A Satyr Against Reason and Mankind

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A Satyr Against Reason and Mankind is a satirical poem by the English Restoration poet John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester.


A Satyr Against Reason and Mankind addresses the question of the proper use of reason, and is generally assumed to be a Hobbesian critique of rationalism.[1] The narrator subordinates reason to sense.[2] It is based to some extent on Boileau's version of Juvenal's eighth or fifteenth satire, and is also indebted to Hobbes, Montaigne, Lucretius and Epicurus, as well as the general libertine tradition.[3] Confusion has arisen in its interpretation as it is ambiguous as to whether the speaker is Rochester himself, or a satirised persona.[4] It criticises the vanities and corruptions of the statesmen and politicians of the court of Charles II.[3]


It is generally supposed to have been written before June 1674, which is the dating of the earliest surviving manuscript.[1] Along with A Ramble in St. James's Park, it is one of Rochester's best known works, and his most influential during his lifetime.[1] It exists in some 52 manuscripts, more than any other work by the poet.[1]

It resulted in four direct poetic responses; Edward Pococke's An Answer to the Satyr against Mankind, Thomas Lessey's A Satyr In Answer to the Satyr against Man, and the two anonymous responses An answer to a Satyr [against] Reason & Mankind and An Answer to the Satyr, Against Man.[1] It is alluded to in John Crowne's The Country Wit.[1] It has been argued that John Dryden addressed the poem in Religio Laici.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Fisher, Nicholas. "The Contemporary Reception of Rochester's A Satyr against Mankind" (PDF). The Review of English Studies (April 2006) 57 (229): 185–220. doi: 10.1093/res/hgl035. 
  2. ^ Jenkinson, Matthew (2010). Culture and Politics at the Court of Charles II, 1660–1685. Boydell & Brewer. p. 101. ISBN 978-1-84383-590-5. 
  3. ^ a b Jenkinson, Matthew (2010). Culture and Politics at the Court of Charles II: 1660–1685. Boydell & Brewer. p. 99. ISBN 978-1-84383-590-5. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  4. ^ Thormählen, Marianne (25 June 1993). Rochester. Cambridge University Press. p. 191. ISBN 978-0-521-44042-4. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 

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