Sir Philip Sidney

John Aubrey, in Brief Lives, 1669-1696; ed. Clark (1898) 2:247-52.

Sir Philip Sydney, natus 29 November, 1554, 19h 50' P.M., Cantiae, polo 51o 52'; ex MSS. Eliae Ashmole, armigeri.

Sir Philip Sydney, knight, was the most accomplished cavalier of his time. He was the eldest son of the right honourable Sir Henry Sydney, knight of the noble order of the Garter, Lord President of Wales, and Lord Deputie of Ireland, 1570. I suppose he was borne at Penshurst in Kent (neer Tunbridge); vide.

He had the best tutors provided for him by his father that could then be had, as ... Vide my Grammar notes.

He travelled France, Italie, Germany; he was in the Poland warres, and at that time he had to his page (and as an excellent accomplishment) Henry Danvers (afterwards earle of Danby), then second son of Sir John Danvers of Dantesey in Wilts, who accounted himselfe happy that his son was so bestowed. He makes mention, in his Art of Poesie, of his being in Hungarie (I remember).

He was not only of an excellent witt, but extremely beautifull; he much resembled his sister, but his haire was not red, but a little inclining, viz. a darke amber colour. If I were to find a fault in it, methinkes 'tis not masculine enough; yett he was a person of great courage. He was much at Wilton with his sister, and at Ivy-church (which adjoyns to the parke pale of Clarindon Parke), situated on a hill that overlookes all the country westwards, and north over Sarum and the plaines, and into that delicious parke (which was accounted the best of England) eastwards. It was heretofore a monastery (the cloysters remayne still); 'twas called coenobium Edrosium. My great uncle, Mr. Thomas Browne, remembred him; and sayd that he was often wont, as he was hunting on our pleasant plaines, to take his table booke out of his pocket, and write downe his notions as they came into his head, when he was writing his Arcadia, (which was never finished by him).

He was the reviver of poetry in those darke times, which was then at a very low ebbe, — e.g. "The Pleasant Comoedie of Jacob and Esau," acted before King Henry VIII's grace (where, I remember, is this expression, that "the pottage was so good, that God Almighty might have putt his finger in't);" "Grammar Gurton's Needle"; and in these playes there is not 3 lines but there is "by God," or "by God's wounds."

He was of a very munificent spirit, and liberall to all lovers of learning, and to those that pretended to any acquaintance with Parnassus; in so much that he was cloyd and surfeited with the poetasters of those dayes. Among others Mr. Edmund Spencer a made his addresse to him, and brought his Faery Queen. Sir Philip was busy at his study, and his servant delivered Mr. Spencer's booke to his master, who layd it by, thinking it might be such kind of stuffe as he was frequently troubled with. Mr. Spencer stayd so long that his patience was wearied, and went his way discontented, and never intended to come again. When Sir Philip perused it, he was so exceedingly delighted with it, that he was extremely sorry he was gonne, and where to send for him he knew not. After much enquiry he learned his lodgeing, and sent for him, mightily caressed (him), and ordered his servant to give him ... pounds in gold. His servant sayd that that was too much; "No," said Sir Philip, "he is ...," and ordered an addition. From this time there was a great friendship between them, to his dying day.

I have heard Dr. Pell say, that he haz been told by ancient gentlemen of those dayes of Sir Philip, so famous for men at armes, that 'twas then held as great a disgrace for a young gentleman to be seen riding in the street in a coach, as it would now for such a one to be seen in the streetes in a petticoate and wastcoate; so much is the fashion of the times nowe altered.

He maried the daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham, Principall Secretary of Estate (I thinke his only child — quaere), whom he loved very well....

Having recieved some shott or wound in the warres in the Lowe-countreys, where he had command of ... (the Ramikins, I thinke), he < acted > contrary to the injunction of his physitians and chirurgions, which cost him his life: upon which occasion there were some roguish verses made.

His body was putt in a leaden coffin (which, after the firing of Paule's, I myselfe sawe), and with wonderfull greate state was carried from ... to St. Paule's church, where he was buried in our Ladie's Chapell: vide Sir William Dugdale's Pauls, and epitaph. There solempnized this funerall all the nobility and great officers of Court; all the judges and Serjeants at Lawe; all the soldiers, and commanders, and gentry that were in London; the Lord Mayer, and Aldermen, and Livery-men. His body was borne on men's shoulders (perhaps 'twas a false coffin).

When I was a boy 9 yeares old, I was with my father at one Mr. Singleton's, an alderman and wollen-draper in Glocester, who had in his parlour, over the chimney, the whole description of the funerall, engraved and printed on papers pasted together, which, at length, was, I beleeve, the length of the room at least; but he had contrived it to be turned upon two pinnes, that turning one of them made the figures march all in order. It did make such a strong impression on my young phantasy, that I remember it as if it were but yesterday. I could never see it elswhere. The house is in the great long street, over against the high steeple; and 'tis likely it remaines there still. 'Tis pitty it is not re-donne.

In St. Mary's church at Warwick is a sumptuose monument of the lord Brooke, round a great altar of black marble is only this inscription:

"Here lies the body of Sir Fulke Grevill, knight, servant to Q. Elizabeth, counsellor to K. James, and friend to Sir Philip Sydney."

On a little tablet of wood:—

England, Netherlands, the Heavens and the Arts
Of ... Sydney hath made ... parts
... for who could suppose,
That one heape of stones could Sydney enclose.

Key of Pembroke's Arcadia.


All the good bodies thanke you for your remembrance, which I ought to have told you sooner if a paine in my head had not hinderd me.

I wishe I could give you the key you desire, but all I know of it is not worth anything; though conversant amongst his relations, could learne noe more then Pamela's being my lady Northumberland , Philo[clea] my lady Rich, two sisters, the last beloved by him, upon whose account he made his Astrophell and Stella; Miso, lady Cox, Mopse, lady Lucy, persons altogether unknowne now; Musid[orus] and Pericles, the two ladies' husbands. Lord Ri[ch] being then his friend, he perswaded her mother to the match, though he repented afterwards: she then very young and secretly in love with him but he no consern for her. Her beauty augmenting, he sayes in his Astrophel and Stella, he didnt think 'the morn would have proved soe faire a daye.' Their mother a was beautifull and gallant (whether he meant Ginesia by her or noe, I know not); but their father died, they being young. She remaried to Dudley, Leycester and Northumberland, and afterwards to her gentleman of the horse, Sir Cristopher Blunt, which was beheaded with lord Essex. It was thought he meant himself by Amphi[alus] and his lady, Sir Francis Walsingham's daughter and heire, the queen of Corinth. If he did make his owne character high, they sayd Philisides was himself to, but it was all a guesse. He made it young, and diyng desired his folies might be burnt.

Some others I have heard guessed at, but have forgot. Therfore canot satisfie the lady, which I would for your sake.

I give you thankes but shall not want my grandmother's epitaph (which was for a relation of ours heere, who desird it), having found it of your giving.

I knew of my brother's place, but know nothing of his mariyng yett.

My service to your brother. I am sorry all thinges, should not answear both your desires.

You have perfectly the good wishes of,

Your humble servant,


[Langton in Lincolneshire] Feb. 18, 1686|7.

Service to my lady Long. Whye doe you tell us no newes? Does not Mrs. Mason's mar...."