A Curious Miscellany of Items Philosophical, Historical, and Literary

Manus haec inimica tyrannis.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Of Libertines

September 9, 1754

My Dear Mr. Avenger,

I thank you very much for the lyrical Works you pass’d along to me, by that inimitable poetical Duo of Mr. GUNNS and Mr. ROSES. I admit I do not much care for their Work, and yet, there was one of their Songs in particular that caus’d me to give over some little Time to Reflection. You know the one to which I refer, for it is that inimitable Ode “to Mr. BROWNSTONE,” which runs,

          I get up around seven,
          I Get out of Bed around nine,
          And I don't worry about nothing, no,
          ‘Cause worrying’s a waste of my time.

          The Show usually starts around seven,
          We go on Stage around nine,
          Get on the Bus about eleven
          Sipping a Drink and feeling fine.

The Verses delineate in very evocative Fashion the Regimen (if it may be so-called) of one given over to a Life of Debauchery, who makes it his Habit to turn Day into Night, and Night into Day. It puts me in Mind of a very obscene Performance by my Lord ROCHESTER. I blush to reproduce it, but since we are become free with each other, you will of course forgive me:

          I Rise at Eleven, I Dine about Two,
          I get drunk before Seven, and the next thing I do;
          I send for my Whore, when for fear of a Clap,
          I Spend in her hand, and I spew in her Lap;

          There we quarrel, and scold, till I fall asleep,
          When the Bitch, growing bold, to my Pocket does creep;
          Then slyly she leaves me, and to revenge th’affront,
          At once she bereaves me of Money and C—nt.
          If by chance then I wake, hot-headed and drunk
          What a coyle do I make for the loss of my Punk?
          I storm, and I roar, and I fall in a rage,
          And missing my Whore, I bugger my Page:
          Then crop-sick, all Morning, I rail at my Men,
          And in Bed I lye Yawning till Eleven again.

[Poems on Several Occasions By the Right Honourable, The E of R (1680) pp. 59-60 — Ed.]

This sort of Life, or rather waking Death, I observ’d in my Youth amongst some Sparks or young Bucks I knew at the Inns of Court, Gentlemen of an independent Fortune, who, needing not to follow the Law as a Profession, nor indeed to earn any kind of Living, it having been earned already for them by their more virtuous Progenitors, gave themselves over to an Education of their own devising, which consisted, so far as I cou’d tell, of Dicing, Wenching, Drinking, and Roaring — with a liberal helping of Free-thinking scraped together from the Dregs of the Coffee-Houses and the worst Sort of Books.

Some few of these my Acquaintances eventually escapt without coming to a bad End, either through the good Offices of a wise Father who refus’d to further Finance such Studies, or through the natural cooling of the Spirits that is often the natural Concomitant of Age and Responsibility.

The remainder of these Fellows of whom I speak, at one Time or other, died Martyrs to Vice. Such Men, while trudging along the Stations of their Cross, make of themselves Markers or Way-signs for the rest of us. This is almost the only Utility these dubious Heroes had to offer their Country in the Sacrifice of their miserable Lives.

The Libertine does not dwell in his House, but rather haunts it. Like an evil Spirit, he walks all Night to disturb his Family, but is never seen by Day. Thro’ his frequent resort to the Company of unwholesome Women, he finds himself struck by the outward Signs of his Sin, and what he loses by Venus, he wou'd recover by Mercury, a Medicine oft worse than that which it is meant to cure. [Mercury was the standard medical treatment for venereal disease — Ed.]

As the Years pass by him insensibly and mark'd by naught but his increasing Excesses, the Libertine’s Pleasures become Things rather to be endured than enjoy’d; yet endure them he does, tho' with less Grace and Fortitude than others endure their Pains. In short, he is like that Natta, whom PERSIUS describ’d thus:

          non pudet ad morem discincti vivere Nattae?
          sed stupet hie vitio et fibris increvit opimum
          pingue, caret culpa, nescit quid perdat, et alto
          demersus summa rursus non bullit in unda.

[“Are you not ashamed to live after the fashion of the abandoned Natta? A man deadened by vice, whose heart is overlaid with callouses, who has no sense of sin, no knowledge of what he is losing, and is sunk so deep that he sends up no bubble to the surface?” Persius, Satires, III.30-34 — Ed.]

          See him in Sin’s Abyss insensate drop;

          He sinks, and sends no Bubble to the Top.

I am, as always,

     Your obed’nt & most humble serv’t,
          Jos. Darlington, Esq.
               Darlington Close,
               Horton-cum-Studley, Oxf.