Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 7
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highest point of sacred friendship be performed slightly, but go about it...as priests to sacrifice, or
as discreet thieves to the wary performance of burglary and shoplifting" (Treglown 92).
Underwood writes, Buckingham, Rochester, Etherege, Wycherley, and Sedley, "through their
public acts and theatrical works, were also the most responsible for creating the libertine's
reputation as a debauchee, wit, and scoundrel" (12). As philanderers and scoundrels, then,
libertines are "parasitic" in that they "interrupt a system of social exchange" (Braverman 74).
Libertines disrupt this "system" by both focusing on instantly gratifying their own desires
without considering the repercussions of doing so and by rejecting all forms of authority rather
than tyrannical, unjust authority.
Since any attempts to define the word "libertinism"-or at least any attempts to provide a
standard definition of the word-are tenuous at best, it is equally tenuous to suggest that any
libertines conform to conventional or standard libertinism. In fact, the literary and "real life"
libertines in this study not only fail to conform to such definitions of libertinism, but also
reinterpret libertinism. While all these libertines do possess similar characteristics-namely
affluence, insatiable sexual appetites, and a rebellion against institutional authorities (the Church,
reason, government, family, and marriage)-they often misinterpret libertinism, reason, and
Hobbesian philosophy. Furthermore, they all choose different, unique ways to oppose
patriarchal, social authorities. These aberrant ways of rebelling against social institutions and
their redefinitions of libertinism, I argue, make them self-satirists and self-conscious critics of
libertinism as a concept.
"Libertines Real and Fictional in the works of Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and
Boswell" discusses the Restoration and eighteenth-century libertine figure as it appears in John
Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester's Satyr against Mankind, "The Maim'd Debauchee," and
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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/m1/13/?q=rochester: accessed September 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .