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A Profane Wit Hardcover – December 2, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 478 pages
  • Publisher: BOYE6; First edition (December 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580461700
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580461702
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,501,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Johnson (Emer., University of Rochester) wrote this generous biography -- a veritable progress of a rake's rake -- with enthusiasm and engaged fascination with Rochester (1647-1680) . . . Johnson's forte, in addition to the extensiveness of his information, is his strong narrative sweep: this is an exciting biography. Highly Recommended. CHOICE Within the last five years there have been two other new biographies of the poet and courtier, both oriented towards a more general reader than is implied here. However, any reader would be advised to choose Johnson's as the most authoritative account to date. . . . An additional strength of this biography is the way in which it uncovers so much more than an individual life. Interwoven with Rochester's fortunes are those of King and country, court and parliament and a huge array of other personalities. ENGLISH: THE JOURNAL OF THE ENGLISH ASSOCIATION A life of Rochester could not be better done. It is a biography not only for the scholar, replete with footnotes, references and bibliography, but also for the reader, being written in an easy style with learning lightly worn. . . A fine biography unlikely to be bettered in the foreseeable future. THE PRESS (New Zealand)

From the Author

If you loved Johnny Depp in the deliciously dark film, The Libertine, you'll want to pick up a copy of this book to read the writings for yourself.

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Customer Reviews

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See all 7 customer reviews
After that, I just had to read a biography of a person who appeared to be extremely interesting.
Frank J. Konopka
I have to say that if you never knew anything about John Wilmot, this is the book you want to read.
HABU122
Not only an excellent bio, but a great insight into the life and times of the court of Charles II.
The Mad Lep

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Doug Anderson VINE VOICE on July 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
With the release of THE LIBERTINE there is a renewed interest in the life and poetry of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. My own interest began when I was taking a class in Restoration Literature. While I was taking this class it was rumored that there was a movie version of the mad Earl's life out there somewhere (rumor was that it had been finished for some time but that studios were reluctant to release it) but then just a few weeks after the class was over a holiday release date was announced and I saw the film on opening night. I enjoyed it thoroughly as a person with a slightly more than casual interest in this character and time period. And left the film wanting to know more.

I think there are probably several groups of fans for the film. There are the fans who like Johnny Depp and will see anything he is in (I'm not one of those although I will admit to liking DONNIE BRASCO & Jim Jarmusch's DEAD MAN). But then there are those who come to the film because they are interested in Rochester himself. These fans can probably further be divided up into those who are amused by Rochester the legend ( the mad, bad, and dangerous to know libertine) and then there are those who are curious about Rochester the actual historical figure and author of many fine lyrics. James William Johnson's biography will appeal to those who have an interest in not only Rochester but the entire social, political, military, economic, and literary milieu of 1660's and 1670's London. I think the reader with only a casual interest in the subject might find this treatment to be too complete. I for one found this biography to be almost too exaustive; that might sound odd but Johnson spends so much time on Rochester's mother and her family politicking, for instance, that I found myself nodding off during these parts.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
If you like your poetry naughty, you don't have to resort to collections of bawdy limericks. You can in good conscience take up the work of one of the most amazing personalities who ever made rhymes, John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester. Along with using all the words and subjects that would these days force him onto satellite radio, Rochester filled his lively poetry with classical allusions and vast learning, as well as commenting on current affairs. Dr. Johnson was one who could surely take offense at the tone of Rochester's work, but didn't: "In all his works there is sprightliness and vigour, and every where may be found tokens of a mind which study might have carried to excellence; what more can be expected from a life spent in ostentatious contempt of regularity, and ended before the abilities of many other men began to be displayed?" This extraordinarily irregular and short life is taken up in _A Profane Wit: The Life of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester_ (University of Rochester [ha!] Press) by James William Johnson. A large volume which draws upon sources previously unavailable to biographers, it is a serious academic evaluation of a spectacular poet.

Rochester was born in 1647. He absorbed a Puritan doctrine from his mother and the tutors she hired for him, and despite all the evidence of his subsequent rakish behavior, he never shook off the imbued religious emotions and guilt. At Oxford he entered Wadham College and began his sexual life, perhaps with homosexual debauchery (Wadham was known as "Sodom"). His tutor may have initiated him into it, but also helped the young man as an upcoming classicist and poet. He began to write poetic tributes to King Charles, with the purpose of reminding the King that he was Lord Wilmot's son.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By HABU122 on December 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have to say that if you never knew anything about John Wilmot, this is the book you want to read. The author was precise, historically correct,clever, entertaining and made the subject matter jump off the page. Mr. Johnson used the Earl's poetry and intertwined it into his storytelling. You get a real flavor of just who the Earl of Rochester was. I've read other Wilmot biographies but I have to say, this one really earned the 5 stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By The Mad Lep on September 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I really couldn't better some of the excellent reviews already made about this book, so I'll keep mine short. I've spent many years enthralled with the Earl of Rochester's work and life. I have read almost all of the biographies ever written about him, which are numerous, and in my opinion this is the crown jewel of Wilmot biographies. It is steeped in depth of detail, but the most important fact about it is that the author manages to keep personal opinion out of the bio the whole way through. He states the facts and leaves it up to the reader's discretion to form their own opinions, unlike some of the other Rochester biographers.
For those of you wanting the most up-to-date, detailed account of this wonderful poet's life, this is it. From birth to death and it's aftermath, this biography is the fullest and most accurate account of John Wilmot's life available. Poet, Libertine, Husband, Father, Lover, Cynic; every possible aspect of Wilmot's life and career are laid out for the reader here. While at times, the author possibly gives a little too much detail on persons not so important to the Wilmot story, the reader is richer for the knowledge in any case. Not only an excellent bio, but a great insight into the life and times of the court of Charles II.
Wilmot fans should not pass up the chance to read this. :)
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