John Wilmot, English poet and courtier

John Wilmot, English poet and courtier

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Credit: PAUL D STEWART/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: John Wilmot (1647-1680), English poet and courtier, 2nd Earl of Rochester. Here, he is 'Crowning his Monkey' with the laurels of a poet as the monkey who tears pages for him. Part of King Charles II's Restoration court, Wilmot was the embodiment of the new era, known for his louche lifestyle as well as his poetry. He died aged 33 from venereal disease. During his lifetime, he was best known for 'A Satyr Against Reason and Mankind'. His friend Etheridge wrote of him: 'I know he is a devil, but he had something of the angel yet undefac'd in him'. While his star waned during more conservative eras, he is again celebrated today for his remarkable and sparkling prose. Johnny Depp played him in the 2004 film 'The Libertine'. Engraving from 'The Biographical Mirror' published by Harding in 1795, with later hand colouring, after a painting from circa 1655.

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