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(Ulster Journal of Archwoloyy, Nos. 9-31), Languet's
Latin Letters (Edinburgh, 1776), Pears' Correspondence of
Languet and Philip Sidney (London, 1845), Fulke Grev-
ille's so-called Life of Sidney (1652), the anonymous
" Life and Death of Sir Philip Sidney," prefixed to old
editions of the Arcadia, and a considerable mass of memo-
rial writings in prose and verse illustrative of his career.
In addition to these sources, which may be called original,
we possess a series of modern biographies, each of which
deserves mention. These, in their chronological order,
are: Dr. Zouch's (1809), Mr. William Gray's (1829), an
anonymous Life and Times of Sir Philip Sidney (Boston,
1859), Mr. Fox Bourne's (1862), and Mr. Julius Lloyd's
(later in 1862). With the American Life I am not ac-
quainted ; but the two last require to be particularly no-
ticed. Mr. Fox Bourne's Memoir of Sir Philip Sidney
combines a careful stud}^ of its main subject with an able
review of the times. The author's industrious researches
in State Papers and other MS. collections brought many
new facts to light. This book is one upon which all later

vi 1'KEFACE.

handlings of the subject will be based, and his deep in-
debtedness to which every subsequent biographer of Sid
ney must recognise. Mr. Lloyd's Life of Sir Philip Sidney
appearing in the same year as Mr. Fox Bourne's, is slighter
in substance. It has its own value as a critical and con-
scientious study of Sidney under several aspects ; and in
one or two particulars it supplements or corrects the more
considerable work of Mr. Bourne. For Sidney's writings
Professor Arber's reprint of the Defence of Poesy, and
Dr. Grosart's edition oi the pocnib in two volumes (The
Fuller Worthies' Library, 1873), will be found indispen-

In composing this sketch I have freely availed myself
of all that has been published about Sidney. It has been
my object to present the ascertained facts of his brief life,
and my own opinions regarding his character and literary
works, in as succinct a form as I found possible.

BADENWEILER, May 11. 1885.









"ASTROPHEL AND STELLA" > , , t . 106

" THE DEFENCE OF POESY " . . . ; . , . 145










SHELLEY, in his memorial poem on the death of Keats,
named Sir Philip Sidney among- "the inheritors of unful-
filled renown." If this praise be applicable to Chatterton
and Keats, it is certainly, though in a less degree perhaps,
true also of Sidney. His best friend and interpreter put
on record that "the youth, life, and fortune of this gentle-
man were, indeed, but sparks of extraordinary greatness in
him, which, for want of clear vent, lay concealed, and, in a
manner, smothered up." The real difficulty of painting an
adequate portrait of Sidney at the present time is that his
renown transcends his actual achievement. Neither his
poetry nor his prose, nor what is known about his action,
quite explains the singular celebrity which he enjoyed in
his own life, and the fame w r hich has attended his memory
with almost undimmed lustre throuo-h three centuries. In


an age remarkable for the great deeds of its heroes, no less
than for the splendour of its literature, he won and retained
a homage which was paid to none of his contemporaries.
All classes concurred in worshipping that marvellous youth,

o sii: ruiLir SIDNEY. [CHAP.

who di-playcd the choicest gifts of chivalry and scholar-
ship, "f bravciy and prudence, of creative and deliberative
liu.s, in the consummate harmony of a noble character.
The English nation seemed instinctively to recognise in
him the impersonation of its manifold ideals. He was
beautiful, and of illustrious ancestry, an accomplished
courtier, complete in all the exercises of a cavalier. He
was a student, possessed of the new learning which Italy
had recently bequeathed to Europe. He was a poet and
the " warbler of poetic prose," at a moment when the
greater luminaries of the Elizabethan period had scarcely
risen above the horizon. Yet his beauty did not betray

him into levity or wantonness ; his noble blood bred in

him neither pride nor presumption. Courtly habits failed
to corrupt his rectitude of conduct, or to impair the can-
dour of his utterance. The erudition of the Renaissance
left his Protestant simplicity and Christian faith untouched.
Literary success made him neither jealous nor conceited ;
and as the patron and friend of poets, he was even more
eminent than as a writer. These varied qualities were so
finely blent in his amiable nature that, when Wotton called
him " the very essence of congruity," he hit upon the hap-
piest phrase for describing Sidney's charm.

The man, in fact, was greater than his words and actions.
His whole life was "a true poem, a composition, and pat-
tern of the best and honourablest things ;" and the fascina-
tion which he exerted over all who came in contact with
him - a fascination which extended to those who only
knew him by report must now, in part at least, be taken
upon trust. \Ve cannot hope to present such a picture of
him as shall wholly justify his fame. Personalities so
unique a> Sidney's exhale a perfume which evanesces when
the lamp of life burns out, This the English nation felt


when they put on public mourning for his death. They
felt that they had lost in Sidney, not only one of their
most hopeful gentlemen and bravest soldiers, but some-
thing rare and beautiful in human life, which could not be
recaptured, which could not even be transmitted, save by
hearsay, to a future age. The living Euphues of that era
(so conscious of its aspirations as yet but partially attained,
so apt to idealise its darlings) had perished just when all
men's eyes were turned with certainty of expectation on
the coming splendours of his maturity. " The president
of nobleness and chivalry " was dead. " That most heroic


spirit, the heaven's pride, the glory of our days," had passed
awav like vouno- Marcellus. Words failed the survivors to

/ *'

express their sense of the world's loss. This they could
not utter, because there was something indescribable, in-
calculable, in the influence his personality had exercised.
We, then, who have to deal with meagre records and scanty
written remains, must well weigh the sometimes almost in-
coherent passion which emerges in the threnodies poured
out upon his grave. In the grief of Spenser and of Cam-
den, of Fuller and of Jonson, of Constable and Nash, of the
Countess of Pembroke and Fulke Greville, as in a glass
darkly, we perceive what magic spell it was that drew the
men of his own time to love and adore Sidney. The truth
is that Sidney, as we now can know him from his deeds
and words, is not an eminently engaging or profoundly in-
teresting personage. But, in the mirror of contemporary
minds, he shines with a pure lustre, which the students of
his brief biography must 'always feel to be surrounding

Society, in the sixteenth century, bestowed much in-
genuity upon the invention of appropriate mottoes and
significant emblems. AVhen, therefore, we read that Sir


Philip Sidnrv inscribed his shield with these words Vix ea
'<> ("These things I hardly call our own "), we
may take it for a sign that he attached no undue value to
le l>irth ; and, indeed, he makes one of the most re-
hjc. -table persons in his Arcadia exclaim: "I am no her-
ald to enquire of men's pedigrees; it sufficeth me if I
know their virtues." This might justify his biographers
in silence regarding his ancestry, were it not that his con-
3, both on the father's and the mother's side, were
all-important in determining the tenor of his life.

The first Sidney of whom we hear anything came into
England with Henry II., and held the office of Chamber-
lain to that king. His descendant, Nicholas Sidney, mar-
ried a daughter of Sir William Brandon and aunt of
Charlr-., Duke of Suffolk. Their son, Sir William Sidney,
played an important part during the reign of Henry VIII. ;
he served in the French wars, and commanded the rio-ht


wiii^- of the English army at Flodden. To him was given
the manor of Penshurst in Kent, which has remained in
the possession of the Sidneys and their present representa-
tives. On his death in 1554 he left one son and four
daughters. The eldest of these daughters was ancestress
of Lord Boli no-broke. From the marriao-e of the second


to Sir James Harrington descended, by female alliances,
the great house of Montagu and the families of North and
Noel. Through the marriage of the third with Sir Will-

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iam Fitz-William, Lord Byron laid claim to a drop of
8 Mi'-v blood. The fourth, who was the wife of Thomas
Ratcliffe, Earl of Sussex, dying childless, founded Sidney
Sussex <'ull.-g: at Cambridge. With the only son, Sir
Ilrnry Sidney (b. 1529-89), we shall have much to do in
th" presenl biography. It is enough now to mention that
iiry \ III. chose him for bedfellow and companion to


his only son. "I was, by that most famous king," he
writes, "put to his sweet son, Prince Edward, my most
dear master, prince, and sovereign ; my near kinswoman
beino- his only nurse, my father being his chamberlain, my
mother his governess, my aunt in such place as among
meaner personages is called a dry nurse ; for, from the time
he left sucking, she continually lay in bed with him, so
lono- as he remained in woman's government. As the


prince grew in years and discretion so grew I in favour and
liking of him." A portion of Hollingshed's Chronicle,
contributed by Edward Molineux, long time Sir Henry
Sidney's secretary, confirms this statement. " This right
famous, renowned, worthy, virtuous, and heroical knight,
by father and mother very nobly descended, was from his
infancy bred and brought up in the prince's court and in
nearness to his person, used familiarly even as a compan-
ion." Nothing but Edward YI.'s untimely death prevent-
ed Sir Henry Sidney from rising to high dignity and pow-
er in the realm. It was in his arms that the king expired
in 1553 at Greenwich.

One year before this event Sir Henry had married the
Lady Mary Dudley, daughter of Edmund, Viscount De 1'Isle
and Duke of Northumberland. The Dudleys were them-
selves of noble extraction, though one of their ancestors
had perished ignobly on the scaffold. Edmund Dudley,
grandson of John Lord Dudley, K.G., joined with Sir Rich-
ard Empson in those extortions which disgraced the last
years of Henry VII.'s reign, and both were executed in the
second year of his successor. His son, Sir John Dudley,
was afterwards relieved of the attainder, and restored to
those honours which he claimed from his mother. His
mother, Elizabeth Grey, was heiress of a very ancient house,
whose baronies and titles had passed by an almost unex-


-eries of female successions. The first founder of
the family >f De 1'Islc appears in history during the reign
of Kili'j; John. Tlie last baron of the male blood died in
tin- iviirn of Richard IT., leaving an heiress, who was mar-
rird t" Thomas Lord Berkeley. Their daughter and sole
heiress married Richard, Earl of Warwick, and also left an
only heiress, who married John Talbot, the great Earl of
Shrewsbury. Her eldest son, John Talbot, Baron De 1'Isle,
created \'i>.-ount De 1'Isle, left an only daughter, Elizabeth,
who \\a- wedded to Sir Edward Grey, created Baron and
Yi^ount De 1'Isle. It was the daughter and heiress of
thi> marriao-e who gave birth to the ambitious and unfort-

O * 3

niiate Duke of Northumberland, From these dry facts it
will be seen that the descendants of Edmund Dudley were
not only heirs and representatives of the ancient barony
of De 1'Isle, but that they also inherited the blood and
arms of the illustrious houses of Berkeley, Beauchamp,
Talbot, and Grey. When we further remember to what an
eminence the Duke of Northumberland climbed, and how
hi> son, the Earl of Leicester, succeeded in restoring the
Chattered fortunes of the family after that great prince's
fall, we can understand why Sir Henry Sidney used the
following language to his brother-in-law upon the occasion
of Marv Sidnev's betrothal to the Earl of Pembroke: "I


find to my exceeding great comfort the likelihood of a
marriage between my Lord of Pembroke and my daugh-
ter, which great honour to me, my mean lineage and kin, I
attribute to my match in your noble house." Philip Sid-
ney, too, when he was called to defend his uncle Leicester
iiu-t certain libels, expressed his pride in the connection.
' 1 am a Dmllev in blood; that Duke's daughter's son ; and

9 ^j

do acknowledge, though in all truth I may justly affirm that
1 am l>v my father's side of ancient and always well-es-


teemed and well-matched gentry, yet I do acknowledge,
I say, that my chiefest honour is to be a Dudley."

Philip was born at Penshurst on the 29th of November
1554. At that epoch their alliance with the Dudleys
seemed more likely to bring ruin on the Sidneys than new
honours. It certainly made their home a house of raourn-
Lady Mary Sidney had recently lost her father and


her brother Guilford on the scaffold. Another of her
brothers, John, Earl of Warwick, after his release from the
Tower, took refuge at Penshurst, and died there about a
month before his nephew's birth. 1 Sir Henry's loyalty
and prudence at this critical time saved the fortunes of his
family. He retired to his country seat, taking no part in
the Duke of Northumberland's ambitious schemes ; and
though he was coldly greeted at Mary's Court, the queen
confirmed him in the tenure of his offices and honours by a
deed of 8th November 1554. She also freed his wife from
participation in the attainder of her kinsfolk. Their eldest
son was christened Philip in compliment to Mary's Spanish
consort. It appears that Sir Henry Sidney subsequently
gained his sovereign's confidence; for in this reio-n he was

fj O O

appointed Vice-Treasurer and Controller of the royal reve-
nues in Ireland.

Of Philip's birthplace Ben Jonson has bequeathed to ui
a description, animated with more of romantic enthusiasm
than was common to his muse.

" Thou art not, Penshurst, built to envious show
Of touch 2 or marble, nor canst boast a row

1 Duke of Northumberland, d. 22d August 1553 ; Lord Guilford
Dudley and Lady Jane Grey, 12th February 1554 ; John Dudley, Earl
of Warwick, 21st October 1554.

Touch is a superlative sort of marble, the classic basanitcs. The
reference to a lantern in the next line but one might pass for a proph-

ecy of Walpole's too famous lantern at IIou<_ r hton.


Of polMu'd pillars or a roof of gold :

Thou ha-t no lantern, whereof tales are told ;

Or Mair, or courts; but stand'st an ancient pile;

And these, grudged at, are reverenced the while.

Thou joy'st in better marks, of soil, of air,

Of wood, of water ; therein art thou fair.

Thou hast thy walks for health as well as sport:

Thy mount, to which thy dryads do resort,

Where Tan and Bacchus their high feasts have ina<!;-.

Beneath the broad beech and the chestnut shade ;

That taller tree, which of a nut was set,

At his great birth, where all the muses met ;

There, in the writhed bark, are cut the names

Of many a Sylvan taken with his flames ;

And there the ruddy satyrs oft provoke

The lighter fauns to reach thy lady's oak."

The tree here commemorated by Jonson as Laving; been


planted at Sir Philip Sidney's birth, was cut down in 1768,
not, however, before it had received additional fame from
Edmund Waller. His Sacharissa was the Lady Dorothea
Sidney; and the poet was paying her court at Penshurst
when he wrote these lines:

" Go, boy, and carve this passion on the bark
Of yonder tree, which stands the sacred mark
Of noble Sidney's birth."

Jonson expatiates long over the rural charms of Pens-
hur.-t, which delighted him on many a summer's holiday.
He celebrates the pastures by the river, the feeding-grounds
of cattle, the well-stocked game preserves, the fish-ponds,
and the deer-park, which supplied that hospitable board
with all o;ood things in season.

*j O

' The painted partridge lies in every field,
And for thy mess is willing to be killed;


And if the high-swol'n Medway fail thy dish
Tliou hast the ponds that pay thcc tribute fish,
Fat aged carps that run into thy net,
And pikes, now weary their own kind to eat,
As loth the second draught or cast to stay,
Officiously at first themselves betray."

Next he turns to the gardens :

" Then hath thy orchard fruit, thy garden flowers,
Fresh as the air, and new as are the hours ;
The early cherry, with the later plum,
Fig, grape, and quince, each in his time doth come ;
The blushing apricot and woolly peach,
Hang on thy walls, that every child may reach."

The trellised walls remind him of the ancient habitation,
which, though homely, is venerable, rearing itself among
the humbler dwellings of the peasants, with patriarchal
rather than despotic dignity.

" And though thy walls be of the country stone,
They're reared with no man's ruin, no man's groan ;
There's none that dwell about them wish them down,
But all come in, the farmer and the clown,
And no one empty-handed to salute
Thy lord and lady, though they have no suit.
Some bring a capon, some a rural cake,
Some nuts, some apples ; some that think they make
The better cheeses, bring them ; or else send
By their ripe daughters, whom they would commend
This way to husbands, and whose baskets bear
An emblem of themselves in plum or pear."

This poem, composed in the days when Philip's brother
Sir Robert Sidney, was master of Penshurst, presents so
charming a picture of the old-world home in which Philip
was born, and where he passed his boyhood, that I have
been fain to linger over it.


Sir Jl.-nrv Sidney was sent to Ireland in 1556 as Vice-
Treasnrer and General Governor of the royal revenues in
tliat kingdom. He distinguished himself, soon after his
arrival, bv repelling an invasion of the Scots in Ulster, and
killiii"- .lames MacConncl, one of their leaders, with his own


hand. Next year he was nominated Lord Justice of Ire-
land ; and, on the accession of Queen Elizabeth, he obtained
the confirmation of his offices. In 1558 the queen nomi-
nated him Lord President of Wales, which dignity he held
during the rest of his life. It does not exactly appeal-
when he first took the rank of Lord Deputy of Ireland,
a title corresponding to that of Lord Lieutenant. But
throughout the first seven years of Elizabeth's rei<m he dis-

/ O

charged functions there which were equivalent to the su-
preme command. In 1564 he received the honour of the
Garter, being installed in the same election with King
Charles IX. of France. On this occasion he was styled


" The thrice valiant Knight, Deputy of the Realm of Ire-
land, and President of the Council of Wales." Xext year


he was again despatched to Ireland with the full title and
authority of Lord Deputy.

The administration of Wales obliged Sir Hojiry Sidney
to reside frequently at Lndlow Castle, and this was the rea-
- i which determined him to send Philip to school at
Shrewsbury. Being the emporium of English commerce
with Xorth Wales and Ireland, and the centre of a thriving
wool-trade, Shrewsbury had then become a city of impor-
tance. The burgesses established there a public school,
which flourished under the able direction of Thomas Ash-
ton. From a passage in Ben Jonson's prose works it is
fiear that the advantages of public-school education were
well appreciated at that time in England. Writing to a
ieinan, who asked him how he might best train up his


sons, he says: " I wish them sent to the best school, and a


public. They arc in more danger in your own family
among ill servants than amongst a thousand boys, however
immodest. To breed them at home is to breed them in a
shade, whereas in a school they have the light and heat of

f / C/

the sun. They arc used and accustomed to things and
men. When they come forth into the commonwealth, tlicv

/ *

find nothing new or to seek. They have made their friend-

^j *

ships and aids, some to last till their age." One such
friend, whose loving help was given to Sidney till death
parted them, entered Shrewsbury school together with him
on the 19th of November 1564. This was Fulke Greville,
a distant relative, and a boy of exactly the same age. To
the sincere attachment which sprang up between them, and
strengthened with their growing age, we owe our most val-
uable information regarding Philip's character and opinions.
Fulke Greville survived his friend, became Lord Brooke,
and when he died in 1628 the words " Friend to Philip
Sidney " were inscribed upon his tomb. From the short
biography of his friend, prefixed to a collection of his own
works, which was dedicated to Sidney's memory, we obtain
a glimpse of the boy while yet at school :

" Of his youth I will report no other wonder but 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
as even his teachers found something 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 familice suce"

According to our present notions, we do not consider it al-
together well if a boy between the ages of ten and fifteen


prai>c for exceptional gravity. Yet Fulke Greville
does ii"t call Philip bookish; and we have abundant evi-
deiiee that, while he was early heedful of nourishing his
mind, he showed no less eagerness to train his body in such
exdvises as might be serviceable to a gentleman, and use-
ful to a soldier. Nevertheless, his friend's admiring eulogy
of the lad's deportment indicates what, to the end, remained
somewhat chilling in his nature a certain stiffness, want
of impulse want, perhaps, of salutary humour. He could
not take the world lightly could not act, except in rare
moments of an 2fer, without reflection. Such a character is

o /

admirable; and youths at our public schools, who remain
overgrown boys in their games until they verge on twenty,
mio-lit well take a leaf from Sidney's book. But we can-


not refrain from thinking that just a touch of recklessness
would have made him more attractive. We must, how-
ever, remember that he was no child of the nineteenth cen-
turv. He belonged to the ao-e of Burleigh and of Bacon,

*. o o o

and the circumstances of his birth forced on him precocity
in prudence. Being the heir of Sir Henry Sidney and
Ladv Marv Dudley, he could not but be earlv conscious of

*> * */ * /

the serious difficulties which perplexed his parents. Had
he not been also conscious of a calling to high things, he
would have derogated from his illustrious lineage. His

O Z3

gravity, then, befitted his blood and position in that still
feudal epoch, his father's eminent but insecure station, and
the tragic fate of his maternal relatives.

A letter written by Sir Henry Sidney to his son, while
-till at school in Shrewsbury, may here be cited. It helps
to -Imw why Philip, even as a boy, was earnest. Sympa-
thetic to his parents, bearing them sincere love, and owing
them filial obedience, he doubtless read with veneration,
and i.bx.M-ved with loyalty, the words of wisdom wiser


than those with which Polonius took farewell of Laertes
dictated for him by the upright and valiant man whom
he called father. Long as it is, I shall give it in full ; for
nothing could better bring before our eves the ideal of

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