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BLAZING STAR: The Life and Times of John Wilmot
Bibliophile price: £1.50
The life of John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester was short in duration, but long on scandal. His misdeeds included the abduction of his future wife, banishment from court, and some of the most explicit verse in English literature. He died aged just 33 of syphilis, having 'swived more whores more ways than sodom's walls'. Co-existing with the libertine of legend, however, is another Rochester, who has not received his due - a naval officer who served his country with courage, a devoted if inconsistent husband and father, and a poet of deep intellectual curiosity at the heart of a cultural golden age. Larman explores his life, legacy and contradictions of this remarkable and complex man, painting a vivid picture of an era rich in literary achievement, as well as hard living and strong wine. He paints a gaudy, gilded stage of foppery and introduces characters like the famous pathologist Dr Bendo. Rochester's poetry was full of obscene humour and four letter words and outrageous sexual detail and he imprisoned his future wife at the Tower of London and himself posed as an Italian doctor for the purpose of defrauding the gullible. 387pp in paperback with 17 illustrations, mostly colour including Johnny Depp as Rochester and Rosamunde Pike as his wife Elizabeth Wilmot in the 2004 film The Libertine.

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