The poet, John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, was born in 1647, the son of Henry Wilmot, who wasmade 1st Earl of Rochester for his royalist services. Wilmot was educated at Wadham College, Oxford(MA, 1661) and the University of Padua. He married Elizabeth Mallet in January 1667 and took up hisseat in the House of Lords in the following July. As a member of the court of King Charles II,Rochester was in March 1667 made the King's Gentleman of the Bedchamber. One of the best-known ofthe libertine set linked with the Restoration court, he was notorious for his rakish life as well ashis literary output. He died in 1680 aged only 33, allegedly of syphilis.
Banished at one point from the court, because of a lampoon which angered the king, Rochester sethimself up for a period as 'Doctor Bendo' at Tower Hill in London.
Rochester wrote extensively, particularly in the form of satirical verse. During his lifetime hiswork circulated in manuscript, generally anonymously; few of his poems or songs were published underhis name until after his death. His works include: 'Tunbridge Wells' (1675), 'The History ofInspids' (1676), 'A Trial of the Poets for the Bays' (1677), and 'Rochester's Farewell' (1680).
Thomas Alcock is shown from internal evidence to be formerly a servant of Wilmot, living inDecember 1687 at Shirehampton, a village near Bristol. Vivian de Sola Pinto, who edited themanuscript, identified a chalk drawing in the Ashmolean Museum by Samuel Cooper as a portrait ofThomas Alcock. According to Alcock's inscription on the picture, the portrait was drawn when he waseighteen at the Earl of Westmorland's house at Apethorpe, Northamptonshire. Alcock signs hisinscription, 'preceptor', leading Pinto to conclude that he may have been employed by Rochester as ateacher for his children. Pinto's edition includes further conjectures about Alcock's history.