Sidney: The Critical Heritage

By Martin Garrett | Go to book overview

21.

Thomas Moffet

1593-4

Nobilis was written for the young William Herbert, subsequently 3rd Earl of Pembroke. Thomas Moffet came to Wilton in 1592 as the 2nd Earl’s physician, ‘with his social position already secured through a distinguished career in medicine which had included treating Philip Sidney himself’ (Michael Brennan, Literary Patronage in the English Renaissance: the Pembroke Family, London, 1988, p. 76). He later dedicated to the Countess of Pembroke a narrative poem, The Silke Worms and Their Flies (1599); Nobilis ‘was as much an expression of allegiance to Philip’s surviving relatives and friends as a tribute to the man himself (ibid.).

Like Whitney (No. 8), Moffet pushes Sidney’s secular writing back to his youth. He allows Sidney to reject such work while himself praising it and pointing out its didactic elements (cf. Greville, No. 39). Moffet also stresses the importance of the religious works, the logical and traditional successor to worldly juvenilia (see Introduction, p. 11). The destruction, or intended destruction, of Astrophil and Stella and Arcadia varies the tradition that Sidney asked for Arcadia to be burned, as reported by John Owen, Epigrammatum libri tres, 2nd edn, London, 1607, II, 67; Greville (No. 39); and Edward Leigh, A Treatise of Religion and Learning, London, 1656, p. 324.


From Nobilis: or, A View of the Life and Death of a Sidney and Lessus Lugubris, ed. and trans. Virgil B. Heltzel and Hoyt T. Hudson, San Marino, Calif., 1940, pp. 73-5, 80-1, 91.

Hence it twice occurred that, overstimulated by his prolonged studies in early adolescence, he fell ill of a fever attended by the greatest peril; and was forced to slacken the reins in sports, until, the breakdown of his health having been repaired, more fit and more active he returned to the Muses. Let them who may have the power tell how, meanwhile, unsettled spirits strove within that

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