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The Art of Literary Biography$
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John Batchelor

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198182894

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198182894.001.0001

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John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester: An Author in Search of a Character

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester: An Author in Search of a Character

(p.100) (p.101) 7 John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester: An Author in Search of a Character
The Art of Literary Biography


Oxford University Press

This chapter stresses that biographies cannot be definitive because John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647–80) throws up particular problems which face biographers at every turn with their prejudices. The chronicle of Rochester's life is relatively sparse and his oeuvre is relatively small. Much of both are sensational, but both also present remarkable uncertainties. The uncertainties of the life and the canon are not mere accidents of history: they are evoked by, constitute a response to, and mirror something of Rochester the man, something which one can find reflected too in the difficulties critics have experienced with his poetry. The uncertainties surrounding Rochester's life start literally ab ovo.

Keywords:   John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, biography, biographer, life

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