monkey regained

Part seven of Nothing

Modern animal experts do not recommend anyone, even warrior princes or prankster poets, keeping monkeys or any other wild animals as pets and the RSPCA wants a ban. They are messy, destructive, predatory – they’ll bite a human and eat any smaller pet mammals or birds left unprotected – and they never stop chattering – rather as Lord Rochester’s seems to be doing in the picture that started this diversion on the journey into Nothing:


Lord Rochester with monkey by Huysmans

Rochester was thirty-three when he died in 1680, burnt out by sex and alcohol, pranks and humanity. His wife, Elizabeth Malet, whom he had tried to abduct when she was the richest and most eligible heiress in the north of England, and to whom he was conspicuously unfaithful, died a year later, leaving their four young children in the care of their grandmother. All is vanity.


Matthias Withoos, Landscape with a graveyard by night, oil on canvas, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Reims. Image: WGA
“And all our yesterdays have lighted fools / The way to dusty death.” (Shakespeare, Macbeth) Withoos was active in the second half of the 17th century, and in this atmospheric painting prefigures Romantic Gothicism and our own obsession with twilight.

And yet – the most poetic of brutal realists and his wife had written a book of poetry together. Their minds met on equal terms. She had a wit of her own, and answered him back. Anyone who has spied on their marriage by reading their private letters has the impression that they understood and esteemed one another.

In a long tradition of creative men who have acted on their desires and looked deeply into their souls, Rochester led a double life. He was Ernest in town, where “a sweet soft Page of [his could] do the Trick worth Forty wenches”, and Jack in the country, where he loved his wife.

As for the monkey, Rochester’s symbol of human vanity was recently reincarnated as Mally, Justin Bieber’s capuchin accessory, infamously abandoned in Germany after quarantine.

The journey into Nothing is not over…

8 comments on “monkey regained

  1. […] Lord Rochester with Monkey by Huysmans, 1670s, an allegory of human perfidy, vanity and folly. Roche… […]


  2. beetleypete says:

    We may have rich and varied lives; stuffed with experiences, ambitions achieved, and hopes realised. Perhaps this is just a part of those lives? All lives must have parts, after all…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well, I am married to a beautiful actress who spends too much time blogging…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. PJR says:

    Point taken.

    Have you got a life?


  5. Get a life y’all…


  6. beetleypete says:

    ‘burnt out by sex and alcohol, pranks and humanity’.
    And I have survived thirty years longer than Rochester…Never owned a monkey though.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Beth says:

    What synchronicity, Pippa:0) I just pressed “Publish” on a post wherein disturbing monkeys made an appearance. These Nothing posts you’re doing are fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. erickeyswriter says:

    “Rochester led a double life. He was Ernest in town, where “a sweet soft Page of [his could] do the Trick worth Forty wenches”, and Jack in the country, where he loved his wife.”

    Ah! The double life! Where would I be without it?

    “infamously abandoned in Germany after quarantine.”

    It would be easy to judge Mr. Bieber, but, really, who of us hasn’t been infamously abandoned in Germany after quarantine at lease once or twice? It builds character and I’m sure Mally will be thankful for the experience much as I was.

    Wait, why am I reading? You’ve pulled me away from my writing, Pippa. Hmm… I shall have to work you into a story as payback for this…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s