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love; I will, in simple and -lirect terms (as hoping they shall only
come to your merciful eyes), set down the overflowing of my mind in
this most important matter, impcrting, as I think, the continuance of
your safety ; and as I know, the joys of my life. And because my


irorda (I confess >halh>w, but coming from the deep well-spring of
mo.-t l.'val ailVegon) have delivered to your most gracious ear, what is


the ireiieral sum of my travelling thoughts therein; I will now but

onlv declare, \\hat be the reasons that make me think, that the mar-

-. itl, Monsieur will be unprofitable unto you; then will I an-

. the ol'jection of those fears, which might procure so violent a


Having finished these personal explanations, he proceeds
to show that the French marriage must be considered from
a 'louble point of view, first as regarding* the queen's estate,
and second! v as touching her person. Her real power as
" an absolute born, and accordingly respected princess,"
iv-ts upon the affection of her subjects, who are now di-
vided between Protestants and Catholics. The former,

11 As their souls live by your happy government, so are they your
chief, if not your sole, strength: these, howsoever the necessity of hu-
man life makes them lack, yet can they not look for better conditions
than presently they enjoy : these, how their hearts will be galled, if
not aliened, \\hen they shall see you take a husband, a Frenchman
ami a Papist, in whom (howsoever fine wits may find farther dealings
or painted excuses) the very common people well know this, that he
is tin- sun .,!' a Jezebel of our age: that his brother made oblation of
his own >i>tiT\s marriage, the easier to make massacres of our breth-
ren in belief: that he himself, contrary to his promise, and all grate-
fulness, having his liberty and principal estate by the Hugonot's
means, did sack La Charite, and utterly spoil them with fire and
>;-d. This, I say, even at first sight, gives occasion to all, truly re-
IL'iuus, to al.lior such a master, and consequently to diminish much
of the hopeful love they have long held to you."

The ( 'at holies are discontented and disaffected. They will

-ily at any chance of a revolution in religion and

State ; and to such folk the French match is doubtless

able, imt as producing gjod to the commonwealth,

but aa offering them the opportunity of change.


" If then the affectionate side have their affections weakened, and
the discontented have a gap to utter their discontent, I think it will
seem an ill preparative for the patient (I mean .your estate) to a great

From these general reflections upon the state of parties
in England, Sidney passes to a consideration of the Duke
of Anjou's personal qualities. The following paragraph is
marked by skilful blending of candour with reserve. Eliz-
abeth had declared a special partiality for the French prince.
It is her subject's duty to paint him as inconstant, restless
in ambition, uncertain in his affections, swayed by light-
brained and factious counsellors, greedy of power at any
cost. His profession of the Catholic faith renders him a
dangerous tool in the hands of disaffected English Papists.
His position as next heir to the French Crown makes him
an inconvenient consort for the queen of Great Britain. It
is not likely that a man of his temper and pretensions
should put up with a subordinate place in his wife's king-
dom. And why, asks Sidney, has Elizabeth set her heart
upon a marriage so fraught with dangers? " Often have I
heard you with protestation say no private pleasure nor
self-affection could lead you to it." Is it because she looks
forward to the bliss of children ? If so she may marry
where the disadvantages are less. But she has herself al-


leged that she is moved by " fear of standing alone in re-
spect to foreign dealings," and also by " doubt of contempt
in them from whom you should have respect." These two
points, since they bias the queen's mind, have to be sepa-
rately entertained. Leagues are usually cemented by the
desires or the fears of the contracting parties. What pub-
lic desires have Elizabeth and the duke in common?

"He of the Romish religion; and if he be a man, must needs have
that man-like property to desire that all men be of his mind : you the


and defender of the contrary, and the only sun that dazzleth

: IP- 1-Yeneh, and desiring to make France great; your Maj-

idi-h, and desiring nothing less than that France should not

; : he, both by his own fancy and his youthful governors,

.-MibiMeing all ambitious hopes ; having Alexander's image in his head,

hut perhaps evil-painted: your Majesty \vith excellent virtue taught

what you should hope, and by no less wisdom what you may hope;

with a council renowned over all Christendom for their well-tempered

minds, having set the utmost of their ambition in your favor, and the

study of their souls in your safety.' 1

The interests and the dano-ers of France and E no-land are

Cj ^

so diverse that these realms have no fears in common to
unite them. Elizabeth, therefore, can expect nothing but
p'Tplcxitv in her foreign dealings from the match. Is it
rea>' >nable that she should hope to secure the affection of
her subjects, and to guard herself against their contempt, by
marri:i'4'e with a Frenchman? Can she be ignorant that
she is the idol of her people? It is indeed true that the
succession is uncertain through lack of heirs of her body :

" I5ut in so lineal a monarchy, wherever the infants suck the love
of their rightful prince, who would leave the beams of so fair a sun
for the dreadful expectation of a divided company of stars? Virtue
and justice are the only bonds of people's love ; and as for that point,
many princes have lost their crowns whose own children were mani-
- : and some that had their own children used as in-
struments of their ruin; not that I deny the bliss of children, but
only to -how religion and equity to be of themselves sufficient stays."

It may be dfiiiurrcd that scurrilous libels have been vent-
<! :iiram>t IKT Majesty, proving some insubordination in
her Mibj.rts. She ought, however, to "care little for the
barking ->f a few curs." Honest Englishmen regard such
attaek> upon her dignity as blasphemous.

, no, most excellent lady, do not raze out the impression you
in such a multitude of hearts ; and let not the scum of


such vile minds boar any witness against your subjects' devotions.
The only means of avoiding contempt are love and fear; love, as you
have by divers means sent into the depth of their souls, so if any-
thing can stain so true a form, it must be the trimming yourself not
in your o\vn likeness, but in new colours unto them."

In other words, Sidney means that the Queen's proposed
course will alienate instead of confirming the affections of


the nation. He then passes to his peroration, which I shall
quote in full as a fair specimen of his eloquence :

" Since then it is dangerous for your state, as well because by in-
ward weakness (principally caused by division) it is fit to receive
harm ; since to your person it can be no way comfortable, you not
desiring marriage; and neither to person nor estate he is to bring
any more good than anybody ; but more evil he may, since the causes
that should drive you to this are either fears of that which cannot
happen, or by this means cannot be prevented ; I do with most hum-
ble heart say unto your Majesty (having assayed this dangerous help)
for your standing alone, you must take it for a singular honour God
hath done you, to be indeed the only protector of his Church ; and
yet in worldly respects your kingdom very sufficient so to do, if you
make that religion upon which you stand, to carry the only strength,
and have abroad those that still maintain the same course ; who as
long as they may be kept from utter falling, your Majesty is sure
enough from your mightiest enemies. As for this man, as long as he
is but Monsieur in might, and a Papist in profession, he neither can
nor will greatly shield you ; and if he get once to be king, his defence
will be like Ajax's shield, which rather weighed them down than de-
fended those that bare it. Against contempt, if there be any, which
I will never believe, let your excellent virtues of piety, justice, and
liberality daily, if it be possible, more and more shine. Let such par-
ticular actions be found out (which be easy as I think to be done) by
which you may gratify all the hearts of your people. Let those in
whom you find trust, and to whom you have committed trust in your
weighty affairs be held up in the eyes of your subjects. Lastly, do-
ing as you do, you shall be, as you be, the example of princes, the or-
nament of this age, and the most excellent fruit of your progenitors,


! tl.' perfect mirror of your posterity. Your Majesty's faithful,
humbl,', an.1 obedient subject, P. SYDNEY."

In the early spring of 1580 Sidney went to stay at Wil-
ton, and ivmained there during the summer. His sister,
the Countess of Pembroke, for whom Jonson wrote the fa-
ux -us epitaph, antl whom Spenser described as

" The gentlest shepherdess that lives this day,
And most resembling both in shape and spright
Her brother dear,"

was united to him by the tenderest bonds of affection and
by common literary interests. Good judges, among whom
Jonson may be reckoned, valued her poetry at least as high
as Philip's; and this opinion is confirmed by what remains
to us of her compositions. The accent of deep and pas-
sionate feeling which gives force to some of the Astrophel
and Stella sonnets, is indeed lacking to her verse. But if
we are right in believing that only the first forty-two psalms
in their joint translation belong to him, her part in that
work exhibits the greater measure of felicity. It was appar-
ently upon this visit to Wilton that the brother and sister
began to render the Psalms of David into various lyrical
metres. After the Vulgate and the Prayer-book all trans-
lations of the Psalms, even those done by Milton, seem tame
and awkward. Nor can I except the Sidneys from this
criticism. In an essay, then, which must of necessity be
economical of space, I shall omit further notice of this ver-
sion. The opportunity, however, is now given for digress-
ing from Philip's biography to the consideration of his
place and achievements in English literature.


It is of importance to bear steadily in mind the date of

Sidnr\\ birth in order to judge correctly of his relation to

cssors and successors. YTyatt, Surrey, Sackville, and


Norton had already acclimatised Italian forms of poetry
and classical principles of metre upon English soil. But
very little of first-rate excellence can be referred to this pe-
riod of our Renaissance. A form of the sonnet peculiar
to English literature, and blank verse, destined to become
its epic and dramatic metre, were the two chief results of
these earliest innovating experiments. Fulke Greville, him-
self no mean poet, was born in 1554, the same year as Sid-
ney; Raleigh had been born in 1552; Spenser and Lyly
in 1553 ; Drayton followed in 1563 ; Shakespeare and Mar-
lowe in 1564; Donne not till 1573, and Jonson one year
later yet; Wyatt and Surrey were both dead some while
before Sidney saw the light ; and Sackville, though he still
lived, was not much occupied with literature. It will there-
fore be seen that he belonged to that intermediate group of
writers, of whom Spenser was the greatest, and who pre-
ceded the brilliant burst of genius in the last decade of
the sixteenth century. It was as the morning star of an
unexampled day of lyric and dramatic splendour that his
contemporaries hailed him.

In the year 1578 Philip attended Queen Elizabeth on one
of her progresses when she stayed at Audley End, and there
received the homage of some Cambridge scholars. Amono;

C2 O O

these came Gabriel Harvey, a man of character and parts,
but of no distinguished literary talent. He was what we
now should call a doctrinaire ; yet he possessed so tough a
personality as to exercise considerable influence over his
contemporaries. Harvey enthusiastically declared himself
for the remodelling of Eno-lish metres on the classic meth-


od. The notion was not new. Ascham, in the School-
master, pointed out " how our English tongue in avoiding
barbarous rhyming may as well receive right quantity of
syllables and true order of versifying as either Greek or



Latin, if a cunning man liavc it in handling." He quoted
1 ; -hop \Yatson's hexameters in proof of this proposition :-

A;', travellers do gladly report great praise of Ulysses

: that he knew many men's manners and saw many cities."

Y. t \i\< good sense saved him from the absurdities into
\vhi'h Stanvliurst, the translator of the Aeneid, fell when


he attempted Virgil in a " rude and beggarly " modern im-
itation of the Latin rhythm. Ascham summed the ques-
tion up in a single sentence, prophetic of the future course
. -f KniiTish versification. " Although Carmen Hexametrum
doth rather trot and hobble than run smoothly in our Eng-
lish tongue, yet I am sure our English tongue will receive
Carmen lambicum as naturally as either Greek or Latin."
Harvey was not so finely gifted as Ascham to perceive the
native strength and weakness of our language. He could


see no reason why the hexameter should not flourish, and
wrote verses, which, for grotesquencss, may pass muster with
the most " twitching and hopping" of their kind. Robert
< in >ne, who also tried his hand at the new style, composed
Mnootlirr but more insipid numbers in the eclogue of Alex-
is 15ut Harvey, as I have said, exercised the influence of
an imperious personality; and one of his friends was Ed-
mund Spenser. Through Harvey, Sidney became acquaint-
ed with Spenser; and it is well known that the latter ded-
i'-atrd The Shepherd's Calendar to him in 1579. The
publication \\as anonymous. The dedication ran as fol-
' To the noble and virtuous gentleman, most worthy
of all titles, both of learning and chivalry, Master Philip

SidiK-y." The envoy opened with these charming trip-
let :

"Go, little book! thyself present,

A- ehild whose parent is unkent,

T<> him that is the president


Of nobleness and chivalry ;
And if that envy bark at thce,
As sure it will, for succour flee
Under the shado\v of his wing ;
And, asked who thee forth did bring,
A shepherd's swain, say, did thee sing,
All as his straying flock he fed ;
And when his honour has thee read
Crave pardon for thy hardihead."

In the midst, then, of his Court life Sidney made friends
with Harvey and with Spenser. He associated his dearer
intimates, Fulke Greville and Edward Dyer, in the same
companionship. And thus a little academy, formed ap-
parently upon the Italian model, came into existence. Its
critical tendency was indicated by the name Areopagus,
given it perhaps in fun by Spenser; and its practical ob-
ject was the reformation of English poetry upon Italian
and classical principles. Unless I am mistaken, no mem-
ber of the club applied its doctrines so thoroughly in prac-
tice as Sidney. It is true that Harvey wished to have it
inscribed upon his grave that he had fostered hexameters
on English soil. But in the history of our poetical litera-
ture Harvey occupies no place of honor. It is also true
that Spenser elaborated some lame hexameters. But his
genius detected the imposture; he wrote to Harvey, point-
ing out the insurmountable difficulties of English accent,
and lauQ-hino; at the metre as beino; "either like a lame

o o o

gosling that.draweth up one leg after, or like a lame dog
that holdeth one leg up."

Sidney, with his usual seriousness, took the search after

* '

a reformed style of English poetry in earnest. lie made
experiments in many kinds and various metres, which are
now preserved to us embedded in the text of his Arcadia.
Those poems form the most solid residuum from the exer-
4* F


f the Areopagus. They are not very valuable; but
tln-v an- ink-resting as showing what the literary temper
Kngland was, before the publication of the Faery Queen
and the overwhelming scries of the romantic dramas de-
eided the fate of English poetry. Like Gforboduc and
other tra-vdirs in the manner of Seneca, these "reformed


verses" were doomed to be annihilated by the strong blast
"f the national genius. But they have their importance
for the student of crepuscular intervals between the dark-
- and the day-spring; and it must not be forgotten that
their author did not intend them for the public eye. "While
>tudvii)"- and usinjj these verses as documents for the elu-

/ 3 O

eidation of literary evolution, let us therefore bear in mind
that we are guilty of an indiscretion, and are prying on
the iirivacv of a gentleman who never sought the suffrage

O 33

of the vulgar.

It was at Wilton, then, in 1580, that Sidney began the
Ai-milia in compliance with his sister's request. The dedi-
eatory epistle teaches us in what spirit we ought to ap-
pro.-K-h the pages which he left unfinished, and which were
given to the press after his decease:

" II' TL- no\v have you, most dear, and most worthy to be most dear

lady, this idle work of mine; which, I fear, like the spider's \veb, will

I - thoii-ht litter to be swept away than worn to any other purpose.

I my part, in very truth, as the cruel fathers among the Greeks

were u'>nt to do to the babes they would not foster, I could well find

i: in my heart to cast out in some desert of forgetfulness this child

which I am loath to father. But you desired me to do it, and your

ife to my lirart is an absolute commandment. Xo\v it is done

:. only to you. If you keep it to yourself, or to such

vho will weigh error in the balance of good-will, I hope for

father's >akr it will be pardoned, perchance made much of, though

t-i-lf it liavr il.-formities. For, indeed, for severer eyes it is not,

trifle, and that trifim'lv handled."



These words were doubtless penned long after the first
sheets of the Arcadia. That they were sincere is proved,
by Sidney's dying request to have the manuscript de-
stroyed. He goes on to say that " his chief safety shall
be the not walking abroad; and his chief protection the
using of your name, which, if much good-will do not de-
ceive me, is worthy to be a sanctuary for a greater offend-
er." We have, therefore, the strongest possible security
that this famous Arcadia of Sir Philip Sidney, this " charm
of ages," as Young pompously calls it, which passed through
seventeen editions before 1674, was intended by its author
only for his sister and a friendly circle. Yet, though we
must approach it now like eavesdroppers, we may read in
it, better perhaps than elsewhere, those tendencies of Eng-
lish literature which were swallowed up and trampled over
by the legionaries of the great dramatic epoch.

It is not improbable that Lyly's JEuphues, which first
saw the lio-ht in 1579, suggested to Sidney the notion of

O ' OO */

writino- a romance in a somewhat similar style. lie did

O /

not, however, catch the infection of Lyly's manner ; and
the Arcadia, unlike Euphues, Las no direct didactic pur-
pose. Critics, soon after its appearance, imagined that they
could discern in its structure hidden references to the main
events of the age. But this may be considered a delusion,
based upon the prevalent tendency to seek allegories in
works of art and fancy the tendency to which Tasso
bowed when he supplied a key to the moralities of the
Gerusalemme, and which induced Spenser to read esoteric
meanings into the Orlando Furioso. Sidney had clearly
in mind the Arcadia of Sannazzaro ; he also owed much
to Montemavor's Diana and the Greek romantic novelists.


The style at first is noticeably Italian, as will appear from
certain passages I mean to quote. After a while it be-


C0 n 5a idyllic and ornate, and at last it merges into ra-
pidity of narration. To sustain the manner of the earlier
\\hifh remind us of Boccaccio and Sannazzaro,

throu"hoiit the labyrinthine intricacies of the fable, would


bave been tedious. Perhaps, too, we may connect the al-
t-ration of literary tone with Sidney's departure from
Wilton to the Court.

I -hall not attempt a complete analysis of the Arcadia.
The main story is comparatively slender; but it is so com-
plicated by digressions and episodes that a full account of
the tangled plot would take up too much space, and would
undoubtedly prove wearisome to modern readers. Horace
Walpole was not far wrong when he asserted that "the
l>atiencc of a vounq; virgin in love cannot now wade

v O O

through" that jungle of pastoral, sentimental, and hcroical
adventures. A brief outline of the tale, together with some
specimens of Sidney's descriptive and sententious styles,
must, however, here be given, since it is not very likely
that any readers of my book will be impelled to turn the
; iges of the original.

Mn-idonis, 1'rince of Thessalia, and Pyrocles, Prince of
M iccdon, were cousins. An affection, such as bound the
knights of elder Greek romance together, united them even

<TJ ^j

more than the nearness of their blood. Pyrocles, being the
elder, taught his friend all that he knew of good, and brave,

1 Lrraeious. Musidorus learned willingly; and thus the
pair u-ivw up to manhood in perfect love, twin flowers of
genl and chivalry. When the story opens the two

h'Toe- have just been wrecked on the Laconian coast. A

;pl'- of shepherds, Claius and Strephon, happened to be
pacing the sea-shore at that moment. They noticed a younof

*/ J ^j

man tloaling on a coffer, which the waves washed gradually
II'.- was " of so goodly shape and well-pleasing


favour that one would think death had in him a lovely
countenance ; and that, though he were naked, nakedness
was to him an apparel." This youth proved to be Musi-
dorus. Pyrocles meanwhile remained upon the wreck;
and, while the shepherds were in the act to rescue him, he
was carried off by pirates under the eyes of his sorrowing
comrade. There was nothing for it but to leave him to


his fate; and Musidorus, after a moment of wild despair,
yielded to the exhortations of the good shepherds, who
persuaded him to journey with them to the house of a
just and noble gentleman named Kalander. The way
was lono-; but, after two days' march, it brought them

CJ ' O

to Arcadia. The description of that land is justly cele-

" The third day after, in the time that the morning did strew roses
and violets in the heavenly floor, against the coming of the sun, the
nightingales (striving one with the other which could in most dainty
variety recount their wrong-caused sorrow) made them put off their
sleep; and rising from under a tree (which that night had been their
pavilion), they went on their journey, which by-and-by welcomed Mu-
sidorus's eyes (wearied with the wasted soil of Laconia) with delight-
ful prospects. There were hills which garnished their proud heights
with stately trees : humble vallies, whose base estate seemed comfort-
ed with the refreshing of silver rivers : meadows enamelled with all
sorts of eye-pleasing flowers ; thickets, which being lined with most
pleasant shade were witnessed so too by the cheerful disposition of
many well-tuned birds; each pasture stored with sheep, feeding with
sober security, while the pretty lambs with bleating outcry craved the
dam's comfort : here a shepherd's boy piping, as though he should
never be old : there a young shepherdess knitting, and withal sing-
ing; and it seemed that her voice comforted her hands to work, and
her hands kept time to her voice-music. As for the houses of the
country (for many houses came under their eye), they were all scat-
tered, no two being one by the other, and yet not so far off as that it
barred mutual succour ; a show, as it were, of an accompanable soli-
tariness and of a civil wildness."


In (In.- course of time they arrived at the house of Ka-

Online LibraryJohn MorleyEnglish men of letters (Volume 3) → online text (page 36 of 44)