Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sidney, Philip (1554-1586)
SIDNEY, Sir PHILIP (1554–1586), soldier, statesman, and poet, born at Penshurst 30 Nov. 1554, was eldest son of Sir Henry Sidney [q. v.] by his wife Mary, daughter of John Dudley, duke of Northumberland. A tree still standing in Penshurst Park is identified with one which, according to Ben Jonson,
Of a nut was set,
At his great birth, where all the Muses met.
His godfathers were Philip II of Spain, Queen Mary's husband, after whom he was named, and John Russell, first earl of Bedford [q. v.] His godmother was his widowed grandmother, Jane, duchess of Northumberland. The child's infancy was apparently passed at Penshurst. When he was nine and a half his father, who was lord president of Wales, appointed him lay rector of the church of Whitford, Flintshire, of which the incumbent, Hugh Whitford, had just been deprived on account of his Roman catholic leanings. On 8 May 1564 Gruff John, rector of Skyneog, acting as Philip's proctor, was duly admitted to the church and rectory of Whitford, and Philip thenceforth derived from the benefice an income of 60l. a year (cf. manuscripts at Penshurst). On 16 Nov. 1564 he entered Shrewsbury school, of which Thomas Ashton was the master. Fulke Greville [q. v.] entered the school on the same day, and their friendship was only interrupted by death.
Of Sidney's youth Greville wrote: ‘I will report no other wonder than this, that, though I lived with him and knew him from a child, yet I never knew him other than a man; with such staidness of mind, lovely and familiar gravity, as carried grace and reverence above greater years; his talk ever of knowledge, and his very play tending to enrich his mind, so that even his teachers found something in him to observe and learn above that which they had usually read or taught. Which eminence by nature and industry made his worthy father style Sir Philip in my hearing, though I unseen, lumen familiæ suæ.’ A grave demeanour accentuated through life his personal fascination.
From his infancy Philip was a lover of learning. At the age of eleven he wrote letters to his father in both French and Latin, and Sir Henry sent him advice on the moral conduct of life, which might well have been addressed to one of maturer years. In 1568 Philip left Shrewsbury for Christ Church, Oxford. There he continued to make rapid progress, and the circle of his admirers grew. His tutor, Thomas Thornton, left directions that the fact that Philip had been his pupil should be recorded on his tombstone. His chief friends at Christ Church were Richard Carew [q. v.], Richard Hakluyt [q. v.], and William Camden. But, as at Shrewsbury, his most constant companion was Greville, who joined Broadgates Hall (now Pembroke College) at the same time as Philip went to Christ Church. His health was delicate, and his uncle, Leicester, who was chancellor of the university, wrote to Archbishop Parker soliciting a license to eat flesh during Lent in behalf of ‘my boy Philip Sidney, who is somewhat subject to sickness.’ On 2 Aug. 1568 Sir Henry visited his son at Oxford, and took him back with him to Ludlow. On the road they turned aside to inspect Leicester's castle of Kenilworth.
An earlier introduction of the boy to Sir William Cecil had inspired that statesman with an active interest in his welfare. Writing to his father on 9 Aug. 1568, Cecil sent his remembrances to ‘the darling Philip.’ On 3 Sept. Cecil wrote reproaching Sir Henry for having carried away ‘your son and my scholar from Oxford.’ Philip spent his holidays at the end of the year with the Cecils at Hampton Court. ‘He is worthy to be loved,’ wrote Cecil to his father, ‘and so I do love him as he were my own’ (5 Jan. 1569). Sir Henry took practical advantage of the affection which his son inspired in the great statesman by proposing that a marriage should be arranged between Philip and Cecil's elder daughter, Anne, who was two years the lad's junior. Cecil politely hinted in reply that his daughter, who was only thirteen, must seek a richer suitor. Sir Henry anxiously pressed the negotiation. He or his brother-in-law, the Earl of Leicester, who heartily approved the match, undertook to provide Philip with an income of 266l. 13s. 4d. on the day of his marriage, with a reversion to a fixed income of 840l. 4s. 2d. and other sums on the death of his parents. Cecil soon agreed to pay down 1,000l. and to leave his daughter an annuity of 66l. 13s. 4d. A marriage settlement was drafted on these lines, but Sir Henry mislaid it when it was sent to him to Ireland for signature, and, although on 24 Feb. 1570 Sir Henry wrote to Cecil that he would not wish the match broken off, even if his son were offered ‘the hand of the greatest prince's daughter in chrysendom,’ the scheme fell through. Philip often wrote to Cecil while the marriage negotiations were in progress, and expressed anxiety to stand high in his estimation, but no reference was made to Anne, and it is obvious that the boy and girl were not consulted. Cecil arranged next year for Anne's marriage with Edward Vere, seventeenth earl of Oxford [q. v.] On 26 Oct. 1573 it was suggested that both Philip and his brother Robert should be married to daughters of the twelfth Lord Berkeley, but the suggestion was not seriously entertained.
Early in 1571 the plague raged at Oxford, and Philip left the university, not to return. He took no degree. The next few months seem to have been spent partly at Ludlow with his family, partly at Kenilworth with his uncle Leicester, and partly at Penshurst, but he contrived to pay frequent visits to the court. In May 1572 he received the queen's license to undertake a two years' visit to the continent ‘for his attaining the knowledge of foreign languages.’ Leicester, in a letter of introduction forwarded to Francis Walsingham, the English ambassador at Paris, described his nephew as ‘young and raw.’ Philip left London on 26 May in the suite of the Earl of Lincoln, who was proceeding to the French court to negotiate a marriage between Queen Elizabeth and the Duc d'Alençon. He remained in Paris for nearly three months, residing at the English embassy. Walsingham introduced him to the leaders of French society, and Charles IX, king of France, gave him a cordial welcome, bestowing on him the title of baron and appointing him gentleman in ordinary of the royal bedchamber. With the religious sentiments of the Huguenots he was already in deep sympathy, and he was soon on terms of close intimacy with their leaders. Henry of Navarre treated him as a friend and equal, and Philip was doubtless present on 18 Aug. at Henry's marriage in Notre Dame with Margaret, the king's sister. There followed on 23 Aug., on the eve of St. Bartholomew's day, the great massacre of the protestants. Sidney enjoyed the protection of the English embassy, and ran no personal risk, but on 9 Sept. 1572, when the news of the great crime reached the English privy council, Burghley and Leicester at once despatched orders to Walsingham to procure passports for Sidney so that he might at once leave the country. In charge of Dr. Watson he set out for Lorraine, whence he passed to Strasburg and afterwards down the Rhine through Heidelberg to Frankfort. Between March and June 1573 he lodged at Frankfort with Andrew Wechel, a learned printer.
In the same house there was living Hubert Languet, the learned protestant controversialist and scholar. Languet was fifty-four years old, but similarity of tastes and views attracted him to the young traveller, and there sprang up between them a lasting friendship. To Languet's influence Sidney attributed practically all his knowledge of literature and religion. In the ‘Arcadia’ Sidney recalled how Languet's ‘good strong staff’ his ‘slippery years upbore.’ In the summer of 1573 Sidney accompanied Languet to Vienna, and visited the court of the Emperor Maximilian II. In August he left Vienna ostensibly to make a three days' journey to Presburg, but he remained in Hungary more than a month. After returning for a few weeks to Vienna in October, he left Languet to make an extended tour in Italy. On parting they agreed to correspond with each other every week. The older man seems to have kept the bargain more faithfully than the younger, but many interesting letters from Sidney survive. Sir Thomas Coningsby [q. v.], Lodowick or Lewis Bryskett [q. v.], and Griffin Madox, a faithful servant, bore him company in Italy. Most of his time was spent at Venice, where the council of ten granted him a license to bear arms in all parts of the republic's dominions. Arnaud du Ferrier, the French ambassador, and Count Philip Lewis of Hanau, a visitor like himself, showed him many attentions. He came to know the painters Tintoretto and Paolo Veronese, and he enjoyed the magnificent hospitality of the Venetian merchants. At Venice he also continued his studies, learning astronomy and music, and reading history and current Italian literature. Languet sent him valuable advice, urging him to form his Latin style on Cicero's letters, and not to absorb himself in astronomy and geometry. Such exercises tended to gravity, of which Sidney already possessed abundance. ‘I am more sober,’ Sidney admitted in reply, ‘than my age or business requires.’ During the early months of 1574 Sidney visited Genoa, and spent several weeks at Padua. In February he sat to Paolo Veronese for his portrait (now lost) which was sent as a gift to Languet. Languet thought the expression ‘too sad and thoughtful.’
During the latter part of Sidney's stay in Venice, politics chiefly occupied him. He sent letters to Leicester full of enthusiasm for the protestant cause. At Nimeguen on 15 April 1574 Count Lewis of Nassau (brother of William of Orange), whom Sidney had met both at Paris and Frankfort, was killed in battle with the Spaniards, and the sad incident filled Sidney with fears for the future of protestantism. In July 1574 Sidney, whose health was still weak, fell seriously ill from drinking too much water, it was thought. He long felt the effects of the illness.
At the end of July Sidney left Italy to revisit Languet at Vienna, and he accompanied him to Poland. There he is said to have received and to have rejected a suggestion that he should offer himself as a candidate for the throne which Henry of Valois had vacated in June on succeeding to the crown of France. In December he sent to Lord Burghley from Vienna a survey of politics in the east of Europe, and he was apparently entrusted during the winter with some diplomatic duties as secretary of legation, jointly with Edward Wotton. Together they learnt horsemanship from John Peter Pugliano, esquire of the emperor's stables, and Sidney gave a vivid account in the opening passage of his ‘Apologie for Poetrie’ of Pugliano's enthusiasm for soldiers and horses. At the end of February 1575 Sidney rode in the train of the emperor from Vienna to Prague, whither the emperor went to preside over the Bohemian diet. While still at Prague, early in March, Sidney received a summons to return home. Reports had been circulated that he had become a catholic, but Languet proved in a letter to Walsingham, now secretary of state, the absurdity of the rumour. Sidney travelled by way of Dresden, Heidelberg, Strasburg, Frankfort, and Antwerp, reaching London early in June 1575. He visited or was visited by many learned men on the way. Zacharias Ursinus, the protestant controversialist, and Henri Estienne (Stephanus), the classical printer, who dedicated to Sidney his edition of Herodian in 1581, met him at Heidelberg. Languet spent some time with him at Frankfort (Janson, De Vitis Stephanorum, Amsterdam, 1683, p. 67).
Settled again in England, Sidney frequented the court, where his uncle Leicester was anxious to advance his interests. Walsingham also gave him a kindly welcome, and the queen received him favourably. In July 1576 he was present at the ornate festivities with which Leicester entertained his sovereign at Kenilworth. Thence he removed with the court to Chartley Castle, the seat of Walter Devereux, first earl of Essex [q. v.] His charm of manner at once captivated the earl. At Chartley, too, he probably first met the earl's daughter Penelope, then a girl twelve years old, who some years later was to excite in him an overmastering passion. Now Philip had other troubles. His pecuniary position was unsatisfactory. In August 1575 he gave a bond for 42l. 6s. to Richard Rodway, a London tailor, and later he sent a boot bill for 4l. 10s. 4d. to his father's steward with a request that he would meet it. In the winter of 1576 he was staying at his uncle's house in London, and was improving his acquaintance with Essex, whose guest he often was at Durham House. Essex saw in him a promising suitor for his daughter Penelope. In July Essex travelled to Ireland to take up his appointment as earl marshal. Philip went with him in order to pay a visit to his father, who was then lord deputy. Father and son met at Dublin, and in September travelled together to Athlone and Galway, where Philip saw much of the difficulties of Irish government. On 21 Sept. his new friend, Essex, died at Dublin. Almost his last words were of his admiration for Philip: ‘I wish him well—so well that, if God move their hearts, I wish that he might match with my daughter. I call him son—he is so wise, virtuous, and godly. If he go on in the course he hath begun, he will be as famous and worthy a gentleman as ever England bred.’ The earl's secretary, Edward Waterhouse [q. v.], wrote to Sir Henry Sidney on 14 Nov. that his late master anxiously desired Philip's marriage with the Lady Penelope, and spoke of the dishonour that would attend a breach of the engagement (Sydney Papers, i. 147).
Philip was a serious youth of two-and-twenty, and the girl a coquette of fourteen. They were thenceforth often in each other's society, and he began addressing to her the series of sonnets in which he called himself Astrophel and the lady Stella. But it would appear that Sidney's relations with Penelope very slowly passed beyond the bounds of friendship. At the outset, his sonnets were, in all probability, mere literary exercises designed in emulation of those addressed by the Earl of Surrey to Geraldine, which were themselves inspired by Petrarch's sonnets to Laura; Surrey's ‘lyrics’ are eulogised by Sidney in his ‘Apologie for Poetrie’ (p. 51). Neither his nor Penelope's friends regarded their union with serious favour, while some references in Philip's correspondence with Languet during 1578 suggest that he had no immediate intention of submitting to the restraints of matrimony. In such sonnets as can be assigned on internal evidence to an early date, Sidney confined himself to calm eulogies of Penelope's beauty. When a deeper note was sounded, Stella had become another's wife [see Rich, Penelope, Lady Rich], and it was her marriage in 1581 that seems to have first stirred in Sidney a genuine and barely controllable passion.
Public affairs absorbed too much of his interest to render him an easy prey to women's blandishments. Early in 1577 he was directed to convey Elizabeth's messages of condolence and congratulation to the Elector Palatine Lewis at Heidelberg, and to the Emperor Rudolf II at Prague. Both princes had just succeeded to their thrones on the death of their fathers. His friend Fulke Greville accompanied him, and Sir Henry Lee and Sir Jerome Bowes were members of his suite. Permission was granted him to confer with the rulers whom he met abroad about the welfare of the reformed religion and of civil liberty. Arrived in the Low Countries, Sidney paid his respects at Louvain to Don John of Austria, the Spanish general, who showed him every civility. While awaiting in the middle of March the arrival of the Lutheran Elector Lewis at Heidelberg, he had much friendly intercourse with the elector's brother, John Casimir, a bigoted Calvinist. His instructions ordered him to urge a reconciliation between the Lutherans and Calvinists of the Palatinate, and to demand certain sums of money which Queen Elizabeth had lent the late elector. In neither negotiation did he make much progress. He left Heidelberg while the Elector Lewis was still absent, and on Easter Monday he presented his credentials to the emperor at Prague. In defiance alike of his instructions and of diplomatic etiquette, he recommended the emperor, in an impassioned oration, to form a league of nations against the tyrannies of Spain and Rome—an appeal which the emperor naturally ignored. At Prague, Sidney paid a visit of condolence to the widow of the late Emperor Maximilian, and to his daughter, the widow of the French king, Charles IX; but he passed most of his time with Languet and his friends. On the return journey in April, Languet accompanied Sidney to Neustadt, where he met the Elector Lewis, and begged him to bring the strife between the Lutherans and Calvinists in his dominions to a close. He visited the Landgrave William of Hesse; but of all the princes and statesmen whom he interviewed, only John Casimir expressed approval of his project of a protestant league. At Cologne Languet left him, and, in conformity with new instructions and his own wishes, he turned aside from Antwerp to offer Queen Elizabeth's congratulations to William of Orange on the birth of a son. William received him with enthusiasm at Dordrecht, and invited him to stand godfather at the boy's baptism. Sidney left on William of Orange the best possible impression. The prince subsequently declared that her majesty had in Sidney one of the ripest and greatest counsellors of state that lived in Europe (Greville, p. 31). Very early in June Sidney arrived at the court at Greenwich, and on the 9th Walsingham wrote to Philip's father in Ireland: ‘There hath not been any gentleman, I am sure, these many years that hath gone through so honourable a charge with as great commendations as he.’
On 21 April 1577 Philip's sister Mary had married Henry Herbert, second earl of Pembroke [q. v.], and in July he hurried down to his sister's new home at Wilton to pay her the first of many visits there. But he soon returned to court in order to use his influence with the queen against those who were poisoning her mind as to his father's conduct of the Irish government. When the Earl of Ormonde, who had steadily resisted Sir Henry Sidney in Dublin, arrived on a visit to the queen, Philip was anxious to incite him to a personal encounter. In September he drew up an elaborate treatise, for the queen's perusal, in defence of his father's Irish policy (in Brit. Mus. Cotton MSS. Titus B. xii. ff. 557–9). It was divided into seven sections, of which the first three are missing, but enough survives to attest Philip's masterly grasp of the most difficult problem that confronted English statesmen. He proved his father's wisdom in levying taxation equally on the great Anglo-Irish nobles, the poorer settlers, and the native population, and attributed the frequency of disturbance to the unreasonable and arrogant pretensions of the nobility. For the moment the queen was pacified by his arguments, and Sir Henry enjoyed a few months' peace.
Philip's position at court was growing steadily in influence and dignity. In the summer of 1577 he entertained Philip du Plessis Mornay, an envoy from the French protestants, who brought an introduction to him from Languet. When in June 1578 Mornay and his wife paid a second visit to England, Philip stood godfather to an infant daughter who was born during the parents' visit. On new year's day 1578 he presented the queen not only with a cambric smock, the sleeves and collar wrought in black and edged with gold and silver lace, but also with a pair of ruffs laced with gold and silver, and set with spangles that weighed four ounces. The queen sent him in return gilt plate weighing twenty-two ounces. When the queen visited Leicester on the following May-day at Wanstead, Philip turned his literary gifts to account, and prepared a fantastic masque in her honour entitled ‘The Lady of May.’
Philip's wide intellectual interests led him at the same time to extend the circle of his friends beyond the limits of the court. ‘There was not,’ wrote Greville, ‘an approved painter, skilful engineer, excellent musician, or any other artificer of fame that made not himself known to him.’ But it was with men of letters that he found himself in fullest sympathy. When, in July 1578, representatives of Cambridge University waited on the queen, while she was staying at Audley End (near Saffron Walden), Gabriel Harvey [q. v.], who was a member of the deputation, met Sidney, who was in attendance on Elizabeth. That eccentric scholar at once fell under the sway of his fascination, and in his ‘Gratulationes Valdinenses’ which celebrated the royal visit he included an enthusiastic Latin eulogy of his new friend. It was doubtless Harvey who recommended his pupil Edmund Spenser to Sidney's notice, and to the notice of Sidney's uncle, Leicester. At the end of 1578 Spenser was Leicester's guest in London at Leicester House, and there Sidney frequently met him. Sir Edward Dyer [q. v.], a court acquaintance of Sidney, shared his affection for literature, and he, too, spent much time with Spenser at Leicester House. On 16 Oct. 1579 the poet wrote to Harvey: ‘The two worthy gentlemen, Mr. Sidney and Mr. Dyer, have me, I thank them, at some use in familiarity’ (cf. Gabriel Harvey's Letterbook, Camden Soc. p. 101). Spenser's devotion to Sidney is not the least interesting testimony to the latter's versatile culture. Spenser subsequently recalled
Remembrance of that most heroic spirit
Who first my muse did lift out of the floor
To sing his sweet delights in lowly lays.
Among the complimentary verses prefixed to the first edition of the ‘Faerie Queen’ in 1590 were some by ‘W. L.,’ which reiterate Sidney's abiding influence on Spenser's literary development. At the end of 1579 Spenser dedicated to Sidney, whom he described as ‘the president of nobless and of chivalry,’ his ‘Shepherd's Calendar;’ and the editor of the volume, Edward Kirke [q. v.], wrote of Sidney as ‘a special favourer and maintainer of all kinds of learning.’ With a view to converting Sidney and his friends to his own theories of the need of naturalising the classical metres in English verse, Harvey persuaded them to form a literary society which they called the Areopagus, and they seem to have often met in London during 1579 to engage in formal literary debate. Under these influences Sidney attempted many sapphics and hexameters in English, some of which he incorporated in the ‘Arcadia.’ He commemorated such intercourse with literary friends in a poem ‘upon his meeting with his two worthy friends and fellow-poets,’ Dyer and Greville (Davison's Poetical Rhapsody, ed. Bullen, i. 32).
The drama also attracted Sidney, and he interested himself in the welfare of his uncle Leicester's company of players. In 1582 he stood godfather to the son of Richard Tarleton, who was a member of the company. When, in 1579, Stephen Gosson [q. v.] without authority dedicated to him his denunciation of playhouses, which he entitled ‘The Schoole of Abuse,’ Sidney circulated an enlightened defence of the drama in his ‘Apologie for Poetrie.’ To him, as the avowed champion of the stage, Thomas Lodge subsequently dedicated his ‘Alarum against Usurers’ (1584).
Meanwhile in the summer of 1578 Sidney received some small office about the court, and at Christmas welcomed his friend Languet, who accompanied Prince John Casimir on a visit to Elizabeth. Languet reproached Sidney with inhaling too freely the somewhat enervating atmosphere of the court. But Sidney's independence of character unfitted him for the permanent rôle of courtier. During the summer of 1579 he was often absent while superintending on behalf of his father the enlargement of Penshurst, and in August he experienced the fickleness of the favour of the queen, who extended to him the anger with which she received the news of Leicester's secret marriage with the Countess of Essex. In September Sidney was forced into a personal quarrel which gave him a further distaste for court life. While he was playing tennis at Whitehall, the Earl of Oxford came in uninvited and joined in the game. Sidney politely raised objections. The earl bade all the players leave the court, and when Sidney protested the earl called him a puppy. Sidney gave him the lie direct. ‘Puppies,’ he quietly retorted, ‘are gotten by dogs, and children by men.’ But the earl ignored the insult, and it was left to Sidney to send him a challenge. The dispute reached the queen's ears, and she forbade a duel; but Sidney declined to act upon the queen's suggestion that he owed the earl an apology on the ground of his superior rank. Early in January 1580 he incurred the queen's wrath anew. He sent her an elaborate treatise condemning her proposed marriage with the Duke of Anjou. It was a vehemently worded appeal to the queen's patriotism and protestant zeal (Sydney Papers, i. 287–92). For some months Sidney was excluded from her presence. Retiring to Wilton, or, according to Aubrey, to the neighbouring village of Ivychurch, he engaged with his sister in literary work. Jointly they versified the psalms, and for her amusement he wrote his ‘Arcadia,’ a romance in prose with interludes of verse. To the same period may doubtless be referred his poem in ‘dispraise of a courtly life’ (Davison, Poetical Rhapsody, ed. Bullen, i. 34).
On 18 Oct. 1580 Sidney was at Leicester House, and thence addressed to his younger brother Robert, who was travelling abroad, an elaborate letter of counsel, in which he sketched a sensible method of studying history (Sydney Papers, i. 283–5; reprinted in Profitable Instructions for Travellers, 1633). At the end of October Sidney had returned to court, apparently after promising to abstain from protests against the French marriage. Money was still scarce with him, and, with a view to increasing his narrow resources, his uncle Leicester procured for him at the end of 1580 the stewardship to the bishopric of Winchester. Subsequently he begged Lord Burghley to induce the queen to grant him 100l. a year out of property seized from the papists (10 Oct. 1581). He was able on new year's day 1581 to present the queen with a gold-headed whip, a chain of gold, and a heart of gold. On 16 Jan. he was returned at a by-election, in place of his father, to Queen Elizabeth's fourth parliament as M.P. for Kent, but the only part he is known to have taken at the time in the proceedings of the House of Commons was as a member of the committee which recommended stringent measures against catholics and slanderers of the queen. On 3 May 1581 Don Antonio, the claimant to the throne of Portugal, addressed to his ‘illustrious nephew Philip Sidney’ an appeal for help in his hopeless struggle with Philip II of Spain (Sydney Papers, i. 294). On Whit Monday and Whit Tuesday, 15 and 16 May, Sidney distinguished himself as a chief performer in an elaborate tournament which was held at Whitehall in honour of an embassy from France. He was at Wilton at Christmas 1581 while the Duke of Anjou was on a visit to Elizabeth in London. But in February 1582, with his uncle and other courtiers, he escorted the duke on leaving London to Antwerp, where he mourned anew the death of his old friend Languet, who had died in that city on 30 Sept. 1581.
In August 1582, when Sir Henry was invited to resume the office of lord deputy of Ireland, he assented to the proposal on the condition that Philip accompanied him, but the proposal was not seriously entertained. At the time Philip was in Wales. Later in the year he wrote from Wilton to ask his uncle Leicester's permission to stay there over Christmas. On 13 Jan. 1583 he was knighted, but the honour was not conferred on him in recognition of his personal merits. Prince John Casimir had chosen Sidney to represent him at his installation by proxy as knight of the Garter, and etiquette prescribed that a knight of the Garter's proxy must not be of lower rank than a knight-bachelor. He was still in need of a settled appointment and a settled income; and soon afterwards it was agreed to associate Sidney with his uncle Warwick in the mastership of the ordnance. Thenceforth he frequently assisted his uncle, but the letters patent formally appointing him joint-master of the ordnance with Warwick were not issued, owing to the queen's vacillation, till 21 July 1585. In 1583, too, he was an unsuccessful candidate for the office of captain of the Isle of Wight, but military dignity was during the year bestowed on him by his nomination as ‘general of horse;’ and he was granted some portion of the fines paid by clerical recusants.
The need of money was the more pressing in that Walsingham had proposed to Sir Henry Sidney early in 1583 that Philip should marry his daughter Frances. Sir Henry highly approved the proposal, but deplored his ‘present biting necessity,’ which would not allow him to make any satisfactory pecuniary settlement. Of Philip's devotion to the girl, who was only fourteen, the parents of both felt assured. Lady Penelope Devereux had married Lord Rich in 1581. Philip had never ceased writing sonnets to her, and those that seem assignable to the period when his own marriage was under consideration are more passionate, if more desperate, in tone than before. It is therefore improbable that the match with Walsingham's daughter was of his own making. Nevertheless, he readily acceded to the wishes of his own and of the lady's parents. The queen at first refused to countenance the engagement, but after two months' debate with Walsingham she ‘passed over the offence,’ and the courtship proceeded without hindrance. The marriage was celebrated on 20 Sept. 1583, and the young couple took up their residence with the bride's parents, who divided their time between Walsingham House in London and the manor-house at Barn Elms, Surrey. Sidney's relations with Lady Rich were not apparently interrupted, but he stirred in his wife a genuine affection, and the union contributed to their mutual happiness.
Routine duties at court or in the department of the ordnance combined with literary study to occupy Sidney during the first months of his married life. Early in 1584 he frequently met, at the house of Fulke Greville, Giordano Bruno, the Italian philosopher, who had arrived in England on a visit to the French ambassador, M. Castelnau de Mauvissiere. Sidney's fame had reached Bruno at Milan as early as 1579. At Greville's house they discussed together ‘moral, metaphysical, mathematical, and natural speculations.’ On 13 Feb. 1584 the Italian stated to his English friends ‘the reasons of his belief that the earth moves.’ Bruno dedicated two books to Sidney, ‘Spaccio de la Bestia Trionfante’ (1584), and the poetic ‘Degli Heroici Furori’ (1585). But Sidney evinced little sympathy with Bruno's scepticism in matters of religion. At the same time as he was debating science and philosophy with him, he was translating from the French of his protestant friend, Philip du Plessis Mornay, ‘a work concerning the trueness of the Christian religion.’ In October 1584 he went to Wilton to stand godfather to Philip, his sister's second son, and before the year was at an end he wrote a spirited defence of his uncle Leicester against the savage libel that was popularly known as ‘Leicester's Commonwealth.’ Sidney, who at the close of his tract dared the anonymous libeller to defend his allegations with the sword, apparently wrote with a view to publication, but the tract remained in manuscript until it was printed in Collins's ‘Sydney Papers’ in 1746 (i. 62–8).
But Sidney's marriage did not abate his anxiety for more active employment. Despairing of the queen's intervention in the affairs of the Low Countries, he contemplated taking some part in the colonisation of North America. Philip had long shown much interest in the enterprise. When, in June 1575, the Earl of Warwick, his uncle, was fitting out Martin Frobisher's expedition in search of the North-West Passage, Philip took up at first a 25l. share, and afterwards a 50l. share. In his correspondence with Languet he described Frobisher's adventures with enthusiasm, and he estimated at a recklessly high rate the value of the metal Frobisher brought back from Meta Incognita. In 1582 his old college friend, Richard Hakluyt, dedicated to him the first edition of his ‘Voyages.’ In 1583 Philip wrote to his friend, Sir Edward Stafford [q. v.], that he was half persuaded to join in the expedition to Newfoundland, under Sir Humphrey Gilbert, which ended in disaster. Meanwhile letters patent were issued to him authorising him to discover new land in America, and to hold for ever ‘such and so much quantity of ground as should amount to the number of thirty hundred thousand acres.’ He does not seem to have intended to personally conduct the expedition, and in July 1583 made over to Sir George Peckham the right to thirty thousand of the three million acres assigned to him. Through 1584 Sidney watched with interest Ralegh's designs on America, and in December, after he had been re-elected to serve as M.P. for Kent, he sat on a committee of the House of Commons which defined the boundaries of the projected colony of Virginia. He recommended in February 1585 the appointment of Ralph Lane as the first governor, and some of the letters which Lane wrote to Sidney the former incorporated in his account of Virginia.
In the autumn of 1584 the queen chose Sidney to carry her condolences to Henri III of France on the death of his brother, the Duke of Anjou. The duty could hardly have been congenial, and before Sidney started the news of the murder of his friend and admirer, William of Orange, seemed to jeopardise the position of protestantism throughout Europe. Sidney received instructions to sound the French king as to his willingness to oppose the progress of the Spaniards in the Low Countries. But the embassy proved of no effect. The French king was at Lyons when Sidney reached Paris, and he sent him word that he would not return for two months. Sidney therefore came home, more firmly convinced than before of the duty of England actively to resist the aggressions of Spain. With masterly insight into the situation, he argued that Spain should be challenged in her own citadels; and that her advance in Flanders, where her armies were admirably equipped to meet her enemies, should be checked by raids of English ships on seaports of the Spanish peninsula, and on her trade with South America. But the queen hesitated, and Sidney concentrated all his energy on endeavours to overcome her indifference. During the winter of 1584–5 he regularly attended the debates in the House of Commons, and vehemently supported the proposed penal legislation against the jesuits. Outside parliament he intervened in the pending negotiations with James VI of Scotland, and used all his influence to detach that monarch from the cause of his catholic mother and from alliance with Spain. He was in repeated communication with the Scottish envoy in London, the Master of Gray, who was attracted by his personal charm, and appeared to follow his advice. Sidney did not detect the double game which the astute ambassador was playing.
At length, in June 1585, the queen agreed to send an army to the Low Countries to support the cause of the protestants. Sidney was still convinced that a direct attack on Spain was the wiser course. But, wherever the blow was to be struck, he was anxious to lend a hand. There seemed much doubt whether any command would be offered him in the Low Countries, and, holding aloof from the discussions which the queen's change of policy excited in court circles, he actively interested himself during the summer in the great expedition to the Spanish coast which Drake was fitting out at Plymouth. He knew well that he could not obtain the queen's assent to take part in that enterprise, but he made up his mind to join it without inviting the royal permission. In August he hurried secretly to Plymouth, whence Drake's fleet was ready to set sail. But Drake understood the situation, and declined to risk the queen's anger. He informed the court of Sidney's plans, and the queen's imperious summons to Sidney to present himself at court proved irresistible. On 21 Sept. he made his peace with the queen at Nonsuch, and on 7 Nov. she signed at Westminster a patent appointing him governor of Flushing, one of the towns which the States-General had surrendered to her as security for the aid she was rendering them. At the same time Leicester was nominated commander-in-chief of the queen's forces in the Low Countries.
On 16 Nov. Sidney left Gravesend to take up his command at Flushing, where he arrived two days later. He found the garrison weak and dispirited, and set about strengthening the defences. On 10 Dec. Leicester joined him, and passed on to the Hague amid much popular rejoicing. The Spaniards, who had held Antwerp since 17 Aug., were in formidable strength, and Sidney soon realised the difficulties of the position of himself and his fellow-countrymen. Supplies were slow in coming from England. The Dutch allies were listless or suspicious, and Leicester was soon involved in a quarrel with the queen, in which he had Sidney's full sympathy. But Sidney did what he could to prevent the dispute from wholly diverting Leicester's attention from the perils of the immediate situation. Repeatedly did he hurry to the Hague to urge on his uncle and on the Dutch government the necessity, at all hazards, of immediate and resolute action in the field. But disappointments accumulated. When, in February 1586, Sidney was appointed by Leicester colonel of the Zeeland regiment of horse, a rival candidate, Count Hohenlohe, protested against the promotion of a foreigner, and the queen judged the count's grievance just. To Lord Burghley and to his father-in-law Sidney sent vehement appeals to rouse the queen to a fuller sense of her responsibilities. At any rate, he pointed out, it was a point of honour for her to equip the army with the supplies requisite for the work that awaited it. ‘I understand I am called ambitious and proud at home,’ he protested to Walsingham; ‘but certainly, if they knew my heart, they would not altogether so judge me.’ At the end of March his wife joined him at Flushing, and soon after he learnt there of his father's death on 6 May, and of his mother's death on 11 Aug. Leicester did not encourage him to take service in the field. Nevertheless, on 6–7 July Sidney, with his friend Prince Maurice, effected a raid on Axel, a village in the Spaniards' hands only twenty miles from Flushing. The attack was made by night and in boats. Sidney showed great courage and alertness, and the garrison surrendered without striking a blow. After providing for the government of the town, Sidney joined the main body of the army, which was with Leicester at Arnhem, but he was soon ordered back to his post at Flushing. On 2 Sept. he took part in the successful assault on Doesburg, a weak fortress near Arnhem.
A few days later Leicester wisely resolved to attack the stronghold of Zutphen. On 13 Sept. he brought his army within sight of the town, and encamped with the infantry on the left bank of the river Yssel, which ran beside the town, leaving the cavalry on the right bank, near the village of Warnsfeld, under the joint command of Count Lewis William of Nassau and Sir John Norris. Sidney joined the latter as a volunteer and knight-errant (Motley, ii. 46). His regiment of horse was at Deventer, whither it had been sent to quell an anticipated revolt. On the 21st news arrived that a troop of Spaniards convoying provisions was to arrive at Zutphen at daybreak next morning. Leicester directed Norris, with two hundred horsemen, and Sir William Stanley, with three hundred horsemen, to intercept the approaching force. Sidney and his brother Robert determined on their own initiative to join in the attack. When leaving his tent at a very early hour in the morning of Thursday the 22nd, Philip met Sir William Pelham, who had omitted to put on his leg-armour. Sidney, rashly disdaining the advantage of better equipment than a friend, quixotically threw off his own cuisses. A thick fog at first obscured the enemy's movements. When it lifted, the little force of five hundred English horsemen found itself under the walls of Zutphen and in face of a detachment of the enemy's cavalry three thousand strong. The English charged twice, but were compelled on each occasion to retreat after hard fighting. During the second charge Sidney's horse was killed under him. Mounting another, he foolhardily thrust his way through the enemy's ranks, and, when turning to rejoin his friends, he was struck by a bullet on the left thigh, a little above the knee. He managed to keep his saddle until he reached the camp, a mile and a half distant. There, parched with thirst, he called for drink. A bottle of water was brought, but as he was placing it to his lips, a grievously wounded foot soldier was borne past him and fixed greedy eyes on the bottle. Sidney at once handed it to the dying man with the famous words, ‘Thy necessity is yet greater than mine’ (Greville, p. 145; cf. Motley, ii. 50 seq., where the dates, given in the new style, are ten days later).
From the camp Sidney was carried in Leicester's barge down the Yssel and the Rhine to Arnhem, and lodged in the house of a lady named Gruithuissens. His wife, although far advanced in pregnancy, hastened from Flushing to nurse him, and his brother Robert was a frequent visitor to the sick-chamber. The wound failed to heal, and ultimately mortified. Sidney at the outset trembled at the approach of death, but the consolations of religion restored his equanimity, and he awaited the end with pathetic composure. He improvised a short poem, called ‘La Cuisse rompue,’ and caused it to be set to music and sung at his bedside. To a learned friend, Belarius, he wrote a Latin letter, a copy of which was forwarded to the queen. Both poem and letter are lost. He ordered his ‘Arcadia’ to be burned. Finally he dictated a will in which he showed characteristic consideration for his friends and dependents. His widow was nominated sole executrix. A codicil, dated the day of his death, made some trifling changes in the smaller legacies. He died after twenty-six days' suffering on 17 Oct., bidding his relatives with his last breath love his memory and cherish his friends (Greville, p. 160).
The States-General begged the honour of according the hero burial within their own dominions, and offered to spend half a ton of gold on a memorial. But the request was refused. On 24 Oct. the body, after being embalmed, was removed to Flushing. On 1 Nov. twelve hundred English soldiers and a great concourse of Dutch burghers escorted the coffin to Sidney's own vessel, The Black Pinnace, which, with sails of black, landed its burden at Tower Hill on 5 Nov. Thence the coffin was borne to a house in the Minories to await a public funeral. But three months expired before the interment. The delay was due to pecuniary difficulties. The creditors of Sidney and his father were numerous and importunate. It appeared that lands assigned by Sidney's will to Walsingham for the satisfaction of his creditors were difficult to realise, while the lawyers raised doubts as to the lawfulness of the disposition of his property. Walsingham reluctantly paid 6,000l. out of his own pocket, and then appealed for help to Leicester. It was not till 16 Feb. that Sidney's friends found themselves in a position to face the heavy expenses of the public funeral which his deserts in their eyes and in the eyes of the nation demanded.
On 16 Feb. 1586–7 seven hundred mourners of all classes walked in the procession to St. Paul's Cathedral. At its head marched thirty-two poor men and Sidney's regiment of horse. The pall-bearers were Fulke Greville, Edward Wotton, Edward Dyer, and Thomas Dudley. His brother Robert was chief mourner. Each of the seven united provinces sent a representative. The cortège was closed by the lord-mayor and three hundred of the city trained bands. The grave was under the lady-chapel at the back of the high altar. In 1590 Sir Francis Walsingham was laid in the same tomb, which was destroyed in the great fire of 1666.
Thomas Lant [q. v.] published thirty-four engraved copper-plates of the funeral procession and ceremony, with a description in Latin and English. It was entitled ‘Sequitur Celebritas et Pompa Funeris’ (London, 1587, oblong folio).
By the terms of his will, Sidney's father-in-law Walsingham and his brother Robert had authority to defray his own and his father's debts from the sale of his lands in Lincolnshire, Sussex, and Hampshire. His wife he left for life half the income of his various properties. His daughter Elizabeth received a marriage portion of 4,000l., and his younger brother Thomas lands to the value of 100l. a year. To his sister, the Countess of Pembroke, he left ‘his best jewell beset with diamonds;’ to his friends Edward Dyer and Fulke Greville he bequeathed his books. Surgeons and divines who attended his deathbed, and all his servants at home, from his steward Griffith Madox, who received an annuity of 40l., downwards, were substantial legatees. The residue of his estate passed to his brother Robert (cf. Sydney Papers, i. 109–13). Sir Philip's widow, who, at great risk to her life, was delivered of a still-born child in December 1586, proved the will on 19 June 1589. Next year she married Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex [q. v.], and, after his death in 1601, Richard de Burgh, earl of Clanricarde. She died before 1635. By her Sidney was the father of a daughter, Elizabeth, on whose birth, on 31 Jan. 1583–4, Scipio Gentili, the civilian, wrote a Latin poem entitled ‘Nereus’ (London, 1585, 4to); Queen Elizabeth was her godmother; she married Roger Manners, earl of Rutland [q. v.], and died without issue in August 1612. Jonson describes her as ‘nothing inferior to her father in poesie’ (Conversations, p. 16).
The grief which Sidney's death evoked has been rarely paralleled. It was accounted a sin for months afterwards for any gentleman of quality to wear gay apparel in London. From all classes came expressions of dismay. The queen was overwhelmed with sorrow, although she afterwards complained that Sidney invited death by his rashness (Naunton, p. 19). ‘What perfection he was born unto, and how able he was to serve her majesty and his country, all men here almost wonder,’ wrote his uncle Leicester to Walsingham from the Hague eight days after his death. The sentiment was repeated in every variety of phrase. ‘This is that Sidney,’ wrote Camden, ‘who as Providence seems to have sent him into the world to give the present a specimen of the ancients, so it did on a sudden recall him and snatch him from us as more worthy of heaven than of earth.’ Thomas Nash, in his ‘Piers Penilesse,’ apostrophised Sidney in the words ‘Well couldst thou give every virtue his encouragement, every wit his due, every writer his desert, 'cause none more virtuous, witty, or learned than thyself.’ Both the universities published collections of elegies. At Cambridge the volume which was edited by Alexander Neville (1544–1614) [q. v.] was dedicated to Leicester, and included a sonnet in English by James VI of Scotland, with Latin translations of it by the king, by Patrick, lord Gray, Sir John Maitland, Alexander Seton, and by James Halkerston, who contributed two versions. At Oxford two volumes appeared, one edited by William Gager and entitled ‘Exequiæ | Illustrissimi | Equitis D. Philip- | Pi Sidnæi, Gratissi- | mæ Memoriæ Ac No- | Mini Impensæ,’ with a dedication to Leicester; the other, edited by John Lhuyd and dedicated to Sidney's brother-in-law, the Earl of Pembroke, under the title ‘Peplos | Illustrissimi | viri D. Philippi | Sidnæi Supre- | Mis Honoribus Dictatus |.’ The chief contributors to the latter were members of New College.
The most interesting of the poetic memorials, which numbered fully two hundred, is the collection of eight elegies which was appended in 1595 to Spenser's ‘Colin Clouts come Home again.’ The opening poem, entitled ‘Astrophel: a Pastorall Elegie,’ after which the collection is usually named, was by Spenser himself, and was dedicated to Sidney's widow, who had then become the Earl of Essex's wife. Sidney's sister, the Countess of Pembroke, Lodowick Bryskett, Matthew Roydon, and Sir Walter Ralegh are among the contributors to the collection. Other poetical tributes of literary or bibliographical interest were issued in separate volumes by Sir William Herbert (d. 1593) [q. v.] in 1586; by George Whetstone [q. v.] in 1586; by John Philip (fl. 1566) [q. v.] in 1587, dedicated to the Earl of Essex; by Angel Day [q. v.] in 1587; and by Thomas Churchyard [q. v.], dedicated to Lady Sidney (n.d.). Funeral songs with music appeared in William Byrd's ‘Psalms, Sonnets, and Songs,’ 1588, while five pieces on the same theme by the mysterious ‘A. W.’ are in Davison's ‘Poetical Rhapsody’ (ed. Bullen, i. 63–71, ii. 90–3). A charming elegy, ‘Amoris Lachrymæ,’ figures in Breton's ‘Bowre of Delights’ (London, R. Johnes, 1591, 4to), and an eclogue on Sidney in Drayton's ‘Eclogues’ (1593, No. 4).
Sidney's force of patriotism and religious fervour were accompanied by much political sagacity, by high poetic and oratorical gifts, and by unusual skill in manly sports. Such versatility, allied to a naturally chivalric, if somewhat impetuous, temperament, generated a rare personal fascination, the full force of which was brought home to his many friends by his pathetic death, from a wound received in battle, at the early age of thirty-two. His achievements, when viewed in detail, may hardly seem to justify all the eulogies in verse and prose which his contemporaries bestowed upon his brief career; but the impression that it left in its entirety on his countrymen's imagination proved ineffaceable. Shelley, in his ‘Adonais,’ gave expression to a sentiment still almost universal among Englishmen when he wrote of
Sidney as he fought
And as he fell, and as he lived and loved,
Sublimely mild, a spirit without spot.
Portraits of Sidney are very numerous. A picture containing full-length life-size figures of Sir Philip and his younger brother Robert is at Penshurst. There also is the familiar and often engraved three-quarter length, life-size, with clean-shaven face, by Zucchero, dated 1577, when Sidney was twenty-two. The miniature by Isaac Oliver, in which Sidney is represented reclining under a tree and wearing a tall hat, with the gardens at Wilton in the background, is now at Windsor; it was finely engraved by Vertue for the ‘Sydney Papers,’ to which it forms the frontispiece, and there is a good photogravure in Jusserand's ‘English Novel’ (English transl. 1890). Another miniature by Oliver, in a silver filagree frame, belongs to Sir Charles Dilke, and a third miniature (anonymous) is at Penshurst. There seems nothing to confirm the conjecture that the last reproduces the portrait, apparently lost, which was painted for Sidney's friend Languet by Paolo Veronese at Venice in 1574, and there is no means of identifying a second portrait noticed by Languet as in the possession of one Abondius at Vienna in the same year (cf. Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. x. 308; Gent. Mag. 1854, ii. 152–3). At Woburn a portrait doubtfully assigned to Sir Antonio More is on fairly good grounds identified with Sidney; it has been engraved. A very attractive half-length portrait (anonymous) is in the collection of the Earl of Warwick. Another portrait attributed to Zucchero, painted after Sidney's death, belongs to the Marquis of Lothian. A portrait labelled ‘Sir Philip Sidney who writ the Arcadia’ belongs to the Earl of Darnley. Another is at Knole. An engraving by C. Warren, from a portrait at Wentworth Castle, inaccurately attributed to Velasquez, prefaces Zouch's ‘Memoirs’ (1809); Dr. Waagen assigns this portrait to the Netherlandish school. Dallaway (Anecdotes of Paintings) mentions a portrait by J. de Critz. Among numerous engravings may be mentioned the rare copperplates by Renold Elstracke [q. v.], by Thomas Lant [q. v.] (in the account of Sidney's funeral, 1587, reproduced in ‘Astrophel and Stella,’ ed. Pollard), and by Simon Pass [q. v.] in Holland's ‘Herωologia.’ There is a stained-glass window with a full-length portrait in the hall of the university of Sydney, New South Wales.
Sidney's literary work has done much to keep his fame alive. None of it was published in his lifetime, but all of it was widely read in manuscript copies, and the reluctance of his friends to authorise its publication led to the issue of surreptitious editions which perplex the conscientious bibliographer.
In 1587 there appeared a translation from the French prose of Plessis du Mornay, entitled ‘A Woorke concerning the trewnesse of the Christian Religion.’ This was begun by Sidney, but was completed and published by Arthur Golding [q. v.] It was at once popular, and reissues are dated 1587, 1592, 1604, and 1617.
The ‘Arcadia,’ begun in 1580 and probably completed before his marriage in 1583, was the earliest of Sidney's purely literary compositions to be printed. Within a few months of its author's death Greville wrote to Walsingham that the publisher, William Ponsonby, had told him of a forthcoming edition, of which Sidney's friends knew nothing. Greville suggested that ‘more deliberation’ was required before Sidney's books should be given to the world (cf. State Papers, Dom. Eliz. cxcv. No. 43; Arber, Garner, i. 488–9). On 23 Sept. 1588, however, Ponsonby obtained a license for the publication of the ‘Arcadia.’ In 1589 Puttenham, in his ‘Art of English Poesie,’ wrote: ‘Sir Philip Sidney in the description of his mistresse excellently well handled this figure of resemblaunce by imagerie, as ye may see in his booke of Archadia.’ But the romance was not published till 1590, when Ponsonby issued in quarto ‘The Covntesse of Pembroke's Arcadia, written by Sir Philippe Sidnei’ (copies are at the British Museum, and in the Huth, Britwell, and Rowfant Libraries). The ‘overseer’ (i.e. printer's reader) admitted his own responsibility for the division of the work into chapters, and for the distribution through the prose text of the poetical eclogues. The whole was divided into three books. Another edition, ‘now since the first edition augmented and ended,’ was issued by Ponsonby in 1593 in folio (a unique copy is at Britwell). In an address to the reader H. S. (possibly Henry Salisbury [q. v.]) stated that the work had been revised and supplemented from Sidney's manuscripts by his sister, the Countess of Pembroke. She now divided the work into five books instead of three, while changes were made in the arrangement of the poems and many new ones supplied. An edition, ‘now the third time published, with sundry new additions of the same author’ (London, 1598, fol.), also undertaken by Ponsonby under Lady Pembroke's direction, contained the previously published ‘Apologie for Poetrie’ and ‘Astrophel and Stella,’ with some hitherto unprinted poems and the masque of the ‘Lady of May.’ This is the definitive edition of Sidney's works, and it was constantly reissued. Robert Waldegrave printed an edition at Edinburgh in 1599, copies of which were unlawfully imported into England. Later folio issues of bibliographical interest were dated 1605 (by Matthew Lownes), 1613 (for Simon Waterson, with a new ‘dialogue betweene two shepherds … at Wilton’), 1621 (Dublin, printed by the Societie of Stationers, with the supplement to the third book of the ‘Arcadia’ by Sir William Alexander, originally published separately), 1623 (London, with Alexander's supplement), 1627 (with Beling's sixth book, separately title-paged). Other reissues appeared in 1629, 1633, 1638 (with a second supplement to the third book by Ja. Johnstoun), 1655 (with memoir and ‘a remedie of love’), 1662, and 1674. A reprint of 1725 of Sidney's ‘works … in prose and verse,’ in 3 vols. 8vo, was described as the fourteenth edition, and a modernised version of the ‘Arcadia’ by Mrs. Stanley was issued in the same year. No other reprint was attempted till 1867, when J. Hain Friswell edited an abridgement. A facsimile reprint of the quarto of 1590, with bibliographical introduction by Dr. Oskar Sommer, appeared in 1891.
The ‘Arcadia’ was written by Sidney for the amusement of his sister, the Countess of Pembroke. It was ‘done,’ he wrote, ‘in loose sheets of paper, most of it in his sister's presence, the rest by sheets sent unto her as fast as they were done.’ The work bears traces of this method of composition. It relates in rambling fashion the stirring adventures of two princes, Musidorus of Thessaly and Pyrocles of Macedon, who, in the face of many dangers and difficulties, sue for the hands of the princesses Pamela and Philoclea, daughters of Basilius, king of Arcady, and of his lascivious queen Gynecia. Numerous digressions divert the reader's attention from the chief theme. Battles and tournaments fill a large space of the canvas, and they are portrayed with all the sympathy of a knight-errant. But the chivalric elements are balanced by the complications incident to romance, in which the men often disguise themselves as women and the women as men, and by pastoral eclogues mainly in verse, in which rustic life and feeling are contrasted with those of courts. In the long speeches which are placed in the mouths of all the leading actors, much sagacious philosophic or ethical reflection is set before the reader, and there are some attractive descriptions of natural scenery.
The work, in which the tumult of a mediæval chivalric romance thus alternates with the placid strains of pastoral poetry, is an outcome of much reading of foreign literature. The title of the whole and most of the pastoral episodes were drawn from the ‘Arcadia’ of the Neapolitan, Jacopo Sanazaro, which was first published at Milan in 1504 (French translation, 1544). But Sidney stood more directly indebted to Spanish romance—to the chivalric tales of ‘Amadis’ and ‘Palmerin,’ and above all to the ‘Diana Enamorada,’ by George Montemayor (itself an imitation of Sanazaro's ‘Arcadia’), first published in 1557 or 1560, and first translated into English by Bartholomew Yong in 1598. From ‘Diana’ Sidney avowedly translated two songs that figure in the ‘certain sonnets’ appended to the ‘Arcadia.’ Signs are not wanting, too, that Sidney had studied the ‘Æthiopica’ of Heliodorus, of which Thomas Underdown [q. v.] published a translation in 1587. Sidney, in his ‘Apologie for Poetrie’ (ed. Shuckburgh, p. 12), made appreciative reference to Heliodorus's ‘sugred invention of that picture of love in his Theagines and Cariclea.’ Possibly, too, a part of Sidney's scheme was due to Lyly's ‘Euphues,’ which was published a year before the ‘Arcadia’ was begun.
Both in his ‘Apologie’ and in his ‘Sonnets’ (No. iii.), Sidney condemned the conceits of the euphuists who ‘rifled up’ stories of beasts, fowls, and fishes on which to nurture conceits, and Drayton (in Of Poets and Poesy) claimed for ‘noble’ Sidney that he made a successful stand against the tyranny of Lyly's ‘Euphues:’
[And] throughly paced our language, as to show
The plenteous English hand in hand might go
With Greek and Latin, and did first reduce
Our tongue from Lilly's writing then in use.
But the prose of the ‘Arcadia’ is diffuse and artificial, and abounds in tricks as indefensible and irritating as any sanctioned by Lyly. Sidney overloads his sentences with long series of weak epithets, while he abounds in far-fetched metaphors. Oases of direct narrative exist, but they are rare. Mr. George Macdonald, in his ‘Cabinet of Gems’ (1892), has, however, shown that, by gentle pruning, short extracts from the ‘Arcadia’ can assume graces of simplicity which are only occasionally recognisable in the work in its original shape. In the verse in the ‘Arcadia’ Sidney not only experimented in English with classical metres, but with the terza rima, sestina, and canzonet of modern Italy.
But defects of theme and style passed unrecognised in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The book at once established itself in popular esteem, and for more than a hundred years enjoyed an undisputed vogue. In Holinshed's ‘Chronicle,’ while Sidney was still alive, and the work in manuscript, the ‘Arcadia’ was eulogised by his friend Edmund Molyneux for ‘its excellencie of spirit, gallant invention, varietie of matter, orderlie disposition,’ and ‘apt words.’ Greville described the work as, in the opinion of Sidney's friends, much inferior to ‘that unbounded spirit of his,’ but he regarded it as at once an artistic and ethical tour de force. Gabriel Harvey eulogised it as ‘the simple image of his gentle wit and the golden pillar of his noble courage.’ Hakewill called it ‘nothing inferior to the choicest piece among the ancients.’ Almost from the day of its publication court ladies imitated its affected turns of speech (cf. Dekker, Gull's Hornbook, 1609; Ben Jonson, Every Man out of his Humour, act ii. sc. i. 1600). Early in the seventeenth century a gentleman of fashion would compliment a lady ‘in pure Sir Philip Sidney’ (Anecdotes, Camden Soc. p. 64). A prayer spoken by Pamela (Arcadia, bk. iii.) was almost literally reproduced in a few copies of the ‘Eἰκὼν Bασιλική,’ and one of the charges made against the king's memory by Milton was that he stole a prayer ‘word for word from the mouth of a heathen woman, praying to a heathen god, and that in no serious book, but in the vain amatorious poem of Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia’ (Eikonoklastes, 1649, 1650).
The influence of the romance on contemporary literature was considerable. Shakespeare based on Sidney's story of the ‘Paphlagonian unkind king’ (bk. ii.) the episode of Gloucester and his sons in ‘King Lear,’ while many phrases in his plays, especially in the ‘Tempest’ and ‘Midsummer Night's Dream,’ closely resemble expressions in the ‘Arcadia,’ and justify the conjecture that he studied the romance as carefully as he studied Sidney's sonnets or his masque of the ‘Lady of May’ (cf. Shaksperian Parallelisms collected from Sir Philip Sydney's ‘Arcadia’ by Eliza M. West, privately printed, 1865). There is an unmistakable resemblance between Holofernes in ‘Love's Labour's Lost’ and Rombus, the pedantic schoolmaster in Sidney's masque, which reads like a first draft of one of the pastoral incidents of the ‘Arcadia,’ and was from 1598 onwards always printed with it. Spenser's ‘Faerie Queene’ also stands indebted at many points to Sidney's romance (cf. Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. vols. iii. and iv. passim).
Extracts and epitomes of the ‘Arcadia’ were long popular as chap-books, and continuations abounded. ‘The English Arcadia alluding his beginning to Philip Sidnes ending,’ by Gervase Markham [q. v.], appeared in 1607. William Alexander, earl of Stirling, published in 1621 ‘a supplement of a defect in the third part of Sidney's Arcadia.’ A ‘Sixth Booke to the Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia, written by R[ichard] B[eling] of Lincolnes Inn,’ was issued in 1624, and this, like Alexander's supplement, was included in all the later editions. ‘Continuation of Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, wherein is handled the loves of Amphialus and Helen … written by a young gentlewoman, Mrs. A. W[eames],’ was published in 1651.
Among avowed imitations may be mentioned Nathaniel Baxter's philosophical poem ‘Sir Philip Sidney's Ourania’ (1606), ‘The Countess of Montgomery's Urania,’ by Lady Mary Wroth, Sidney's niece (1621), and John Reynolds's ‘Flower of Fidelitie’ (1650). Sidney's incidental story of ‘Argalus and Parthenia’ was retold in verse by Francis Quarles in 1629.
Plots of plays were also drawn from the ‘Arcadia.’ John Day described the argument of his ‘Ile of Guls’ (1606) as ‘a little string or rivolet drawne from the gull streme of the right worthy gentleman Sir Philip Sidneys well knowne Archadea.’ The plots of Shirley's pastoral play called ‘The Arcadia’ (1614) and Beaumont and Fletcher's ‘Cupid's Revenge’ (1615) came from the same source. Similar efforts of later date were ‘Andromana, or the Merchant's Wife,’ by J. S., doubtfully identified with Shirley (1660); William Mountfort's ‘Zelmane’ (1705); Macnamara Morgan's ‘Philoclea’ (1754), and ‘Parthenia, an Arcadian drama’ (1764).
During the eighteenth century Sidney's romance gradually lost its reputation. Addison noticed it among the books which the fair Leonora bought for her own shelves (Spectator, 12 April 1711). Richardson borrowed from Sidney's character of Pamela the name of his heroine, and at least one of her adventures. Cowper read the ‘Arcadia’ with delight, and wrote in ‘The Task’ (bk. iii. l. 514) of ‘those Arcadian scenes’ sung by ‘Sidney, warbler of poetic prose.’ But more recent critics estimate the merits of the romance more moderately. Horace Walpole declared that Sidney wrote with the sangfroid and prolixity of Mlle. Scudéri. Hazlitt regarded the ‘Arcadia’ as one of the greatest monuments of the abuse of intellectual power upon record. Hallam was more favourable, but classes it with ‘long romances, proverbially the most tiresome of all books.’ To the literary historian the ‘Arcadia’ is now mainly of value as the most famous English example of the type of literature which the modern novel displaced.
Abroad the ‘Arcadia’ met, in its early days, with an enthusiastic reception. Du Bartas in his ‘Seconde Semaine’ (1584) spoke of ‘Milor Cidne’ as constituting, with More and Sir Nicholas Bacon, one of the three pillars of the English speech. The romance was twice translated into French, first by J. Baudouin as ‘L'Arcadie de la Comtesse de Pembrok, mise en nostre langage’ (Paris, 1624, 3 vols. 8vo), with fancy portraits of Sidney and of his sister. The second translation, of which the opening part was the work of ‘un brave gentilhomme,’ and the rest by Mlle. Geneviève Chappelain, was published by Robert Fouet in 1625, and is ornamented with attractive engravings. In Charles Sorel's satire on sixteenth-century romance, entitled ‘Le Berger Extravagant,’ 1628 (iii. 70, 134), praise was lavished on the discourses of love and politics which figure in the ‘Arcadia.’ ‘La Cour Bergère,’ a tragi-comedy in verse, largely drawn from the ‘Arcadia,’ by Antoine Mareschal, was published at Paris in 1640, with a dedication to Sidney's nephew, Robert Sidney, second earl of Leicester [q. v.] Niceron in 1731 described the ‘Arcadia’ as full of intelligence and very well written in his ‘Mémoires pour servir,’ while Florian, in his ‘Essai sur la Pastorale,’ which he prefixed to ‘Estelle’ (1788), described Sidney with D'Urfé, Montemayor, and Cervantes as his literary ancestors.
A German translation by Valentinus Theocritus was published at Frankfurt-am-Main in 1629, and was revised by Martin Opitz in an edition of 1643. A reprint of the latter appeared at Leyden in 1646.
The collection of sonnets called ‘Astrophel and Stella’ has, of all Sidney's literary achievements, best stood the tests of time. It consisted in its authentic form of 108 sonnets and eleven songs. In 1591, within a year of the first issue of the ‘Arcadia,’ a publisher, Thomas Newman, secured a manuscript version of the sonnets, and on his own initiative issued an edition with a dedication to a personal friend, Francis Flower, with an epistle to the reader by Thomas Nash (doubtless the editor of the volume), and an appendix of ‘sundry other rare sonnets by diuers noblemen and gentlemen.’ Sidney's friends in September 1591 appealed to Lord Burghley to procure the suppression of this unauthorised venture (cf. Arber, Stationers' Registers, i. 555). A month later, apparently, another unauthorised publisher, Matthew Lownes, issued an independent edition, a copy of which, said to be unique, is in the Bodleian Library. Finally Newman, at the solicitation of Sidney's friends, reissued his volume in 1591 without the prefatory matter and with many revisions of the text (cf. copy in Brit. Mus.). The poems were again reprinted with the authorised edition of the ‘Arcadia’ in 1598. There they underwent a completer recension; an important sonnet (xxxviii), attacking Lord Rich by name, and two songs (viii and ix) were added for the first time, and the songs, which had hitherto followed the sonnets en bloc, were distributed among them. This volume of 1598 also supplied for the first time ‘certaine sonets of Sir Philip Sidney never before printed,’ among which was the splendid lyric entitled ‘Love's dirge,’ with the refrain ‘Love is dead,’ which gives Sidney a high place among lyric poets. The sonnets were reprinted from Newman's two editions of 1591 by Mr. Arber in his ‘English Garner,’ i. 493 sq. With the songs and the ‘Defence of Poesie,’ they were edited by William Gray (Oxford, 1829), and by Dr. Flügel, again with the ‘Defence of Poesie,’ in 1889. A compact reissue of ‘Astrophel and Stella,’ edited by Mr. A. W. Pollard, was published in 1891.
The sonnets, which were probably begun in 1575, and ceased soon after Sidney's marriage in 1583, are formed on the simple model of three rhyming decasyllabic quatrains, with a concluding couplet. Whether or no they were designed at the outset as merely literary exercises, imitating Surrey's addresses to Geraldine, they portray with historical precision the course of Sidney's ambiguous relations with Lady Rich. There is no reason to contest Nash's description of their argument as ‘cruel chastity—the prologue Hope, the epilogue Despair.’ The opening poems, which are clumsily contrived, are frigid in temper, but their tone grows by slow degrees genuinely passionate; the feeling becomes ‘full, material, and circumstantiated,’ and many of the later sonnets, in reflective power, in felicity of phrasing, and in energy of sentiment, are ‘among the best of their sort’ (cf. Lamb, ‘Some Sonnets of Sir Philip Sydney,’ in Essays of Elia, ed. Ainger, pp. 286 sq.). Shakespeare was doubtless indebted to them for the form of his own sonnets, and at times Sidney seems to adumbrate Shakespeare's subtlety of thought and splendour of expression.
Next in importance, as in date of publication, comes Sidney's ‘Apologie for Poetrie.’ About August 1579 Stephen Gosson published an attack on stage-plays, entitled ‘The School of Abuse,’ and he followed it up in November with an ‘Apologie of the School of Abuse.’ Both were dedicated to Sidney. On 16 Oct. 1579 Spenser wrote from Leicester House to Gabriel Harvey: ‘Newe Bookes I heare of none but only of one, that writing a certaine booke called The Schoole of Abuse, and dedicating it to Maister Sidney, was for hys labor scorned: if at leaste it be in the goodnesse of that nature to scorne. Suche follie is it, not to regarde afore hande the inclination and qualitie of him, to whom we dedicate oure bookes.’ Sidney at once set about preparing a retort to Gosson, which took the form of an essay on the influence of imaginative literature on mankind. By poetry he understood any work of the imagination. ‘Verse,’ he wrote, ‘is but an ornament and no cause to poetry.’ His ‘Apologie’ is in three parts; in the first, poetry is considered as teaching virtuous action, in the second the various forms of poetry are enumerated and justified, and in the third a sanguine estimate is offered of the past, present, and future position of English poetry. Sidney commended the work of Chaucer, Surrey, and Spenser, but failed to foresee the imminent greatness of English drama. He concluded with a spirited denunciation of the earth-creeping mind that cannot lift itself up to look at the sky of poetry. There is much that is scholastic and pedantic in the detailed treatment of his theme, but his general attitude is that of an enlightened lover of great literature. The work was first printed as an ‘Apologie for Poetrie’ in a separate volume with four eulogistic sonnets by Henry Constable [q. v.] for Henry Olney in 1595. It was appended, with the title of the ‘Defence of Poesie,’ to the 1598 edition of the ‘Arcadia’ and to all the reissues; it was edited separately in 1752 (Glasgow), by Lord Thurlow in 1810, by Professor Arber in 1868, and by Mr. E. S. Shuckburgh in 1891.
Sidney's translation of the Psalms, in which his sister joined him, was long circulated in manuscript, and manuscript copies are numerous (cf. Bodl. Rawlinson MS., Poet. 25; Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. 12047–8; and manuscript in Trin. Coll. Cambridge). Donne wrote a fine poem in praise of the work (cf. Poems, 1633; cf. Jonson's Conversations with Drummond, p. 15). It was first printed in 1823 by Robert Triphook under the editorship of Samuel Weller Singer [q. v.], from a manuscript in the handwriting of John Davies of Hereford, then in the possession of B. H. Bright, but now at Penshurst. The title ran: ‘The Psalmes of David translated into divers and sundry kindes of Verse, more rare and excellent for the Method and Variety than ever yet hath been done in English. Begun by the noble and learned gent. Sir Philip Sidney, Knt., and finished by the right honorable the Countess of Pembroke, his sister.’ The first forty-three psalms are, according to notes in the manuscript, alone by Sidney. The metres are very various. Psalm xxxvii is an early example of that employed by Tennyson in ‘In Memoriam.’ Sidney's renderings enjoyed the advantage of republication with discursive commentary by Mr. Ruskin; Mr. Ruskin's edition of them forms the second volume of his ‘Bibliotheca Pastorum,’ 1877, and bears the sub-title of ‘Rock Honey-comb.’ Sidney's paraphrase, according to Mr. Ruskin, ‘aims straight, and with almost fiercely fixed purpose, at getting into the heart and truth of the thing it has got to say; and unmistakably, at any cost of its own dignity, explaining that to the hearer, shrinking from no familiarity and restricting itself from no expansion in terms, that will make the thing meant clearer’ (Pref. p. xvii).
One of Sidney's poetic works is lost. When William Ponsonby obtained a license for the publication of the ‘Arcadia’ on 23 Sept. 1588, he also secured permission to print ‘a translation of Salust de Bartas done by the same Sr P. into englishe.’ Greville mentioned in his letter to Walsingham that Sidney had executed this translation; and Florio, when dedicating the second book of his translation of Montaigne (1603) to Sidney's daughter, the Countess of Rutland, and to Sidney's friend, Lady Rich, notes that he had seen Sidney's rendering of ‘the first septmane of that arch-poet Du Bartas,’ and entreats the ladies to give it to the world. Nothing further is known of it.
All Sidney's extant poetry was collected by Dr. Grosart in 1873 (new edit. 1877). The editor includes, besides the sonnets, songs, poems from the ‘Arcadia,’ and the psalms, two ‘pastoralls’ from Davison's ‘Poetical Rhapsody;’ ‘Affection's Snare,’ from Rawlinson MS. Poet. 84; and ‘Wooing-stuffe,’ from ‘Cottoni Posthuma’ (p. 327), where it is appended to a short prose essay, ‘Valour Anatomized,’ doubtfully assigned to Sidney.[The chief original sources of information are the finely eulogistic life of Sidney by his friend Fulke Greville, which was first published in 1652, and is mainly a sketch of character and of opinions; the papers and letters (with memoir) printed in Collins's Sydney Papers (1746, fol., i. 98–113, and passim) from the originals preserved at Penshurst (cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. iii. 227—account of manuscripts at Penshurst); and the Correspondence of Sir Philip Sidney and Hubert Languet, collected and translated from the Latin, with notes and a memoir of Sidney by Steuart A. Pears [q. v.], London, 1845. Languet's Epistolæ in Latin were published by Lord Hailes in 1776. The fullest modern biography is that by Mr. H. R. Fox Bourne, which was first published in 1862, and was reissued in a revised form in 1891 in the ‘Heroes of the Nation’ series. The latter volume practically supersedes, as far as the facts go, the lives by Thomas Zouch (1809); by Julius Lloyd (1862); and by J. A. Symonds in ‘Men of Letters’ series (1886). (Cf. Anna M. Stoddart's Philip Sidney, Servant of God, 1894.) Hunter's MS. Chorus Vatum in Addit. MS. 24490, pp. 1–24, collects many details respecting the contemporary elegies. Other useful authorities are: Sidneiana, being a collection of fragments relative to Sir Philip Sidney, knt., by Samuel Butler, bishop of Lichfield [q. v.] (Roxburghe Club), London, 1837; Dr. Grosart's Introductions to the Complete Poems of Sir Philip Sidney, 2 vols., 1873; Dr. Edward Flügel's careful introduction to his edition of Astrophel and Stella and Defence of Poesie, Halle, 1889; Wood's Athenæ, ed. Bliss, i. 525 seq.; Morley's English Writers, vol. ix.; Arber's English Garner, i. 467–600; Dunlop's Hist. of Fiction, ed. Wilson; Jusserand's English Novel, Engl. transl. 1890; Courthope's Hist. of English Poetry, ii. 202–33.]