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A Defence of Poesie and Poems   By: (1554-1586)

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Introduction by Henry Morley A Defence of Poesie Poems


Philip Sidney was born at Penshurst, in Kent, on the 29th of November, 1554. His father, Sir Henry Sidney, had married Mary, eldest daughter of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and Philip was the eldest of their family of three sons and four daughters. Edmund Spenser and Walter Raleigh were of like age with Philip Sidney, differing only by about a year, and when Elizabeth became queen, on the 17th of November, 1558, they were children of four or five years old.

In the year 1560 Sir Henry Sidney was made Lord President of Wales, representing the Queen in Wales and the four adjacent western counties, as a Lord Deputy represented her in Ireland. The official residence of the Lord President was at Ludlow Castle, to which Philip Sidney went with his family when a child of six. In the same year his father was installed as a Knight of the Garter. When in his tenth year Philip Sidney was sent from Ludlow to Shrewsbury Grammar School, where he studied for three or four years, and had among his schoolfellows Fulke Greville, afterwards Lord Brooke, who remained until the end of Sidney's life one of his closest friends. When he himself was dying he directed that he should be described upon his tomb as "Fulke Greville, servant to Queen Elizabeth, counsellor to King James, and friend to Sir Philip Sidney." Even Dr. Thomas Thornton, Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, under whom Sidney was placed when he was entered to Christ Church in his fourteenth year, at Midsummer, in 1568, had it afterwards recorded on his tomb that he was "the tutor of Sir Philip Sidney."

Sidney was in his eighteenth year in May, 1572, when he left the University to continue his training for the service of the state, by travel on the Continent. Licensed to travel with horses for himself and three servants, Philip Sidney left London in the train of the Earl of Lincoln, who was going out as ambassador to Charles IX., in Paris. He was in Paris on the 24th of August in that year, which was the day of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. He was sheltered from the dangers of that day in the house of the English Ambassador, Sir Francis Walsingham, whose daughter Fanny Sidney married twelve years afterwards.

From Paris Sidney travelled on by way of Heidelberg to Frankfort, where he lodged at a printer's, and found a warm friend in Hubert Languet, whose letters to him have been published. Sidney was eighteen and Languet fifty five, a French Huguenot, learned and zealous for the Protestant cause, who had been Professor of Civil Law in Padua, and who was acting as secret minister for the Elector of Saxony when he first knew Sidney, and saw in him a future statesman whose character and genius would give him weight in the counsels of England, and make him a main hope of the Protestant cause in Europe. Sidney travelled on with Hubert Languet from Frankfort to Vienna, visited Hungary, then passed to Italy, making for eight weeks Venice his head quarters, and then giving six weeks to Padua. He returned through Germany to England, and was in attendance it the Court of Queen Elizabeth in July, 1575. Next month his father was sent to Ireland as Lord Deputy, and Sidney lived in London with his mother.

At this time the opposition of the Mayor and Corporation of the City of London to the acting of plays by servants of Sidney's uncle, the Earl of Leicester, who had obtained a patent for them, obliged the actors to cease from hiring rooms or inn yards in the City, and build themselves a house of their own a little way outside one of the City gates, and wholly outside the Lord Mayor's jurisdiction. Thus the first theatre came to be built in England in the year 1576. Shakespeare was then but twelve years old, and it was ten years later that he came to London.

In February, 1577, Philip Sidney, not yet twenty three years old, was sent on a formal embassy of congratulation to Rudolph II... Continue reading book >>

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