Sidney, Sir Philip

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Sidney, Sir Philip

Sir Philip Sidney, 1554–86, English author and courtier. He was one of the leading members of Queen Elizabeth's court and a model of Renaissance chivalry. He served in several diplomatic missions on the Continent and in 1586 was fatally wounded at the battle of Zutphen. Sidney exerted a strong influence on English poetry as patron, critic, and example. His literary efforts circulated only in manuscript during his lifetime. Arcadia (1590), a series of verse idyls connected by prose narrative, was written for his sister Mary, countess of Pembroke. It is the earliest renowned pastoral in English literature. Sidney's prose criticism of the nature of poetry, written as a rebuttal to Stephen Gosson's The School of Abuse, appeared in two slightly different versions—The Defense of Poesie and An Apology for Poetry (both 1595). Astrophel and Stella (1591) is one of the great sonnet sequences in English and was inspired by his love for Penelope Devereux, later Lady Rich. Sidney, however, married Frances Walsingham in 1583.

See his works ed. by A. Feuillerat (1962); The Psalms of Sir Philip Sidney and the Countess of Pembroke (ed. by J. C. A. Rathmell, 1963); biographies by M. W. Wallace (1915, repr. 1967); R. Howell (1968), J. M. Osborn (1972), and A. Stewart (2001); studies by S. M. Cooper (1968), D. Connell (1977), and D. Kay, ed. (1988).

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