chapter  79
2 Pages

W.J.COURTHORPE on the influence of Hobbes on Rochester 1903

Rochester tried several styles of poetical composition, and up to the point at which he aimed, proved himself a master in each. From very early days he had shown that he possessed the power of writing well in verse. Like Buckingham, he was an excellent critic. Some of his verdicts on the writers of the time became proverbial, and his Allusion to the Tenth Satire of the First Book of Horace shows penetrating judgment. The frankness with which he expressed his opinions in this poem led him into a dispute with Sir Carr Scroop, who, imagining that he was the person sneered at in the allusion to the ‘purblind knight’, replied with an ironical panegyric, In Praise of Satire, containing some reflections on Rochester’s cowardly conduct in a midnight brawl. Stung by the retort, the Earl turned upon his assailant with a furious libel, the point of which lay in its descriptions of Scroop’s personal ugliness. Unfortunately for him, he forgot that to be a coward is a worse disgrace to a man than to be ugly, and Scroop contented himself with the pungent couplet: —

Thou canst hurt no man’s fame with thy ill Word: Thy pen is full as harmless as thy sword.