For many, Sir Philip Sidney (1554–86) encapsulates the English Renaissance. Poet, thinker, politician, soldier, lover, would-be explorer, almost a prince, eager to forge new things – new states, military alliances, works of art, political and poetic theories – with material quarried from the past, he was an energetic bundle of contradictions, who set the seal on his reputation by having the grace to die young, before his potential could be undermined by compromise. No cleverer, wittier, or more self-critical writer worked in Elizabethan England, and none for whom the notion of contradiction itself was more integral to his or her art.
Sidney's greatest works concern themselves with two particular forms of contradiction. The first is the ungainly fusion of reason and emotion (‘passion’) that makes itself manifest in all human enterprises. The second, closely allied to the first, is the gap between theory and practice discernible in every human activity. For Sidney, most early modern thought, and the formal arts or sciences into which it organized itself, failed to take adequate account of these inescapable facts. The one art that courageously acknowledged the awkward disparity between the rational principles by which men and women claim to govern their actions and the passion-fuelled rashness that continually overwhelms their commitment to those principles was the verbal art he called ‘poesie’ (poetry): a process of composing beautiful fictions – in verse, prose, or theatrical performance – that engage both the reason and the emotions of their recipients in such a way as to encourage them radically to modify their behaviour in response to its seductive intelligence. The power of Sidney's poetic writings stems from his conviction that good poetry has a direct effect on people's lives, along with his equally strong conviction that chance and the emotions ensure that its impact is never quite what the poet intends. And the combined wit, melancholy, and cleverness with which he articulates these convictions have won him admirers in every generation since his heroically premature death.
Sidney's awareness of the gap between theory and practice was brought home to him by the gulf that opened up between the glorious future that his birth and education led him to expect and the frustrations of his actual political career. Alan Stewart's life of Sidney – one of two outstanding biographies to have been published in recent years (Duncan-Jones 1991; Stewart 2000) – alludes to this gulf in its subtitle, ‘a double life’: a phrase that invokes the very different views of Sidney entertained by the politicians, thinkers, and artists of Continental Europe, who saw him as a future major player in international affairs, and by the English queen, Elizabeth I, who saw him as a potential troublemaker, a hot-headed youth who must be kept on a tight rein if he were not to become the catalyst for unwelcome and possibly dangerous developments in domestic politics. Sidney came of quasi-royal blood on his mother's side. His grandfather and uncle had been executed for plotting to seize the English throne, while two of his surviving uncles, Robert and Ambrose Dudley, respectively the earls of Leicester and Warwick, were among the most powerful peers of the realm (and for much of his life he was heir to both these uncles). His father was lord deputy of Ireland, Elizabeth's representative in her most troublesome colony. Young Philip's education was designed to prepare him for the high office this lineage should have secured for him. Instead, it found its richest outlet in the literary works for which he became celebrated – to his own surprise, as he tells us in his Defence of poesie, or Apologie for poetrie. Sidney ‘slipped into the title of a poet’, he claims, more or less by accident, because Elizabeth declined to give him any more worthwhile employment. But in the process he elevated the status of English poetry to an unprecedented level, and demonstrated its potential for articulating complex thoughts and feelings to a degree unmatched by any of his contemporaries except perhaps Edmund Spenser.
The highlights of Sidney's career all involved visits to the Continent. The climax of his education was a grand tour of Europe, begun in 1572 when he was only 17, during which he made friends with dignitaries and scholars from Italy to Germany, from Antwerp to Vienna, Kraków, and Budapest. In the course of the tour he showed his independence of mind, frequently ignoring the orders of his elders and heading off on unauthorized journeys with a few young companions. He witnessed the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre in Paris, when hundreds of Protestants were slaughtered by Catholic soldiers and civilians – an experience that stayed with him forever; and he forged lifelong bonds, most notably with the French diplomat Hubert Languet, who became his mentor till the older man's death in 1581. He also acquired an astonishing reputation for intellect, eloquence, courtesy, courage, political good judgement, and diplomacy – a reputation that lasted the rest of his life, with Protestant writers of all nations dedicating their works to him, and leaders of every religious persuasion seeking him out when they needed a reliable advocate in England.
His first official duty came in 1577, when he was appointed Elizabeth's special envoy to the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, and the Elector Palatine Ludwig VI. On this expedition to Heidelberg, Prague, and Middelburg, Sidney took up the role expected of him by his European friends, as one of the chief proponents of a pan-European Protestant alliance. In the process he caught the attention of the elector's brother, Johann Casimir, on whose behalf he later received a knighthood by proxy from Elizabeth I, and of William the Silent, prince of Orange, who wanted Sidney to marry his daughter – a marriage that would effectively have made the young man a prince. The embassy was a success, and consolidated Sidney's Europe-wide reputation as a negotiator of great promise; but he was not permitted by the queen to follow up on these negotiations personally – perhaps because she did not trust him to pursue her agenda, as opposed to the more militantly Protestant agenda of his uncle the earl of Leicester and future father-in-law Sir Francis Walsingham.
On his return from the embassy, there followed a time of relative political inactivity when Sidney's career seemed to stagnate. It was during this period (between 1577 and 1585) that his great literary works were composed, though none can be precisely dated and none were published in his lifetime. In addition, he earned a reputation as a masterful deviser of courtly entertainments such as jousts, short plays, and allegorical performances. The full text of one play remains, a pastoral called The Lady of May (c. 1578), whose plot (concerning rivalry between a shepherd and a forester for the hand of a young countrywoman) may have been designed to persuade Elizabeth I to reconsider her prospective marriage to the French Catholic prince François, duc of Anjou. In 1579 Sidney took the daring step of writing an open letter to Elizabeth detailing his objections to the same potential match, and this letter became one of his most widely circulated compositions; its restrained but forceful tone and elegant reasoning made it a model to many of good counsel aptly delivered. That year, too, his reputation as a literary figure was established by Spenser's dedication to him of his hugely influential pastoral poem The shepheardes calender, which describes Sidney as ‘most worthy of all titles both of learning and chevalrie’. The following year a published letter from Spenser to his friend Gabriel Harvey drew the world's attention to Sidney's remarkably successful attempts to write English verse in classical metre, an interest he shared with the poet Edward Dyer, his best friend and most influential mentor after Languet. By 1580, then, Sidney had been ‘outed’ as a cutting-edge poet, and he claims to have written his Defence of poesie partly in response to this unsolicited exposure.
Another ally Sidney had in his self-fashioning as a writer was his sister Mary Sidney Herbert, countess of Pembroke, for whose entertainment he wrote the first version of his great pastoral romance, the Arcadia – parts of which he composed in her two homes, Wilton House and Ivychurch – and who seems to have encouraged him to pursue a range of other ambitious literary projects. A number of these – most notably the second, longer version of the Arcadia, and several religious translations, including a verse paraphrase of the Psalms – remained unfinished when Sidney was offered the second of his major public appointments. This was as governor of Flushing (Vlissingen), one of two strategically important Low Countries towns handed over to the English by the Dutch in exchange for financial and military support in their struggle against the imperial might of Spain. Soon after his appointment, his uncle the earl of Leicester was made general of the English forces in the Netherlands, having finally persuaded Elizabeth to take action in the face of Spanish expansionism. It was under Leicester's command that Sidney led two or three skirmishes against Spanish forces, in the last of which, outside the town of Zutphen, he was fatally wounded. His funeral procession in 1587 was one of the most lavish to be mounted in Elizabethan times, and ironically showed that Sidney had finally achieved recognition in his own country for the talents and potential that had for so long been celebrated on the mainland.
Afterwards, a number of friends and admirers set about consolidating his reputation. His school-friend the poet Fulke Greville supervised the publication of the revised Arcadia in 1590. The year after, the brilliant pamphleteer Thomas Nashe published an unauthorized edition of his sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella; and later his sister Mary completed his paraphrase of the Psalms and issued what was in effect the authorized edition of his works (the 1598 edition of the Arcadia, which included his poetry and literary criticism). Thanks to the efforts of these and other enthusiasts, the 1590s became the decade in which he ‘dominated literary culture’ (Alexander 2006), and he remained one of the most powerful influences on English poetry and prose fiction until the outbreak of the Civil War.
Given the frustrations and disappointments of his political career, it is hardly surprising that Sidney's great works are all concerned with some form of entrapment. His sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella takes for its subject the familiar Petrarchan situation of a male lover infatuated with an unattainable woman, married to someone else; but its engagement with the lover's mounting desperation – his intense need for physical expression of his desire and mounting rage at the stifling conventions that prevent that fulfilment, traced over a span of more than 100 lyric poems – has no precedent in English verse. His prose romance the Arcadia takes for its protagonists (in the first version, the so-called Old Arcadia, finished in about 1580) a pair of young princes embarked on the heroic equivalent of Sidney's own grand tour of Europe, a tour on which they seize every opportunity to build up a reputation for martial brilliance, political acumen, and moral probity. But while heading home in triumph, the young men fall in love with two more seemingly unattainable women, daughters of a duke who has withdrawn from public life in response to a threatening prophecy. Abruptly the princes' tour grinds to a halt, and they find themselves trapped in the woodlands of Arcadia, anchored by their unfulfilled desire to the narrow bounds of the duke's rural retreat, and forced to adopt humiliatingly comic disguises (as a female warrior and a shepherd) to get close to the women they love – while the same disguises make it impossible for them to communicate their love in a straightforward manner. The meticulous construction of this romance – its neat division into five books or acts, each filled with virtuoso performances in verse and separated from the following act by a dazzling collection of pastoral eclogues – serves as much to replicate the princes' dilemma as to demonstrate Sidney's artistic versatility. The time and skill they lavish on their verbal outpourings are the products of enforced idleness – theirs and Sidney's – and many of the poems in the narrative articulate the melancholy that arises from a prolonged sojourn in an emotional, intellectual, and political cul-de-sac.
In the revised version of the Arcadia (now known as the New Arcadia, to distinguish it from the Old, and written between 1580 and 1585), frustration is given a concrete form in the shape of Cecropia's castle: the stronghold to which the duke's daughters are confined by the evil enchantress Cecropia and her son Amphialus, and from which the two young heroes of the first version must struggle to free them – a struggle left hanging in mid-sentence in book III, aptly enough in the middle of a swordfight, by Sidney's violent death. The great prison scenes of this second version of the Arcadia, where the two princesses engage in verbal combat with the atheist Cecropia in the face of physical and psychological torture, mirror the scenes of hand-to-hand combat outside the castle walls, where talented and beautiful young men gouge and disembowel one another while fighting for a cause that could have been resolved by rational diplomacy. Inside and outside the castle, virtue must undergo Herculean labours to define itself against the inner and outer turmoil that surrounds it. The impasse in which Sidney's characters find themselves is summarized, in the unfinished third book of the romance, in three successive acts of self-slaughter. After her husband's death, the devoted wife Parthenia effectively kills herself by donning armour and challenging his killer, the invincible Amphialus, to single combat. Cecropia, made clumsy by her own bad conscience, tumbles off the castle roof; and Amphialus stabs himself in shame at his dishonourable conduct towards the woman he loves, the princess Philoclea. At the point when he left off writing the revised Arcadia, Sidney had woven passion and reason into a labyrinth so intricate that, for these characters at least, only death seemed to offer a way out. He had written them into a dead end, so to speak, and later writers have repeatedly attempted to invent a plausible escape route from it for the surviving characters (Alexander 2006).
Even Sidney's work of literary theory, the Defence of poesie or Apologie for poetrie (c.1579–81) – the greatest critical essay of the English Renaissance – professes to be the product of entrapment and frustration. The essay, as meticulously organized as the first version of the Arcadia, begins by making a resonant case for poetry as the most powerful of the arts. Sidney's definition of ‘poesie’ as fiction of all kinds, not just verse – conveniently ignoring all imaginative writing that treats historical or scientific subjects – liberates it from the need to make slavish copies of real things, events, and people, so that it can imagine perfection (a perfect world, a perfect person, a perfect deed) more completely than any other branch of the arts or sciences. And once perfection has been imagined, the poet's willingness to appeal to the emotions as well as the intellect in his speech, together with his mastery of the full musical and mimetic power of the language he uses, enables him to persuade his readers better than anyone else to imitate the perfect people and actions he has created for them. The poet, then – and in this work he is always male, although the princesses in Arcadia are accomplished poets – is the most independent, ambitious, and effective of thinkers and speakers, and Sidney signals his limitless potential by using the vocabulary of freedom to describe his activities. It was his ‘high flying liberty of conceit’ that made the Romans believe the poet to have a direct link to heaven – circumventing earthly authorities – and so dub him vates: a prophet. The poet disdains to be ‘tied to any… subjection’, such as the necessity to describe only what has really happened, instead ‘freely ranging … within the zodiac of his own wit’. He has every conceivable subject under the authority of his pen, which makes him a prince of the mind, not beholden to any earthly prince – unlike his closest rivals, the historian and the philosopher, whom Sidney presents as deeply vulnerable to the figures of power who patronize or oversee their labours.
But the poet is not just princely; he is also seductive. He woos, flatters, and cajoles his readers into loving his representations of virtue and repudiating his images of vice. ‘He cometh to you’, Sidney effuses in the essay's most celebrated passage, ‘with words set in delightful proportion, either accompanied with, or prepared for, the well enchanting skill of music; and with a tale forsooth he cometh unto you, with a tale which holdeth children from play, and old men from the chimney corner.’ As the last sentence implies, he can address himself with equal ease to the immature and the aged, and stimulate every generation into ‘virtuous action’ – which Sidney sees as the ultimate goal of the arts and sciences, ‘the ending end of all earthly knowledge’. The imagined societies of poets can, according to Sidney, have a material impact – even a revolutionary one – on how actual societies are run. Yet real-life rulers do not find themselves offended by the poet's daring and influential inventions, because the verbal garments in which he clothes them are so beguilingly attractive, and because they lay no claim to veracity, removing themselves from any pretension to legal, political, or social status, and concealing their energy and fruit-fulness beneath an elaborate fictive disguise. Throughout the Defence, in fact, Sidney associates poetry with music, good food, and beautiful clothing, both feminizing it and insisting on the unsuspected force it can unleash, thus setting it up as an alternative power system to the predominantly patriarchal culture of early modern Europe.
In theory, then, the courageous, tricky, and alluring poet should be immune to the frustrations that dogged Sidney's career as politician, diplomat, and soldier. But as the Defence goes on, Sidney makes it clear that the ideal poetry does not at present exist, and that England in particular has made itself inimical to such poetry by depriving its inhabitants of the chance to practise ‘virtuous action’ such as the poets aim to promote, since the nation is currently lounging in the ‘overfaint quietness’ of a protracted peace. This argument has often been taken as an implicit rebuke to Elizabeth I and her Privy Council, who fiercely resisted the efforts of the political faction to which Sidney belonged – a league of activist English Protestants led by his uncle Leicester – to persuade her to intervene in the religious wars in Continental Europe. Ironically, England's quietism is what generated Sidney's Defence, which conjures up an ideal poetry that can exist only if that quietism is laid aside – an event that would prompt Sidney himself to lay aside the pen and take up the sword. This paradox serves to stress once again the gap between theory and practice, the ideal and the contingencies of human experience, that lies at the heart of all Sidney's literary writings.
Sidney's Astrophil and Stella – the first extended sonnet sequence in English, which inaugurated a flurry of remarkable experiments with the form on its publication in 1591 – plays multiple variations on the subject of this gap, as well as on the fusion of reason and emotion in human beings that helps to occasion it. The sequence presents itself as the product of an irresistible pressure – the pressure of desire – which diverts the poet-lover Astrophil from the political and military career for which his education has prepared him and into a protracted struggle to find a social and intellectual rationale for his obsession with an initially indifferent married woman: an obsession that can have no practical value for either of its principals, and for which he finally fails to find any consistent justification. His failure, however, results in one of the most complex character studies of the Renaissance: that of a highly educated, politically astute, immensely eloquent soldier-courtier locked in an emotional state that puts him at odds with the cultural values to which he has given his theoretical assent. To articulate his position he has recourse not exclusively to the trained mind, the organ of reason which he has been taught to privilege above all others, nor to the authoritative books recommended by his teachers (one thinks of the reading lists offered to Sidney by his mentor Languet), but to his own experience and emotions, as enshrined in the heart. ‘Look in thy heart and write,’ Love famously directs him in the first sonnet, and this concentration of the intellectual activity of writing on the most potent of physical urges produces some wonderfully compressed articulations of the paradoxes at the core of Elizabethan social life. Sonnet 67 is a fine example:
Hope, art thou true, or dost thou flatter me? Doth Stella now begin with piteous eye The ruins of her conquest to espy; Will she take time, before all wrackèd be? Her eyes' speech is translated thus by thee: But fail'st thou not, in phrase so heavenly-high? Look on again, the fair text better try; What blushing notes dost thou in margin see? What sighs stol'n out, or killed before full born? Hast thou found such, and such-like arguments? Or art thou else to comfort me forsworn? Well, how so thou interpret the contents, I am resolved thy error to maintain, Rather than by more truth to get more pain.
Here Stella becomes the book her lover Astrophil is studying, which competes with the serious books his elders would have him read, and like them contains ‘heavenly-high’ phrases – language well worth decoding, in Astrophil's judgement. But what is in this book and what he wants from it seem to be two quite different things. Part of what makes Stella attractive to him (as he insisted in earlier sonnets, such as 25) is her virtue – her strict adherence to a conventional moral order – in which case any ‘pity’ she, as a married woman, takes on him will fundamentally alter his opinion of her. Yet pity is just what Astrophil craves. In the world of chivalric romance to which the whole sonnet sequence pays ironic homage, a woman takes ‘pity’ on her lover when she grants him favours – above all, when she makes love to him – and Astrophil is tormented by the urgency of his desire to share her bed. The sexual implications of the word ‘piteous’ in line 2 are confirmed by the question ‘Will she take time?’ in line 4, which alludes to the ancient carpe diem theme: seize the day, grab the opportunity, take the time when it presents itself; in other words, have sex now, because life is short and will pass with appalling suddenness. And the first quatrain implies that Astrophil's personified Hope has made him think she may indeed be willing to take time with him, despite all the odds stacked against it.
But the first quatrain is also clearly a wish-fulfilment fantasy on the part of Astrophil. It begins with a question, the first of several, concerning the truth of Hope's interpretation of the text written in Stella's eyes; and all the later questions in the sonnet confirm the inadequacy of that allegorical figure as a reader of her demanding style. ‘Fail'st thou not?’ he asks Hope – meaning ‘in your interpretation of Stella’ – and receives no answer to his requests for further proof of her pity: blushes and sighs, for instance, which might act as explanatory notes in the ‘margin’ of her spoken and unspoken utterances, unveiling their emotional subtext. Astrophil's Hope, then, is a fiction that generates fictions; and very different fictions from the ideal poetry described in the Apology, whose ‘ending end’ was to inspire its readers to ‘virtuous action’. Astrophil wants action, but not the virtuous kind; he wants to sleep with a married woman. And he has no real interest in an accurate translation of the book of Stella. At the end of the sonnet he substitutes the continued ‘Hope’ of sleeping with her for any unwelcome ‘truth’ that a close reading of her text would force upon him. This sonnet, whose compressed form demands that we read it closely, ends with a refusal of close reading, and in doing so acknowledges the extent to which we let our desire-fuelled fantasies dictate what we see and hear.
The language of chivalric romance returns, in the penultimate line, with Astrophil's declaration that he will ‘maintain’ any error or lie of which his Hope may be guilty (‘forsworn’ in line 11 means having sworn that a falsehood is true). In romance, the notion of ‘maintaining’ an assertion is linked with the custom that a knight fight to ‘maintain’ his lady's honour, or to uphold his irrational conviction that her beauty is supreme. Customs like these are part of what made romance a suspect genre in Elizabethan England; and Astrophil's perverse adherence to the problematic code of chivalry would clearly have confirmed some Elizabethan readers' disapproval of him, since he aims to ‘maintain’ not merely an acknowledged falsehood but one that will damage his lady's reputation: that she might be willing to forgo her honour to relieve his sexual suffering. Astrophil has deliberately set up, in other words, an alternative system of values to compete with the socially accepted morality to which Stella is committed; and it would suit him if he could convince her that his moral code is superior to hers. But first he must convince himself, and what makes Astrophil such an attractively complex character is the clarity with which he sees that he is self-deceived, building castles in the air that could collapse at the first assault of any close analysis or rational argument.
There's a wider implication, though, behind Astrophil's self-deception. Stubborn adherence to a wilfully wrong-headed reading of a translated text becomes heresy when that text is the Bible; and Sidney inhabited a Europe full of warring religious factions, each of which insisted that the other factions' readings of the Scriptures, and the codes of conduct that sprang from them, constituted heresy. In this environment, the very notion of ‘virtue’ was contested, and every religious group harboured the hope of converting the rest of Europe to its own way of thinking, through strenuous evangelism – or of course through conquest. Doubtless not all the followers of every faction felt fully convinced of the truth of the cause they fought for. Astrophil's reliance on a probably fictional Hope, then, and his determination to maintain that fiction, is not peculiar to him; he shares it with his conflicted fellow Europeans. And in presenting us with Astrophil's predicament Sidney has painted a speaking picture of the predicament of early modern Europe, where he himself would soon be killed in a religious conflict.
We should dislike Astrophil in this sonnet, yet he makes many readers like him. The same might be said of the prince-protagonists of Sidney's Arcadia. Their self-confessed self-entrapment in a vicious course of action – that of deceiving the women they claim to love more than themselves, a deception that culminates (in the case of one prince-protagonist, and in the first version only) in attempted rape – makes them somehow attractive, precisely because they are so tormented by their situation, and articulate this torment in such exquisitely crafted periods of verse and prose. In Astrophil and Stella and the Old Arcadia Sidney presents us not with the ideal poetry of the Defence, but with an honest expression of agonizing yet beautiful dishonesty, which itself represents a kind of literary ideal. A writer who can, in his fiction, analyse the complex dilemmas and compromises faced by fictional individuals and states with such precision would be, one cannot help thinking, a brilliant analyst of the real-life dilemmas and compromises that face actual governments and their subjects – though whether he would be as able to find a way out of such dilemmas as he is to analyse them is a moot point (in the Old Arcadia the princes are at last extricated from their predicament not by virtuous action but by chance). In any case, it seems reasonable to assume that Sidney would have been pleased to think of his less than ideal fictions as a way of demonstrating his wasted talent as a potential leader.
But in one of his literary works, at least, he created an ideal fiction of the kind he describes in the Defence. In book III of the New Arcadia, Princess Pamela and her sister Philoclea languish in the castle of the wicked Cecropia, who wants one of them to marry her son Amphialus – another flawed but attractive prince. In the most celebrated passage in the book, Pamela defends herself against this forced marriage by arguing for an uncompromising adherence to virtue. She then argues for the primacy of virtue by proving the existence of a benevolent God, demonstrates the existence of God by reference to the beauty of the richly diverse world beyond the walls of her prison, and thereby displays her own mental freedom from the physical prison in which she is confined. Out of the trap of her confinement, both as a prisoner and as a woman in an aggressively patriarchal culture, Pamela succeeds in ranging freely through the ‘zodiac of her mind’, as the Defence puts it, and transforms the real world she inhabits into a golden one, despite all the efforts of Cecropia to darken it: ‘perfect order, perfect beauty, perfect constancy,’ the princess declares, ‘if these be the children of chance, or fortune the efficient [cause] of these, let wisdom be counted the root of wickedness and eternity the fruit of her inconstancy’. This courageous, intelligent, and articulate woman fails to convince Cecropia, despite all Sidney's fine words about verbal persuasiveness in the Defence, but she had a huge impact on English readers for generations. She helped inspire the first English female writer of prose fiction, Sidney's niece Mary Wroth, to produce an ambitious romance of her own, Urania; she was reputedly quoted by a monarch, Charles I, en route to his execution; and she lent her name to one of the most influential novels of the eighteenth century, Samuel Richardson's Pamela. To modify the claim he made for Xenophon's fictional Cyrus in the Defence, Sidney ‘bestowed a Pamela upon the world to make many Pamelas’. And in doing so he demonstrated the validity of what he claimed in his famous work of theory: that poetry in verse and prose can make things happen, either by changing the world or by making us more intensely aware of what is in it.
SEE ALSO: Dyer, Edward; Greville, Fulke; Harvey, Gabriel; Herbert, Mary (Sidney), countess of Pembroke; Nashe, Thomas; Spenser, Edmund; Wroth, Mary
- Writing after Sidney: the literary response to Sir Philip Sidney 1586–1640. Oxford University Press, Oxford. (2006)
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- Duncan-Jones, Katherine (ed.) (1989) Sir Philip Sidney. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Sir Philip Sidney, courtier poet. Hamish Hamilton, London. (1991)
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- Kay, Dennis (ed.) (1987) Sir Philip Sidney: an anthology of modern criticism. Clarendon Press, Oxford.
- Kinney, Arthur F. (ed.) (1988) Sidney in retrospect. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst.
- Sir Philip Sidney: rebellion in Arcadia. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick. (1979)
- Shepherd, Geoffrey (ed.) (2002) An apology for poetry, or the defense of poesie, by Philip Sidney, 3rd edn, rev. R. W. Maslen. Manchester University Press, Manchester.
- Skretkowicz, Victor (ed.) (1987) The countess of Pembroke's Arcadia (The New Arcadia), by Philip Sidney. Clarendon Press, Oxford.
- Philip Sidney: a double life. Chatto & Windus, London. (2000)
- Philip Sidney and the poetics of Renaissance cosmopolitanism. Ashgate, Aldershot. (2008)
- Waller, Gary F.; Moore, Michael D. (eds) (1984) Sir Philip Sidney and the interpretation of Renaissance culture. Croom Helm, Beckenham.
For many, Sir Philip Sidney (1554–86) encapsulates the English Renaissance. Poet, thinker, politician, soldier, lover, would-be explorer, almost a pr
Born at Penshurst in Kent, he was the eldest son of Sir Henry Sidney, Elizabeth's Lord Deputy in Ireland from 1559 onwards,...
A courtier, statesman and poet whose work influenced not only his contemporaries but subsequent generations of writers as well....