Will you have all in all for Prose and verse? take the miracle of our age Sir Philip Sidney.
(Richard Carew, No. 34 below)
I do almost think the Tyburn Chronicle a more interesting book than Sydney’s Arcadia.
(Hannah More, September 1788, in William Roberts, Memoirs of… Mrs Hannah More, 1834, vol. 3, p. 131)
the silver speech
Of Sidney’s self, the starry paladin.
(Robert Browning, Sordello, 1840, 1. 68-9)
Sidney’s reputation grew with remarkable rapidity after his death and the publication of most of his work in the 1590s. Few authors, not even Shakespeare (himself much influenced by Sidney’s writings), have been exalted further. And, as has not been generally the case with Shakespeare or other contemporaries, Sidney’s life—or heroic constructions of it—continued to affect assessments of the work even after it had ceased to be generally read in the eighteenth century.
The story of Sidney’s reception for much of the seventeenth century will already be broadly familiar to most readers. (They will also, however, encounter fresh material here, including the first printing of some manuscript material, most importantly of the bulk of Brian Twyne’s notes of c. 1599-1600.) I have included extracts from continuations and dramatizations of Arcadia, in addition to more direct comment.
Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century responses are, with a few exceptions (Walpole and Hazlitt, for example) less generally known. In view of this—and helped by the relative dearth of responses—I have attempted to cover the eighteenth century in almost as much detail as the earlier periods; space does not permit a very full selection from Victorian writing on Sidney, but entries by Hallam (1839), D’Israeli (1841), and William Stigant (1858) have been included as representative. It seemed appropriate to end