Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 51
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sex with both multiple sexual partners, both male and female then by definition, he is required to
copulate with women regardless of whether or not he would rather engage in libertine activities
that may or may not involve sexual relations with men. The poetic persona feels forced to
comply to adhere to a definition of libertinism that does not apply to his actual desires.
As a libertine, the narrator returns to the woman because he feels obligated, not because
he equates their relationship with the exalted romances he engages in with fellow libertine boys
and men. That is not to say he feels no physical attraction to women, just that he views
homosocial friendships with men as preferable to sexual relations with women. The poetic
persona similarly challenges any attempts at precise definitions of libertinism in that he returns to
sexual and heterosocial relationships with women-relationships supported by social institutions.
The poetic persona's methodical approach to heterosexual sex emphasizes the transience
Miner mentions and the inferiority of heterosexual relationships to homosocial and homosexual
relationships. This return, regardless of his reluctance to do so, however, renders him a libertine
who can only succeed temporarily at embodying the traits put forth in any standard definitions of
libertinism. His implicit devotion to a social institution-heterosexual relationships-will
constantly require him to change his definition of libertinism simply because true libertinism
involves a rebellion against all social institutions. Blair asserts that the poetic persona "remains
unaware of the incongruity of the last line" (Blair 128). However, it is questionable whether the
narrator does or does not realize the contradiction between the last line and the remainder of the
poem. Regardless of the narrator's awareness (or lack thereof) about the disjunction between the
concluding line and the poem as a whole, this change in the tone of the poem is characteristic of
libertine habitual revision of the definition of "libertinism." The concluding line of the poem,
then, when viewed through the perspective of a constantly redefining idea, does not contradict
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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/m1/57/?q=rochester: accessed May 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .