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Blazing Star: The Life and Times of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester [Kindle Edition]

Alexander Larman
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Product Description


'Insightful and illuminating ... engagingly partisan and elegantly informative' The Times.

'An informative and enlightening biography' The Sunday Times.

'This racy tale is told in scholarly but lively detail by Alex Larman in a beautifully written first book' Daily Express.

'The most comprehensive portrait of Rochester yet' Daily Mail.

'Very good, assiduously researched and well written' Scotland on Sunday.

Product Description


He went to Oxford University at the age of 12

He slept with his first prostitute at 13

He was an alcoholic by 14

He was imprisoned in the Tower at 18

He was acclaimed a war hero at 19

He died of syphilis at the age of 33

He was English history's first celebrity.

He was John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester: Poet, dandy and libertine.

BLAZING STAR is a compelling portrait of a remarkable and complex man, and of a cultural golden age that often spilled over into depravity.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 6567 KB
  • Print Length: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Head of Zeus (3 July 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #65,844 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Alexander Larman was born in 1981 and educated at Winchester and Oxford, where he read English and graduated with a First. He writes regularly about literature and the arts for publications including The Guardian, TLS, New Statesman, Spectator, Telegraph, Five Dials, the Erotic Review and the Observer. He also writes for luxury consumer titles such as The Arbuturian, The Resident, Quintessentially Insider and Mr and Mrs Smith.

He has worked on editing and ghostwriting various titles in the past, including Kathryn Apanowicz's memoir of Richard Whiteley, Richard by Kathryn, and the late Sebastian Horsley's bestselling memoir Dandy in the Underworld, which led Horsley to comment 'There is nobody in London more capable of genius - or a flop - than Alexander Larman.'

His first book, Blazing Star: The Life and Times of John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, for which he was awarded an Elizabeth Longford grant by the Society of Authors, is published by Head of Zeus and his second, a social history of the year 1666, will appear in late 2015.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A comprehensive, cracking good read 1 Aug. 2014
This is an excellent work. For anyone with even the slightest interest in the Earl of Rochester or his poetry it is a stand-out biography – meticulous without being dry, detailed but never losing sight of the wider context. The author’s plain affection for his subject does not descend into apologia or sentiment, though he retains an obvious warmth and empathy throughout that makes one thrill to Wilmot the man as well as Rochester the poet.

Such biographies must always balance the literary and the historical; what makes Blazing Star so readable is that Larman wears his scholarship in the former lightly – and resists the urge to beat the reader over the head with endless practical criticism – whilst bringing a mordant wit and narrative zip to the latter that allows you to disappear to Restoration England whilst on the 18.50 from Waterloo to Reading.

If the book has a minor fault it is that the ambitious scope of taking on the origins, politics (both geo- and gender), theology, culture, sexual and social mores, literature and drama, versification, fashions, &c, mean that one does occasionally feel the need for some companion texts; so many topics are touched on or alluded to that one feels could easily have become a chapter in themselves. But then the alternative would have been a series of, say, ten books, which might have been unsustainable.

I would recommend this without hesitation to almost anyone, with the possible exceptions of easily-shocked maiden aunts, staunch puritans or devotees of John Dryden.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
An extremely comprehensive and very readable biography which should appeal to those interested in the social history of the period, the poetry of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, as well as the life and times of the Earl and Charles II. Larman covers all aspects of his life in detail and must have spent a great deal of time in background research. His biography is well-balanced and very fair to the Earl, who some in the past have considered to be only a debauched libertine who wrote dirty couplets. This biography brings out some of the beauty in Rochester's verse and it is clear that Larman has appreciated the significance of the poems.

It is a handsomely produced book having a good page layout, a selection of relevant illustrations and an excellent bibliography. My only (minor) criticism is that we are told many times that Rochester was suffering from tertiary syphilis - perhaps we didn't need reminding so often.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blazing star 13 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
For anyone interested in life at the court of charles the second this book will delight and scandalizeyou in equal measure. Having come across Rochester before I knew what to expect and this book did not disappoint. Love the extra feature of his works at the end.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this .. 20 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Really enjoying this, very readable but at the same time has obviously been well researched and Larman clearly has an affectionate admiration for his subject.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Keen Reader TOP 100 REVIEWER
“We have a pretty witty king,
Whose word no man relies on;
He never said a foolish thing,
Nor ever did a wise one.”

In any book you read about Stuart England, particularly after the Restoration, you tend to find any mention of John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester as a kind of epitome of the libertine rake, the Stuart cad, the example of the debauched excesses of Stuart England under King Charles II. You might find, in a footnote, some mention of his poetry. But this book proves there was an awful lot more to Rochester than sensual excess or bad behaviour, although there was admittedly a lot of that as well.

Born in 1647, John was the son of Henry Wilmot, created Earl of Rochester by Charles in exile in France in 1652. Wilmot senior had been critical in the successful escape of Charles from England after the debacle that was the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Avoding Cromwell’s forces, Charles, with Wilmot by his side the whole way, had managed to flee to France.

After the Restoration of 1660, England became ‘merry’ again under Charles II. The first Earl of Rochester was dead, his widow had successfully maintained her station under Cromwell, and John was raised to the dignity of the Earl of Rochester. By 1660 he was at university, but he likely already knew his path to success was going to be best served through the Court.

In 1680, Rochester died at the age of thirty-three.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars love, poetry 22 Sept. 2014
By james
For those of us who don't fall into the history buff camp, the thought of trailing though a historical account of a bygone era is about as appealing as colonic irrigation. So, with that in mind, I was highly skeptical about accepting this novel as a recent gift, much less sure that i'd bother to read it. But how wrong I was, for Blazing Star is full of vice, intrigue, love, poetry, conspiracy, property destruction and much more: the very antithesis of boring. Larman’s tone is witty, conversational and hugely engaging, no doubt helped enormously by his clear love and affection for the subject matter - Blazing Star reads more like a racy novel than a piece of non-fiction.

Larman regales us with the story of John Wilmot, the titular Earl of Rochester in question and his turbulent adventures through Restoration England in the 17th century. Suffice it to say, Rochester was no puritanical shrinking violet and his exploits, both sexual and otherwise, during this period of licentiousness and wild abandon for the privileged upper classes makes for a very entertaining read. Indeed, the tabloid scandal of today’ vacuous, preening celebs are of faint interest compared to what Wilmot achieved in his tragically short existence. But crucially, Larman offers a very complete account of Rochester, drawing on both his infamous exploits in the mattress dancing department and his lesser known feats in battle, bravery and, of course, his shocking and thought-provoking poetry.

If all books were as engaging as Blazing Star, I’d become a history convert.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good book as expected
Published 13 days ago by shaunagh
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written and okay on the facts; perhaps more ...
Well written and okay on the facts; perhaps more on the way his influence at court was one of the aspects Rochester brought to the trends into the 1800's in society where wigs... Read more
Published 15 days ago by hyett
3.0 out of 5 stars This started brilliantly covering the history of the time
This started brilliantly covering the history of the time. It explained things clearly but about halfway through it became obsessed with the poetry of Wilmott and his... Read more
Published 18 days ago by Mathsman
3.0 out of 5 stars Blazing Star
This is a worthy and conscientiously produced book that is nevertheless made less interesting by its subject. Read more
Published 1 month ago by M. McClure
2.0 out of 5 stars Not to my taste. Did not capture my interest ...
Not to my taste. Did not capture my interest. Found it a bit uninteresting
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars A poor book
This is as poor a biography as any I have read. Too much lit. crit., not enough objective history and some real howlers e.g. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mercutio
5.0 out of 5 stars New insights into a short brilliant and tragic life
This is a fantastic read, with insights into a man who was far more intelligent and complex than he is usually portrayed, showing how his short brilliant and tragic life was played... Read more
Published 3 months ago by L. B. Stratmann
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A fantastic Book one of the best I have read for a while.
Published 3 months ago by Peter Cramer
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening!
An interesting account of a time (i.e. the Restoration) that I know little about. It's not my usual genre, but I am enjoying the read. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mobiscum
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
I'm struggling through this book at the moment because I want to find out how Rochester ends his life. Read more
Published 4 months ago by MRS
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