CHARLES COWDEN CLARKE on Rochester, Gentleman’s Magazine 1871
When some miserable wretch lies charged with an atrocious crime, there is no lack of daily agents to supply the gaping multitude with tales of enormity imputed to his charge, the greater part being pure fictions. This was the fortune of Lord Rochester, who was by nature one of the most brilliant, as he was by practice the most perilously licentious, wit of his age. In the collected editions of his poems-or poems attributed to him-a large proportion of them are so unworthy of his talent that it were unbelievable he could have so written below himself. The man had quite enough to answer for on the score of moral delinquency without having stupidity as well as indecency heaped upon his memory. But, indeed, the amount of natural ability that he possessed, and the proofs of it adduced by the testimony of the best judges (his contemporaries), justified his candidature to a niche with the satirists. He was evidently a spoiled child of the Court at the Restoration; for upon his early introduction to that world of ribaldry, he is said to have been remarkable for the modesty of his demeanour, even to a tendency to blush, when distinguished in company. His ‘virgin modesty’, however, soon became case-hardened in the Court furnace, and strange indeed was the course he ran.