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A “Fantastic Mind” and a “Fix’d Heart”

Rochester and the Disciplining of the Mind
  • Anthony J. Funari
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Abstract

In the dedicatory epistle to John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester in Love in the Dark (1675), Francis Fane praises the earl for his intellectual prowess that so properly balances “judgment and fancy” in the “highest degree that ever was allow’d the Soul of Man.”1 Fane’s acclamation of Rochester goes on to distinguish him as one of the lights of knowledge for their time, placing him on par with Bacon: “What was favorably said of my Lord Bacon in his time, may much more justly be affirmed of your Lordship, in yours; that if ever there were a beam of Knowledge, immediately deriv’d from God, upon any Man, since Creation, there is one upon yourself.”2 Part of what may be interpreted from the comparison Fane offers is the venerable position Bacon came to hold for the intelligentsia during the Restoration. With the formation of such scientific organizations as the Oxford Experimental Philosophy Club and later the Royal Society, Baconianism formed the foundation of the prevailing intellectual tenor during both the Interregnum and the Restoration. Although he did not produce the scientific treatises that Bacon did, Rochester’s conversations with Fane must have left such an impression as to suggest his more than passing familiarity with the tenets of Baconianism: Fane cites the “charming and instructive conversations” with Rochester as having “improv’d” him “in all those Sciences that ever I coveted knowledge of.”3

Keywords

Formal Band Epistemological Position Scientific Mind Instructive Conversation Closing Line 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Francis Fane, “From the dedication to Love in the Dark,” in Rochester, The Critical Heritage, ed. David Farley-Hills (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1972), 36.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    James William Johnson, A Profane Wit: The Life of John Wilmot (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2004), 30.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Charles Webster, The Great Instauration: Science, Medicine and Reform 1626–1660 (New York: Holmes &Meier, 1975), 159.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning (1605; repr., London: Dodo Press, 2005), I.ii.6.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    Carole Fabricant, “Rochester’s World of Imperfect Enjoyment,” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 73, no. 3 (July1974): 338.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Fabricant concludes that the earl’s poetry reveals human sexuality as entrapped in a cycle of automated, mechanized motions that dull any vitality or pleasure that may be anticipated. For Fabricant, Rochester’s prevailing metaphor for the human body is that of a machine, one that is “slowly but surely falling apart”: “I do not randomly choose the image of disintegrating machine. For throughout Rochester’s poetry the sexual takes on increasingly sinister overtones until it finally emerges as mechanical grotesquerie.” Ibid., 345. Predicated on such frail grounds, sex at best provides a transient solace. Also see Sarah Wintle, “Libertinism and Sexual Politics,” in The Spirit of Wit: Reconsiderations of Rochester, ed. Jeremy Treglown (Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1982), 133–65.Google Scholar
  7. Jonathan Brody Kramnick, “Rochester and the History of Sexuality,” English Literary History 69 (2002): 277–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 10.
    Melissa Sanchez, “Libertinism and Romance in Rochester’s Poetry,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 38, no. 3 (2005): 442.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    William Chernaik, Sexual Freedom in Restoration Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 15.
    All quotations from Rochester’s poetry come from The Complete Poem of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. Edited by David M. Vieth (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962).Google Scholar
  11. 16.
    Francis Bacon, preface to Novum Organum—With Other Parts of The Great Instauration, ed. Peter Urbach and John Gibson (Chicago: Open Court, 2000), 39.Google Scholar
  12. 17.
    Francis Bacon, De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum Libri IX, ed. Richard Foster Jones (New York: Odyssey Press, 1937), II.13. De Dignitate is the expanded Latin version of The Advancement of Learning. 18. Bacon, Advancement, II.xii.1.Google Scholar
  13. 19.
    See Kate Aughterson, “Redefining Plain Style: Francis Bacon, Linguistic Extension, and Semantic Change in ‘The Advancement of Learning,’” Studies in Philology 97, no. 1 (2000): 96–143.Google Scholar
  14. Ryan Stark, “From Mysticism to Skepticism: Stylistic Reform in Seventeenth-Century British Philosophy and Rhetoric,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 34, no. 4 (2001): 322–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 22.
    Robert E. Stillman, The New Philosophy and Universal Languages in Seventeenth-Century England (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Press, 1995), 96.Google Scholar
  16. 27.
    For further discussion of the centrality of language and Hobbes’s politics see Fredrick G. Whelan, “Language and Its Abuses in Hobbes’ Political Philosophy,” The American Political Science Review 75, no. 1 (March 1981): 59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 28.
    Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, ed. C. B. McPherson (London: Penguin Books, 1985), 99.Google Scholar
  18. 35.
    Thomas H. Fujimura, “Rochester’s ‘Satyr Against Mankind’: An Analysis,” in John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester: Critical Essays, ed. David M. Vieth (New York: Garland, 1988), 208.Google Scholar
  19. 42.
    Marianne Thormählen, Rochester: The Poems in Context (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 74.Google Scholar
  20. 47.
    David M. Vieth, “‘Pleased with the Contradiction and the Sin’: The Perverse Artistry of Rochester’s Lyrics,” in John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester: Critical Essays, ed. David M. Vieth (New York: Garland, 1988), 183.Google Scholar
  21. 50.
    Thomas Stearns Eliot, Homage to John Dryden: Three Essays on Poetry of the Seventeenth Century (London: Hogarth Press, 1927), 30.Google Scholar
  22. 51.
    Stanley Fish, Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), 251.Google Scholar

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© Anthony J. Funari 2011

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  • Anthony J. Funari

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