That, you will surely agree, vies for the title of most grotesque mustache in the history of the world. Yet I cannot fully condemn its creator. How, you ask? How could I countenance such a blight?
It's simple. That mustache was borne by Henry Wilmot, first Earl of Rochester, the father of the Restoration poet, libertine, and drunk Lord Rochester. Rochester's poetry--bawdy, crude, cynical, satrical, and vicious--is a source of great fun. But I would redeem Lord Rochester's father from punishment for his mustache had his son written nothing more than the following letter to, as Graham Greene puts it in his biography of Rochester, "his fat, patient, and disreputable friend," Henry Savile:
Do a charity becoming one of your pious principles, in preserving your humble servant Rochester from the imminent peril of sobriety; which, for want of good wine more than company (for I can drink like a hermit betwixt God and my own conscience) is very like to befall me. Remember what pains I have formerly taken to wean you from your pernicious resolutions of discretion and wisdom! And, if you have a grateful heart (which is a miracle amongst you statesmen), show it, by directing the bearer to the best wine in town: and pray let not this highest point of sacred friendship be peform'd lightly, but go about it with all due deliberation and care, as holy priests to sacrifice, or as discreet thieves to the wary performance of burglary and shop-lifting. Let your well-discerning palate (the best judge about you) travel from cellar to cellar, and then from piece to piece, till it has light`ed on wine fit for its noble choice and my approbation. To engage you the more in this matter, know, I have laid a plot may very probably betray you to the drinking of it. My Lord ---- will inform you at large.
Dear Savile! as ever thou dost hope to oudo Machiavel, or equal me, send some good wine! So may thy wearied soul at last find rest, no longer hov'ring twixt th' unequal choice of politics and lewdness! Mast thou be admir'd and lov'd for thy domestic wit, belov'd and cherish'd for thy foreign interest and intelligence.
Need I say more in defense of Lord Rochester's father against all calumnies?
There's much more to share about Rochester, which I'll do once this too-busy week is concluded.