John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647-1680)

In 1673 a rhymed heroic tragedy by Samuel Pordage, Herod and Mariamne, was produced at the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields. According to the prologue, it had been written much earlier.

MR. PORDAGE (who at least has rendered himself famous for following the Muses, though he could never overtake them) seems not to have had interest enough among the players to usher his own performances on the theatre. He had taken infinite pains to make Herod an arrant Jew, and was very unwilling to lose his labour after the work had not only received the approbation of himself, but of several of his poetical friends also. A patron was still wanting; and after consulting some of his acquaintances, who should have the honour of patronizing so accomplished a play, it was resolved, nemine contradicente, that Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, was the most worthy of such a favour. To this end the author, though not personally or nominally known to my Lord Rochester, waited upon him and left the play for his lordship's perusal, and lived for some days on the expectation of his approaching applause. At the expiration of about a week he went a second time to my Lord's house, where he found the manuscript in the hands of the porter, with this distich writ upon the cover of it:

Poet, whoe'er thou art, God damn thee,
Go hang thyself, and burn thy Mariamne.

From The Dramatic Works of Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery. ed. William Smith Clark (Harvard, 1937), ii. 951-2
(from a MS. note by John Boyle, fifth Earl of Orrery).

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