Debauchery

(c) Dillington House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

John Wilmot portrait by Peter Lely

After years of religious oppression under Cromwell and the puritans Britain was ready to release its pent up frustrations with gusto in the Glorious Revolution.  The restoration of Charles II to the monarchy in 1660 opened the doors to theater, dance, music and art.  Into this world stepped the famous libertine John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester.

Born April 1st 1647.  His father was a famous brave dashing cavalier and smuggled the young Charles out of England.  John had an up and down beginning to his career.  “Debauched” in Oxford, aged 13.  He tried to elope with a rich wife and was imprisoned in the Tower.  He volunteered to fight in the Navy and redeemed himself with heroism in battle.  His wit made him highly entertaining and favoured at court.  His pranks got him in trouble and rose to the level of treason and got him banned from court.

A famous rake in his day, the poem below gives a sense of his style.  He lived and wrote about overt sexuality.   He died aged only 33.  He is described as being drunk for 5 years in the company of what Andrew Marvell called “The Merry Gang”.  This was a gang of noble young blades who engaged in a feast of debauchery in the Court of King Charles.  It is thought that Wilmot died suffering from a variety of venereal diseases including Syphilis and Gonorrhea.

Because of his  lax moral character Wilmot was largely ignored in the Victorian era when poetry had a great flowering.  It was not until the 1920’s that he was re-admitted to polite society.

A Song Of A Young Lady To Her Ancient Lover ; by Lord John Wilmot

Ancient Person, for whom I
all the flattering youth defy,
long be it e’er thou grow old,
aching, shaking, crazy cold;
but still continue as thou art,
Ancient Person of my heart.

On thy withered lips and dry,
which like barren furrows lie,
brooding kisses I will pour,
shall thy youthful heart restore,
such kind show’rs in autumn fall,
and a second spring recall;
nor from thee will ever part,
Ancient Person of my heart.

Thy nobler parts, which but to name
in our sex would be counted shame,
by ages frozen grasp possest,
from their ice shall be released,
and, soothed by my reviving hand,
in former warmth and vigour stand.
All a lover’s wish can reach,
for thy joy my love shall teach;
and for thy pleasure shall improve
all that art can add to love.
Yet still I love thee without art,
Ancient Person of my heart.

Lucky Pirate

Every

Known as “Long Ben” to his men and “The Arch Pirate” or  “The King of Pyrates” to his fellow captains, Henry Every was a lucky pirate for two reasons.

  1. He captured one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, treasures in all the history of piracy.
  2. He got away with it.

A West-Country Englishman he served in the Royal Navy during the Nine Years’ War (1688–1697). After some time in the African slave trade he secured a berth as first mate aboard the warship Charles II to fight for the Spanish against the French. In La Corunna the Spanish failed to deliver a contract and the ships owners refused to pay wages to the crew. A Mutiny ensued, the Charles II was renamed the Fancy and Every emerged as the captain.

The Fancy plundered five ships off the West African coast on the sail south.  In the Indian ocean they raided a French vessel and escaped capture by three East Indiamen.  Continuing North, the Fancy arrived in the Arabian Sea during the Hajj season.  They joined forces with other pirate vessels to attack  a convoy of Grand Mughal vessels on pilgrimage to Mecca.

The flagship Ganj-i-sawai and its escort, the Fateh Muhammed turned out to be filled to the brim with treasure.

The battle was hard fought and the pirate fleet suffered heavy losses.  The Fancy captured the Fateh Muhammed and later disabled the Ganj-i-sawai by shooting out its mainmast.  After ferocious hand-to-hand fighting the pirates took the prize.  And the prize was huge, equivalent to almost $100 million in todays terms.

What followed was a terrible tale of torture, rape and killing.  It was said that female passengers stabbed themselves to death or threw themselves overboard to escape the horror.

The incident was a diplomatic catastrophe for England’s fragile relations with the Mughals. In response a reward of £1,000—an immense sum at the time—was offered for the capture of Henry Every.  This led to the first worldwide manhunt in recorded history.

Every and his crew fled to the pirate town of New Providence in the Bahamas where they divided the spoils.  Most of the sailors drifted home to England. Subsequently twenty-four of the pirates were captured, and six were tried, convicted, and hanged in London in 1696.

Every disappeared off the face of the earth, along with his treasure, and was never heard from again.

As a result of his success many other sailors were encouraged to try their hand at the pirate life.

Leave her, Johnny; A Sea Shanty

Oh the times was hard and the wages low

1. Leave her, Johnny, leave her

And the grub was bad and the gales did blow

2. And it’s time for us to leave her

Chorus

Leave her, Johnny, leave her

Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her

For the voyage is done and the winds do blow

And it’s time for us to leave her

I thought I heard the Old Man say

1.

You can go ashore and take your pay

2.

Chorus

Oh her stern was foul and the voyage was long

1.

The winds was bad and the gales was strong

2.

Chorus

And we’ll leave her tight and we’ll leave her trim

1.

And heave the hungry packet in

2.

Chorus

Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her with a grin

1.

For there’s many a worser we’ve sailed in

2.

Chorus

And now it’s time to say goodbye

1.

For the old pierhead’s a-drawing nigh

2.

Chorus