Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

Charles himself was no authoritarian, but a cynic who

“had a very ill opinion of both men and women; and did not think there was either sincerity or chastity in the world out of Principle”.

Bored by long sermons while in the hands of the Puritans, he now demanded church music he could beat time to, entertained himself with both the Catholic and Protestant whores, and, as Dryden said

“scattered his maker’s image through the land”.

Charles was, one imagines, a matrist: though loving pleasure, he betrayed no signs of the vindictive and destructive aggressiveness which was to mark the eighteenth century, and his political acts were both far-seeing and restrained. His reign saw the Act of Indulgence to religious dissenters, the Habeus Corpus Act, and the foundation of the Royal Society—three landmarks in history. Under his permissive rule, learning received a great stimulus: Boyle, Hooke, Harvey and Newton produced their greatest discoveries, while in art was inaugurated a period which reached its peak in the reign of Anne, when the accession of another Queen gave a more stimulus to the matrists, and the age blossomed with playwrights, poets, musicians and architects.

It is to the court rakes that one has to turn for the first warnings of eighteenth century vindictiveness, sensuality an exhibitionism. Whether we think of Rochester tempting Charles to a brothel and then arranging for all his money be stolen, or of Sedley, naked at a window in Covent Garden profanely haranguing the crowd (Pepys said there were a thousand people): whether we think of the Countess of Pembroke arranging for the stallions to leap the mares in front of the house (“and then”, says Aubrey, “she would act the like sport herself with her stallions” ) or whether we think of Dr. Triplet, Protected by armed men, singing a scabrous ballad beneath the windows of the flagellomaniac Dr. Gill, head master of St. Paul’s, and “so frighted that he beshitt himself most fearfully”, the picture is not an attractive one (7).