Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 5
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placed them "at odds with England's many figures of traditional authority: London's constables;
women's husbands, fathers, and employers; and England's king and his ministers" (2).
Eventually, however, the group of libertines consisting of Rochester, Sedley, Buckingham, and
Wycherley disbanded by the 1680s due to political and artistic differences arising between the
In addition to their membership at court and their positions in the king's favor, libertines
were typically young, upper-class men who not only adopted their own "philosophy," but also
rebelled against the philosophy of their fathers. They rejected virtues such as discretion,
monogamy, and responsibility, and regarded them as "suitable to those whose senses have been
dulled by age or natural incapacity" (Chernaik 25). This rebellion against such virtues is
exemplified in their endorsement and often reinterpretation of Hobbesian philosophy and the
principles outlined in Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan. Hobbes promotes following sense and
nature, but not without similarly obeying reason. According to Hobbes, humans should pay
attention to and follow nature and what Hobbes calls "right reason"-a version of reason that
combines nature or sense with reason. Hobbes writes, "For all men by nature reason alike, and
well, when they have good principles" (Hobbes 21). Humans, then, not only reason similarly to
one another, but also live according to a facet of reason that allows nature to influence it and
vice/versa. Throughout Leviathan, Hobbes implicitly opposes solely endorsing reason or nature
and supports following a school of thought that advocates a healthy balance or integration of the
Restoration and eighteenth-century libertines, however, often misinterpreted Hobbes and
portrayed his philosophical tenets as a support for radical ethical and moral relativism. Chernaik
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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/m1/11/?q=rochester: accessed June 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .