The range of Jonson’s references to Sidney suggests the cultural centrality—or inescapability—of Arcadia during his adult life. In addition to the material extracted here, Quarlous in Bartholomew Fair (1614) chooses ‘Argalus’, ‘out of the Arcadia’, for his ‘word’ (III.iii.68-9), the Lady in The New Inne (1629) lists Sidney among ‘Loves Fathers’ (III.ii.205-6), and there are brief complimentary mentions in poems celebrating Sidney’s relations: Epigrams 103 and 114 and ‘To Penshurst’, lines 13-14. For some examples of Sidney’s possible influence on Jonson, see Alwin Thaler, Shakespeare and Sir Philip Sidney, Cambridge, Mass., 1947, pp. 11-13.
Already fairly disrespectful in his dramatic references, Jonson is more iconoclastic in his remarks to William Drummond about Sidney’s pimples and the superiority of his daughter’s poetry. One should perhaps bear in mind, however, that ‘much of what he said to Drummond must have been deliberately provocative’ (Ben Jonson, The Complete Poems, ed. George Parfitt, Harmondsworth, 1975, p. 605).
Text from Ben Jonson, ed. C.H. Herford and Percy and Evelyn Simpson, 11 vols, Oxford, 1925-52.
Fastidius Briske: [Saviolina’s wit] flowes from her like nectar, and shee doth give it, that sweet, quick grace, and exornation in the composure, that…shee does observe as pure a phrase, and use as choise figures as any be i’ the Arcadia.
Fungoso [awaiting his new suit]: He sit i my old sute, or else lie a bed, and reade the Arcadia.
Dauphine: A knight live by his verses? he did not make ’hem to that ende I hope.
Clerimont. And yet the noble SIDNEY lives by his, and the noble family not asham’d.