Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell Page: 1
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LIBERTINES REAL AND FICTIONAL IN ROCHESTER, SHADWELL,
WYCHERLEY, AND BOSWELL: AN INTRODUCTION
The word "libertinism," writes Samuel Mintz, "was used in England as early as 1563"
(134). Mintz summarizes the history of libertinism as follows:
At first it referred to free-thinking of antinomian opinion. Within a few decades it
acquired a second meaning-the disregard of moral restraint, especially in relations
between the sexes... Hobbes was a 'libertine' because he denied religion; the courtiers
and wits were 'libertines' because they led dissolute, immoral lives. What Hobbes's
critics tried to show was the second type of libertinism resulted from the first, that the
immoral conduct of the courtiers was inspired by the free-thinking opinions of Hobbes.
"Antinomian" refers to those who "over-throw the Law Morall, they hold that Christ came to
abolish it, that a believer hath nothing to do with keeping the Commandments, that the Gospel
takes away all obedience to the Commandments" (Byfield 29). Antinomians are also "against all
urging of doing duty of Humiliations, of Repentance for sins after justification, of praying for
pardon of sin by a believer," and "hold that the Law ought not to be Preached to believers, with a
great deal more of the like pernicious Leaven: all which favoureth of ignorance, pride, and
conceitedness, and of affectation of licentiousness, and lawless liberty: the spirit of Libertinism
inspireth these men" (Byfield 29). Libertines qualify as antinomians in that they rebelled against
social institutions-e.g., the Church, marriage, family, and the government-and the restrictions
these institutional authorities placed upon them. For these reasons, many have often thought of
libertines as socially subversive.
Etymologically, the word libertinismm" evolved from a strictly religious, connotative
definition in the Protestant Reformation to sexual, political, and anti-religious implications
during the Restoration and Eighteenth century. James Grantham Turner writes, "The religious
meanings of 'libertinism,' grouped under a single heading by the Oxford English Dictionary,
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Smith, Victoria. Libertines Real and Fictional in Rochester, Shadwell, Wycherley, and Boswell, dissertation, May 2008; Denton, Texas. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc6051/m1/7/: accessed April 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; .