Sidney: The Critical Heritage

By Martin Garrett | Go to book overview
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John Aubrey

c. 1670-85, c. 1680

Aubrey (1626-97) gathers more and less plausible stories and facts about Sidney. In keeping with his usual emphases, but also with developments in Sidney’s reputation at this time (see Introduction, p. 44), this Sidney is primarily a figure of antiquarian interest, a ‘character’ as much as an author whose works remain current.

a) The Natural History of Wiltshire, ed. John Britton (from Bodleian Library, MS Aubrey 1 and 2), London 1847, pp. 89, 108.

I shall now passe to the illustrious Lady Mary, Countesse of Pembroke, whom her brother hath eternized by his Arcadia; but many or most of the verses in the Arcadia were made by her Honour, and they seem to have been writt by a woman. ’Twas a great pity that Sir Philip had not lived to have put his last hand to it. He spent much, if not most part of his time here [at Wilton], and at Ivychurch, near Salisbury, which did then belong to this family, when he was in England.

[T]he Arcadia and the Daphne is about Vernditch and Wilton, and these romancy plaines and boscages did no doubt conduce to the hightening of Sir Philip Sydney’s phansie. He lived much in these parts, and his most masterly touches of his pastoralls he wrote here upon the spott, where they were conceived. ’Twas about these purlieus that the muses were wont to appeare to Sir Philip Sydney, and where he wrote down their dictates in his table book, though on horseback. [Aubrey’s note adds ‘I remember some old relations of mine and old men hereabout that have scene Sir Philip doe thus.’] For those nimble fugitives, except they be presently registred, fly away, and perhaps can never be caught again.

b) From ‘Brief Lives,’ chiefly of Contemporaries, set down by John Aubrey, between 1669 and 1696, ed. Andrew Clark, 2 vols, Oxford 1898, vol. 2, pp. 247-9; vol.1, pp. 311-12.


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