Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 34
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LIBERTINISM AND "RIGHT REASON" IN ROCHESTER'S A SATYR
AGAINST MANKIND, "THE MAIM'D DEBAUCHEE," AND
"UPON HIS DRINKING A BOWL"
Restoration and eighteenth-century libertinism often entails obeying instincts and
rebelling against social institutions. Warren Chernaik observes that "the libertines assumed all
authority was illegitimate: the state, the church, the family were institutions equally parasitic on
man's fear of freedom" (25). Chernaik's assessment is correct, especially when one considers
libertines' constant reinterpretation and misinterpretation of Hobbes's Leviathan. However, as
we shall see presently, the fictional libertine personae discussed in this chapter do not modify
Hobbesian philosophy to accommodate their own agendas-as libertines are typically prone to
do- but advocate Hobbes's actual tenets and redefine libertinism. The narrators of Rochester's
A Satyr against Mankind, "The Maim'd Debauchee," and "Upon His Drinking a Bowl" serve to
demonstrate that the two ideas, libertinism and reason, are not mutually exclusive, but are
simultaneous opposites one can adequately reconcile-that is, libertines can equally advocate
both ideas-to their lifestyles. More specifically, I will examine the ideas of libertinism and
reason in the three poems and the ramifications of ignoring one school of thought and embracing
the other-as we see in A Satyr against Mankind-and how the poetic personae of A Satyr
Against Mankind, "The Maim'd Debauchee," and "Upon His Drinking a Bowl," through their
applications of Hobbes's theories, justify their loyalties to both libertinism and reason. The three
poetic personae cannot live up to any sort of libertine ideal because this ideal constantly changes
to accommodate the similarly shifting needs and desires of the libertines.
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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/m1/40/?q=rochester: accessed July 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .