GILES JACOB’s life and character of Rochester 1720
JOHN WILMOT, Earl of Rochester. This shining Nobleman was the Son of Henry Earl of Rochester; whose Fame, for Loyalty and Valour, equall’d his Son’s for his surprizing Wit and Genius. He was born at Dichley, near Woodstock, in Oxfordshire, in the Year 1648, and educated in Wadham-College, Oxford, under the Tuition of Dr. Blandford, afterwards successively Bishop of Oxford and Worcester. He was a Person of most excellent Parts and great Learning, being thorowly acquainted with all Classick Authors, both Greek and Latin. He early suck’d in those Perfections of Wit, Eloquence, and Poetry, which made him the Wonder of the Age wherein he liv’d. In all his Composures there is something peculiarly Great and New; and tho’ he has lent to many, he has borrowed of none: Nor was he deficient in his other personal Accomplishments, which were very much improv’d by his Travels; for in all the Qualifications of a Gentleman for the Court or the Country, he was universally known, and acknowledg’d to be a very great Master; but the natural Tendency of his Temper unhappily inclin’d him to Excesses of Pleasure and Wantonness. He had a strange Vivacity of Thought, and Vigour of Expression; his Style was clear and strong, and his Figures very lively, and few Men ever had a bolder Flight of Fancy, more steddily govern’d by Judgment than his Lordship. He laid out his Wit very freely in Libels and Satires, in which he had a peculiar Talent of mixing his Wit with his Malice, and fitting both with such apt words, that Men were tempted to be pleased with them. From thence his Compositions came to be easily known, few or none having such an artful way of tempering these together as he had: And his Satire he always defended, by alledging there were some Persons that could not be kept in Order, or admonish’d, but in this way. His Poetry has eminently distinguish’d it self from that of other Men, by a thousand irresistable Beauties: ’Twas all Original, like himself; the Excellencies are many and masterly, and the Faults few and inconsiderable; and those it has are of the kind, which Horace says, can never offend.