20 February, 2007

John Wilkes thrown out of the Commons for lewd "Essay on Women", 21st February 1764

John Wilkes (unflattering etching by Hogarth on right) was thrown out of the Commons in February 1764 for his lewd "Essay on Women"; today in history 2/21.

John Wilkes was an important radical politician in 18th century England, whose ugly features did not prevent him successfully chasing women whilst at the same time championing the cause of Liberty, to the annoyance of George III and his government.

Here's an extract from an entertaining book review by Geoffrey Robertson in the Times Online from March 2006:

Lord Sandwich (famous for declining to rise from his gaming table for lunch, ordering instead “two slices of bread with something in between”) read the poem to the House, declaring that:
“. . . life can little more supply Than just a few good f***s and then we die.”
[sorry , had to censor this! - CW]
This was a golden moment in the history of British hypocrisy. Sandwich faltered, but their lordships shouted “Go on, go on” before condemning Wilkes for publishing an obscene and blasphemous libel. Wilkes had the last laugh — to Sandwich’s suggestion that he would die either by hanging or the pox, he famously quipped: “That depends on whether I embrace your lordship’s principles or your mistress.”

Wilkes was regarded as a hero of Liberty in the United States, and John Wilkes Booth , assassin of Abraham Lincoln, was indeed named after him.
More on John Wilkes from Wikipedia .

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