In 1974, Viking Press issued Lord Rochester’s Monkey, Graham Greene’s biography of the Restoration poet John Wilmot. Greene actually wrote the book forty-four years earlier, but was unable to publish it for fear of the scandal its salacious details might cause: copies of a contemporaneous edition of Rochester’s poems had been incinerated by the New York Customs Authority. That lurid history gave the biography an immediate cachet, and helped to revive the poet’s reputation. Greene certainly had precedent. Voltaire called the poet a “man of genius.” Dr. Johnson, despite firm disapproval of the Earl’s personal comportment, praised him for “the vigor of his colloquial wit.” In the last century, Rochester earned the esteem of Ezra Pound, who identified him as an early practitioner of “logopoeia,” or that “dance of intellect among words” that the modernist writer so prized.


New to The New Criterion?

Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.

Popular Right Now