1738 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Philip Sidney

Elizabeth Cooper, in The Muses Library (1738) 206.



By the common Consent of all Europe, allow'd to be the compleatest Gentleman of his Time; Nature, Fame, and Fortune seem'd to vie with each other in showering down their Favours on Him: He was Noble by Descent, amiable in his Person, in Genius, and Judgment the Standard, by which all his Contemporaries essay'd, and improv'd their own: As gallant in the Field, as wise, and learned in the Schools; and, at Court, so elegantly well-bred, as if He had never known the Pedantry of the One, or the Rudeness of the Other. Yet all these great Accomplishments, sat so easy upon him, that no Body was offended at what they could not equal, nor envy'd the first Praises to his Character, that ever so jealous of their own. In a Word, He was a most illustrious Instance of the real Power of private Virtue: For, without Titles, Places, Court-Favour, or, any other common Bait for Respect and Veneration, He had Homage from all Eyes, commanded Attention from every Ear, and won the, Affection of all Hearts. — In so much, that Don John of Austria, Vice-Roy of the Netherlands, one of the proudest Men that ever was born, publickly treated Him with more Honour, (tho' only a Visitor at his Court, and then very young) than the Ambassadors of Sovereigns: Nay, so Universal was his Esteem, and to such a Height 'twas carry'd, that, tho' not born a Prince, 'twas the general Voice, no one we, more Worthy of a Throne; and, I presume, 'twas rather owing to the Wishes of the Publick, than any real Fact, that 'tis said He was in Election for the Kingdom of Poland: A Circumstance infinitely more Glorious than if he had worn the Noblest Diadem in the World, by Inheritance! — But Hyperbole it self was hardly thought able to do him Justice: Nor wou'd less than a Volume contain all the printed Testimonies the Learned have given of his unequal'd Virtues. Never had the Muses a greater Loss than when He dy'd, for, tho' by his own Pen He could command Immortality, He had the true Greatness of Mind to encourage Merit in others where ever He found it, without the interested Views of Policy or Ostentation. — For which, may his Fame be ever Dear to Memory! And no English Writer ever quote the Roman Mecaenas, without first acknowledging his Superior in the immortal Sydney!

I find my Zeal has led me into a strange Mistake, I have wrote his Character instead of His Life, whereas his Life had included his Character. — But 'tis in Study just as 'tis in Action; many People see their Faults, but are too fond of them to endeavour at a Cure. He was Son to Sir Henry Sydney, Knight of the Garter, and Three Times Lord Deputy of Ireland; and Lady Mary Dudley, Daughter to the Duke of Northumberland; and Nephew to that great Favourite, Robert Earl of Leicester; Christ Church College, in Oxford, had the Honour of his Education, from whence he set early on his Travels, and was at Paris, when the Protestants were massacred; and, with other English Gentlemen, fled for Protection to the House of Sir Francis Walsingham, Embassador from Queen Elizabeth. At his Return, her Majesty was one of the first that distinguish'd his great Abilities, and, as if proud of so rich a Treasure, sent him immediately Embassador to the Emperor, to do Honour to Her self and his Country. — Some Years after this He address'd, in Print, his humble Reasons to the Queen to dissuade her from marrying the Duke of Anjou, Brother to the French King; which, 'tis presum'd, occasion'd him to retire from Court, and gave him Leisure to produce his Arcadia. Notwithstanding which, we find Him, Two Years after, in Favour again, and riding a Tilt with Sir Fulk Greville, for the Entertainment of the Duke, and waiting on him in his Return to Antwerp. The next Year He was Knighted, and in the Year 1585, intended an Expedition with Sir Francis Drake; but was employ'd nearer Home; The Queen appointing Him Governor of Flushing, in the Low-Countries, and General of Horse. — There he signaliz'd Himself in so Heroical a Manner, that the very Dutch, who at first hated Him, became his Admirers. — But War is not the Province of our Sex. — I therefore wave the Particulars of his Exploits, and have only to add that, mounting his Third Horse at the Battle of Zutphen, He received a Mortal Wound, of which He languish'd Twenty Five Days; dying in the Flower of his Age, tho' arriv'd to the highest Point of honest Glory. — He marry'd the Daughter of the great Sir Francis Walsingham, and left only one Child, who afterwards, marry'd the Earl of Rutland, and unfortunately dy'd without Issue to perpetuate the living Virtues of her illustrious Family. — After the innumerable Compliments paid to this Great Man's Writings, it would be Presumption in me, to attempt their Character. I chuse therefore only to insert two of his Essays in Poetry, and leave the Readers to Judge for themselves. — His Body was brought to England, and bury'd at St. Paul's, with a Magnificence suitable to his Merit: Beauty, Wit, Piety, and Valour being the undissembled Mourners!