Classic Poetry from Passions in Poetry
Sir Philip Sidney 1554 - 1586
English poet, courtier, patron of poets and scholars. One of the great literary figures of Elizabethan England, his heroic prose romance, the Arcadia (1580, revised 1584) was the most important work of prose fiction in sixteenth-century England. He wrote the first great Elizabethan sonnet cycles, Astrophil and Stella (1582), a sequence of one hundred and eight sonnets and eleven songs which explore the mind of the lover. His Defense of Poesie (1589) was the finest work of Elizabethan literary criticism. His successful experiments and technique influenced many other Renaissance poets like Spenser, Campion, Drayton and Jonson.
Sir Philip Sidney was born at Penshurst Place, Kent, eldest son of Sir Henry Sidney. He entered Shrewsbury School in 1564 on the same day as Fulke Greville, his friend and biographer. After attending Christ Church, Oxford (1568-72), he travelled in Europe where for three years he perfected his knowledge of Latin, French and Italian. In 1577, aged twenty-two, he was sent as ambassador to the German Emperor and the Prince of Orange. His strong Protestant sympathies made him advise Elizabeth I in a private letter (1579) against marrying the Duke of Anjou, Roman Catholic heir to the French throne. He was knighted in 1583 and became Member of Parliament for Kent in 1581 and 1584-85. In 1585 he was appointed joint master of the ordnance, the office in charge of the country's military supplies. A patron of scholars, his wide range of interests accounted for the dedication to him of over forty works of various disciplines. The best-known poet to enjoy his patronage was Spenser who dedicated his Shepherd's Calendar to him. Avoiding commercialism, he did not publish his works in his lifetime. He was fighting against the Spaniards in the Netherlands when he received a wound which eventually killed him at the age of thirty-two. All England mourned this courtier and statesman who had embodied the Elizabethan ideal of virtue.