This introduction describes Rochester as the most irrepressibly destructive of all the English poets. The very idea of the anarchic libertine poet, as created in the gossip of his contemporaries and in the notoriety of unpublishably obscene texts, disrupts any attempt to account for his writings from within the institutions and procedures of the Academy. The essays that follow are introduced, but it concludes with Rochester perceived not as a challenging outsider, but as a figure central to his age, active in the articulation of a sceptical and committed language that offers us, as readers, a point of entry into late seventeenth-century culture as a whole.
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