Elizabeth Robinson (1720-1800) married the wealthy Edward Montagu (cousin of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s son, Edward) in August 1742. She was later famous as a leading ‘blue-stocking’ and literary hostess, and the author of An Essay on the Genius and Writings of Shakespeare (1769). Arcadia seems to have been a frequent topic of semi-serious conversation and entertainment in the circles in which she moved, especially among the women (as in the days of Anne Clifford). These included Montagu’s correspondent Mary Pendarves (later Mrs Delany, 1700-88): in 1740, ‘I have laid aside the Arcadia till Mrs. Pendarves comes, who is so fond of it, and …she shall read it to us’ (Elizabeth Montagu, Queen of the Blue-Stockings, Her Correspondence from 1740 to 1761, ed. Emily J. Climenson, London, 1906, vol. 1, p. 56). Many years later, in 1774, Pendarves was still adopting the same tone as her friend where Sidney was concerned, so often using ‘delight’ and its cognates in describing her joy in seeing a friend’s children that ‘Sir Phillip Sidney in his Arcadia cannot be more guilty of reiteration!’ (The Autobiography and Correspondence of Mary Granville, Mrs Delany, ed. Lady Llanover, Second Series, London, 1862, vol. 2, p. 64). Sidney’s is no longer ‘the language of the heart’.
After breakfast we employ ourselves as you imagine; we are reading Sir Philip Sidney’s famous Romance, which is far exceeding the exceedingness of the most exceeding imagination, as if, the things of which he spoke exceeded all imagination, or the imagination with which he wrote, exceeded all things; so much more excellent are the things of which he writes as that the things which he writes are far exceeding all other excellence, for art therein does borrow the appearance of nature, and nature the excellence of art, so the eye