Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Unicorn of Historical Fiction, Rochester: the Mad Earl by Kathleen Kellow

This is a compiled list curtesty of my local library's WorldCat program. WorldCat as made for just this type of situation. A early pen name of the prolicfic historical fiction authour Jean Plaidy was Kathleen Kellow. Under Katherine Kellow she wrote/published "Rochester: The Mad Earl" in 1957. At 253 pages, it is a rarity in the historical fiction world and it is quite possible that as little as a thousand copies were printed in 1957. I call it the unicorn of HF because there really is nothing out there on the web about it and amazon even has nothing on it. I got this cover art image from the web but I am still very unsure where it came from because the book was a leather bound book.

"This is the true story of John Wilmott, Earl of Rochester, a poet and libertine who lived at the time of King Charles II."

Where in the world is it?

US, AL Auburn University
US, CA Stanford University Library
US, CA University of California, Berkly
US, CA University of California, N Reg Library
US, DC Library of Congress
US, IA University of Iowa Library
US, MA Harvard University, Harvard Col Library
US, MT University of Montana, Mansfield Library
US, NC Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
US, NY Cornell University
US, NY New York Pub Library Resource Lib
US, PA Pennsylvania State University
US, PA University of Pennsylvania
US, WI Marquette UNIV Raynor Memorial Library
AUSTRALIA University of Newcastle Auchmuty Library
AUSTRALIA University of Sydney
U.K. British Library
U.K. University of Oxford

The Arrival
Since I enlisted the help of the library on this wild goose chase, I got lucky with their help. The reason being that I was so lucky is that with the libraries WorldCat system you can REQUEST a book but that does not mean you will get it. Once the request is made it is up the library if they feel they want to lend the book out. I was quite shocked to say the least that the book was delivered less than two weeks after I made the request. My copy was loan from Montana. 

With the libraries request system you can order all kinds of things even hundred year old documents. Granted you might not be able to take them home but you can read them at the library. Which ever library fills your request they can put guidelines on the loan like you have to wear special gloves, can not take it home, can not be renewed, or anything else they need to protect the item you requested. I emplore everyone to use this feature of the library if you need it becasue there is nothing like holding a book that is a rare true treasure.

From the inside first page: 

"This is the story of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester-Restoration poet, wit and rake. As a boy he was eager to take his place among the immortals. Two passions prevented him; women and wine. He was the lover of many women, but there were two who had his life-long devotion.
He sought an heiress in marriage and, when she refused, abducted her under her grandfather's eyes. He realized the genius of a serving girl and made her a great actress.

He set up as a quack doctor, roamed London in disguise, and mocked the King to his face. Nothing was too daring or too fantastic for 'The Mad Earl '; and madly he squandered his life and his gifts, until, with life scarcely begun, he found that it was over.

This is the story of the most brilliant, the most gay, and the most tragic of men".

The question I know you are dying to know is will I review it? The answer is YES, and be sure and stay tuned for it. I will post it shortly.
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  1. I've been waiting with bated breath for this post ;-)

    I will surely use their site as it sounds really cool!

    I can't wait for your review Liz!

  2. That's so cool! It's always nice to track down those obscure books.

  3. Amy, If you ever need help just pop on into your local library and ask them to show you how it works. It would be of a great use for historical research too. You can even get books from over seas. The review will go up on the 1st of April.

    Susan, I never knew about it until the librarian told me about it. She told me they have received stuff that the people had to wear gloves. Imagine what it must feel like to hold something that old in your hands. It must be a powerful feeling.

  4. Wow, what a great tool for research! Thank you so much for sharing this information. I will be looking forward to your review :)

  5. Sounds most interesting. I am curious to find out more about him.

  6. Oh, Lizzy, how fascinating! Rochester is one of the most intriguing figures of the Restoration, but also probably the most tragic. I've put him in several of my books, but I'm not sure I could write his whole story --it's so impossibly sad. I'm very curious to hear what Jean Plaidy did with him.

    Kind of awful/funny to see that 50's jacket blurb describing him as "the most gay", considering he liked the boys as well as the girls...

  7. I'm intrigued by your post, and anxious to read your review. I first encountered Rochester's character in Pamela Belle's historical fiction novel titled Alethea, the third book of a trilogy set during England's Civil War. He was a fascinating character.

  8. Lord Rochester also was colorfully (if not entirely accurately!) portrayed by Johnny Depp in the movie "The Libertine" a few years back.

  9. Hi Lizzy,

    I'm so impressed by your tenacity in finding this book - I run a Rochester forum (www.rochesterpeople.co.uk) and I'd love it if you would share a review with us, he certainly is one of our more colourful characters!


  10. I'm so sorry, I managed to submit the same comment three times!

  11. Muse, I was pretty surprised that the library really goes above and beyond the regular call of duty and thank goodness it is all for the love of books!

    Librarypat, you are in for a treat then he is a very curious person.

    Susan, I agree he is on my list of most intriguing people. His story was sad but through out the read it did not really feel tragic until emotional consequences came, he was really light hearted or maybe the word is flaky. He is one of the few people that I have read about that it is really hard for me to put a finger on his personality type. I do have to say that Plaidy did not even lightly touch on him liking boys. I am so glad to see that my post dragged you to come and visit. I own every single one of your books and if I ever see the end of this pile on my desk yours are top on my list of must read historical fiction.

    Linda, hum I have not heard of that one. He is fascinating to say the least. If you loved him in previous reads you would love him in this one. I found that there were so many funny things that happened that I could not include them all in detail in review. Yet the review still is set to be my longest one yet. He was a riot and if I would have been Charles II I would have loved him too for his crazy ways.

    Susan, I have heard about the movie and I need to get that one. I wonder if the library has it. It must be good becasue this movie always comes up when Rochester comes up.

    Jaye, I will check out your place, I have it pulled up in another window right now. Glad you found me and welcome!

  12. WONDERFUL POST! My library system is like a huge building with tons of frills but nothing that relates to books.

  13. Lizzy, it took the mention of Rochester on Facebook to drag me from lurkdom - and now I must thank you, too, for saying such kind things about my books. :)

    There's been a lot of Rochester research done since Jean Plaidy wrote this book, and several big, serious biographies of him that have probably changed perceptions of him quite a bit since she wrote "her" version. I'm excited to see what she did.

    That's one of the most fun aspects of historical fiction: each writer gets the same historical info, but we all develop different characters based on the same facts. Think of all the Anne Bolyens out there at present, yet none of them are exactly the same. Pretty cool!

    Can't wait to read your review...

  14. Marie, that would make me so mad. I am glad you enjoyed the post, he is a unique charachter.

    Susan, figures facebook does that sometimes. I have heard nothing but positive things about your books including from fellow authors. I really can not wait to read them.

    I should have taken the times into account more. I guess I skipped over the fact that since the 50's there probably has been much more discovered on him.

    You did pick up on one of my big reasons for loving HF, every person gets the same wealth of knowledge and each person interprets differently. I enjoy the different versions of people because then I never know how each author will spin it.

    I can not wait for you to read my review.

  15. "I enjoy the different versions of people because then I never know how each author will spin it."

    Yes! I think of it like the morning-after discussions of a really good party: everyone you talk to has an entirely different slant on who did what. *g*

  16. Oh Susan that is a very good way of putting it, true so true.

  17. Rochester The Mad Earl :Hi ,I found a first edition 1957 of the book,and I am thinking of selling it, if anyone is interested i n pretty good condition with the cover and it is not price clipped-quite amazing really had a feeling when I saw it ,had never heard about him or Kathleen Kellow.

    1. What a great find! You should post it on amazon because the 2 listed there have the covers because they are old library books which is probably why they haven't sold. I hope you get a chance to read it because it is a really good read. Happy reading!


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