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had been raised one of the most towering structures ever dedicated to the memory of an individual in his native country.
Though not exactly in conformity with the object of the present compilation, it may not perhaps, be unacceptable to the reader, if a few pages are devoted in this place to an impartial examination into the general character of Sir Philip Sidney, and the causes which have led to that exalted reputation, wbich, by almost universal consent, he has so long enjoyed.
Every aecomplishment and every virtue has been attributed to Sir Philip Sidney. “Whatever applause,” says Dr. Zouch, “is due to his genius, and to his erudition, much more is due to his goodness, to the innocency of his life, and to the unsullied purity of his manners; his whole moral conduct was indeed irreproachable.” He has been put in comparison with the Black Prince and with the Chevalier Bayard, for bravery and chivalrous gallantry. He was the patron of Spenser, and the Mæcenas of his time. Himself a learned man, he was also the correspondent and friend of learned men of all countries. A statesman from his first entry into life, he aspired to be the counsellor of his sovereign, and at all times shewed his eagerness to take an active part in public affairs. He was an accomplished soldier; a successful courtier; a lover and a patron of the arts; a poet; a writer on state policy; a critic; and the founder of a department in the literature of his country. Much has also been said of the elegance of his person and manners; of the suavity of his disposition; of his generosity and munificence; and of the correctness of his conduct in domestic life, as a son, brother, and a friend.
There is perhaps no more certain test of the parity of a man's moral conduct, than the history of his intercourse with women. Put to this proof, Sir Philip Sidney appears a mere mortal. His biographer, who is also his encomiast, passes over this part of his life with little or no notice; it did not suit his purpose, which was, to publish an account of a perfect and immaculate character. The principal poetical work of Sir Philip Sidney, consists of a series of Sonnets and other short Poems, addressed to a lady with the assumed name of Stella. “ This volume," says Wood, “is reputed to have been written in compliment to the Lady Rich." It was first printed in quarto in 1591. There are, however, positive proofs that Stella and Lady Rich was one and the same person, in the Poems themselves, as for instance,
needy fame Doth even grow rich, naming my Stella's name.
[ Sonnet 35.)
But that rich fool, who by blind fortune's lot,
The richest gem of love and life enjoys,
Let him depriv’d of sweet, but unfelt joys,
[Sonnet 24.] But more especially, Towards Aurora's court a nymph doth dwell,
Rich in all beauties that man's eye can see:
Beauties so far from reach of words, that we
Rich in the treasure of deserv'd renown,
Rich in the riches of a royal heart;
every part Which makes the patents of true worldly bliss, Hath no misfortune, but, that Rich she is.
[ Sonnet 37.] This lady, so celebrated, was Penelope the Daughter of Walter Devereux Earl of Essex, and sister to the favourite of Queen Elizabeth. Her father dying when she was young, and her mother marrying afterwards the Earl of Leicester, she became a ward of that nobleman, wlio, it must be remembered, was the uncle of Sidney, and his father by adoption. Introduced to each other in this familiar way, and at the most susceptible age, an attachment between them was to be expected. Such an attachment appears to have taken place; it was mutual, ardent, and might have been happy aud innocent. What prevented their union does not satisfactorily appear. Sidney alludes to it in one of his best Sonnets, and shall speak for himself:
I might--unhappy word! O me! I might,
And then would not, or could not, see my bliss ; 'Till now, wrapt in a most infernal night,
I find how heavenly day, wretch, I did miss!
No lovely Paris made thy Helen his !
Nor fortune of thy fortune author is;
While too much wit forsooth so troubled me That I respects for both our sakes must shew;
And yet could not by rising morn foresee
How fair a day was nigh. O punished eyes!
[Sonnet 33.] There is a Letter in the Sidney Papers from Sir Edward Waterhouse to Sir Henry Sidney, which throws some light upon this affair. It is dated November the 14th, 1576, and contains the following passage:“Truly, my Lord, I must say to your Lordship, as I have said to my Lord of Leicester and Mr. Philip, the breaking off of this match, if the default be on your parts, will turn to more dishonour than can be repaired with any other marriage in England. And I protest unto your Lordship, I do not think that there is at this day so strong a man in England of friends, as the little Earl of Essex, nor any man more lamented than his father, since the death of King Edward.” The first sentence in this letter evidently alludes to a treaty of marriage which had taken place between the young people, and in plain terms accuses the party who would break it off, with acting dishonourably. By the evidence of the Sonnet above quoted, Sidney himself was the cause of its being broken off, and consequently in the opinion of Sir E. Waterhouse, “a person,” says
* There is some obscurity in the concluding part of this Sonnet. Wit at the period of its composition, was synonimous with wisdom;—the line
“That I respects-for both our sakes must shew," probably alludes to proposals of marriage, which had been made to the lady by her future husband, Lord Rich, and to similar proposals, made by his political friends to Sidney, on behalf of his future wife. The“ fair day,” which Sidney blames himself for not having foreseen, may allude to the rapid promotion and unbounded power which the Earl of Essex, when a very young man, acquired by his influence over the Queen. It must be remembered that Essex, when his sister sacrificed herself to Lord Ricb, was very young.
Dr. Zouch, “ of consummate prudence, and the common friend of both families,” he acted dishonourably. The following passage in this letter, probably guides us to the true reason for breaking off the intended match. It had evidently been a question whether the connection was advantageous to the young aspirant in a political view, and Sir E. Waterhouse says, he, considers the little Earl of Essex to be the strongest of friends of any man in England. Probably Sidney and his advisers did not think so, and his subsequent marriage with the daughter of Secretary Walsingham, seems to afford a probability that he was ambitious to connect himself with some leading man at court.
However this may be, the match was, according to the prediction of Sir E. Wate: house, broken ofi'; and the Lady soon after the date of this letter, married Lord Rich, who was afterwards created by James the first, Earl of Warwick; a man said to be of a moruse and sullen disposition, and who, as we may collect from various passages in Sidney's poetry, neglected and illtreated his unhappy wife.
This is not however, the most immoral part of Sidney's conduct, as connected with the unfortunate Stella. Had he in the struggle between affection and ambition, sacrificed the former to the latter, he might have been blamed; and if, as is most probable, he acted in violation of good faith, and in contempt of the feelings of another, he may be accused of dishonourable conduct:
* He was the son of a worthless father. The first Lord Rich, thien a Court Lawyer, was employed to entrap the virtuons Sir Thomas More. He led that excellent man into an unguarded conversation, which was afterwards advanced in evidence against him, and procured his condemnation! The portrait of this man occurs in the Holbein Heads, and strongly characterises his disposition,