[Milton-L] Dr. Bendo and Wadham College

Alan Rudrum rudrum at shaw.ca
Wed Feb 15 07:54:21 EST 2006

At 08:06 AM 2/10/2006, Duncan Kinder wrote:
>According to Frances Yates, the Royal Society, which had its genesis 
>in a group headed by John Wilkins at Wadham College, Oxford, was 
>influenced by the Rosicrucian Enlightenment.
>John Wilmont, Lord Rochester, was a student at Wadham about that time.
>Subsequently, Rochester was to adopt the guise of Dr. Alexander 
>Bendo, a quack physician, who spoke in a mysterious language, 
>concocted amazing potents and amulets, and dressed exotically.
>This suggests that Rochester's Bendo performance may have been 
>influenced by his Wadham past.
>Is there any discussion of the impact of the Rosicrucian 
>Enlightenment on Rochester?

I don't know the answer to this question,  but the Life in the ODNB 
makes it clear that the stage was one of Rochester's principal 
interests; that his social status forbade his acting professionally, 
and that the Bendo performance was but one of many that he put on 
because he enjoyed dressing up and acting.   As for performing as a 
quack, there were plenty still around for him to imitate (as there 
are today surely?).  Rationalism and religious scepticism, which 
began to surface quite strongly after the Restoration (see Pepys's 
Diary, passim) were nevertheless not universal, and, for example, 
chemistry was not yet clearly distinguished from alchemy.  There may 
be an answer to Duncan Kinder's question, but Occam's razor seems to 
me a useful tool and so it is not one I should spend much time 
on.  Incidentally, Rochester's family name was Wilmot, not Wilmont. 
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