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Following his death in 1680 publishers scrambled to produce editions of Rochester’s poems – correctly perceiving the public appetite for his verse.
An initial run of pirate editions of Rochester’s poetry was quickly supplanted with an authoritative collection, produced in 1691 by the leading literary publisher of the day, Jacob Tonson.
Though safety, law, religion, life lay on ’t, 'Twould break through all to make its way to cunt.
Restless he rolls about from whore to whore, A merry monarch, scandalous and poor.
As Rochester succinctly phrased it in his correspondence, “Expressions must descend to the Nature of Things express’d”.
The Victorians couldn’t cope with Rochester’s poetry, and there were no editions of his work published in the 19th century.
After six days of evidence and only three hours of deliberations, the jury found in the favour of Penguin Books, its verdict allowing the publisher to print copies of the novel for the first time.In this way, he was much like the contemporary philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who famously pronounced that life was “nasty, brutish and short” and that underneath it all man was a beast like any other.