Sunday, October 28, 2007


Barbara Vanderheyden

The OED defines a libertine is a person who is freely indulgent in sensual pleasures. The ideology of libertinism entered the English scene when Charles II, a Libertine, took the English throne. Libertinism was an imported from France. Charles II was humorized in Dryden’s “Absalom and Achitophel” with the lines stating David (Charles II), “scattered his Maker’s image through the land” (Dryden 2089). Libertinism is an embrace of the sensual and getting the most out of one's only life .One of the trademarks of libertinism was to try and have as much sex and as many offspring as possible. Thus, Charles II being a true libertine was famous for his various bastard children. In our reading a great libertine author is the Earl of Rochester, who distinguished himself as “the man of the most wit and least honor in England” (Norton 2167). He believed that one should be as bad as he could to truely get the most out of life. Libertinism and Reason do not go hand in hand as seen in Rochester's "A Satire agaist Reason and Mankind", Rochester states, "Were I (who to my cost alreadly am one of thoes strange and prodigious creatures, man) a sprit free to choose, for my own share what case of flesh and blood I pleased to wear, I'd be a dog, a monkey, or a bear; or anything but that vain animal who is so proud of being rational" (Norton 2173). With the libertine's praise for the indulgence of pleasure, reason seems to get in the way and makes man seem "proud" and feel he is above other animals. A great libertine character is Horner from “The Country Wife,” who is the ideal rake and also attempts to spread his image throughout the play. Libertinism also conflicts with Natural Religion, which seeks to endorse the existance of God with reason, because Libertinism does not believe in the complete greatness of reason alone.

1 comment:

P.J. said...


Can you say something about the relationship between Reason and libertinism? Also, can you briefly compare contemporary philosophies or beliefs that may be in dialogue with libertinism? - PJE