Harington (c. 1561-1612) had family connections with Sidney (Harington’s cousin had married Sidney’s aunt). He owned, or had access to, manuscripts of the Old Arcadia, A Defence of Poetry, Astrophil and Stella, and the Sidney/Pembroke Psalms (Ringler, p. 553). The miscellany ‘Arundel Harington Manuscript’ includes OA 51 and 74, CS 1, 3, 27 and 30, and AS 1 and x, and the preface to the translation of Ariosto draws frequently on A Defence. In addition to the remarks below, Harington quotes AS 75 as ‘a pleasant sonnet’ testifying to Edward IV’s ‘facetious and affable, and a litle to amorous’ nature (A Tract on the Succession to the Crown, ed. Clements R. Markham, London, 1880, p. 78), refers to ‘an ugly Mopsa’, quotes AS 15. 5-6, and alludes to OA 5 (Dametas’ ‘Now thanked be the great god Pan…’) (The Metamorphosis of Ajax (1596), ed. Elizabeth Story Donno, London, 1962, pp. 79, 200, 203).
Harington’s attitude to Sidney is ambivalent. On the one hand he respects his work, alluding to it frequently, using it as a stick with which to beat actual or potential critics on behalf of his own or Ariosto’s practice; on the other, as T.G. A. Nelson points out, he has a tendency to mock or parody Sidney, although ‘always…unobtrusively, and usually in such a way that only a reader who knew Sidney’s work well would realize what was going on’ (‘Sir John Harington as a Critic of Sir Philip Sidney’, Studies in Philology, vol. 67, 1970, pp. 41-56). See also Peter Croft’s discussion of the way in which Harington’s expansions, additions and omissions in the Phillipps manuscript of the Old Arcadia tend to ‘“lower the tone”, to inject some ordinary humour—and some ordinary human tenderness—into a work whose heroic tone tends to exclude the ordinary’ (‘Sir John Harington’s Manuscript of Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia’, in Stephen Parks and P.J. Croft, Literary Autographs, Los Angeles, Calif., 1983, p. 68).
Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso Translated Into English Heroical Verse by Sir John Harington (1591), ed. Robert McNulty, Oxford,