I'm currently finishing a historical novel based on the life of Catherine Sedley, the notorious Countess of Dorchester (1657-1717.) One of Catherine's father's good friends was the infamous poet, gallant, rogue, and all-around wastrel John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647-1680) – not exactly the best company for an adolescent girl. By hanging around with Dad and his playboy pals, Catherine had an interesting upbringing, to say the least. In my book, sixteen-year-old Catherine is very nearly caught sharing a copy of one of Rochester's scurrilous poems, Signior Dildo.
And yes, Signior Dildo is about what you think it's about.
In one of the poem's endless verses cheerfully trashing the ladies of the court, I stumbled over this bit of historical enlightenment. Remember Loretta's recent blog about how certain Regency-era ladies prized their footmen for ALL their talents, and indulged them with costly livery? Here, thanks to Lord Rochester, is proof that certain ladies in 1673 felt much the same way:
The Countesse of Falmouth, of whom People tell
Her Footmen wear Shirts of a Guinea an Ell;
Might Save the Expence, if she did but know,
How Lusty a Swinger is Signior Dildo.
If you'd like to read the whole poem – purely for the sake of literary curiosity, I know – here it is. No coffee in the mouth whilst reading, ok?
Johnny Depp? Well, he made you look, didn't he? He also played Lord Rochester in The Libertine, so his appearance here really is justifiable. But to play fair, here's a portrait, right, by Sir Peter Lely of the real earl, too, looking more than a little louche. Who says research can't be fun?