"CUPID AND BACCHUS MY SAINTS ARE": 1691 FIRST AUTHORIZED EDITION OF THE EARL OF ROCHESTER'S POEMS
WILMOT, John, Earl of Rochester. Poems, &c. on Several Occasions: with Valentinian, a Tragedy. London: Jacob Tonson, 1691. Octavo, 18th-century full paneled calf rebacked, raised bands, black morocco spine label, endpapers renewed. $5500.
First authorized edition of the Earl of Rochester's scandalous poems, edited by Thomas Rymer. The first edition to appear with Rochester's name on the title page, and the first to include his drama Valentinian.
"It has been difficult to obtain a proper understanding, much less a proper evaluation, of Rochester's poetry. The obstacle has been its repeated disparagement. This, beginning with John Dryden and Samuel Johnson, reached its apogee in Sir Edmund Gosse. It is based on several misconceptions: the autobiographical fallacy and the charges of plagiarism, blasphemy, and obscurity… Dismissing Rochester's verse as blasphemous and obscene misses the most important point. Impelled by the new science, institutionalized in the Royal Society, all the major Augustans were engaged in the 'endeavor to see things as they are' (Boswell, Life). With Rochester this was both a personal commitment and a political statement… This produced an 'appalling realism' in Rochester's verse (Prinz). But Rochester knew and defended what he was doing: 'Expressions must descend to the nature of things expressed', he told Savile (Letters)" (ODNB). On Rochester's death in 1680, at the age of 34, a pirated edition of his poems, which had only circulated in manuscript, swiftly appeared. Though the title page stated Antwerp, it was likely printed in London. In 1685 Andrew Thorncome published an unauthorized reprint of that edition. It was only in 1691 that Jacob Tonson published this first authorized edition, edited by Thomas Rymer, "which presents a somewhat improved text" (Pforzheimer). This edition includes a Preface by Rymer and "A Pastoral… Bewailing the Death of the Earl of Rochester." Also includes his blank-verse tragedy, Valentinian, with separate title page, also dated 1691. Gap in pagination between pages 154 and 369, with 14 unnumbered pages in between, as issued; text complete. Bound with advertisement leaf preceding title page. Wing R1756. Lowndes, 2114. See Pforzheimer 1069.
Text generally clean; slight rounding to corners. An extremely good and attractive copy.