establishing any claim. At the same time he uniformly speaks of his own proficiency in the exalted art of song, with a modesty no less amiable than it is disarming to critical severity. And, if his sonnets possessed no other merit, it is in them that his various feelings, as they arose in his heart, are distinctly to be traced, and that we learn the little peculiarities by which his heroic character was discriminated and shaded. It is there that we are told of his constitutional melancholy, inherited in all likelihood from his mother; and of the ‘abstracted guise’ which he was wont unconsciously to fall into in the largest companies, whereby many had been induced to suppose that he was wholly possessed by egotism and ‘bubbling pride’—a charge which he takes the opportunity most pointedly to deny, while he pleads guilty to a headlong ambition that made him ‘oft his best friends overpass’ [Astrophil and Stella 27].
Hallam (1777-1859) exhibits a neoclassical preference, somewhat unusual among his contemporaries, for clarity (before intensity) of language and ideas. Among Sidney’s works, he sees most to applaud in A Defence of Poetry, but is disposed to look tolerantly on Arcadia as a product of its time; Hallam’s comprehensive Introduction takes a ‘synoptical view of literature’ which ‘displays its various departments in their simul-taneous condition through an extensive period, and in their mutual dependency’ (vol. 1, sig. A2). The remarks on Astrophil and Stella are an early indicator of what would soon become one of the main topics of nineteenth-century Sidney criticism.
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Publication information: Book title: Sidney:The Critical Heritage. Contributors: Martin Garrett - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 335.
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