Writing after Sidney: The Literary Response to Sir Philip Sidney, 1586-1640

By Gavin Alexander | Go to book overview
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1
Dialogue and Incompletion

Philip Sidney

So there thou livest, singing evermore,
And here thou livest, being ever song
Of us, which living loved thee afore,
And now thee worship 1

During his lifetime Sidney was the recipient of scores of dedications and commendatory poems, and hundreds of letters. Even after his death people he knew, and some he did not, continued to write to and for him. Hundreds of elegies represent moments of address to his departing soul. In the 1590s his sister wrot…oem to his 'Angell spirit', Henry Constable wrote sonnets to his soul in heaven, and Robert Dallington dedicate…ork to his 'ever lyving vertues';2 in the 1600s Fulke Greville planned to dedicate his works to his lost friend. More rarely, writers dared to make their dead master speak, bringing him back from the dead and giving hi…oice, as Nathaniel Baxter does in Sir Philip Sydneys Ouránia (1606).3 But as we have seen, b…etonymy fundamental to literary history, Sidney was now his works. If they knew that they could not raise the dead, or even conjur…eply from Sidney's ghost, Elizabethan and Jacobean writers knew that they could still discover the voice of Sidney in his writings, and engage that in conversation.

1 Edmund Spenser, The Ruines of Time, 337–40, in Shorter Poems.

2 For Mary Sidney's poem see below, Chapter 3; for Constable see Chapter 6; for Dallington, in Hypnerotomachia (1592), A1v, see Chapter 2.

3 The ghost of Astrophil, dressed for battle, comes to Cinthia (Mary Sidney) and her nymphs, M3v–N2v. Other examples include John Philip's The Life and Death of Sir Philip Sidney (1587), which is written entirely in Sidney's voice; and, in manuscript, two fictitious verse epistles between Sidney and Penelope Rich, for which see Josephine A. Roberts, 'The Imaginary Epistles of Sir Philip Sidney and Lady Penelope Rich', ELR, 15 (1985), 59–77 and Garrett, 178–86.

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