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proportion to ourselves, because they are quite of a contrary gov-
ernment ; there is little there but tyrannous oppression, and ser-
vile yielding to them that have little or no right over them. And
for the men you shall have there, although indeed some be excel-
lently learned, yet are they all given to counterfeit learning, as a
man shall learn among them more false grounds of things than in
any place else that I know; for from a tapster upwards, they are all
discoursers in certain matters and qualities, as horsemanship, weap-
ons, painting, and such are better there than in other countries ; but
for other matters, as well, if not better, you shall have them in near-
er places."

The second of the two epistles (dated from Leicester
House, Oct. 18, 1580) contains more personal matter.
"Look to your diet, sweet Robin," he says, "and hold up
your heart in courage and virtue ; truly great part of my
comfort is in you." And again : " Now, sweet brother, take
a delight to keep and increase your music ; you will not
believe what a want I find of it in my melancholy times."
It appears, then, that Philip, unlike many gentlemen of
that age, could not touch the lute or teach the " saucy
jacks" of the virginal to leap in measure. Then follows
another bit of playful exhortation : " I would by the way
your worship would learn a better hand ; you write worse


th.-m I. and I write evil enough ; once again have a care of
vour <lirt, and consequently of your complexion; remem-
(r'ratior est veniens in pulchro corpore virtus." If Ben
was rii^ht in what he said of Philip's complexion,
thU advice had its ground in tiresome experience. On the
.subject of manly exercises he has also much to say: "At
lioi-M-inanship, when you exercise it, read Crison Claudia
;md a book that is called La. Gloria del Cavallo, withal
that you may join the thorough contemplation of it with
the exercise; and so shall you profit more in a month than
others in a year; and mark the biting, saddling, and cur-
ing of horses."

you play at weapons, I would have you get thick caps
and brasers, and play out your play lustily, for indeed ticks and dal-
liances are nothing in earnest, for the time of the one and the other
greatly differs; and use as well the blow as the thrust; it is good
in itself, and besides exerciseth your breath and strength, and will
inak' 1 you a strong man at the tourney and barriers. First, in any
case practise the single sword, and then with the dagger ; let no day
pass without an hour or two such exercise ; the rest study, or confer
diligently, and so shall you coine home to my comfort and credit."

Studies come in for their due share of attention. " Take
d'-light likewise in the mathematical ; Mr. Savile is excel-
lent in them. I think you understand the sphere; if you
do, I care little for any more astronomy in you. Aritbme-
ti<- and geometry I would wish you were well seen in, so as
l".th in matters of number and measure you might have a
fci-liug and active judgment. I would you did bear the
mechanical instruments, wherein the Dutch excel." It may
U- >aid with reference to this paragraph that Mr. Savile
\va- Ii.)U-rt Sidney's travelling governor. The sphere rep-
Qted medieval astronomy. Based upon the traditional
ini,-n, relation .. the Ptolemaic doctrine, it lent itself to


theoretical disquisitions upon cosmology in general, as well
as to abstruse speculations regarding the locality of para-
dise and heaven, the elements, and superhuman existences.
On the point of style Philip observes: "So you can speak
and write Latin, not barbarously, I never require great study
in Ciceronianism, the chief abuse of Oxford, qui dam verba
sectantur res ipsas negligunt" History being Robert Sid-
ney's favourite study, his brother discourses on it more at

I have quoted thus liberally from Philip's letters to Rob-
ert Sidney, because of the agreeable light they cast upon
his character. It is clear they were not penned for perusal
by the public. " My eyes are almost closed up, overwatched
with tedious business," says the writer; and his last words
are, " Lord ! how I have babbled." Yet, though hastily
put together, and somewhat incoherently expressed, the
thoughts are of excellent pith ; and one passage upon his-
tory, in particular, reads like a rough sketch for part of the
" Defence of Poesy."

After weighing the unaffected words of brotherly coun-
sel and of affectionate interest which Philip sent across
the sea to Robert, w T e are prepared for Sir Henry Sidney's
warm panegyric of his first-born to his second son. He
had indeed good hopes of Robert; but he built more on
Philip, as appears from the following sentence in a letter
to Sir Francis Walsinghara : " I having three sons, one of

^ O

excellent good proof, the second of great good proof, and
the third not to be despaired of, but very well to be liked."
Therefore he frequently exhorted Robert to imitate the
qualities of his " best brother." " Perge, perge, my Robin,
in the filial fear of God, and in the meanest imagination of
yourself, and to the loving direction of your most loving
brother. Imitate his virtues, exercises, studies, and actions.



II,- H the rare ornament of this age, the very formular that
all well disposed young gentlemen of our Court do form
, their manners and life by. In truth I speak it with-
out llattery of him or of myself; he hath the most rare
virtues that ever I found in any man. Once again I say
imitate him." And once more, at a later date: "Follow
your discreet and virtuous brother's rule, who with great
discretion, to his great commendation, won love, and could
variously ply ceremony with ceremony."

The last extant letter of Langtiet to Philip was written
in October of this year. The old man congratulates his
friend upon returning to the Court ; but he adds a solemn
warning against its idleness and dissipations. Familiarity
with English affairs confirmed his bad opinion of Eliza-
beth's Court circle. He saw that she was arbitrary in her
distribution of wealth and honours; he feared lest Philip's
merits should be ignored, while some more worthless fa-
vourite was being pampered. Once he had hoped that
his service of the queen would speedily advance him to
employment in public affairs. Now he recognised the pos-
sibility of that young hopeful life being wasted upon for-
malities and pastimes; and for England he prophesied a
coming time of factions, complicated by serious foreign
troubles. It is the letter of a saddened man, slowly de-
clining towards the grave, amid forebodings which the im-
mediate future of Europe only too well justified. Languet
h:i'l now just eleven months more to live. He died in
September 1581 at Antwerp, nursed through his last ill-
oesa by the wife of his noble friend Philip du Plessis Mor-
n ay, and followed to the tomb by William, Prince of
( 'range. Among the poems given to Phillisides in the Ar~
cud '"i is one which may perhaps have been written about
the time when Languet's death had brought to Philip's


memory the debt of gratitude lie owed this faithful coun-
sellor :

" The song I sang old Languet had me taught,

Languet the shepherd best swift Ister knew
For clerkly reed, and hating what is naught,

For faithful heart, clean hands, and mouth as true ;
With his sweet skill my skilless youth he drew
To have a feeling taste of Him that sits
Beyond the heaven, far more beyond our wits.

"He said the music best thilk powers pleased

Was sweet accord between our wit and will,
W T here highest notes to godliness are raised,
And lowest sink not down to jot of ill ;
With old true tales he wont mine ears to fill,
How shepherds did of yore, how now they thrive,
Spoiling their flocks, or while 'twixt them they strive.

" He liked me, but pitied lustful youth ;

His good strong staff my slippery years upbore ;
He still hoped well because I loved truth ;

Till forced to part, with heart and eyes even sore,
To worthy Corydon he gave me o'er."

On New Year's Day, 1581, Philip presented the queen
with a heart of gold, a chain of gold, and a whip with a
golden handle. These gifts symbolised his devotion to her,
and her right to chastise him. The year is marked in his
biography by his first entrance into Parliament, as knight
of the shire for Kent. He only sat two months ; but dur-
ing that short period he joined the committees appointed
to frame rules for enforcing laws against Catholics, and for

o o

suppressing seditious practices by word or deed against her
Majesty. The French match was still uppermost in Eliza-
beth's mind. She hankered after it ; and some of the
wisest heads in Europe, among them William the Silent,


approved of tin- project. Yet she was unable to decide.
Tli- 1 I'tikc of Anjoii had raised questions as to the event.
ualitv of Knu'land becoming dependent on the French
Crown; which it might have been, if he had married the
(> ;ccn,and succeeded to his childless brother. This made
her pause and reflect. She was, moreover, debating the
scheme of an alliance with Henri III. against Spain. Be-
tween the two plans her mind wavered. As Walsingharn
wroto to Burleigli : "When her Majesty is pressed to the
marriage, then she seemeth to effect a league; and when
the league is yielded to, then she liketli better a marriage;
and when thereupon she is moved to assent to marriage,
then she hath recourse to the league ; and when the mo<
tion is for the league, or any request is made for money,
then her Majesty returneth to the marriage."

These hesitations seem to have been augmented by the
urgency of the French Court. On the 16th of April Fran*
cis of Bourbon arrived from Paris at the head of a mag-


n invent embassy, with the avowed object of settling pre-
liminaries. They were received with due honour by the
principal nobles of Elizabeth's Court, all open opposition
to the marriage having now been withdrawn by common
consent. Among the entertainments provided for the en-
voys during their sojourn in London, Philip played a con-
spicuous part. Together with the Earl of Arundel, Lord
Windsor, and Fulkc Greville, he prepared a brilliant display
of chivalry. Calling themselves the Four Foster Children
of !>.-irc, they pledged their word to attack and win, if
P".-iblc, by force of arms, the Fortress of Perfect Beauty.
Thi> fort, which was understood to be the allegorical abode
"f the queen, was erected in the Tilt Yard at Whitehall.
i times the number of the challengers, young gentle-
of knightly prowess, offered themselves as defenders


of the fortress ; and it was quite clear from the first how
the tournament would end. This foregone conclusion did
not, however, mar the sport; and the compliment intended
to Elizabeth would have been spoiled, if the Foster Chil-
dren of Desire could have forced their way into her Castle
of Beauty. The assault upon the Fortress of Perfect Beau-
ty began on the 15th of May and was continued on the
16th, when the challengers acknowledged their defeat.
They submitted their capitulation to the queen, by the
mouth of a lad, attired in ash-coloured clothes, and bear-
ing an olive-branch. From the detailed accounts which


survive of the event, I will only transcribe what serves to
bring Philip Sidney and his train before us. The passage
describes his entrance on the first day of the lists :

" Then proceeded Master Philip Sidney in very sumptuous manner,
with armour, part blue and the rest gilt and engraven, with four
spare horses, having caparisons and furniture very rich and costly,
as some of cloth of gold embroidered with pearl, and some embroid-
ered with gold and silver feathers, very richly and cunningly wrought.
He had four pages that rode on his four spare horses, who had cas-
sock coats and Venetian hose, all of cloth of silver, laied with gold
lace, and hats of the same with gold bands and white feathers, and
each one a pair of white buskins. Then had he thirty gentlemen
and yeomen, and four trumpeters, who were all in cassock coats and
Venetian hose of yellow velvet laied with silver lace, yellow velvet
caps with silver bands and white feathers, and every one a pair of
white buskins ; and they had upon their coats a scroll or band of
silver, which came scarf-wise over the shoulder, and so down under
the arm, with this posy or sentence written upon it, both before and
behind : Sic nos non nobis."

It behoves us not to ask, but we cannot help wondering,
where the money came from for this costly show. Proba-
bly Philip was getting into debt. His appeals to friends
with patronage at their disposal became urgent during the


months. Though he obtained no post which corn-
bin, -.1 public duties with pay, a sinecure worth 120 a year
u r ivm him. It must be said to his credit that he did
n.'t so much desire unearned money as some lucrative ap-
pointment, entailing labour and responsibility. This the
<]u.vii would not grant; even an application made by him
so late as the summer of 1583, begging for employment
at the Ordnance under his uncle Warwick, was refused.
M' anwhile his European reputation brought invitations,
which prudence bade him reject. One of these arrived
from Don Antonio of Portugal, a bastard pretender to that
kingdom, calling upon Philip Sidney to join his forces.
The life at Court, onerous by reason of its expenditure,
tedious through indolence and hope deferred, sweetened
chiefly by the companionship of Greville and Dyer, wore
tiresomelv on. And over all these months wavered the


fascinating vision of Stella, now a wife, to whom Phillisides
wa> p;i\ iiiLj ardent homage. It may well be called a dan-
gerous passage in his short life, the import of which we
shall have to fathom when we take up Astrophel and Stella
for perusal. Courtly monotony had its distractions. The
French match, for instance, afforded matter for curiosity
and mild excitement. This reached its climax when the
Duke of Anjou arrived in person. He came in November,
and stayc.-d three months. When he left England in Feb-
ruary 1582, the world knew that this project of a marriage
f<>r Elizabeth was at an end. Sidney, with the flower of

i aristocracy, attended the French prince to Antwerp.

he was proclaimed Duke of Brabant, and welcomed
with shows of fantastic magnificence. We may dismiss
all furthiT notice of him from the present work, with the
lion of his death in 1584. It happened on the first
preceding the Prince of Orange's assassination bv


just one month. People thought that Anjou also had been

The greater part of the year 1582 is a blank in Philip's
biography. We only know that he was frequently absent
from the Court, and in attendance on his father. Sir Hen-
ry Sidney's affairs were seriously involved. The Crown
refused him substantial aid, and kept him to his post at
Ludlow Castle. Yet, at the beginning of 1583, we find
Philip again in waiting on the queen ; presenting her with
a golden flower-pot, and receiving the gracious gift of a
lock of the royal virgin's hair. In January Prince Casimir
had to be installed Knight of the Garter. Philip was
chosen as his proxy, and obtained the honour of knighthood
for himself. Henceforward he takes rank as Sir Philip
Sidney of Penshurst.

Never thoroughly at ease in courtly idleness, Philip
formed the habit of turning his eyes westward, across the
ocean, towards those new continents, where wealth and
boundless opportunities of action lay ready for adventurous
knights. Frobisher's supposed discovery of gold in 1577
drew an enthusiastic letter from him. In 1578 he was
meditating some "Indian project." In 1580 he wrote
wistfully to his brother Robert about Drake's return, "of


which yet I know not the secret points; but about the
world he hath been, and rich he is returned." In 1582
his college friend, Richard Hakluyt, inscribed the first col-
lection of his Voyages with Sidney's name. All things
pointed in the direction of his quitting England for the
New World, if a suitable occasion should present itself,
and if the queen should grant him her consent. During
the spring of 1583 projects for colonisation, or plantation
as it then was termed, were afloat among the west country
gentlefolk. Sir Humphrey Gilbert and his half-brother


\Yahrr Raleigh, witli Sir George Pcckhara and others,
thought of renewing tlie attempts they had already made
in 1578, Kli/abeth in that year had signed her first char-
![ of lands to be explored beyond the seas, in favour of
Sir Humphrey Gilbert; and now she gave a second to Sir
Philip Sidney. It licensed and authorised him

" To discover, search, find out, view, and inhabit certain parts of
America nut yet discovered, and out of those countries by him, his
heirs, factors, <>r assignees, to have and enjoy, to him, his heirs, and
.riici-s for ever, such and so much quantity of ground as shall
amount to the number of thirty hundred thousand acres of ground
and wood, with ;ill commodities, jurisdictions, and royalties, both by
sea and land, with full power and authority that it should and might
be lawful for the said Sir Philip Sidney, his heirs and assignees, at
all times thereafter to have, take, and lead in the same voyage, to
travel thitherwards or to inhabit there with him or them, and every
or any of them, such and so many her Majesty's subjects as should
willingly accompany him and them and every or any of them, with
Hillieient shipping and furniture for their transportation."

In other words, her Majesty granted to Sir Philip Sidney
the pretty little estate of three millions of acres in North
America. It is true that the land existed, so to say, in nu-
li'itiH*^ and was by no "means sure to prove an El Dorado.
It was far more sure that if the grantee got possession of
it, he would have to hold it by his own strength ; for Brit-
ain, at this epoch, was not pledged to support her colonies.
Yrt considering the present value of the soil in Virginia
or N'rw England, the mere fantastic row of seven figures
in American acres, so lightly signed away by her Majesty.
i- enough to intoxicate the imagination. How Philip
inaiia'jvd to extort or wheedle this charter from Elizabeth
we h.-iv.- no means of knowing. She was exceedingly jeal-
<.f her courtiers, and would not willingly lose sight of


them. "When Philip two years later engaged himself in a
colonising expedition, we shall see that she positively for-
bade him to leave England. Now, however, it is probable
she knew that he could not take action on her gift. She
was merely bestowing an interest in speculations which
cost her nothing and might bring him profit. At any rate,
the matter took this turn. In July 1583 he executed a
deed relinquishing 30,000 acres, together with "all royal-
ties, titles, pre-eminences, privileges, liberties, and dignities,"
which the queen's grant carried, to his friend Sir George

The reason of this act of resignation was that Philip
had pledged his hand in marriage to Frances, daughter of
Sir Francis Walsingham. So far back as December 1581
there are indications that his friendship with Walsingham
and his family was ripening into something more intimate.
We do not know the date of his marriao-e for certain ; but


it is probable that he "was already a husband before the
month of July.

A long letter addressed in March 1583 by Sir Henry
Sidney to Walsingham must here be used, since it throws
the strongest light upon the circumstances of the Sid-
ney family, and illustrates Sir Henry's feeling with regard
to his son's marriage. The somewhat discontented tone


which marks its opening is, I think, rather apologetical
than regretful. Sir Henry felt that, on both sides, the
marriage was hardly a prudent one. He had expected
some substantial assistance from the Crown through Wai-


singham's mediation. This had not been granted ; and he
took the opportunity of again laying a succinct report of
his past services and present necessities before the secreta-
ry of state, in the hope that something might yet be done
to help him. The document opens as follows :


ii ]) KAI: SIR I have understood of late that coldness is thought in
in proceeding in the matter of marriage of our children. In
truth, MI\ it is not so, nor so shall it ever be found; for compremit-
ting tin- ronsideration of the articles to the Earls named by you, and
to tii<- Karl of Huntingdon, I most willingly agree, and protest, and
joy in the alliance with all my heart. But since, by your letters of
the 3d of January, to my great discomfort I find there is no hope of
relief of IKT Majesty for my decayed estate in her Highness' service,
I am the more careful to keep myself able, by sale of part of that
which is left, to ransom me out of the servitude I live in for my
debts ; for as I know, sir, that it is the virtue which is, or that you
suppose is, in my son, that you made choice of him for your daugh-
ter, refusing haply far greater and far richer matches than he, so
was my confidence great that by your good means I might have ob-
tained some small reasonable suit of her Majesty ; and therefore I
nothing regarded any present gain, for if I had, I might have re-
ceived a great sum of money for my good will of my son's marriage,
greatly to the relief of my private biting necessity."

After this exordium, Sir Henry takes leave to review his
actions as Viceroy of Ireland and Governor of Wales, with
the view of showing how steadfastly he had served his


queen and how ill he had been recompensed.

' Three times her Majesty hath sent me her Deputy into Ireland,
and in every of the three times I sustained a great and a violent re-
bellion, every one of which I subdued, and (with honourable peace)
l.-ft the country in quiet. I returned from each of these three Depu-
tations three hundred pounds worse than I went."

It would be impertinent to the subject of this essay were
I to follow Sir Henry in the minute and interesting account
of his Irish administration. Suffice it to say that the let-
to \Valsingliam is both the briefest and the most mate-
rial statement of facts which we possess regarding that pe-
ri-l <>f Dullish ru ] e< Omitting then all notice of public
affairs, I pass on to confidences of a more personal charac-


ter. After dwelling upon sundry embassies and other em-
ployments, he proceeds :

"Truly, sir, by all these I neither won nor saved; but now, by
your patience, once again to my great and high office for great it is
in that in some sort I govern the third part of this realm under her
most excellent Majesty ; high it is, for by that I have precedency of
great personages and far my betters : happy it is for the people whom
I govern, as before is written, and most happy for the commodity that
I have by the authority of that place to do good every day, if I have
grace, to one or other ; wherein I confess I feel no small felicity ;
but for any profit I gather by it, God and the people (seeing my
manner of life) knoweth it is not possible how I should gather

"For, alas, sir! how can I, not having one groat of pension be-
longing to the office ? I have not so much ground as will feed a
mutton, t sell no justice, I trust you do not hear of any order taken
by me ever reversed, nor my name or doings in any court ever
brought in question. And if my mind were so base and contempti-
ble as I would take money of the people whom I command for my
labour taken among them, yet could they give me none, or very little,
for the causes that come before me are causes of people mean,
base, and many very beggars. Only 20 a week to keep an honour-
able house, and 100 marks a year to bear foreign charges I have ;
. . . but true books of account shall be, when you will, showed unto
you that I spend above 30 a week. Here some may object that I
upon the same keep my wife and her followers. True it is she is
now with me, and hath been this half year, and before not in many
years ; and if both she and I had our food and house-room free, as
we have not, in my conscience we have deserved it. For my part, I
am not idle, but every day I work in my function; and she, for her

Online LibraryJohn MorleyEnglish men of letters (Volume 3) → online text (page 38 of 44)