Of Ink, Wit and Intrigue: Susan Cooper-Bridgewater

‘You will not like me,’ warns the Earl of Rochester at the beginning of Laurence Dunmore’s 2004 film The Libertine; ‘you will not like me now, and you will like me a good deal less as we go on.’ This, of course, is nonsense: the rake of rakes; the canker at the heart of the Restoration rose; the closest we English have ever come to anyone of Casanova’s calibre… how can we fail to like Rochester? I’ve encountered him several times over the last couple of years, although always in a supporting role: his portrait, with monkey in tow, in the exhibition The Wild, The Beautiful and The Damned, for example, or making a cameo appearance in The Vizard Mask. When I spotted this book on offer on Netgalley, which promised to restore the syphilitic Earl to centre stage, I snapped it up immediately.

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