Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 42
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and reason. Like the poetic persona in A Satyr Against Mankind, the narrator or the debauchee in
this poem, through his reflections of his past and projections about his future, not only reconciles
the two ideas, but his advocacy of right reason coupled with his interpretation of Hobbes also
establishes him as a Hobbesian libertine. The fact that he does not change his interpretation of
Hobbes to conform to his fluctuating desires functions as a self-critique and self-satire of
libertinism. Rochester's decision not to change his reading of Hobbes in order to coincide with
his shifting lifestyle implicitly criticizes libertines who must frequently change the definitions of
libertinism so that they can still qualify as libertines. However, Rochester's status as a libertine
does not depend upon making the changes in his agenda conforming to his interpretation of
In his recollection of his youth, the narrator identifies himself as a libertine. The poem
opens with the narrator as an impotent older man reminiscing about his libertine past. He tells
his internal audience, younger men, the following:
As some brave Admiral, in former War,
Depriv'd of force, but prest with courage still;
Two Rival-Fleets, appearing from a far,
Crawles to the top of an adjacent Hill.
From whence (with thoughts full of concern) he views
The wise, and daring Conduct of the fight,
And each bold Action, to his Mind renews,
His present glory, and his past delight. ("Maim' d" 1.1-8, my emphasis)
The narrator relates this story to young libertines to show them, through his own testimonial
about his past adventures and current, comparatively more reserved life, that they should divide
their loyalties between libertinism and reason. Not only does the narrator entreat young men to
embrace their libertinism while they are still physically able to do so, but he also expresses
optimism-or at least expresses acceptance-about the impotence that accompanies old age.
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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/m1/48/?q=rochester: accessed August 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .