Mary Sidney Wroth (1587?–1653?)
Philip Sidney (1554–1586)
Niece of Sir Philip Sidney and of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, and daughter of their brother, Sir Robert Sidney, Mary Sidney Wroth (1587?–1653?) participated in the literary creativity of a remarkable early modern family. Her arranged marriage to Sir Robert Wroth in 1604 was not wholly successful, but her husband was a favorite of the king, and Lady Wroth participated in some Jacobean court activities, appearing in the Masque of Blackness and The Masque of Beauty. On Wroth's early death in 1614, she was left deeply in debt and with an infant son whose death in 1616 left her in even worse financial straits. Lady Wroth began writing while married, and there are many allusions to courtly entertainments in the work for which she is best known, The Countess of Montgomery's Urania (1621). She modeled this long prose romance on her uncle's Arcadia, but with a female hero and an emphasis on such qualities as constancy in love that are less central to romances by men. We base our selection of the opening of Urania on the 1621 edition; see also the modern edition by Josephine A. Roberts (Tempe: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 140, 1995, for the Renaissance English Text Society).