The most important event in the literary career of Sir Philip Sidney was his death in 1586 at the age of 31, shortly after the period (from around 1578 to around 1584) in which he wrote his major works. The next most important event was the printing of those works, some of which he had allowed to circulate in manuscript during his lifetime, between 1590 and 1598. Sidney was ahead of his time a…riter, and he died before his time. And his time, in the event, was the 1590s. Had he lived, his works might never have been printed: only in this way—the manuscript author entering print posthumously—could the 1590s becom…ecade in which Sidney dominated literary culture. It is true that his works had their readers during his lifetime and while they remained in manuscript, but the creation of Sidney a…ajor English author was the work of those who saw him into print.1 His life a…ublished author was posthumous, and as such he was only to be found by his new readers in his texts. If he was to be approached, addressed, or discussed a…riter, he had to be inferred or resurrected from the printed page. His voice in the period of his ascendancy was always cut off from the agency and immediate context of his mind and body; his texts were therefore especially open. The aim of this study is to look at what was found in those texts by those who wrote after his death and, in one way or another, following his example; at how their own writings respond to that example; and at what it was in Sidney and his writings that provoked that response. The story of Sidney's reception can of course be traced to the present day, but it makes sense to end this study with the end of the generation immediately following Sidney and the period of the most intense response to his example—that is, around 1640. By this date Ben Jonson was dead, Mary Wroth's surviving writings had been finished, and Sidney's works
1 On the printing of Sidney see the introductions to the Oxford editions of his works, Victor Skretkowicz, 'Building Sidney's Reputation: Texts and Editions of the Arcadia', in 1586, 111–24, Woudhuysen, esp. ch. 8, Arthur F. Marotti, Manuscript, Print, and the English Renaissance Lyric (Ithaca, N.Y., and London, 1995), 228–38, and Steven Mentz, 'Selling Sidney: William Ponsonby, Thomas Nashe, and the Boundaries of Elizabethan Print and Manuscript Cultures', Text, 13 (2000), 151–71.