Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 101
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because it implies that he not only wavers in his devotion to virtue, but also in his ability and
desire to obey patriarchal authority. Boswell prefers to converse with others and actively seek
amusement (pleasure) over attending a university and furthering his studies and in doing so,
implicitly rejects an institutional authority-the university. He appears not to regret his
conversion from a fledgling paragon of virtue to an expert libertine because libertinism offers
him independence and freedom to satisfy his potent sexual appetite.
Boswell and Impotence
Boswell's views regarding impotence appear contradictory. In an entry dated June 5,
1763, Boswell reflects about the previous night's activities and their results the following
morning. He reports:
...my last night's rioting and this morning's indulgence, joined with my being really in
love with her, had quite enervated me, and I had no tender inclinations. I made an
apology easily; and she was very good, and said it happened commonly after drinking.
However, I was much vexed. (Boswell 273)
It seems that Boswell finds exercising temperance and virtue easier to accomplish when
physically impotent because he can no longer successfully debauch or behave as a libertine-this
makes Boswell different from the former libertine narrator of Rochester's "The Maim'd
Debauchee." In Rochester's poem, the narrator reflects upon his youth as a libertine and
encourages young libertines to embrace their libertinism while they are still sexually potent.
However, though Rochester's narrator endorses libertinism, he does not simultaneously
denounce virtue or reason. He embraces both ideas and foresees the future with optimism.
Though one could argue that the term "impotence" connotes hindrance from or even prevention
of enjoying life, the narrator offers a more positive view of the impotence accompanying his age.
The narrator sees himself "shelter 'd in impotence" (Rochester 1. 47, my emphasis) instead of
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Smith, Victoria. Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell, dissertation, May 2008; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc6051/m1/107/?q=rochester: accessed February 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .