasional pornography, whether it were the immediate circle of the royal family, aristocrats, politicians, government officials and bureaucrats, lawyers, merchants, army officers, club and coffee-house frequenters, men-about-town, and others besides.

Manuscript copies of works by Rochester recorded in the entries below are neither more nor less typical of verse circulation in general in this period and include examples of most of the forms currently used. The hands into which these manuscripts fell — both men and women, to some extent in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and even on the continent, as well as in England — also represent an extensive cross-section of the reading public — whether it be members of aristocratic families such as those of Lords Beaufort, Derby, Huntingdon, Portland, Bridgewater, Rutland, Craven, Strafford, Buckhurst, Chesterfield and other peers; Lady Cowper, who — using source material perhaps supplied to her by the Duke of Buckingham's secretary, Martin Clifford — compiled her own collection of Restoration verse (including RoJ 32, RoJ 256, RoJ 318, RoJ 538, RoJ 588), and Lady Anne Somerset (RoJ 321-2); other members of the Court circle such as Sir William Haward (Bodleian, MS Don. b. 8) and ‘Mrs: Prise Maid of honour to her Majesty’ (RoJ 167); foreign diplomats and travellers such as Count Gyldenstolpe (RoJ Δ 14), Friedrich Adolphus Hansen (Yale, Osborn MS b 105) and Lorenzo Magalotti (RoJ 333), as well as possibly early owners of the Ashley MS: (RoJ Δ 5) and the Vienna MS (RoJ Δ 12); Rochester's fellow poets John Oldham, whom he befriended (RoJ 152, RoJ 304), and Edmund Waller (whose family copied RoJ 35, RoJ 86, RoJ 166, RoJ 331-2, RoJ 447, RoJ 600, and RoJ 616); the philosopher John Locke (RoJ 576) and his friend James Tyrrell (RoJ 64, RoJ 315, RoJ 520, RoJ 585); Whitehall officials and politicians such as George Clarke (RoJ 563), and Samuel Pepys, whose copy of Rochester's works (see RoJ 11, RoJ 327) he hid in a drawer as being ‘unfit to mix with my other books’; the New England Judge John Saffin (RoJ 598) and the lawyer Godfrey Thacker, in town seeking a suitable heiress for his cousin Lord Huntingdon (RoJ 263); a variety of other professional and Inns of Court men, students, and University men; the physician Sir George Ent (RoJ 430); clerics such as Sancroft (RoJ 3, RoJ 125, RoJ 223, RoJ 305, RoJ 578), John Nalson (RoJ 579, and the young George Stanhope (RoJ 30, RoJ 158, RoJ 313, RoJ 494, RoJ 584); various country gentlemen; antiquaries and miscellaneous writers such as Narcissus Luttrell (RoJ 42, RoJ 345), Nathaniel Johnston (RoJ 37, RoJ 124), and, a little later, Thomas Hearne (RoJ 9, RoJ 116, RoJ 130), and Peter and Oliver Le Neve and their circle (RoJ 100, RoJ 133, RoJ 154, RoJ 180, RoJ 301, RoJ 350, RoJ 425, RoJ 457, RoJ 505); or army officers such as captains Robinson (RoJ Δ 8) and Stead (RoJ 27) and Lieutenant Gideon Bonnivert (RoJ 371).

Some of the apparent ascriptions to Rochester's fellow poets found in these texts — for instance, to Buckingham, to Buckhurst and to Fleetwood Sheppard (RoJ 61, RoJ 365, RoJ 592) or to Rochester's cousin Mrs Anne Wharton (RoJ 387) — may actually denote the provenance of the texts (itself a prime source of confusion over the canon), the predominant circle of distribution evidently being Buckingham's Whig faction at Court to which Rochester and virtually all his cronies belonged.

No doubt, too, the hands of individual, though anonymous, professional scribes could be recognised (if extensive comparisons were undertaken) as common to various of the widely scattered texts recorded in these entries — both collections and single poems. For instance, three manuscript collections of poems on affairs of state — Bodleian, MS Firth c. 16, Ohio State University, Spec. MS Eng. 15, and Princeton, RTCO1 No. 35 — were identified as being in the same hand by Vieth (Attribution, p. 25). Even so caution is advised against making too ready an identification of particular hands given the probable ability of many scribes in this period to vary their styles or else, conversely, to conform to an agreed model for the sake of consistency.

Scribal publication in the approximate period 1665-1715 (at its height in the 1680s and '90s) is a huge subject, with extensive implications for textual critics, as well as for literary, bibliographical and social historians. Despite important pioneering explorations, it remains open to systematic investigation. Informative and useful studies hitherto undertaken in this field — which affects Rochester perhaps more than any other notable author of the period — include the following:

Vieth, Attribution (1963) and Gyldenstolpe (1967), as well as his edition of Rochester (1968)

Poems on Affairs of State: Augustan Satirical Verse, 1660-1714, 7 vols (New Haven & London, 1963-75), Vols I, ed. George deF. Lord, 1963, pp. xxxvii-xlii; Vol IV, ed. Galbraith M. Crump, 1968, after p. 190 and pp. 351-2; and Vol V, ed. William J. Cameron, 1971, pp. 528-38

W.J. Cameron, ‘A Late Seventeenth-Century Scriptorium’, Renaissance and Modern Studies, 7 (1963), 25-52 [a significant attempt to relate and classify one group of scriptorium manuscripts, chiefly among the Portland MSS at Nottingham]

John Harold Wilson, Court Satires of the Restoration (Columbus, Ohio, 1976) [a selective edition of verse circulated in manuscript, with a brief introductory account of the nature of that circulation and useful synopsised biographies]

Harold Love, ‘Manuscript versus Print in the Transmission of English Literature, 1600-1700’, The Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand Bulletin, 9 (1985), 95-107 [which analyses the possible special reasons for Rochester's confining himself to manuscript rather than print]

Harold Love, ‘Scribal Publication in Seventeenth-Century England’, TCBS, 9 (1987), 130-54 [an important general survey of the field]

Harold Love, ‘Scribal Texts and Literary Communities: The Rochester Circle and Osborn b. 105’, Studies in Bibliography, 42 (1989), 219-35 [which discusses the Yale MS (RoJ Δ 16 below) as the communal product of identifiable circles, particularly the Whig faction at Court]

Roger Thompson, Unfit for Modern Ears (London, 1979) [a survey of late 17th-century pornography, which incidentally throws light on some of the clientele for work by Rochester: see esp. pp. 117-32, 195-210]

Keith Walker, pp. xi-xii [for comments on Rochester's readership]

Harold Love, Scribal Publication in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford, 1993) [an especially important survey]

Harold Love, ‘The Scribal Transmission of Rochester's Songs’, Bulletin of the Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand, 20 (1996), 161-80

Harold Love, ‘Refining Rochester: Private Texts and Public Reader’, Harvard Library Bulletin, NS 7/1 (Spring 1996), 40-9

and various other articles by Harold Love.

Robert Julian and his Brethren

Contemporary evidence about two stationers, John Starkey and Thomas Collins, who operated scriptoria in 1675, is cited in Love, Studies in Bibliography, 42 (1989), p. 231. To these sources might be added articles on a particular scrivener, the most notorious of them all, Captain Robert Julian (fl. 1670s-c.1690), an erstwhile naval clerk turned professional purveyor of manuscript lampoons who formed the butt of many a verse satire on the tastes, vices and follies of the town and who eventually stood in the pillory, if not actually losing his ears, for ‘publishing’ a manuscript libel. For Julian's career, see Brice Harris, ‘Captain Robert Julian, Secretary to the Muses’, English Literary History, 10 (1943), 294-309; Mary Claire Randolph, ‘“Mr. Julian, Secretary of the Muses”: Pasquil in London’, N&Q, 184 (2 January 1943), 2-6; Judith Slater, ‘The Early Career of Captain Robert Julian, Secretary to the Muses’, N&Q, 211 (July 1966), 260-2; Wilson, op. cit., pp. 256-7; and Paul Hammond, ‘“The Miseries of Visits”: An Addition to the Literature on Robert Julian, Secretary to the Muses’, The Seventeenth Century, 8 (1993), 161-3.

Julian's products evidently ranged from copies of individual poems to whole books in manuscript. Hitherto only one example of a manuscript volume associated with Julian has been identified in a private collection: namely the Lord Derby MS, a formal quarto volume of poems on affairs of state dating up to 1683 (though none by Rochester). Not the least interesting features of this are the inscriptions by the book's original owner, William Stanley (c.1655-1702), ninth Earl of Derby, ‘I bought this booke of Julian not so much for my own use as to prevent others reading of it’, and by his younger brother James Stanley (1664-1736), tenth Earl of Derby, recording its discovery in 1718 when it was ‘found hid in one of ye Chimneys, to be sure by my brother Derby’. This volume was identified and discussed, with facsimile examples, in Peter Beal, In Praise of Scribes (1998), pp. 19-30.

Whether Julian himself transcribed any poems by Rochester (or by anyone else for that matter) is not as yet clear, but it seems likely that he generally employed scribes for that purpose. The few known examples of his handwriting would not appear to correspond to any of the hands of scribal copies of Restoration verse hitherto recorded. Written, it has to be said, with considerable variation of script, letters by Julian are in the National Archives, Kew (SP 29/207/119 [to Pepys, 30 June 1667]; SP 29/244/185 [15 August 1668]; and SP 29/281A/226 [1670?]).One by him which was once among the Sackville papers, but is currently untraced is edited in Brice Harris, Charles Sackville Sixth Earl of Dorset (Urbana, 1940), pp. 178-9. In the Prologue to Edward Ravenscroft's The London Cuckolds (London, 1682) it is recorded that he employed ‘two Clarks’ (Harris, p. 304), while another report suggests that by 1685 he himself, ‘being an ancient man’, was ‘almost blind’ (Slater, p. 261).

From references in the numerous topical satires on Julian, it seems that he had ‘successors’ as purveyors of manuscript lampoons: notably Captain Lenthal Warcup (‘thou second scandal carrier of the town’), of the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards, who was killed at the battle of Steinkirk in 1692, and one John Somerton. An interesting possible connection with Warcup, noticed by Harold Love, is that of the Robinson MS (RoJ Δ 8), was apparently produced for a fellow member of Warcup's regiment.

Principal Manuscript Collections

There seems little doubt that the surviving manuscript copies of Rochester's poems, numerous though they may be, represent but a fraction of the number once in existence; moreover, it would be surprising if yet more texts did not come to light in the fulness of time. The following is a list, for the sake of convenient reference, of those currently known manuscripts containing substantial numbers of poems generally attributed to him, manuscripts which are described more fully in the relevant entries below. The figures cited for poems ‘by Rochester’ are provisional given the uncertainty of the canon discussed below, and the delta numbers cited are those originally supplied in IELM, II.ii (1993).

Library of the Duke of Beaufort, Badminton, FmE 3/12. (‘Badminton MS’: RoJ Δ 1). Includes thirty poems by Rochester.

Bodleian, MS Don. b. 8. (‘Haward MS’: RoJ Δ 2). Includes eleven poems by Rochester, as well as apocryphal items.

Bodleian, MS Eng. misc. e. 536. (‘Gilpin MS’: RoJ Δ 3). Includes sixteen poems by Rochester.

Bodleian, MS Rawl. poet. 173. (‘Dunton MS’: RoJ Δ 4). Includes ten poems by Rochester as well as apocryphal items.

British Library, Add. MS 73540.(‘Brown-Crewe MS’). Includes some seventeen poems by Rochester.

Owned by Pierre Danchin. (‘Ashley MS’: RoJ Δ 5). Includes eight remaining poems by Rochester, as well as apocryphal items.

Edinburgh University Library, MS Dc. 1. 3/1. (‘Edinburgh MS’: RoJ Δ 6). Includes nineteen poems by Rochester (two of them copied twice).

Harvard, fMS Eng 636. (‘Harvard MS’: RoJ Δ 7). Includes 27 poems by Rochester.

Leeds University, Brotherton Collection, MS Lt. 54. (‘Robinson MS’: RoJ Δ 8). Includes 22 poems by Rochester.

Marquess of Bath, Longleat House, Thynne Papers, Vol. XXVII (ff. 38r-60v). (‘Harbin MS’: RoJ Δ 9). Includes nineteen poems and eight letters by Rochester.

National Library of Ireland, MS 2093. (‘Dublin MS’: RoJ Δ 10). Includes twelve poems by or attributed to Rochester.

University of Nottingham, MS Pw V 40. ‘(Pomfret MS’: RoJ Δ 11). Includes 29 poems by Rochester (one of them copied twice) as well as apocryphal items.

Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, Cod. 14090. (‘Vienna MS’: RoJ Δ 12). Includes eleven poems by Rochester as well as apocryphal items.

Princeton, RTCO1 No. 3. (‘Cambridge Miscellany MS’: RoJ Δ 13). Includes nine poems by Rochester as well as apocryphal items.

Royal Library, Stockholm, MS Vu. 69. (‘Gyldenstolpe MS’: RoJ Δ 14). Includes 29 poems by Rochester, as well as apocryphal items.

Victoria and Albert Museum, Dyce MS 43. (‘Dyce MS’: RoJ Δ 15). Includes twelve poems by Rochester as well as apocryphal items.

Yale, Osborn MS b 105. (‘Yale MS’: RoJ Δ 16). Includes thirty remaining poems by Rochester.

Yale, Osborn MS b 334. (‘Hartwell MS’: RoJ Δ 17). Includes 25 poems by Rochester as well as other works by him.

In private ownership. ‘Mylne MS’. Includes 21 poems by Rochester as well as apocryphal items.

Certain of these and other recorded manuscript volumes once contained poems by Rochester on leaves subsequently excised. Some are mentioned by title in contemporary indexes to those manuscripts or else are conjectured in his various studies by Vieth, passim. These ‘lost’ texts have not, however, been given entries below. Prominent among the manuscript volumes so affected is the Yale MS (RoJ Δ 16), followed by the Ashley MS (RoJ Δ 5). What would, in its original state, have been a major manuscript volume of poems on affairs of state, including probably several by Rochester, is now in the Suffolk Record Office, Lowestoft, 194/F1/1. A portion of this quarto volume, containing the play Sodom (RoJ 636) and three other poems survives; otherwise all the leaves have been excised except for an index listing some 122 poems that were once there.

The Hartwell Manuscript

The Yale MS (RoJ Δ 16) has a special status as providing the principal copy-text for both Vieth and Walker. What must be the single most important manuscript copy of Rochester's poems, however, is the more recently discovered Hartwell MS (RoJ Δ 17). Among other things, this is the only known manuscript which credibly purports to be of works almost exclusively by Rochester rather than being in reality a miscellany. It includes a substantial number of poems originally classified by Vieth, for want of conclusive evidence, as ‘uncertain’; and it contains highly interesting texts with some otherwise unknown variants, as well as innovations of layout (the stanza format of RoJ 45, RoJ 456, and RoJ 458, for instance, or the 35-line version of his ‘Pastoral Dialogue’ (RoJ 271). It also, incidentally, supports Walker's argument (p. xix) that Rochester's lyrics should be editorially grouped together. In fact the ‘Songs’ from p. 178 of the manuscript to p. 195 are numbered (in darker ink) 1 to 13, the number 14 being added apparently afterwards to the ‘Song’ on pp. 195-6.

The manuscript contains only one text that is clearly not by Rochester. Added at the end on pp. 219-31 and, in any case, directly related to him, it is the masque written for Valentinian by Rochester's friend and devoted admirer Sir Francis Fane (d.1689/91). First published in 1685. it is a masque allegedly ‘made at the Request’ of Rochester (see RoJ 604).

One other item in the manuscript (on pp. 147-52) which would initially seem alien to Rochester is a largely prose address ‘To the Reader’ supposedly by one William Lovesey, vicar of Bampton, near Tiverton, Devon, in which he rails against the profusion of ‘seditious’, ‘profane’, ‘scandalous’, ‘rebellious’, ‘atheistical’, ‘blasphemous’ and ‘nonsensical’ libels and pamphlets circulating in the town in taverns, coffee houses and the streets. He goes on to quote the 21-line poem ‘The Freeborne English generous and wise’, a poem (dated 1679 in other sources) which, he claims ‘has Layne by me these seaven Yeares’ and which he thinks might ‘well become the Pulpitt’ as ‘Reasonable, morrall and orthodox’. The current consensus of opinion on this harangue, originally suggested by Harold Love, is that this is another of Rochester's jokes (like his Alexander Bendo masquerade), while the poem quoted here — and widely circulated in manuscript in two different versions — may well also be originally by Rochester (see Love, p. 481).

As for the provenance of this manuscript, the only distant connection between its early owners, the Lee family, and Rochester is that he had, a nephew named Edward Lee (Earl of Lichfield) and a niece named Ellen Lee (Lady Abingdon), but whether they have any connection with the Lee family of Hartwell is not at present clear.

Unidentified Manuscripts

A manuscript of ‘A Letter fancy'd from Artemise in Town to Cloe in the country’ is mentioned in Phillipps MS 8101, a nineteenth-century ‘Catalogue of books and Pamphlets being part of the Library of Sir Roger Twysden Bart of Roydon Hall in the 17th Century’ (now at the University of Salford). It is not clear if this Twysden MS corresponds with any of the entries for this poem recorded below (RoJ 135-166). ‘Satirical Verses by the Earl of Rochester, on Sir Charles Scroop’ (possibly RoJ 257) were sold at Puttick and Simpson's, 29 July 1851 (Donnadieu sale), lot 1015, to Toovey, while an eight-page quarto copy of ‘A Satire’ by Rochester was sold at Sotheby's, 31 March 1875, lot 430, to Passie. An octavo manuscript verse miscellany associated with the Brownlow family of Lincolnshire offered in Myers's catalogue No. 348 (1947), item 344, included, besides RoJ 270 and RoJ 604, ‘Verses on Charles II’, which might well be RoJ 113-22 or RoJ 338-58.

The Canon

The Rochester canon accepted for present purposes is based largely on the 1968 edition by David Vieth, whose extensive labours in this field, in his various publications, have justly been described as ‘magisterial’ and to whom all subsequent Rochester studies are deeply indebted. An exception to the canon he establishes is A Rodomontade on His cruel Mistress (‘Trust not that thing called woman: she is worse’), which can now be shown to be a recycled version of a poem by Ben Jonson (see Ben Jonson, JnB 425-30). On the other hand, entries are given below to a few additional poems — mainly incorporated in Walker's and Harold Love's respective editions — whose authorship remains in dispute. It is understood in any case that there is less than certainty about many of the poems included, which editors can designate as only ‘probably by Rochester’ at best. Certainly Vieth's study, in his Attribution (1963), of the posthumously published Poems on Several Occasions By the Right Honourable, the E. of R— (‘Antwerp’ [i.e. London], 1680), remains a remarkable overview of the canon with respect to the Rochester apocrypha, which includes by his count no fewer than 177 poems.

Walker's conservative re-examination resulted in his tentative readmission into the canon of a tiny handful of uncertain candidates. Among those five poems he chose to designate as ‘Poems Possibly by Rochester’ (pp. 125-31) he includes two which Vieth had positively consigned to the Rochester apocrypha;, namely:

(i) Anacreontic (‘The Heaven drinks each Day a Cup’), first published in 1705. Walker, p. 129. Manuscript copies: University of Nottingham, Portland MS PwV 43, pp. 38-9, and Victoria and Albert Museum, Dyce MS 43, p. 545.

(ii) Regime d'viver (‘I Rise at Eleven, I Dine about Two’) [Walker, pp. 130-1]. Arguably either by Rochester or by the Earl of Dorset. Recorded above in entries for the latter (DoC 314-18).

(iii) A Session of the Poets (‘Since the Sons of the Muses, grow num'rous and lowd’). Walker, pp. 133-5). Generally attributed to Elkanah Settle. Various manuscript texts discussed and listed in Vieth, Attribution, pp. 296-321, 455-8, to which may be added the Robinson MS (Leeds University, Brotherton Collection, MS Lt 54, pp. 15-20) and Hertfordshire Record Office (D/EP F 36, pp. [157-60 rev.]).

(iv) In defence of Satyr (‘When Shakespeare, Johnson., Fletcher, rul'd the stage’). Walker, pp. 136-9. Sometimes attributed to Rochester (see, for instance, Paul C. Davies, ‘Who Wrote “In Defence of Satyr”’, EA, 23 (1970), 410-14). Conceded by Walker, as also by Love (pp. 102-5), as most likely by Rochester's old rival Sir Carr Scroope. Manuscript copies are recorded in Vieth, Attribution, pp. 390-4, to which may be added the Dublin MS (National Library of Ireland, MS 2093, pp. 25-32); University of California at Los Angeles, 170/68, pp. 13-15; King's College, Cambridge, Hayward Collection, H. 11. 14, pp. 25-9; Leeds University, Brotherton Collection, MS Lt. 87, ff. 2v-5r; Bodleian, MS Don. e. 176, pp. 127-31; and British Library, Sloane MS 182, ff. 94r-5r.

None of these poems is included in Love's edition, which adds, however (besides “The freeborn English Generous and wise” discussed above) Lord Moulgrave's character. By Lord Rochester (see RoJ 167.5-167.8) and a few poems and ‘impromptus’ of dubious authorship in his ‘Appendix Roffensis’ (pp. 264-301). With a few exceptions (such as On the Lady Mary Stewart who Eateing a hony comb a Bee flew out & stung her neck (RoJ 240.8), the latter poems have not been given separate entries below. On the other hand, The History of Insipids, rejected from the canon by all editors and attributed to John Freke, has been given entries below as an act of pure indulgence.

It would hardly be cause for surprise to discover that Vieth's list of dubia and apocrypha, long as it is, can still be extended. Examples are:

The Earle of Rochester on Sr Char Scrope (‘Half man half Brute, for foole is both between’). Ascribed to Rochester in a manuscript in private ownership. The poem recalls Rochester's other truculent attacks on Sir Carr Scroope

On the Court Ladyes (‘Roger told his brother clowne’). Tentatively attributed to Rochester, although not ascribed to him in manuscripts, and published in Elmer L. Brooks, ‘An Unpublished Restoration Satire on the Court Ladies’, English Language Notes, 10 (1973), 201-8. Manuscript copies include British Library, Add. MS 30982, ff. 97v-8v; Duke University, MS 12-14-71, pp. 86-90; Harvard, MS Eng 624, pp. [56-60]; National Library of Scotland, Adv. MS 19.3.4, ff. 125v-7r; and Yale, Osborn MS fb 140, p. 22 (first two stanzas).

Another (‘Go thy wayes thou merry King’). Four lines, docketed ‘these were writen in Kg Charles ye 2ds Window by ye late Ld Rochester’ in British Library, Add. MS 78233, f. 105v.

The manuscript texts recorded below of poems attributed to Rochester in Harold Love's edition are generally collated by him but are not recorded as such in each individual entry.

Dramatic Works

Rochester's most ambitious attempt at drama was his adaptation of Fletcher's Valentinian. In addition to the later and variant printed version of 1685, three manuscript copies of the play are now known (RoJ 644-646). One folio manuscript of the play, together with the scene he wrote for Sir Robert Howard's The Conquest of China by the Tartars, was offered for sale in Thomas Rodd's catalogue of books and manuscripts in June 1848 (p. 34), but this may well correspond with one of the two recorded copies of this pair of works (RoJ 634-5, RoJ 645-6). Rochester also dabbled, with mixed success, with a comedy — of which one autograph draft scene remains (*RoJ 633). None of these works was published in his lifetime.

The most controversial dramatic work with which his name is associated, however, is the piece of humorous and satirical pornography Sodom. According to Anthony Wood, ‘a most wretched and obscene and scandalously infamous play, not wholly completed, passed some hands privately in MS. under the name of Sodom and [was] fathered upon the earl (as most of this kind were, right or wrong, which came out at any time, after he had once obtained the name of an excellent smooth, but withall a most lewd poet) as the author of it’ (Athenae Oxonienses, ed. Bliss, III, 1230). Although most commentators have tended to concur with Wood's scepticism about its supposed authorship, the association with Rochester persists (being most recently and most vigorously argued by J. W. Johnson), especially since two versions of the play survive, and one argument even postulates that the play might have been subject to some degree of multiple authorship. Wood's remark about its being ‘not wholly completed’ also suggests that he had only the shorter, four-act version in mind. First circulated in manuscript probably in 1676, the piece seems to have been published in 1684 — the apparently unique exemplum of this edition being reportedly destroyed in the 1830s by the executors of Richard Heber, evidently with the same zeal that Murray destroyed Byron's memoirs. It was republished before 1690, when the printers Benjamin Crayle and Joseph Streater were prosecuted for it. The single known extant early printed exemplum, probably published in the early eighteenth century is an octavo entitled Sodom, or the Gentleman Instructed. A Comedy. By the E. of R. which came to light and was sold at Sotheby's 16 December 2004, lot 54. Otherwise the work, in one version or another, now survives in ten manuscript copies (RoJ 636-643). In addition, and not given separate entries below, a collection of papers of Henry Spencer Ashbee (1834-1900), book collector and bibliographer, relating to Sodom — and partly used in his Centuria Librorum Manuscriptorum (1879), pp. 326-41 — is now in the British Library (Add. MS 57732). It includes his complete transcripts of two of the recorded seventeenth-century manuscript copies.

Adaptations, ‘Answers’, and other Poems on Rochester

In addition to the many imitations of Rochester, as well as poems which contemporaries simply thought were characteristic of his style and so attributed to him, are poems which were unashamedly adapted from his work. Examples are On Nothing in British Library Add. MS 28253, ff. 135r-6r, and Reflections on some verses in Allusion to Hor. 10th. Sat. lib. 1. Sermon (‘True, Sir, I'll own yt. Dryden has sometimes’) in University of Nottingham, Pw V 1077, with which compare RoJ 12-37.

There are also a number of poems on Rochester by his contemporaries or near-contemporaries, most of which circulated in manuscript. Perhaps the best-known, found in innumerable sources, is Thomas Flatman's On the Death of my Lord Rochester, Pastorall (‘As on his deathbed gasping Strephon lay’). Among the less well-known is To Tho: Smith of Beconsfield, at returning Waller's & Rochester's Poems, borrowed of him (‘fill'd with sense; my valued ffriend’) by the Quaker Thomas Ellwood (1679-1713), which appears, dated 22 September 1691, in Ellwood's autograph verse collection Rhapsodia (Society of Friends, MS Vol. S. 80, pp. 88-9). Another is An Elegy on Ossory, Rochester, & Bedlow (‘The Brave lopt of, the Wit, ye Witnesse too’) in an unbound verse collection of John Gibson (1630-1711) of Welburn, North Yorkshire (Leeds University Library, Brotherton Collection, MS Lt. q. 52, ff. 48r-9r).

Of particular interest is perhaps the ‘Answers’ to Rochester's major, pessimistic outpouring, A Satyr against Reason and Mankind. The most savage answer was by Thomas Lessey of Wadham College, Oxford (beginning ‘Were I spirit to chuse for my own share’). This satire is edited, from British Library Harley MS 6207, ff. 60r-5v, in Nicholas Fisher's discussion of the subject ‘The Contemporary Reception of Rochester's A Satyr against Mankind’, Review of English Studies, NS 57 (2006), 185-220 (pp. 206-15). Another, anonymous, ‘answer’ beginning ‘A Courtly Buffoon [?one] of ye half-witted fellows’ is edited from Cambridge University Library, MS Add. 42, f. 24r-v in the same article (pp. 215-20). Yet another answer is by ‘Dr. P’, Edward Pococke, beginning ‘Were I to Chuse what sort of Corps I'de Wear’. Manuscript copies of such ‘answers’, chiefly Thomas Lessey's, include British Library, Harley MS 7312, pp. 18-24; Harley MS 6207, ff. 66r-70v, and Sloane MS 1458, ff. 43r-6v; Cambridge University Library, MS Add. 6339, ff. 17r-19v; Edinburgh University Library, MS Dc.1.3/1, pp. 27-8; Leeds University Library, Brotherton Collection, MS Lt. 110, ff. 19v-32v; and Princeton, RTC01 No. 36, pp. 222-30, and RTC01 No. 38, pp. 130-6.

Family Documents

There also survives a considerable number of Wilmot family papers, chiefly by Rochester's mother, Anne (née St John: 1614-96), Countess (Dowager) of Rochester, including the following (not given entries below):

A collection of about forty of the Countess's letters to her steward John Cary. National Archives, Kew (C 104/110 Part 3).

Twenty-four letters by the Countess, chiefly to members of her family, 1685-6. University of Rochester, Rochester, New York (D. 29).

A few papers of the Countess, with related documents (1660s-1703), including her ‘paper of some writings and papers in my one custody’. Sold at Sotheby's, 20 November 1973, lot 11, to Graham Greene. Two pages from these papers are illustrated in Greene, p. 163.

An indenture signed, inter alia, by the Countess, for the lease to Dr Henry Alworth of Stowells at Milborne, Wiltshire, 28 April 1677. Sold at Sotheby's, 20 November 1973, lot 177, to Miss Gell.

A document signed by the poet's daughter Anne Baynton and her husband, releasing the poet's mother from all debts arising from her guardianship of her; 13 July 1688, together with a document of 18 June 1692, discharging the poet's mother from a debt of £4,000 due to his second daughter, Elizabeth, who married Edward Montagu, third Earl of Sandwich. Sold at Sotheby's, 20 November 1973, lot 12, to Graham Greene.

Information about ‘Rochester's Income from the Crown’, drawn chiefly from Treasury records in the National Archives at Kew, offered in an article by Ken Robinson in N&Q, 227 (February 1982), 46-50.

A 33-page statement of accounts drawn up for Rochester for apparel supplied to him and members of his household by William Wattes, 14 August 1667 to 25 January 1671/2. Yale (Osb MSS File 15841, formerly Osborn files Wattes).

Royal letters patent concerning Lady Anne Wilmot and Mallett Wilmot, the poet's daughters, 6 November 1683. Somerset Heritage Center (DD/SF 12/15/35. Formerly DD/SF/1140).

Documents relating to Lady Anne Wilmot and Lady Elizabeth Wilmot, on seven large sheets of paper, 19 February 1682[/3]. Somerset Heritage Centre (DD/SF 12/15/33. Formerly DD/SF/1029).

Not the least interesting texts by a member of Rochester's family are the poems by his wife, Elizabeth (née Mallet, d.1698), drafted in the Portland MS (University of Nottingham, Pw V 31), notably (on f. 15r) that beginning ‘Nothing adds to your fond fire’, written in ‘answer’ to his Song ‘Give me leave to rail at you’. This poem is edited in Love, pp. 18-19, with his collations of various other manuscript copies of it on p. 524.

The text of a remarkable and previously unknown letter by Elizabeth came to light in Bonham's auction on 27 June 2006, lot 383, and is now owned by Nicholas Fisher. Among a collection of copies of letters by Rochester (RoJ 649) is a copy of an undated and unsigned letter, listed as ‘Letter from his Wife’, in which she briefly voices her unhappiness and disapproval of his continued absence in London. This revealing letter is edited for the first time in Nicholas Fisher's discussion of the collection ‘“Copies of Letters From, and To The Earl of Rochester”: An unexpected assemblage commissioned by Edward Harley, second Earl of Oxford (1689-1741)’, English Manuscript Studies, 17 (forthcoming).

Rochester's Death

Some items relating to Rochester's death (in addition to his valedictory letters, RoJ 659-664) may be listed briefly as follows:

Five letters by Anne, Countess Dowager, written when she was eighty years old, giving her sister-in-law Lady St John an account of her son's behaviour during his final illness. Edited in Treglown, pp. 248-55, from a mid-eighteenth-century transcript, allegedly ‘copied from the originals in the hands of Mrs Meredith, granddaughter to Lady St. John’, in the British Library (Add. MS 6269, ff. 33r-6v). An earlier transcript of the same letters is among the papers of the Jones and Boothby families, later of Fonmon Castle, now in the Glamorgan Archives, Cardiff (D/DF F/45-46).

A copy of Mr Parson's address at Rochester's funeral in 1680, made by Lady Cowper c.1698. Hertfordshire Record Office (DE/P F43, pp. 660-6).

A presentation printed exemplum of Gilbert Burnet's Some Passages of the Life and Death of the Right Honourable John Earl of Rochester (London, 1680), given by the author and with the recipient's inscription ‘From The Worthy Author 1681’. Pickering & Chatto's sale catalogue No. 652 (January 1984), item 17.

Another exemplum of Gilbert Burnet's Some Passages of the Life and Death of the Right Honourable John Earl of Rochester (London, 1680) bearing Burnet's own bookplate. Pierpont Morgan Library (7670).

A contemporary transcript of Burnet's Some Passages of the Life and Death of the Right Honourable John Earl of Rochester apparently made by the Quaker John Jack, on 112 small quarto pages. University of Chicago (MS 593).

A passage from Rochester's penitence as reported in Burnet's Some Passages, quoted in a letter by William Ball to Francis Parry, 27 September 1680. Bodleian (MS Eng. lett. c. 328, ff. 519r-20v). No doubt other copies of, or extracts from, this celebrated classic of repentance literature are to be found elsewhere.

The deposition of Sarah Blancourt, made on 9 November 1680, concerning Rochester's death. Bodleian (MS Eng. misc. b. 27, f. 30r).

A copy of William Thomas's account of Rochester's death. British Library (Harley MS 7003, f. 181), and a transcript of this by Thomas Birch (British Library, Add. MS 4162, ff. 255r-6r).


A brief dismissive note on Rochester by Joseph Hunter (1783-1861) in his Chorus Vatum Anglicanorum (Volume V) is in the British Library (Add. MS 24491, f. 97). Critical comments on Rochester are in the autograph manuscript of ‘Remarks & Observations on the most celebrated Authors & Artists’ by Philip Bliss (1787-1857), sold at Sotheby's, 15 December 1982, lot 117, to Quaritch, and now in the Bodleian (MS Don. e. 132). An exemplum of Works by Rochester, Roscommon and others (2 vols in 1, London, 1752) with annotations by the literary scholar and editor George Thorn-Drury, KC (1860-1931) is in the Bodleian (Thorn-Drury f. 3). Some of John Hayward's papers relating to his edition of Rochester's Collected Works (1926), as well as some manuscript texts of poems by Rochester collected by him (given entries below) are in the Hayward Collection at King's College, Cambridge.

Peter Beal