SIR PHILIP SIDNEY

I

WHEN the news of Sir Philip Sidney's death reached England there was an extraordinary demonstration of grief. He was mourned by ordinary people as a soldier who had died fighting for the Protestant cause. He was mourned by his friends and relations as the 'light of his family', a man who had seemed destined for greatness as a statesman. He was mourned by scholars and writers as a generous patron, and by his fellow-poets as one of the best, and certainly one of the most influential, poets of his time. Oxford and Cambridge published collections of Latin elegies; and Spenser, Greville and others contributed to Astrophel, a volume of English elegies. Years later, Fulke Greville regarded his friendship with Sidney as his chief tide to fame; and when Shelley wrote Adonais he could speak of his great ancestor as one of the 'inheritors of unfulfilled renown':

Sidney as he fought And as he fell, and as he lived and loved Sublimely mild, a spirit without spot.

It is difficult to consider Sidney merely as a man of letters since his writing was only a spare-time occupation. He is the best English example of the renaissance ideal: he was Jack of all trades and master of them all. Not that he was simply a gifted amateur; although he sometimes spoke of his writings as toys, this (as Professor Myrick has shown) 'is but an example of sprezzatura, the courtly grace which conceals a sober purpose and is, indeed, the mark of consummate artistry'; or, as Greville put it, 'men commonly (to keep above their works) seem to make toys of the utmost they can do'.

-5-

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