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Writing as socio-political commitment. Sir Philip Sidney’s alternative

Dirk Weidmann

Résumés

Le présent article révèle à l’aide d’un exemple de la vie de Sir Philip Sidney que l’acte d’écrire constitue une alternative nécessaire par rapport à l’action concrète. À cette fin, l’analyse se réfère aux explications possibles du changement important dans la vie de Sidney qui s’est produit surtout entre les années 1578 et 1580 : Conformément à la couche sociale de sa famille, Sidney a reçu une bonne éducation qui l’a qualifié pour un emploi dans la fonction publique d’une importance capitale. Contrairement à son attente et aussi à son grand regret, on ne lui a pas confié immédiatement la charge d’accomplir des tâches primordiales après qu’il avait terminé sa formation. Néanmoins, le jeune courtisan Sidney voulait satisfaire aux conditions d’une vita activa qu’il considérait comme la meilleure façon de réaliser une vie qui se conforme aux valeurs humanistes. Pour atteindre son objectif et pour exprimer ses convictions politico-sociales, Sidney a développé un cadre pour des activités vertueuses, dans lequel il a mis l’accent sur la production des textes littéraires. L’exposé met aussi en valeur l’importance d‘un biographisme critique qui est indispensable pour la meilleure compréhension.

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I am particularly grateful to Karolin Schmitt-Weidmann (Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin) for her critical comments on earlier drafts of this article. Moreover, I am indebted to Anne-Marie Miller-Blaise (University of Paris IV-Sorbonne) for her careful perusal, Dr Yael Sela-Teichler (Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin) for her initial reading of the document, and Ann-Kathrin Spuling who kindly agreed to translate the abstract into French. Finally, I would like to thank the editors of this journal for preparing the final version of the article.

  • 1 Steuart A. Pears, The Correspondence of Sir Philip Sidney and Hubert Languet, London, William Picke (...)

1On September 24th, 1580, Hubert Languet wrote a letter to his young protégé Philip Sidney in which he meditated on a situation he perceived as alarming: he informed Sidney that some of their common friends were “astonished that you find pleasure in your long retirement.”1 Languet continued to describe their line of argumentation:

  • 2 Ibid.

[...] they think you ought very carefully to reflect whether it is consistent with your character to remain so long concealed. They fear that those who do not so well know your constancy may suspect that you are tired of that toilsome path which leads to virtue, which you formerly pursued with so much earnestness. They are fearful too, that the sweetness of your lengthened retirements may somewhat relax the vigorous energy with which you used to rise to noble undertakings, and a love of ease, which you once despised, creep by degrees over your spirit.2

  • 3 Ibid., p. 183.
  • 4 Ibid., p. 185.
  • 5 Ibid.

2In general, Languet himself seemed not to share the emotional turmoil of Sidney’s friends since in the same letter he remained convinced that “[...] even if the common herd should entertain false suspicions of you, you could at any time easily wipe them away.”3 And just as if reassuring himself that his appraisal had to be accurate, Languet immediately started to recollect both the merits of Sidney’s distinguished character as well as his previous diplomatic achievements. However, Languet worriedly perceived what he called “a sort of cloud over your fortunes”4 and felt compelled to admonish Sidney to carefully reconsider his future behaviour: “Consider well, I entreat you, how far it is honourable to you to lurk where you are, whilst your country is imploring the aid and support of her sons.”5

3Readers who have been tracing the Sidney-Languet correspondence up to that point might be irritated to encounter a Philip Sidney who by this time appeared to be rather passive, secluded, and perhaps even lazy. Confusions of this kind may arise from the observation that Sidney had always seemed to be bursting with energy while showing a thirst for action, so that his older friend and advisor Languet usually acted as a break rather than as an engine. The following excerpt from a letter, which Languet penned in order to disabuse Sidney of his deliberations to take part in a hazardous expedition to some islands that had been discovered by the English seaman Sir Martin Frobisher, may serve as an example of Philip’s unremitting zest for action:

  • 6 Ibid., p. 126-127. Roger Kuin, however, does not share Languet’s sentiments according to which Sidn (...)

And if the vain hope of finding a passage which Frobisher entertained had power then to tempt your mind so greatly, what will not these golden mountains effect, or rather these islands all of gold which I dare to say stand before your mind’s eye day and night? Beware I entreat you, and do not let the cursed hunger after gold which the Poet speaks of, creep over that spirit of yours, into which nothing has hitherto been admitted but the love of goodness, and the desire of earning the good will of all men. [...] What is the object of all this? you will say. That if these islands have fixed themselves deeply in your thoughts, you may turn them out before they overcome you, and may keep yourself to serve your friends and your country in a better way.6

  • 7 Katherine Duncan-Jones, Sir Philip Sidney. Courtier Poet, New Haven and London, Yale University Pre (...)
  • 8 See Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 95-96, 112, 138.

4Indeed, one has to admit that after Sidney had returned to England in 1575 from what Katherine Duncan-Jones calls his “Grand Tour”7 to Europe, Languet had once in a while complained to Sidney for writing quite irregularly to him.8 But the letter cited at the beginning of this article opened up a new dimension of rebuke, since Sidney’s so-called “long retirement” had reportedly unsettled several influential people and therefore wagered his reputation. His friends started to cast doubt on Sidney’s principles and his volition to participate in important political discussions. Obviously, at a crucial point of his upcoming political career, Sidney’s chance to get into a good position for future tasks at a diplomatic level was at stake.

  • 9 Ibid., p. 202.
  • 10 See Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. x.

5As a starting point for this article, I will attempt to explain Sidney’s “retirement” which – at least to a certain extent – seems to be symptomatic of a period in Philip Sidney’s life he described as “my melancholy times.”9 In order to approach possible reasons for his behaviour, I shall first of all focus on the outward life of Sidney by pointing at selected events and persons that had strong formative effects on his actions and decisions from his adolescence onwards. Readers will discover a complex interweaving of social conventions, networks, and demands that on the one hand enabled Sidney to foster his career, but on the other hand contributed to his personal crisis around 1580. After having thus dealt with his social environment, I will seek to examine possible impacts on Sidney’s inward processes by exploring several written testimonials which indicate strong emotions as well as a deep sense of self-reflexivity concerning certain events of his life. Due to the fact that deliberations concerning Sidney’s public career are only reflected indirectly in his major literary works, as, for instance, Katherine Duncan-Jones has accurately pointed out,10 the documents of choice will predominantly cover the correspondence between Sidney and Languet, even though other letters and documents of Sidney’s contemporaries will be taken into account as well.

  • 11 Ibid.

6Findings from these preliminary considerations will give rise to the main issue of my investigation which suggests that during his “long retirement” around 1580, the young courtier was constantly developing what I will term an “action alternative”. Here, it will be necessary to delve into the question of whether Sidney ascribed a special function to poetry, for instance the conveyance of political or socio-cultural messages. If so, this prompts a second most interesting question: could the act of writing potentially serve as a compensation measure for Sidney after he had withdrawn from courtly affairs and, as a consequence, after he had abandoned the chance to directly shape society through his own political action and influence at Court? Considerations of this nature might contribute to bridge the gap between his “outward and inward lives”11 and, on an additional level, inevitably pose the question of the role of a writer in a modern society.

  • 12 See Umberto Eco, Die Grenzen der Interpretation, München, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 2004, p. 35 (...)
  • 13 See, for instance, Errol Warwick Slinn, “Poetry and Culture: Performativity and Critique”, New Lite (...)
  • 14 See Wolfgang Iser, Die Appellstruktur der Texte, Konstanz, Universitätsverlag, 1970, p. 33-35. Iser (...)

7An author, I hold, owing to his unique socialisation, is always sensible to particular topics; he is, in one sense, almost beaconed towards these matters as if an inner compass would point him in the right direction. In line with this assumption, it is worth keeping an eye on the author’s biography in order to approach a sound interpretation of literary texts. I am aware of the fact that almost all of the instances of an author’s life can only be evaluated a posteriori so that several difficulties stem from this method: there is, for instance, always the risk of misinterpreting certain aspects, especially the most striking ones. Moreover, I am fully aware of the importance of the text as an artistic entity – and I cannot deny an element of sympathy for Umberto Eco’s case for an independent intentio operis12 as well as for the possibility of l’art pour l’art. Finally, I do not deny in particular that any poetic act requires an act of reading and therefore calls for recipients who attribute meaning to texts.13 Of course, their interpretations of passages in the texts may again vary depending on their individual life experience, knowledge, and aesthetic preferences, as, for instance, Wolfgang Iser has pointed out.14 Valuing all three basic reference points that are equally effective in most cases of textual studies, that is the author, the text, and the reader, literary scholars (and recipients in general) should not neglect what I would call “moderate biographism” in order to clarify whether a passage is to a certain extent rooted in reality. Almost certainly, this method cannot (and perhaps even should not) lead to an all-encompassing record of an author’s existence. However, a careful approach towards the life and (historical) surroundings of authors does help scholars to explain at least some of the specific deflections of the magnetic needle of each one’s inner compass.

  • 15 See Michael G. Brennan, The Sidneys of Penshurst and the Monarchy, 1500-1700, Aldershot and Burling (...)
  • 16 Malcom William Wallace, The Life of Sir Philip Sidney, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010, (...)
  • 17 See Michael G. Brennan, op. cit., p. 2.
  • 18 See, for instance, Malcom William Wallace, op. cit., p. 1; Michael G. Brennan, op. cit., p. 2; Mich (...)
  • 19 See Matthew Woodcock, Sir Philip Sidney and the Sidney Circle, Tavistock, Northcote House Publ., 20 (...)

8Against this theoretical backdrop, I shall begin my analysis by embarking on the social as well as personal context of Sidney’s “crisis”. In order to get an idea of his situation, it seems to be reasonable to begin by assuming that Sidney’s ancestry had predetermined most parts of his education and life style. Between 1500 and 1700 roughly, several members of the Sidney-family held central positions at Court, thereby increasing the family’s importance and authority. Michael G. Brennan points out that besides the Sidneys there were only few families who in retrospect might have been as influential as the Sidneys were.15 Even though the Sidneys are said to trace “their descent in unbroken male succession from the time of King Stephen or Henry II,”16 Brennan accurately ascribed the family’s rising fortune to the achievements of Sir William Sidney, who was the paternal grandfather of Sir Philip Sidney.17 According to various sources,18 Sir William officiated as a naval commander and was involved in important combat operations during the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Probably due to his military success, he was soon among the King’s men of confidence and was finally entrusted with the education of Prince Edward, the only son of King Henry VIII. Since Sir William’s own son Henry Sidney was only a few years older than Edward, he soon became the henchman of the young Prince, thereby strengthening the close connections between the Court and the Sidney-family. In adulthood, Philip’s father Henry finally advanced to the position of a counsellor and was therefore one of King Edward’s closest confidants. As a result, several prestigious tasks were commissioned to him, culminating in the position of Lord Deputy Governor of Ireland.19 Therefore, both Henry’s as well as William’s commitments at Court adumbrated their efforts to enhance the social situation of their family.

  • 20 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 44. The second part of this quote refers to the older Philip a (...)

9Bearing in mind the variety of tasks of which Philip’s immediate ancestors were in charge, one can easily imagine that Philip’s parents longed to see their offspring follow in their footsteps by serving the monarch. Hence, young Philip had to face the high hopes his family had for him, and it was probably early in his life that he realized that it would fall to him to control the fate of this ambitious family. In her biography of Philip Sidney, Katherine Duncan-Jones comes straight to the point when she expounds the starting position of Philip’s life: “Much was expected of [Philip] Sidney, and he expected much.”20 This short sentence suggests that the young Philip was to develop a certain attitude towards his upcoming life: he certainly assumed that for him a straightforward and glorious career was imminent due to his noble ancestors. His hopes were nourished at regular intervals when several advisers like his parents, teachers, relatives, and friends encouraged him to act according to what was expected from a future courtier. As proof of these frequently voiced expectations, we can refer to a passage taken from an undated letter that Henry Sidney wrote to his son:

  • 21 Samuel Butler, Sidneiana. Being a collection of Fragments relative to Sir Philip Sidney Knt. and hi (...)

Study and endeuvour your selfe to be vertuously occupied, so shall you make such an habite of well doing in you, as you shall not know how to do euill though you would: Remember my Sonne the Noble bloud you are discended of by your mothers side, & thinke that only by vertuous life and good action, you may be an ornament to that ylustre family, and otherwise through vice & sloth you may be accompted Labes generis, a spot of your kin, one of the greatest cursses that can happen to man.21

  • 22 Arthur T. Eliot, The Book Named The Governour. Devised by Sir Thomas Elyot, Knt., London, Ridgway a (...)
  • 23 Malcom William Wallace, quoted in Albert C. Hamilton, Sir Philip Sidney. A Study of his Life and Wo (...)
  • 24 Sir Henry Sidney, quoted in Berta Siebeck, Das Bild Sir Philip Sidneys in der Englischen Renaissanc (...)

10Unfortunately, almost nothing is known about the private library of Sir Henry Sidney so that we cannot tell for sure on what pedagogical principles and theories Philip’s education might have been based. Nonetheless, it seems reasonable to suppose that Sir Thomas Elyot’s work The Book Named the Governor, in those times one of the leading treatises on bringing up children, might have been available for Henry Sidney, not least because of William Sidney’s already mentioned involvement in the education of Prince Edward. Given the fact that Elyot’s work would have served as a basis for Henry Sidney’s education of Philip, the young boy would have been trained to “be found worthy and also able to be governor of a Public Weal.”22 In essence, this short passage corresponds to Henry Sidney’s attitude towards public service which can be described best as a service for the benefit of a public weal acted out of conviction. Malcom Wallace enunciated the fact as follows: “[It was] his engrossing conviction that only in disinterested service for prince and country could a man find a worthy end toward the achieving to which he could bend the whole of his energies.”23 In Henry Sidney’s letters to Philip, we finally find evidence that the father desired to pass this conviction of his on to his son since Henry clearly explained that public service “[is] the profession of life that you are born to live in.”24 Philip, in turn, had obviously internalised his father’s credo when in 1579 he strove to persuade his younger brother Robert to aim at the same goal while undertaking an educational tour:

  • 25 Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 195-196. Here, Philip also elucidates two kinds of knowledge he perc (...)

But I presume so well of you, that though a great number of us never thought in ourselves why we went [away on a journey, D.W.], but a certain tickling humour to do as other men had done, your purpose, being a gentleman born, to furnish yourself with a knowledge of such things as may be serviceable for your country and calling, which certainly stands not in the change of air, for the warmest sun makes not a wise man; [...] but in the right informing your mind with those things which are most notable in those places which you come unto.25

  • 26 For the “Wars of the Roses”, see Christine Carpenter, The Wars of the Roses. Politics and the Const (...)
  • 27 See Claus Uhlig, “Humanism”, in Thomas O. Sloane (ed.), Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, Oxford, Oxford Un (...)
  • 28 See Eckhard Keßler, Die Philosophie der Renaissance. Das 15. Jahrhundert, München, C. H. Beck, 2008 (...)
  • 29 Margaret L. King, The Renaissance in Europe, London, Laurence King, 2003, p. 90.
  • 30 See Claus Uhlig, “Die Dichtung der englischen Renaissance”, in Ludwig Borinski and Claus Uhlig, Lit (...)
  • 31 See Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 25.

11In my point of view, the vigorous efforts of Henry Sidney to draw the attention of his son to a virtuous life and a devoting service to his country seem to be in line with the principles of Humanism. In the aftermath of the Wars of the Roses, which had been conducted in several non-continuous episodes between 1455 and 1485,26 Humanism rose to the position of the predominant intellectual movement of 16th century England.27 Most importantly, the medieval concept of a rather passive vita contemplativa was substituted by a vita activa which suggested a more active and participating role of human beings within their society.28 When analysing Margaret King’s description of the ideal man as seen by humanists, we may detect striking parallels with Henry Sidney’s image of perfection: “[This ideal] was a man of affairs, who combined intellectual with practical insights, and could therefore bring his knowledge of deep matters to bear upon the life of the community.”29 One of the distinctive features of Humanism, then, was the assumption that a close study of languages, including the formal aesthetic imitation of certain classics, was the key to further intellectual activities and to a successful preparation for life.30 It is no wonder, then, if the young Philip had only just learnt to read English when his parents hired a religious refugee from France who acted as private tutor to Philip, giving him his first French lessons.31

  • 32 See Matthew Woodcock, op. cit., p. 3.
  • 33 In her essay, Alice Friedman has convincingly shown that not all children had equal access to (high (...)
  • 34 See Ann Moss, “Humanist education”, in Glyn P. Norton (ed.), The Cambridge History of Literary Crit (...)
  • 35 Albert C. Hamilton, “Sidney’s Humanism”, in Michael J. B. Allen, Dominic Baker-Smith, Arthur F. Kin (...)
  • 36 See Paul Salzman, “Theories of Prose Fiction in England: 1558-1700”, in Glyn P. Norton (ed.), The C (...)
  • 37 See Willi Erzgräber, “Humanismus und Renaissance in England im 16. Jahrhundert”, in Stiftung Humani (...)

12Soon after this early contact with a language other than English, Philip started to attend Shrewsbury School in 1564 before he enrolled for courses at Oxford University in 1568.32 After having acquired basic language skills in both Latin and Greek, a new dimension was attributed to his studies: similar to other upper class boys,33 Philip had to deal thoroughly with a vast amount of literary texts in order to enhance his education. In the humanist curricula, the engagement in ancient literature was of particular importance because humanists spotted a hidden, yet important didactic potential in these classical texts. According to most 16th century teachers, literature contains the whole encyclopaedia of learning.34 Furthermore, these scholars maintained that by means of studying the exemplary nature of certain fictional characters “readers who see its [i.e. poetry’s, D.W.] images of virtues and vices will be moved to follow virtue and to shun vice – and will not get the two confused.”35 Therefore, the emphasis was not on accumulating pure knowledge with little or no relation to life. Rather, the main purpose of deep reading was to detect practical suggestions for everyday life, that is to turn the content of the text to a personal advantage or public benefit. That is also the reason why prose fiction was regarded as eminently suitable for the purpose of moral teaching and gained importance throughout the Renaissance period in England.36 Finally, with respect to contemporary literary works of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century England, Willi Erzgräber points out that the constant engagement in Greek and Roman literature led to a gradual reformation of the English literary tradition: English as well as Graeco-Roman elements started to overlap each other until a complex synthesis emerged during the reign of Queen Elizabeth when Shakespeare and his contemporaries offered the literary artefact which best expressed this fusion.37

  • 38 As a reference for this statement, we can point to the following quote which is taken from a letter (...)

13In his article, Erzgräber lays further emphasis on the fact that the fusion of English and Graeco-Roman styles could best be described as a process including the three steps of assimilation, adaptation, and adoption. Even though he is probably right in hypothesising these processes of literary interaction, he unfortunately does not offer a deeper analysis of the nexus between these three stadia. Moreover, and in my point of view even more importantly, Erzgräber arrives at an aesthetic conflict when he calls the assimilation of classical texts the most effective expression of a literary artefact. From the perspective of an artist, a pure assimilation of a source is not desirable, and writers usually strive for the creation of something unique and meaningful, too. They do not want to be repetitive, especially when taking already existing models as sources of inspiration. This is especially the case with Philip Sidney who would not have been contented to devote himself to the mere analysis and imitation of other writers’ messages and styles. On the contrary, he perceived a severe misbalance between the analysis and the interpretation of literary texts when he attended classes at Oxford University. During his academic training, Sidney would have loved to spend more time on the interpretation of texts as well as on finding points of contact with reality and, conversely, less time on pure word analyses in order to imitate the style of classical writers.38 I will make Philip’s notion of the basic possibilities and aims of literature a subject of a more comprehensive discussion later in order to point out its significance for the development of his alternative for action. As for the moment, however, it should be sufficient to realize that around 1580 Philip was adhering to the humanist zeitgeist according to which the engagement in proper literature should have a formative effect on the thoughts and actions of a person.

14Summing up the aspects I have pointed out so far, we can conclude that Philip was prepared to take up employments at Court in order to continue the family tradition of service to the monarchs. This implies not only the fact that Philip had to memorize and obey the rules of courtesy at an early age, but also that he was trained and educated according to the distinguished principles of Humanism. Especially his father seemed to convey to him the notion that public service offers ample opportunity for improving the public weal – a perspective which again reminds the reader of central aspects of Humanism, and especially the concept of a vita activa. Therefore, Philip’s years at school and university turned out to be formative years, not least because of his humanist teachers who raised his awareness for literature. Subsequently, the engagement in classical literature frequently served as an important stimulus for the young student. By presenting a plethora of virtuous and vicious behaviours as well as their consequences for both the individual person and his surroundings, literary texts were thought to expose positive character traits and actions. Being determined by these theories, Philip’s understanding of both the aims and methods of learning was strongly influenced by these concepts which contributed shape his future mindset.

  • 39 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 55.
  • 40 Matthew Woodcock, op. cit., p. 3. For a brief outline of Languet’s biography, see Katherine Duncan- (...)
  • 41 Roger Kuin has pointed out why the Sidney-Languet correspondence has always fascinated scholars. In (...)

15After having graduated, Philip Sidney opened a new chapter in his life by absenting himself from his parents’ sphere of influence when he undertook an educational tour to continental Europe. The Queen signed the official passport on May 25th, 1572 – “it gave him permission to travel overseas for two years, ‘for his attaining to the knowledge of foreign languages’ [...].”39 Apart from visiting famous places, Philip established new and valuable contacts with well-known Protestants and renowned aristocrats in diverse countries. During his travels, he got to know Hubert Languet, “the respected Burgundian scholar, diplomat and convert to Protestantism,”40 with whom he frequently corresponded by letter from that time onwards.41 The special influence Hubert Languet had on Philip Sidney’s further development is perspicuously described by Katherine Duncan-Jones:

  • 42 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 62.

Languet was to preside genially and protectively over Sidney’s career for the next ten years, extending the limited political horizons offered by his previous ‘Dutch uncles’ with his deep knowledge of the affairs of Europe. [...] Though Sidney often felt stifled and irritated by Languet’s emotional demands, he may initially have found his intensely expressed affection and solicitude much more congenial than the severe and patronizing exhortations of his father and uncles. By the autumn of 1572, [...] he was in for a long spell of the kind of relationship to which he was most accustomed, with a new father-figure who was determined to do all he could to put a wise head on his young shoulders.42

16Because of the comparatively well-preserved correspondence between Sidney and Languet in which a wide range of topics was under discussion, researchers are in the happy position of being able to reconstruct important parts of Philip Sidney’s life. Since these letters provide a valuable insight into both the inner and outer world of Philip Sidney between 1573 and 1581 – that is an insight into his thoughts, feelings, and deeds –, they will serve as a key source of the investigations in this article’s main part.

  • 43 Ibid., p. 84.
  • 44 Ibid., p. 85.
  • 45 Ibid.
  • 46 Berta Siebeck, op. cit., p. 6.
  • 47 See Jan van Dorsten, Poets, Patrons, and Professors. Sir Philip Sidney, Daniel Rogers, and the Leid (...)
  • 48 Languet openly admitted that his aim was to turn Philip into a statesman who would further espouse (...)
  • 49 See, for instance, Languet’s letters to Philip, printed in Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 6, 73, 85 (...)

17When Sidney returned from his Grand Tour in June 1575, he had undergone a physical as well as psychological metamorphosis. Not only did he look “remarkably different from the spotty seventeen-year-old”43, with “his speech and manners [...] transformed, enriched by many new words, aphorisms and social flourishes,”44 but, more importantly for the development of this article, he had further increased his self-confidence since he had had the chance to meet leading figures of politics and clergy. Therefore, Katherine Duncan-Jones is right in concluding that “his bearing was that of a young princeling, accustomed to being treated with respect and affection by eminent scholars and statesmen.”45 In this context, he benefitted from his acquaintance with Hubert Languet who willingly introduced Philip to members of his social circle. Languet as well as others had presumably overrated Philip’s true rank in English society: the official title which Sir Henry Sidney held during his service in Ireland comprised the Latin phrase “prorex Hiberniae”,46 and many continental Europeans falsely equated the Latin noun “prorex” with “monarch”, thereby assuming that Philip was the son of a king. This title being more than mere protocol, as Jan van Dorsten has convincingly substantiated before,47 Philip was able to communicate with the princes of continental Europe on equal terms and was consequently treated with enormous respect since his interlocutors certainly hoped to benefit from their acquaintanceship.48 Nonetheless, both his conduct of life and virtuous character, which were praised several times by Hubert Languet and others,49 also contributed immensely to the polite reception of Philip in these noble circles.

  • 50 See James M. Osborn, Young Philip Sidney, 1572-1577, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1 (...)
  • 51 Berta Siebeck, op. cit., p. 12. “He [i.e. Philip] was the son of the indispensable, yet too autonom (...)

18With that said, we can imagine that on his return to England Philip started his life at Court from the premise that several important tasks would soon be commissioned to him due to the valuable contacts he had established during his journey. His hope was probably also nourished by an immediate invitation to accompany the Court on Queen Elizabeth’s “summer progress”, that means to be part of the privileged who were present at her route from one great house to another.50 When the summer season had ceased, it must have been all the more surprising for Philip not to receive any further preferential treatment from the Queen. Berta Siebeck suggests that the Queen probably associated two main faults with the otherwise quite talented Sidney: “Er [i.e. Philip, D.W.] war der Sohn des zwar unentbehrlichen, aber zu selbständigen Lord Deputy of Ireland, und er war auf einem extrem protestantischen Weg begriffen.”51 The two reasons mentioned in this sentence are in need of further explanation. The first one alludes to Sir Henry Sidney’s moderate success in Ireland inasmuch as he did not manage to bring the country back on a winning track. In 1569, for instance, parts of the country were in serious danger of descending into chaos:

  • 52 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 49.

Supporters of the imprisoned Fitzgeralds [...] conducted a large-scale rebellion against English rule, which Sir Henry tried to quell with a succession of tribunals and executions in the course of his progress through the country. [...] All classes of Irish society resented his policies, and he found little support or comfort in the members of the Irish Council, the body which administered English rule [...].52

  • 53 Ibid., p. 88.
  • 54 See Ibid., p. 89.

19Therefore, it is probably no wonder that at the beginning of the 1570s Henry Sidney has fallen into disrepute at Court. In January 1571, his brother-in-law finally succeeded him as Lord Deputy of Ireland, while Henry defiantly maintained that he would be able “to ‘manage’ Ireland, both militarily and economically, if only he could be given adequate resources.”53 In addition to his vigorous, yet hapless efforts in Ireland, rumours were spread about him, motivating the Queen’s growing scepticism towards Philip’s father. According to hearsay, Henry was said to be a Catholic in secret, as had allegedly been confessed by King Philip II of Spain.54 Due to family ties, Philip was henceforth inevitably subject to suspicion too.

  • 55 Fred J. Levy, “Philip Sidney Reconsidered”, in Arthur F. Kinney (ed.), Sidney in Retrospect: Select (...)
  • 56 Peter I. Kaufman, for instance, has hinted at the heterogeneity of Elizabethan Protestants. See Pet (...)
  • 57 I would consent to Edward Berry’s statement according to which Sidney’s political position stems to (...)
  • 58 Fred J. Levy, op. cit., p. 6.

20The second of Siebeck’s reasons paradoxically addresses the Queen’s reserved attitude towards Philip’s strong affiliations with prominent figures of Protestantism. Probably, Siebeck had in mind figures like William I of Orange who was a leader of the Dutch revolt against the Spanish rule and for whose cause Philip had campaigned. Nonetheless, William’s plea for military assistance was not obliged by the Queen for strategic reasons since she feared to cause open hostilities with Spain. The Queen was “perfectly willing to promote Protestantism at home but had no desire to act as the leader, and paymistress, of every Protestant state in Europe.”55 Sharing Hubert Languet’s trust in Protestantism,56 Philip took up a different position in this matter and championed England as the leading country in the flourishing struggle between Reformation and Counter-Reformation.57 However, as a courtier, he had no real power base and came into conflict “not only with a large number of the members of an earlier generation [...] but with the Queen herself.”58

21In addition to his close contacts with the Protestant intelligentsia, though, one should bear in mind that Sidney had also established amicable contacts with several Catholics during his Grand Tour – a fact that is mentioned by Hubert Languet who once warned his protégé that his religious contacts had aroused suspicion:

  • 59 Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 92. In his book, Alan Stewart hints at the possibility that Sidney “ (...)

Two days after your departure our friend Wotton came to us, bringing me a letter full of kindness from Master Walsyngham. I see that your friends have begun to suspect you on the score of religion, because at Venice you were so intimate with those who profess a different creed from your own. I will write to Master Walsyngham on this subject, and if he has entertained such a thought about you, I will do what I can to remove it; and I hope my letter will have sufficient weight with him not only to make him believe what I shall say of you, but also endeavour to convince others of the same.59

22Obviously, Philip Sidney’s commitment to Protestantism is much more pronounced than his connections to Catholics. All the same, it seems advisable not to exclusively refer the Queen’s religious distrust to what Siebeck in the above-cited sentence has termed Philip’s extreme Protestant way. In my estimation, scholars should not show complete disregard for the possibility that the monarch might have been dubious about how to assess a person who had quite unusually found pleasure in extensive conversations with proponents of both Catholicism and Protestantism. This might have been a good index for the Queen that Philip’s character could be double-minded and unpredictable, accounting for her decision not to allocate any responsibilities to him. It thus seems that the explanation offered by Siebeck falls short, so that I shall now briefly refer to two more incidents which – among others – may have led to increase the Queen’s suspicion towards Philip.

  • 60 See Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 120.
  • 61 James M. Osborn, op. cit., p. 494.
  • 62 See Ibid., p. 493-495.
  • 63 See Ibid., p. 467.
  • 64 Richard Wilson, Secret Shakespeare. Studies in Theater, Religion and Resistance, Manchester, Manche (...)

23First, in February 1577, Philip was given the opportunity to stand a diplomatic test when he was appointed as ambassador for carrying the Queen’s condolences to the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II for the death of his father.60 When he returned home, the Queen and her Council were quite impressed with Sidney’s success at ambassadorial level, so that “he appeared at Court in triumph from an embassy which would have crowned the career of a diplomat twice his age.”61 However, he was certainly not aware that, although he had very successfully executed her orders,62 he had dallied with Her Majesty’s trust during the journey. While staying in Prague, he seized the chance to meet Edmund Campion, an English member of the Society of Jesus.63 Obviously, this appointment was not authorised by his superiors since “Sir Philip was afraid of spies set and sent about him by the English Council.”64 After their appointment, Campion wrote to his tutor:

  • 65 James M. Osborn, op. cit., p. 467-468.

He [i.e. Philip Sidney] had much conversation with me, I hope not in vain, for to all appearance he was most eager. [...] If this young man, so wonderfully beloved and admired by his countrymen, chances to be converted, he will astonish his noble father, the Deputy of Ireland, his uncles the Dudleys, and all the young courtiers [...]. Let it be a secret.65

  • 66 Ibid., p. 467.
  • 67 See Richard Simpson, Edmund Campion. A Biography, London, John Hodges, 1896, p. 115. Simpson offers (...)
  • 68 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 135.

24We should be suspicious of Campion’s assessment according to which the eager Protestant Philip Sidney had really considered the possibility to catholicise: to me, it appears to be advisable to follow James Osborn’s interpretation according to which “[...] Sidney was so tactful that Campion did not realise that, though enthralled by his performance, his listener was unconvinced by it.”66 Independently of the exact results of this meeting, however, Her Majesty could have been informed about Sidney’s secret meeting with Campion, either by her own spies or by propaganda stimulated by Campion’s above-cited letter. Whether this meeting was really the decisive factor for the Queen’s reluctance to assign important tasks to Philip, as Richard Simpson has proposed,67 remains undecided. But the story could potentially provide evidence that Philip sometimes preferred to play a lone hand and tended to be unwilling to wait for the monarch’s assents. Therefore, I would agree with Katherine Duncan-Jones who favours the opinion that with respect to entrusting Philip, “the Campion episode would give her [i.e. the Queen] good reason to hesitate.”68

  • 69 Ibid., p. 153.

25The second argument which could be conducive to the understanding of the Queen’s treatment of Philip occurs in the context of his occasionally aggressive behaviour towards other people, especially towards members of the Court. It was in May 1578, for instance, when Philip – while he was hoping for a military mission in the Netherlands – penned the following “savagely threatening letter”69 to his father’s secretary, Edmund Molyneux:

  • 70 Albert Feuillerat, The Prose Works of Sir Philip Sidney, in Four Volumes. Vol. III: The Defence of (...)

Mr Mollineax, few woordes are beste. My lettres to my Father have come to the eys of some. Neither can I condemne any but yow for it. [...] For that is to come, I assure yow before God that if ever I know yow do so muche as reede any lettre I wryte to my Father, without his commandement, or my consente, I will thruste my Dagger into yow. And truste to it, for I speake it in earnest. In the meane time farwell.70

  • 71 See Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 153.
  • 72 For some critical remarks on Greville’s descriptions, see Ibid., p. 165.

26The Queen refused to accept any discord and duelling within the Royal Court, so that “she must have felt grave misgivings about letting someone so explosive loose in the Netherlands.”71 The year 1579, finally, saw another incident on a tennis court that certainly reinforced the ruler’s perception of Philip’s rather quick-tempered character. Philip’s friend Fulke Greville offers a detailed, yet not totally factual description of the situation:72

  • 73 Nowell Smith, Sir Fulke Greville’s ‘Life of Sir Philip Sidney’, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1907, p. 6 (...)

[The Earl of Oxford], born great, greater by alliance, and superlative in the Prince’s favour, abruptly came into the Tennis-Court; [and] the lesse amazement, or confusion of thoughts he stirred up in Sir Philip, the more shadowes this great Lord’s own mind was possessed with: till at last with rage (which is ever ill-disciplin’d) he commands them [i.e. Sidney and his companions, D.W.] to depart the Court. To this Sir Philip temperately answers; that if his lordship had been pleased to express desire in milder Characters, perchance he might have led out those, that he should now find would not be driven out with any scourge of fury. This answer (like a Bellows) blowing up the sparks of excess already kindled, made my Lord scornfully call Sir Philip by the name of a Puppy. In which progress of heat, as the tempest grew more and more vehement within, so did their hearts breath out their perturbations in a more loud and shrill accent. [Sir Philip uttered that] all the world knows, Puppies are gotten by dogs, and Children by men. [After a pause,] Sir Philip [...] with some words of sharp accent, led the way abruptly out of the Tennis-Court; as if so unexpected an accident were not fit do be decided any farther in that place.73

  • 74 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 165.

27One day later, Philip had obviously decided for a way to sort out this matter since he had somebody deliver a challenge to the Earl of Oxford. It seems as if it was only due to the Queen’s quick intervention that the duel was prevented. She reminded Sidney of the fact that inferiors owe respect to their superiors, and whatever Philip might have replied to her, “there is no doubt that she [...] showed her preference for Oxford.”74 Even though potentially provoked by his rival, Philip had again revealed a blameful pattern of behaviour and thereby probably obstructed the further development of his career.

  • 75 Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespearean Negotiations. The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance Eng (...)
  • 76 Michael G. Brennan, op. cit., p. 4.

28We have seen so far that a substantial body of evidence was available which could immediately suggest that Philip was untrustworthy and unpredictable; in short that he should not be the Queen’s first choice for positions of trust. Conversely, Sidney did not realise that he had probably already disqualified himself due to several actions he had carried out on his own authority. In addition to his predisposition to anger, he was also associated with his father Henry who was haplessly operating in Ireland and of whom the Queen did not want to be reminded. However, the Queen’s hesitation might have been the result of a not uncommon policy which Stephen Greenblatt described as follows: “The ruling élite believed that a measure of insecurity and fear was a necessary, healthy element in the shaping of proper loyalties, and Elizabethan and Jacobean institutions deliberately evoked this insecurity.”75 Thus, the way Philip’s future status at Court was deliberately kept open could have well been in accordance with the general practice of these days for scrutinising somebody’s devotion. Michael Brennan is probably right to conclude that “a complex web of political and personal reasons”76 contributed to Philip’s un(der)employment. The young courtier, in turn, did certainly not understand that by keeping him in suspense the Queen was constantly testing his loyalty. As a consequence, his frustration was steadily increasing while he remained in his dependency and hoped for the tasks he had been prepared to commission ever since his early childhood.

  • 77 See Neil L. Rudenstine, Sidney’s Poetic Development, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1967, (...)

29The years went by, and Philip found his inactivity increasingly oppressive.77 In a letter from March 1st, 1578 to Hubert Languet, for instance, one can find certain indications of his upcoming resignation:

  • 78 Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 143-144.

[...] The use of the pen, as you may perceive, has plainly fallen from me; and my mind itself, if it was ever active in any thing, is now beginning, by reason of my indolent ease, imperceptibly to lose its strength, and to relax without any reluctance. For to what purpose should our thoughts be directed to various kinds of knowledge, unless room be afforded for putting it into practice, so that public advantage may be the result, which in a corrupt age we cannot hope for? [...] Do you not see that I am cleverly playing the stoic? Yea and I shall be a cynic too, unless you reclaim me. Wherefore, if you please, prepare yourself to attack me. I have now pointed out the field of battle, and I openly declare war against you.78

  • 79 In his letters to Philip Sidney, Hubert Languet had warned him about these perils several times bef (...)
  • 80 Philip first encountered the importance of a sizeable fortune when he became engaged to William Cec (...)

30Even though Sidney’s choice of wording was certainly motivated by his desire to provoke Languet until the humanist was drawn into an intellectual war, we can nonetheless say that he seemed to be psychically disturbed. Obviously, he was well aware of the fact that theory was currently incompatible with practice: no “room”, that is no real chance for probation was provided by the Queen. As a consequence, he could not bring to fruition his political ideas which predominantly suggested a more active role of England in terms of supporting those Protestant countries who were threatened by Catholic states like France and Spain.79 In the passage quoted above, Sidney took monetary reasons as a basis for his state of affairs: by claiming that other people were entrusted with upcoming tasks primarily because they had arrived at a more advantageously starting position thanks to facilitation payments, he seemed not to recognize the possibility that his own behaviour might have contributed to his unsatisfactory situation. Admittedly, financial standings were of particular importance in these days,80 so that the role of money cannot be denied in the context of aspiring for an office – however, when weighing all pros and cons in personnel decisions, the interpersonal level was certainly not of little importance for Her Majesty, too.

  • 81 Neil L. Rudenstine, op. cit., p. 14.
  • 82 See Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 147-148.
  • 83 Ibid. With respect to providence, it should be noted that in a letter from June 1574 Sidney himself (...)
  • 84 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 152.

31After Philip Sidney had voiced his grievance of being redundant at Court, Languet – who principally believed that there should be no time for “retirement and idleness that sap the energies of mind and spirit”81 – answered with dry sarcasm: “Oh happy ye, who may complain of too much leisure! [...] For in so large a kingdom as England, there must always be opportunities for the exercise of your genius, so that many may derive advantage from your labours.”82 The older man did not provide a solution for the problem, but clearly indicated that Sidney should proceed with the sharpening of his natural talents, “all those splendid gifts of the mind” with which he had been adorned by Providence: “Make use then of that particle of the Divine Mind [...] which you possess [...]. And do not fear that you will rust away for want of work, if only you are willing to exert your powers.”83 Perhaps these admonishing words of his friend served as an impetus to Philip who soon dedicated himself to deeper contemplation than before. For that purpose, he secluded himself from Court and stayed at Wilton with his sister Mary, beginning “the habit of filling in odd moments with pastoral verses and metrical experiments [...].”84 Writing pastoral verses may perfectly mirror his inner feelings: since antiquity, the life of shepherds had been associated with peace and meditation, therefore being the epitome of what the Stoics used to call otium. Wilton, being a comparatively quiet and undisturbed place, allowed Sidney to devote himself to this special kind of idleness, thereby “cleverly playing the stoic,” as he had described his reinvolvement in the above-cited letter to Languet.

  • 85 See Peter Burke, “The Invention of Leisure in Early Modern Europe”, Past & Present, 146, February 1 (...)
  • 86 See William A. Laidlaw, “‘Otium’”, Greece & Rome, Second Series, 15 (1), April 1968, p. 42-52, here (...)
  • 87 Ibid, p. 42-43.
  • 88 See, for instance, Anna L. Motto and John R. Clark, “‘Hic Situs Est’: Seneca and the Deadliness of (...)
  • 89 See, exempli gratia, Platonis Opera, Vol. IV: ΠΟΛΙΤΕΙΑ, rec. Ioannes Burnet, Oxford, Oxford Univers (...)
  • 90 See also Peter Burke, op. cit., p. 139-140. Many Roman intellectuals chose to work outside the crow (...)
  • 91 See M. Tulli Ciceronis Rhetorica. Vol. I: De oratore, rec. Augustus S. Wilkins, Oxford, Oxford Univ (...)
  • 92 Anna L. Motto and John R. Clark, op. cit., p. 209. The Latin sentence is taken from Seneca’s dialog (...)
  • 93 See L. Annaei Senecae Dialogorum Libri Duodecim, Liber VIII: De otio, rec. Leighton D. Reynolds, Ox (...)
  • 94 See Ibid., V, 8: “Ergo secundum naturam uiuo si totum me illi dedi, si illius admirator cultorque s (...)
  • 95 Anna L. Motto and John R. Clark, op. cit., p. 210.

32In this context, it is important to consider what otium (“leisure”) in contrast to negotium (“occupation, employment”) had meant to the Stoics. As the complementary opposite of otium,85 the Latin word negotium bears otium in its root and literally means “non-leisure”. The notion of leisure therefore existed semantically prior to occupation, as William Laidlaw has already pointed out.86 In classical Latin, it is not uncommon for otium to bear the meaning of “time, chance, opportunity, connoting [the] absence of fear and haste.”87 Although the term is sometimes negatively connoted as “idleness,”88 ancient philosophers indicated that there can be a form of otium in which people remain mentally busy. Greek thinkers like Plato and Aristotle had pioneered the idea that the culminating point of life should be active contemplation rather than hard work.89 Later, many educated Romans still acted according to this principle: Cicero, for instance, was frequently enough willing to withdraw himself from public duties and to sojourn at his villa in Tusculum.90 He accomplished these temporary breaks out of choice in order to dedicate himself to philosophical reflection as he indicated in his treatise De oratore.91 The Stoic Seneca, however, seems to be the first Roman who championed an “admixture of otium and negotium in all intellectual enterprise.” He clearly felt “that one’s life should, at the least, incorporate healthy portions of each: ‘Natura nos ad utrumque genuit, et contemplationi rerum et actioni.’”92 According to his point of view, only those who live in accordance with nature can obtain the greatest good.93 Therefore, the adherence to both aspects of life – otium as well as negotium – appears to be essential for achieving the greatest good, so that Seneca finally promotes the equal status of both parts of life. For him, a life of contemplation equals a life of action in terms of significance.94 On a related note, however, scholars have to be aware of Seneca’s distinction between otium and ignavia (“laziness, idleness”) which is consistently employed in his works: of these two, only otium can be admitted as an appropriate contribution to achieving the greatest good. A life based on pure ignavia, in contrast, “is detestable; it causes man to hate his life; it is a deadly punishment. The Philosopher urges his fellow-men to avoid indolent or idle inaction that is comparable to a living death.”95

  • 96 This fundamental terminological distinction is contrary to Peter Burke’s statement (op. cit., p. 14 (...)
  • 97 Anna L. Motto and John R. Clark, op. cit., p. 210. Italics appear as in the original.
  • 98 Ibid. These “thoughts” of wise men refer to the quotes which can be found in the initial letters of (...)
  • 99 See again the end of Sidney’s letter to Languet as translated in Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 144 (...)

33When we decide to apply Seneca’s understanding of otium to Philip’s situation, we may reach the conclusion that the young Sidney considered this temporary withdrawal from courtly affairs as justifiable leisure (i.e. otium) in order to probe a possibility for implementing his own visions and to bring himself closer to the greatest good. His friends, quite on the contrary, perceived this behaviour of his as verging on pure laziness (i.e. ignavia).96 Probably, they would have shared the opinion of Anna L. Motto and John R. Clark who maintain that people can “forge moments of leisure and contemplation even while one is daily leading the active public life.”97 Seneca himself frequently offers these moments to his correspondent Lucilius in his Epistulae morales by thoughts and “matter quoted from great men” for Lucilius “is expected to find the time to contemplate their importance and their meaning.”98 Sidney’s argumentative aligning with the Stoics may not have explicitly enough brought to light the crucial distinction between otium and ignavia, and Languet could have easily taken up this point for a refutation of Sidney’s chain of reasoning that precedes the provocative concluding sentence of the young man’s letter99 – but there is no testimony that Languet made any use of this apparent opportunity to debunk Sidney’s arguments.

  • 100 Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 155. Since enough evidence has already been provided in this article (...)

34After this excursion in ancient terminology and philosophy, another letter from Hubert Languet reveals that the young courtier must have secluded himself from the courtly society by no later than October 1578 since Languet expressed his regret over Sidney’s decision: “I am especially sorry to hear you say that you are weary of the life to which I have no doubt God has called you, and desire to fly from the light of your court and betake yourself to the privacy of secluded places to escape the tempest of affairs by which statesmen are generally harassed.”100 For Languet, who had always fostered Sidney’s political career, the young courtier’s decision was probably hard to comprehend: now that he had been admitted to the royal household and was obviously on the verge of being entrusted with relevant tasks, it must have conveyed the impression that Philip had hastily spoiled his prospects due to a mental overflow. However, Languet did not rebuke Sidney for his decision but tried to present courtly processes more positively. In his letter, he associated the Court with a light that was metaphorically associated to values such as hope or glory. Sidney’s private place, in turn, was described as “secluded”, thereby implicitly linked to loneliness or isolation. Since Sidney was generally eager to perform deeds which were appropriate for a man of noble descent, a permanent retreat from Court would, in Languet’s point of view, minimize his chances to have at least some influence on politics and society due to a lack of contiguity to the centre of power. Hence, Languet certainly expected that his protégé would soon observe this disadvantage and would automatically return to the Court in order to patiently await his chance.

  • 101 It can indeed by argued that Sidney perceived the Court as idly standing by the conflicts in Englan (...)
  • 102 Sidney’s plans to join an expedition led by Frobisher have already been mentioned above. In additio (...)
  • 103 See Neil L. Rudenstine, op. cit., p. 12.
  • 104 Berta Siebeck, op. cit., p. 14. “By means of creative actions that finally enabled his nature to de (...)
  • 105 See, for instance, Katherine Duncan-Jones, op cit., p. 16, 144-147, 175-176.
  • 106 This assessment seems to be quite constant through the last century. See Berta Siebeck, op. cit., p (...)
  • 107 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 140.
  • 108 Dorothy Connell, Sir Philip Sidney. The Maker’s Mind, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1977, p. 91.
  • 109 Nowell Smith, op. cit., p. 15.

35As I have established in the first part of this article, Sidney had already decided to principally follow a vita activa rather than a vita contemplativa. In my interpretation, Sidney saw his present alienation from the idle Court101 as a necessary step to finally comply with his own standards. And this step necessarily implied gaining more independence: he did not want to be dependent on Her Majesty’s decisions which – in his eyes – were frequently enough subject to money, reputation, and servile flattery, and consequently seemed biased. His earlier attempts to radically emancipate himself from both the Queen and the Court had often been prevented by Languet,102 who sometimes seemed to consider his correspondent as overhasty.103 At this time, in the absence of Languet’s explicit objections, Sidney appeared to be definitely willing to free himself from the enforced idleness by the act of writing. According to Berta Siebeck, creative deeds were indispensable for him to fully unfold his distinctive qualities: “Sidney befreite sich von dem Druck der Untätigkeit durch die schöpferische Tat, in der sich sein Wesen erst vollkommen entfaltete.”104 Scholars agree on the proposition that his sister Mary Pembroke, with whom he had always had an intimate relationship,105 also acted as a special trigger for galvanising his poetic activity and as one way to implement his desired vita activa.106 By housing Sidney at Wilton, she literally provided the “room” Sidney was looking for in the above-quoted letter to Languet; and Sidney readily accepted the opportunity to absent himself from Court where he had been treated as outsider – “not taken seriously, not listened to, not given any substantial status or employment.”107 In return, Sidney expressed his gratitude to his sister by dedicating to her the first version of the Arcadia, a work subsuming many of “Sidney’s ideals, ambitions, concessions, and frustrations [...] into something more lasting”108 – and, as I would like to add, into a work that also revealed many of his political as well as moral aims. Therefore, it may be seen as a first manifestation of his absolute desire to shape England’s social and foreign policy by turning “the barren Philosophy precepts into pregnant images of life.”109

  • 110 Edward Waterhouse, Secretary of State for Ireland in 1577, praised the power of Philip Sidney’s wor (...)
  • 111 See Judith Dundas, “‘To Speak Metaphorically’: Sidney in the Subjunctive Mood”, Renaissance Quarter (...)

36From that time onwards, the young man stayed mainly in the rather rural area around Wilton, and although being at some distance from the Court, he still desired to exert influence on the Queen, her advisers, and the prominent English nobles. In order to make his voice heard, he had to rely on written language as a medium to reach the public. For Sidney, this premise turned out not to be much of a problem since he had already been praised for the use of his pen when he had publicly answered the complaints against his father’s measures in Ireland.110 However, Sidney had to use clever tactics in order to avoid either harsh personal penalties or censorship of his works because it was dangerous to openly address criticisms to Her Majesty or to the way she administered the affairs of state. In his texts, he mastered this balancing act inter alia by applying the subjunctive mood or relying on metaphors which enabled him to hedge against accusations that might establish his disloyalty to the Queen through seditious words.111 In her analysis, Judith Dundas explains Sidney’s metaphorical approach as follows:

  • 112 Ibid., p. 268.

[W]ithin the Arcadia, he exercises the utmost freedom in his use of them [i.e. metaphors, D.W.], but also signals them, so that they are clearly identified as metaphors. […] The difference between the ornament provided by his small metaphors and the fiction provided by his large encompassing metaphor is, however, not merely one of size: the verbal metaphors help to shape the reader’s response to the whole fiction by situating descriptive detail in a larger philosophical and artistic context. While the uneducated can, almost without reflection, derive moral benefits from simple parables, the task of the educated reader is to find the meaning of more complex fictions as example, as a “figuring forth” of truth.112

  • 113 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 186.
  • 114 See, for instance, the comment by Clive S. Lewis: “Its woods are greener, its rivers purer, its sky (...)
  • 115 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 187.
  • 116 Sidney not only used the subjunctive mood in order to hedge against charges, he also drew on certai (...)
  • 117 For a thorough analysis of Sidney’s ideas as deducible from his Arcadia, see William D. Briggs, “Po (...)

37In Sidney’s Arcadia, for instance, he ingeniously combined political and social topics to demonstrate the calamity that may emerge “when the figure wielding most authority, the ‘father of the people’, fails to correct his personal limitations by taking good advice.”113 He located his story in ancient Greece without direct references to Queen Elizabeth or the situation in her realm, ostensibly presenting nothing but a fictional world with unreal characters. Arcadia is an idyllic world, heightened in many aspects,114 and to some extent very “un-English” indeed115 – therefore, Sidney could not be charged with misbehaviour since his work did not represent what had happened in England. By using the subjunctive mood, it solely illustrates the conceivable negative effects on societies which may arise in a country displaying particular characteristic features.116 Thus, the creation of a utopian place allowed him to write with a significant lack of restrictions. Informed readers, however, could not only detect striking parallels to contemporary procedures or renowned personalities in the plot of the Arcadia, they could also discover, under the guise of pastoral literature, an important political statement of Sidney’s. His text suggests that a rebellion against established authorities can be suitable in the name of freedom and justice in order to preserve the physical integrity and prosperity of all people in a peaceful environment.117 Hence, by offering a lesson in political philosophy through a piece of literary entertainment, Sidney himself perfectly accomplished the task which he set for any “right poet” in his Defence of Poesy:

  • 118 Ewald Flügel, Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella und Defence of Poesie, Halle, Verlag Max Nie (...)

[The] third [group of] indeed right Poets [...] be they which most properly do imitate to teach & delight: and to imitate, borrow nothing of what is, hath bin, or shall be: but range onely reined with learned discretion, into the diuine consideration of what may be and should be. These be they that as the first and most noble sort, may iustly be termed Vates [...] For these indeed do meerly make to imitate, and imitate both to delight & teach, and delight to moue men to take the goodness in hande; and teach to make them know that goodnesse wherunto they are moued [...]. [It] is not ryming and versing that maketh a Poet [...] but it is that faining notable images of vertues, vices, or what els, with that delightful teaching, which must be the right describing note to know a Poet by.118

  • 119 James M. Osborn, op. cit., p. 503.
  • 120 See, for instance, John N. King, “Queen Elizabeth I: Representations of the Virgin Queen”, Renaissa (...)
  • 121 See Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 160.

38The scope as well as the possible abuse of royal power to the detriment of the subjects continued to be a preeminent topic for Sidney. He revisited this theme in a matter of some delicacy when, in the summer of 1579, he wrote his famous Letter to Queen Elizabeth touching her marriage with Monsieur, which has been described as “a bold dose of medicine offered when sugared remedies had failed.”119 The reason for compiling this letter was that Her Majesty was giving serious consideration to a marriage with the Duke of Alançon. When her deliberations became public, the English were completely astonished: the Queen, at this time 45 years of age, had hitherto been famous as the “Virgin Queen”, solely married to her nation.120 And although Alançon’s hitherto vain wooing could be traced back for some years,121 the majority of people were surprised at Elizabeth’s reversal of opinion. From her point of view, however, the motives turned out to be easily comprehensible and rather political than private: the Duke had recently become the successor to the throne of France and set out to fill the military vacuum in the Netherlands. Katherine Duncan-Jones has summarized the Queen’s calculations as follows:

  • 122 Ibid.

If England, through Elizabeth’s marriage, could gain control over Alançon’s activities in the Netherlands, French dominance might be effectively neutralized, and French resources, in terms of wealth and soldiers, might be exploited in the English interest. A dreaded alliance between France and Scotland could be deflected.122

39In addition, the marriage would also have weakened Spain, the second mighty authority in continental Europe with whom England had to cope.

  • 123 Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 131.
  • 124 For a sententious summary of Sidney’s line of argumentation in this letter, see William D. Briggs, (...)
  • 125 Irving Ribner, “Machiavelli and Sidney’s Discourse to the Queenes Majesty”, Italica, 26 (3), Septem (...)

40Owing to regular reports by Hubert Languet who analysed the contemporary politico-military situation in Europe, Philip Sidney was well informed about the political constellations and the consequences which would arise from a liaison between his Queen and the upcoming French potentate. On December 26th, 1577, for instance, Languet had warned Sidney about “the intrigues of the Spaniards and French”, thereby appealing to England’s alertness to their plans so that “they shall do you no great harm.”123 As a result, Sidney decided to contribute to the anti-marriage group since he was alarmed by the fear that this marriage could turn out to be detrimental to England.124 Irving Ribner explains that “change in a government, and particularly in a well-ordered one, Sidney regards as a matter of great danger.”125 At this point, one has to obviate the paralogism that the young courtier was generally walling against innovations and alteration. In his perception, this marriage had the potential to shake the English nation’s hitherto stable confidence to Elizabeth since she was about to bring a Catholic to the Court who had already proven his dangerous attitude towards Protestants in France.

  • 126 This hypothesis is also favoured by James M. Osborn (op. cit., p. 503). He conjectures that this gr (...)

41To voice their scepticism, several members of the anti-Alançon group assembled and sketched out a brief of the arguments against the wedding plans, and Philip Sidney finally converted them into the official letter to the Queen mentioned above.126 The group’s resistance to the character of Alançon is clearly expressed in the following part of the letter:

  • 127 Albert Feuillerat, op. cit., p. 54.

But thinges holding in the state present, I think I may justly conclude that your countrey being aswell by long peace & and frutes of peace, as by the poison of division (whereof the faithfull shall by this meanes be wounded & and the contrary enabled) made fitt to receave hurt. And Monsieur being every way apt to use the occasion to hurte, there can almost happen no worldely thing of more evident danger to your Estate Royall: for as for your person (indeed the seale of our happines) what good there may come by it, to ballance with the losse of so honnorable a constancie, truely yet I perceave not [...].127

42In the name of the group, Sidney further casted doubt on whether the different aims of Alançon and Queen Elizabeth I could be compatible, culminating in the following passage where he contrasted the two persons:

  • 128 Ibid., p. 56.

He of the Romishe religion, & if he be a man, must nedes have that manlike propertye to desire that all men be of his mind: you the erector & deffendour of the contrary & and the onely Sunne that dazeleth their eyes. He Frenche & desirous to make Fraunce great: your Majesty English & desiring nothing lesse then that France should be great. He both by his owne fancie & by his youthfull Governours imbracing all ambitious hopes, having Alexanders image in his head, but perchaunce, evill painted. Your Majesty with excellent vertu taught what you should hope & by no lesse wisedome what you may hope, with a Councell renowmed all over Christendome, for their well tempred mindes, having sett the uttermost of their ambition in your favour & the study of their sowles in your safety.128

43Pondering all the arguments, the letter culminates in the appeal to Elizabeth to restrict herself to the fulfilment of her hitherto well-accomplished obligations as English monarch, which demand to approach Alançon with scepticism:

  • 129 Ibid., p. 60.

I do with most humble heart say unto your Majesty, that (laying aside his dangerous helpe) for your standing alone you must take it as a singular honour God hath done you, to be indeed the onely protectour of his Church: & yet in worldly respect, your kingdome very sufficient so to doe: if you make that religion upon which you stand to carrye the onely strenght & have abroade those who still mainteine the same cause, who (as being as they may be kept from utter falling) your Majesty is sure enough from your mightiest enemies. As for this man, as long as he is but Monsieur in might & a Papist in profession, he neither can nor will greatly steede you. And if he grow king, his defence will be like Ajax sheelde, which wayed down rather then defende those that bare it. Against contempt at home (if there be any which I will never beleve) lett your excellent vertues of piety Justice, & liberality daily, if it be possible more & more shine, lett some suche particular actions be found out, which is easy, as I think, to be done by which you may gratify all the hartes of your people. Lett those in whome you finde truste & and to whome you have committed trust in your weighty affaires, be held up in the eyes of your subjectes: lastly doing as you doe, you shalbe as you be: The example of Princesses, the ornament of your age, the comfort of the afflicted, the delight of your people, the most excellent frute of all your progenitours & the perfect mirroir to your posterity.129

  • 130 See Berta Siebeck, op. cit., p. 20. Here, Siebeck maintains that Sidney was commissioned by Walsing (...)

44To my knowledge, there is no clear evidence that Sidney was appointed to compile this letter alone, as Berta Siebeck has suggested in her book.130 The counter-thesis suggesting that several people were involved in the process is supported by a passage from a letter by Hubert Languet which reads as follows:

  • 131 Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 187.

[...] I suspected that you had been urged to write by persons who either did not know into what peril they were thrusting you, or did not care for your danger, provided they effected their own object. Since however you were ordered to write as you did by those whom you were bound to obey, no fair-judging man can blame you for putting forward freely what you thought good for your country, nor even for exaggerating some circumstances in order to convince them of what you judged expedient.131

45Therefore, it seems rather likely that some members of the anti-Alançon group assembled and sketched out a brief of the arguments against this marriage which Sidney – probably the most versatile and eloquent writer of those present – finally converted into the official letter delivered to the Queen.

  • 132 The first person plural pronoun is used only once in the text, namely in the following passage: “Ve (...)
  • 133 Among others, Katherine Duncan-Jones (op. cit., p. 160) has indicated that the French Duke had arri (...)
  • 134 Dorothy Auchter, Dictionary of Literary and Dramatic Censorship in Tudor and Stuart England, Westpo (...)
  • 135 See the examples of censorship presented by Dorothy Auchter, op. cit., especially p. 7-10, 344-346, (...)

46However, it is remarkable that the letter bears only Philip Sidney’s signature – no other member of the assembly signed the document. Indeed, this fact could suggest that solely Sidney was to formally count as the author. This hypothesis is further supported because the first person singular pronoun is consequently employed throughout the letter, thereby linking its content to Sidney’s personal point of view.132 In my opinion, there are two possible reasons why Sidney wrote from the first person singular perspective without referring to other proponents of the arguments. In the first place, Sidney probably produced the clean copy of the letter alone after the assumed meeting of the participants of the faction making it difficult to collect all the signatures of those who had been present at the gathering within a very narrow time frame.133 Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, Sidney might have deemed this letter an honour and opportunity to distinguish himself from the other courtiers. As indicated above, Philip had a constant thirst for action and longed for considerable tasks ever since he had returned from his Grand Tour. The chance that it could be his letter which would turn the balance for a decision in such an important issue of national significance certainly acted as a driving force for his ego. Hence, he readily took on the burden of writing to Her Majesty, even though he must have been aware of the involved risks of directly opposing himself against his monarch’s volition. Indeed, the chronicles of this period recorded more than a few instances of punishment for critically voiced misgivings since Queen Elizabeth I was “always sensitive to any attack on her government or her ministers.”134 Thus, the authors of inflammatory pamphlets which personally attacked the Queen’s officials or, even worse, the Queen herself had to face a vigilant and forceful press censorship as well as severe punishments.135

  • 136 With respect to the political and personal significance of The Lady of May, see Edward Berry, “Sidn (...)
  • 137 See James M. Osborn, op. cit., p. 503.
  • 138 Nowell Smith, op. cit., p. 61.
  • 139 Ibid.

47Apart from The Lady of May, this letter of advice to the Queen is the only work that Philip Sidney explicitly wrote for the Queen in further support of continuing public propaganda.136 All the more astonishing, no immediate response from the Queen is mentioned in administrative sources.137 Researchers have to rely mainly on Fulke Greville’s private account of the Queen’s reaction. Greville suggests that she treated him clemently, allegedly because Sidney’s “worth, truth, favour and sincerity of heart, together with his reall manner of proceeding in it”138 privileged him to send her the letter. By addressing the Queen herself, “to whom the appeal was proper,”139 and by avoiding to hurl any abuse at the French Duke, he obviously escaped direct punishment. In addition to this aspect, Queen Elizabeth probably took into consideration that Sidney might have been incited by others; therefore, his letter did not result in harsh sentences. However, Sidney had once again diminished his chances of employment at Court – a fact that could be acceptable to him at this time, since he had already acquired a liking for his current situation as a writer at Wilton.

  • 140 See Derek B. Alwes, Sons and Authors in Elizabethan England, Newark, University of Delaware Press, (...)
  • 141 See Robert Kimbrough, Sir Philip Sidney. Selected Prose and Poetry, Madison, The University of Wisc (...)
  • 142 See Berta Siebeck, op. cit., p. 15.
  • 143 See Matthew Woodcock, op. cit., p. 7.
  • 144 Katherine Duncan-Jones (op. cit., p. 168) points at the paucity of letters from Sidney during his p (...)

48In Sidney’s subsequent works, however, his political opinion is more concealed again and can in many cases only be detected between the lines. Derek Alwes speculates that Sidney’s later and comparatively subtle political ramifications might be due to the fact that he had entirely withdrawn from Court and his manuscripts were no longer widely circulated at Court.140 Although Alwes might be right to say that due to Sidney’s absence from Court his connections to the corridors of power were decreasing in these days, I would like to lay emphasis on the fact that more and more literary artists of great talent rallied round Sidney who was evolving into the role of a patron of the arts.141 Together, this group not only promoted the intellectual life at Wilton, but also enriched and stimulated culture all over the country. The very fact that the Sidney circle was perceived to be influential enough to act as an intellectual counterbalance to the Court142 – the place where mental resources had normally been pooled in previous times143 – suggests that Sidney’s manuscripts could still reach a proper audience while being circulated among suitable persons. Moreover, Sidney continued to maintain close personal contacts with Leicester, Walsingham, and other friends from Court.144 Accordingly, we may assume that Sidney’s words could nonetheless be heard and read elsewhere than at Wilton.

  • 145 Stubbs felt compelled to object to the Queen’s proposed marriage with Duke Alançon trying to persua (...)
  • 146 See Ivan L. Schulze, “The Final Protest Against the Elizabeth-Alençon Marriage Proposal”, Modern La (...)

49Consequently, I would favour a different kind of argumentation according to which Philip Sidney returned to his caution not least because he had been confronted with several reports concerning the sharpness of the law. The comparatively severe sentence against John Stubbs who had composed The Discovery of a Gaping Gulf, an inflammatory pamphlet published and widely distributed throughout England in August 1579, was probably among the most famous accounts that helped to prevent public critique of the Queen’s decisions in the aftermath of Sidney’s letter,145 even though several opposition groups occasionally reappeared from the underground.146 Sidney’s prudence was also nourished by his experienced friend Hubert Languet who drew Sidney’s attention to the consequences which may result from public criticism, as the following excerpt from a letter dated January 30th, 1580 indicates:

  • 147 Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 170.

I admire your courage in freely admonishing the Queen and your countrymen of that which is to the States’ advantage. But you must take care not to go so far that the unpopularity of your conduct be more than you can bear. [...] Reflect that you may possibly be deserted by most of those who now think with you. For I do not doubt there will be many who will run to the safe side of the vessel, when they find you are unsuccessful in resisting the Queen’s will, or that she is seriously offended at your opposition.147

  • 148 Dennis Kay, “‘She Was a Queen, and Therefore Beautiful’: Sidney, His Mother, and Queen Elizabeth”, (...)
  • 149 Michael G. Brennan (op. cit., p. 7) holds that “the Sidneys frequently compiled for their own use, (...)
  • 150 Albert Feuillerat, op. cit., p. 129.
  • 151 Ibid. Sidney wrote that he is “[...] so full of the colde as one can not heere me speake.”
  • 152 Dennis Kay, op. cit., p. 29.
  • 153 For the notion of “publicatio sui”, see Michael L. Humphries, “Michel Foucault on Writing and the S (...)

50Therefore, it should be easily comprehensible that Queen Elizabeth I – in accordance with the zeitgeist – had unequivocally affirmed and clarified her power “through the medium of an establishment that was, in Stephen Greenblatt’s phrase, ‘institutionally committed to the arousal of anxiety’.”148 Philip Sidney, as a consequence, preferred to suppress any direct resistance to the Queen’s volition in his papers on current issues.149 Being silenced in this way, a sentence he wrote to the Earl of Leicester on August 2nd, 1580 appears to be ambiguous: “[...] my only service is speeche and that is stopped.”150 Even though the context indicates that Sidney was suffering from a cold which had affected his voice,151 the sentence could also hint metaphorically at the fact that Sidney was prevented from declaring his political beliefs in public speeches or letters. His upcoming Arcadia, however, is anchored in the real world and echoes Sidney’s experiences so that “the circumstances of Sidney’s family life – and in particular the relationship with the monarch – find their way into his fiction in a variety of ways, some crude, some more complex and oblique.”152 By carefully filtering out some of his political statements, the act of writing culminated, in Sidney’s case, into a moderate publicatio sui.153

  • 154 Jan van Dorsten, “Sidney and Languet”, Huntington Library Quarterly, 29 (3), May 1966, p. 215-222, (...)
  • 155 Åke Bergvall, The “Enabling of Judgement”. Sir Philip Sidney and the Education of the Reader, Stock (...)
  • 156 Dorothy Connell, op. cit., p. 91.
  • 157 See Andrew D. Weiner, Sir Philip Sidney and the Poetics of Protestantism. A Study of Contexts, Minn (...)
  • 158 Ewald Flügel, op. cit., p. 67. Albert Hamilton has analysed Sidney’s poetic development and arrives (...)

51In 1966, Jan van Dorsten opened a short, yet dense article with a telling sentence: “Posterity has tended to minimize Sir Philip Sidney’s political aspirations.”154 Even though the past decades have seen more interest and progress in this field of studies (not least due to the groundbreaking biography of Sidney offered by Katherine Duncan-Jones), I feel that Renaissance scholars should address themselves more emphatically to the task of analysing the interrelation between Sidney’s life and education, his socio-political opinions, and his literary works. To me, this integrative method appears to be the only promising approach to decode Sidney’s writings since, as Åke Bergvall has justifiably demonstrated, “the reader of Sidney’s fiction is constantly urged to look for the essence beyond the surface appearances.”155 Therefore, an important key for a better understanding of Sidney’s literary legacy is supplied by the realisation that “an important period for the growth of Sidney’s poetry took place before he wrote any important poetry at all.”156 In the course of this article, I have argued that this period might roughly correspond to the time between the years 1578 and 1580 since this chapter in his life featured his rediscovery of the power of written language. Moreover, several events and experiences culminated in Sidney’s intensified employment of the pen. Bearing in mind, however, that Sidney did primarily not intend to affect politics and society indirectly via a textual medium but rather by means of public action and commitment, the act of writing can almost certainly only count as his second choice. However, writing turned out to be his only chance for an exertion of political influence,157 and he accepted it as a necessary alternative form of action in order to continue to adhere to the principles of a vita activa. For that reason, Sidney’s retirement from Court did not prove to be a final retirement from action, as some of his friends feared with horror according to the letter quoted at the very beginning of this article. On the contrary, his retreat from Court should rather be seen as the occasion leading to Sidney’s reflection on the effectiveness of poetry and the time when he “[…] slipt into the title of a Poet.”158 In those days, his attitude towards poetry probably corresponded to his thoughts displayed in his Defence of Poesy where Sidney metaphorically referred to poetry as the “lightgiuer” that illuminates the darkness of ignorance:

  • 159 Ibid., p. 68.

And first truly to al them that professing learning enuey against Poetrie, may iustly be obiected, that they go very neare to vngratefulnesse, to seeke to deface that which in the noblest nations and languages that are knowne, hath been the first lightgiuer to ignorance, and first nurse whose milke litle & litle enabled them to feed afterwards of tougher knowledges.159

  • 160 Kenneth O. Myrick, Sir Philip Sidney as a Literary Craftsman, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Pre (...)
  • 161 Ewald Flügel, op. cit., p. 93.

52To conclude, it should be obvious by now that “rightly to understand the poet in Sidney, we must understand the humanist, the courtier, and the man of action.”160 As I have tried to substantiate, the turn in Sidney’s biography which led to the birth of his literary career can be seen as the consequence of a conjunction of two circumstances. First, Sidney’s humanist education had stimulated his longing for responsible actions and his belief in the potency of words. Second, his desire for socio-political responsibility remained unfulfilled, probably due to some of his aspirations and involvements that conflicted with the Queen’s expectations. Since the highly educated courtier remained – at least most of the time – mentally unchallenged and underemployed at Court, he started to regard the act of writing down his political beliefs as an alternative to an immediate service to his native country. As a gradual process, writing offered an opportunity to critically reflect on contemporary political processes and to develop his messages more precisely. Therefore, the act of writing finally enabled him to implement his full mental potential and provided a vehicle for his (mostly concealed) subtexts. While adhering to principles of literary theory such as “teaching” and “moving”, his messages were intended to give rise to political consequences. Within this context, then, Sidney’s momentous decision to take up ink and paper can certainly illuminate his understanding of literature: “For if it be, as I affirme, that no learning is so good, as that which teacheth and moueth to vertue, and that none can both teach and moue thereto so much as Poesie, then is the conclusion manifest; that incke and paper cannot be to a more profitable purpose imployed.”161

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Notes

1 Steuart A. Pears, The Correspondence of Sir Philip Sidney and Hubert Languet, London, William Pickering, 1845, p. 182.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid., p. 183.

4 Ibid., p. 185.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid., p. 126-127. Roger Kuin, however, does not share Languet’s sentiments according to which Sidney was the slave of gold. He espouses the view that Sidney’s involvement with the New World was “more concerned with geopolitical strategy than with personal advantage.” See Roger Kuin, “Querre-Muhau: Sir Philip Sidney and the New World”, Renaissance Quarterly, 51 (2), Summer 1998, p. 549-585, here p. 549.

7 Katherine Duncan-Jones, Sir Philip Sidney. Courtier Poet, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1991, p. 65.

8 See Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 95-96, 112, 138.

9 Ibid., p. 202.

10 See Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. x.

11 Ibid.

12 See Umberto Eco, Die Grenzen der Interpretation, München, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 2004, p. 35 39.

13 See, for instance, Errol Warwick Slinn, “Poetry and Culture: Performativity and Critique”, New Literary History, 30 (1), Winter 1999, p. 57-74, especially p. 71. Here, Slinn indicates that “[…] poetry requires a reader to authorize its enactment, or to put it another way, a poem as cultural critique would be inseparable from the critical reading which both constitutes and reconstitutes it as such.”

14 See Wolfgang Iser, Die Appellstruktur der Texte, Konstanz, Universitätsverlag, 1970, p. 33-35. Iser argues that readers fill in the gaps (“Leerstellen”) of a text with their experience in a variety of ways so that the text can be differently adapted by the recipients: “Die Leerstellen machen den Text adaptierfähig und ermöglichen es dem Leser, die Fremderfahrung der Texte im Lesen zu einer privaten zu machen. […] Zugleich entsteht für den Text in diesem Akt eine jeweils individuelle Situation.” (p. 34).

15 See Michael G. Brennan, The Sidneys of Penshurst and the Monarchy, 1500-1700, Aldershot and Burlington, Ashgate, 2006, p. 1.

16 Malcom William Wallace, The Life of Sir Philip Sidney, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 4.

17 See Michael G. Brennan, op. cit., p. 2.

18 See, for instance, Malcom William Wallace, op. cit., p. 1; Michael G. Brennan, op. cit., p. 2; Michael G. Brennan and Noel J. Kinnamon, A Sidney Chronology, 1554-1654, New York, Palgrave MacMillan, 2003, p. xx-xxi.

19 See Matthew Woodcock, Sir Philip Sidney and the Sidney Circle, Tavistock, Northcote House Publ., 2010, p. 1. On the one hand Henry’s position as Lord Deputy Governor of Ireland was quite prestigious; on the other hand, he suffered several disadvantages. Apart from the fact that the time in office entailed massive costs for Henry – he had to entrust an administrator with his estate and had to take on additional staff for his second domicile in Ireland –, there were only few chances for him to spend some time with his son, which must have been quite disappointing to him. Several personal documents indicate, indeed, that the father had a good rapport with his son. See Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 47. In addition, Henry Sidney offers a self-evaluation of his achievements in Ireland within the context of a letter from 1583 to Philip’s father-in-law, Sir Francis Walsingham, which was published in two parts by the Ulster Archaeological Society in 1855 and 1857.

20 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 44. The second part of this quote refers to the older Philip and indicates that he has successfully internalized the aspiration of his parents.

21 Samuel Butler, Sidneiana. Being a collection of Fragments relative to Sir Philip Sidney Knt. and his immediate connections, London, Shakespeare Press, 1837, p. 4. Katherine Duncan-Jones is probably right to assume that – even though it is undated – this letter was compiled early during Henry Sidney’s first term as Lord Deputy Governor of Ireland in order to offer general advice to his son since Philip lacked the direct guidance of his father while he was attending Shrewsbury school in the mid 1560s. See Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 32.

22 Arthur T. Eliot, The Book Named The Governour. Devised by Sir Thomas Elyot, Knt., London, Ridgway and Sons, 1834, p. 16.

23 Malcom William Wallace, quoted in Albert C. Hamilton, Sir Philip Sidney. A Study of his Life and Works, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1977, p. 4.

24 Sir Henry Sidney, quoted in Berta Siebeck, Das Bild Sir Philip Sidneys in der Englischen Renaissance, Weimar, Verlag Hermann Böhlaus Nachf., 1939, p. 7.

25 Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 195-196. Here, Philip also elucidates two kinds of knowledge he perceives to be apt for a travelling gentleman who aims for public service: “[O]ne notable use of travellers, which stands in the mind and correlative knowledge of things, in which kind comes in the knowledge of all leagues betwixt prince and prince: the topographical description of each country; how the one lies by situation to hurt or help the other; how they are to the sea, well harboured or not; [...] how the people, warlike, trained or kept under [...]. The other kind of knowledge is of them which stand in the things which are in themselves either simply good, or simply bad, and so serve for a right instruction or a shunning example. These Homer meant in his verse, ‘Qui multos hominum mores cognovit et urbes.’ [...] He attends to their religion, politics, laws, bringing up of children, discipline both for war and peace, and such like. These I take to be of the second kind, which are ever worthy to be known for their own sakes.”

26 For the “Wars of the Roses”, see Christine Carpenter, The Wars of the Roses. Politics and the Constitution in England, c. 1437-1509, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997.

27 See Claus Uhlig, “Humanism”, in Thomas O. Sloane (ed.), Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 350-359 and Roberto Weiss, Humanism in England During the Fifteenth Century, Oxford, Blackwell, 1957, p. 1-7.

28 See Eckhard Keßler, Die Philosophie der Renaissance. Das 15. Jahrhundert, München, C. H. Beck, 2008, p. 184 and Geoffrey Shepherd, Sir Philip Sidney: An Apology for Poetry, or The Defence of Poesy, London, Thomas Nelson, 1965, p. 19.

29 Margaret L. King, The Renaissance in Europe, London, Laurence King, 2003, p. 90.

30 See Claus Uhlig, “Die Dichtung der englischen Renaissance”, in Ludwig Borinski and Claus Uhlig, Literatur der Renaissance, Düsseldorf, August Bagel, 1975, p. 103-145, here p. 111.

31 See Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 25.

32 See Matthew Woodcock, op. cit., p. 3.

33 In her essay, Alice Friedman has convincingly shown that not all children had equal access to (higher) education: “Like yeomen, tradesmen, and craftsmen, women of all classes were largely excluded from the new [i.e. humanistic, D.W.] learning by a combination of ideological and economic forces.” See Alice T. Friedman, “The Influence of Humanism on the Education of Girls and Boys in Tudor England”, History of Education Quarterly, 25 (1/2), Spring/Summer 1985, p. 57-70, here p. 59.

34 See Ann Moss, “Humanist education”, in Glyn P. Norton (ed.), The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism. Vol. III: The Renaissance, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 145-154, here p. 147.

35 Albert C. Hamilton, “Sidney’s Humanism”, in Michael J. B. Allen, Dominic Baker-Smith, Arthur F. Kinney, Margaret M. Sullivan (eds.), Sir Philip Sidney’s Achievements, New York, AMS Press, 1990, p. 109-116, here p. 110.

36 See Paul Salzman, “Theories of Prose Fiction in England: 1558-1700”, in Glyn P. Norton (ed.), The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism. Vol. 3: The Renaissance, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 295-304, here p. 296.

37 See Willi Erzgräber, “Humanismus und Renaissance in England im 16. Jahrhundert”, in Stiftung Humanismus Heute des Landes Baden-Württemberg (ed.), Humanismus in Europa, Heidelberg, C. Winter Verlag, 1998, p. 159-186, here p. 168.

38 As a reference for this statement, we can point to the following quote which is taken from a letter Philip wrote to his brother Robert. Here, Philip advocates an instrumental use of language as a moral principle of action rather than a simple rhetorical skill: “So you can speak and write Latin, not barbarously; I never require great study in Ciceronianism, the chief abuse of Oxford, ‘qui dum verba sectantur res ipsas negligunt‘.” See Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 201.

39 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 55.

40 Matthew Woodcock, op. cit., p. 3. For a brief outline of Languet’s biography, see Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 71-72.

41 Roger Kuin has pointed out why the Sidney-Languet correspondence has always fascinated scholars. In his article, Kuin mentions the following reasons among others: Languet’s profound style, the passions he revealed about contemporary politics, the gossip-aspect, and the necessity of intact moral values. In his opinion, these features are why “such epistolæ were thought worth printing, worth reading, worth learning from, and worth emulating.” See Roger Kuin, “A Civil Conversation: Letters and the Edge of Form,” in Zachary Lesser and Benedict S. Robinson (eds.), Textual Conversations in the Renaissance. Ethics, Authors, Technologies, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2006, p. 147-172, here p. 164.

42 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 62.

43 Ibid., p. 84.

44 Ibid., p. 85.

45 Ibid.

46 Berta Siebeck, op. cit., p. 6.

47 See Jan van Dorsten, Poets, Patrons, and Professors. Sir Philip Sidney, Daniel Rogers, and the Leiden Humanists, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1962, p. 49.

48 Languet openly admitted that his aim was to turn Philip into a statesman who would further espouse the Protestant movement to which Philip had felt attracted for quite some time. In a letter to Philip dated June 21st, 1575, Languet wrote the following: “I had designed to write to you on public affairs, trusting that letters on such matters would not be disagreeable to you, since I know that you feel the strongest desire to learn the state of things in those nations with which we have any relations, and the changes that may occur among them. And as this desire is in itself most praiseworthy and almost necessary to those who aspire to be statesmen, no one shall easily make me believe that you are altogether discarding it.” See Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 95-96.

49 See, for instance, Languet’s letters to Philip, printed in Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 6, 73, 85, 183.

50 See James M. Osborn, Young Philip Sidney, 1572-1577, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1972, p. 323 and 325. Here, Osborn illustrates that for her hosts the Queen’s visits were “mixed blessings”: “That a noble’s hospitality would be welcomed by her Majesty markedly raised the lucky courtier’s prestige, but at the same time he knew that the food, drink, and entertainment he offered would be subject to close comparison with that provided by his peers. […] Hence a nobleman recognized the royal visit as an expensive honour, indeed as an investment in his future and that of his family which could pay off handsomely in position, power, and financial favours. […] Little wonder that as much as £1,000 spent on entertaining the Queen and her court was considered a justifiable investment.” For the reasons of the Court’s progresses, see also David Dean, “Elizabethan Government and Politics”, in Robert Tittler and Norman Jones (eds.), A Companion to Tudor Britain, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2009, p. 44-60, here p. 51; Retha Warnicke, “The Court”, in Robert Tittler and Norman Jones (eds.), A Companion to Tudor Britain, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2009, p. 61-76, here p. 62.

51 Berta Siebeck, op. cit., p. 12. “He [i.e. Philip] was the son of the indispensable, yet too autonomous Lord Deputy of Ireland, and he was on an extreme Protestant way.” (The translation is mine).

52 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 49.

53 Ibid., p. 88.

54 See Ibid., p. 89.

55 Fred J. Levy, “Philip Sidney Reconsidered”, in Arthur F. Kinney (ed.), Sidney in Retrospect: Selections from English Literary Renaissance, Amherst, University of Massachusetts Press, 1988, p. 3-14, here p. 7.

56 Peter I. Kaufman, for instance, has hinted at the heterogeneity of Elizabethan Protestants. See Peter I. Kaufman, “The Protestant Opposition to Elizabethan Religious Reform”, in Robert Tittler and Norman Jones (eds.), A Companion to Tudor Britain, Malden, John Wiley & Sons, 2008, p. 271-288. According to Fred J. Levy (op. cit., p. 6), three main groups can be named: (1) Protestants such as the Queen who wanted to restrict their actions to the peaceful development of the Church of England, (2) resolute Puritans such as John Stubbs who aimed for a further reformation of the Church of England which they perceived to be still too close to Catholicism, and (3) “between them a group of aggressive Protestants [such as Philip Sidney] who did not adopt the theology of the Puritans but who saw England as the leader of European Protestantism.”

57 I would consent to Edward Berry’s statement according to which Sidney’s political position stems to a great extent from Hubert Languet’s arduous efforts to make young Philip a statesman who was predestinated to play a central role in shaping a supranational Protestant union. See Edward Berry, “Hubert Languet and the ‘Making’ of Philip Sidney”, Studies in Philology, 85 (3), Summer 1988, p. 305-320, here p. 307. Languet, however, was well aware of the difficulties this project implied. On January 8th, 1578, for instance, he wrote to Sidney: “On the subject of forming a league, you know what were my sentiments when you mentioned the thing to me at Nuremberg. Those who are only moderately versed in the affairs of Germany know that it is not an easy task to bring about that which Master Rogers attempted in the first instance with a few Princes, and Beale afterwards with more. […] Still, even if on this ground the thing has not turned out altogether as you might wish, you have no reason by any means to regret the trouble bestowed upon it […]. Is it not deserving of great praise, and ought they not to be thankful […] as to invite them to a union of policy and of power for the purpose of meeting the danger […]?” See Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 134-135.

58 Fred J. Levy, op. cit., p. 6.

59 Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 92. In his book, Alan Stewart hints at the possibility that Sidney “did fraternise with the English expatriate community, many of whom were undoubtedly Catholic.” See Alan Stewart, Philip Sidney. A Double Life, London, Chatto & Windus, 2000, p. 120.

60 See Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 120.

61 James M. Osborn, op. cit., p. 494.

62 See Ibid., p. 493-495.

63 See Ibid., p. 467.

64 Richard Wilson, Secret Shakespeare. Studies in Theater, Religion and Resistance, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2004, p. 76.

65 James M. Osborn, op. cit., p. 467-468.

66 Ibid., p. 467.

67 See Richard Simpson, Edmund Campion. A Biography, London, John Hodges, 1896, p. 115. Simpson offers a detailed, yet in some parts probably fictionalized account of Campion’s life, as James M. Osborn has indicated: “Simpson clearly knew his own audience and told them what they wished to hear.” See James M. Osborn, op. cit., p. 468.

68 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 135.

69 Ibid., p. 153.

70 Albert Feuillerat, The Prose Works of Sir Philip Sidney, in Four Volumes. Vol. III: The Defence of Poesie, Political Discourses, Correspondence, Translations, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1963, p. 124.

71 See Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 153.

72 For some critical remarks on Greville’s descriptions, see Ibid., p. 165.

73 Nowell Smith, Sir Fulke Greville’s ‘Life of Sir Philip Sidney’, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1907, p. 63-66.

74 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 165.

75 Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespearean Negotiations. The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1988, p. 135-136.

76 Michael G. Brennan, op. cit., p. 4.

77 See Neil L. Rudenstine, Sidney’s Poetic Development, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1967, p. 7.

78 Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 143-144.

79 In his letters to Philip Sidney, Hubert Languet had warned him about these perils several times before. A quote from a letter dated June 14th, 1577 may serve as an example: “You know the state of affairs in Belgium, and are doubtless aware of the disasters our friends have lately suffered in France. Your people must sleep with one ear open, especially if the Spaniards obtain their peace from the Turks, as I hear from many quarters that they will.” See Ibid., p. 108.

80 Philip first encountered the importance of a sizeable fortune when he became engaged to William Cecil’s elder daughter Anne around 1569. When the formal marriage settlement was about to be concluded, William Cecil discovered that his daughter would bring far more to the marriage than Philip and finally decided to prefer the Earl of Oxford as husband for her. To quote Katherine Duncan-Jones (op. cit., p. 52), “it was intensely galling [for Sidney] to see Oxford’s wealth and rank preferred to his own talent and promise.”

81 Neil L. Rudenstine, op. cit., p. 14.

82 See Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 147-148.

83 Ibid. With respect to providence, it should be noted that in a letter from June 1574 Sidney himself made clear that he was willing to accept and rely on providence as the driving force of contemporary political events: “The Almighty is ordering Christendom with a wonderful providence in these our days.” See Ibid., p. 75-76.

84 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 152.

85 See Peter Burke, “The Invention of Leisure in Early Modern Europe”, Past & Present, 146, February 1995, p. 136-150, here p. 140.

86 See William A. Laidlaw, “‘Otium’”, Greece & Rome, Second Series, 15 (1), April 1968, p. 42-52, here p. 42.

87 Ibid, p. 42-43.

88 See, for instance, Anna L. Motto and John R. Clark, “‘Hic Situs Est’: Seneca and the Deadliness of Idleness”, The Classical World, 72 (4), December 1978 – January 1979, p. 207-215.

89 See, exempli gratia, Platonis Opera, Vol. IV: ΠΟΛΙΤΕΙΑ, rec. Ioannes Burnet, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1902, VII, 514a-521b and Aristotelis Ethica Nicomachea, rec. Ingram Bywater, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1920, VI, 1139a-1145a. For the direct relation between individual happiness and common welfare as presented in Greek philosophy and literature, see Arbogast Schmitt, “Was hat das Gute mit der Politik zu tun? Über die Verbindung von individuellem Glück und dem Wohl Aller in griechischer Philosophie und Literatur”, in Mathias Lotz, Matthias van der Minde, and Dirk Weidmann (eds.), Von Platon bis zur Global Governance. Entwürfe für menschliches Zusammenleben, Marburg, Tectum, 2010, p. 27-36.

90 See also Peter Burke, op. cit., p. 139-140. Many Roman intellectuals chose to work outside the crowded city: Cicero, for instance, probably chose the rural area around Tusculum for his periods of meditation since in Rome it used to be very noisy, and Pliny the Younger even “liked to have a sound-proof room” (William A. Laidlaw, op. cit., p. 46). For a vivid description of the usually high noise level in Rome, see also the beginning of Seneca’s fifty-sixth letter to Lucilius.

91 See M. Tulli Ciceronis Rhetorica. Vol. I: De oratore, rec. Augustus S. Wilkins, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1963, I, 224: “Philosophorum autem libros reservet sibi ad huiusce modi Tusculani requiem atque otium.” “But he should spare the works of philosophers for a time of recreation and leisure in the manner of Tusculum.” The subject of this sentence is introduced shortly before the quote: “[acutus homo] et natura usuque [callidus],” i.e. “a man, astute and proficient because of both nature and exercise.” (The translations are mine).

92 Anna L. Motto and John R. Clark, op. cit., p. 209. The Latin sentence is taken from Seneca’s dialogue De otio (V, 1) and can be translated as follows: “Nature has given birth to us for accomplishing both, contemplation about things and [concrete] action.”

93 See L. Annaei Senecae Dialogorum Libri Duodecim, Liber VIII: De otio, rec. Leighton D. Reynolds, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1977, V, 1: “Solemus dicere summum bonum esse secundum naturam uivere [...].” “It is customary to say that it is the greatest good to live in accordance with nature.” (The translation is mine).

94 See Ibid., V, 8: “Ergo secundum naturam uiuo si totum me illi dedi, si illius admirator cultorque sum. Natura autem utrumque facere me uoluit, et agere et contemplationi uacare: utrumque facio, quoniam ne contemplatio quidem sine actione est.” “Therefore, I live in accordance with nature if I dedicate myself to her, if I am her admirer and carer. Nature, however, wanted me to do both, [namely] being active and having time for contemplation; both I do because contemplation cannot be without action.” (The translation is mine).

95 Anna L. Motto and John R. Clark, op. cit., p. 210.

96 This fundamental terminological distinction is contrary to Peter Burke’s statement (op. cit., p. 141) according to which “[i]n English, the closest term to the classical otium was ‘ease’ in the narrow sense of ‘repose’ or ‘idleness’.” If Sidney, being a highly educated expert in the classics, wanted to “play the Stoic”, he would certainly know about the differences in meaning which go along with the terms otium and ignavia. Hence, while writing at Wilton, he would not refer to his condition as being “idle” since this would suggest what Seneca and other Stoics strictly refused, namely ignavia.

97 Anna L. Motto and John R. Clark, op. cit., p. 210. Italics appear as in the original.

98 Ibid. These “thoughts” of wise men refer to the quotes which can be found in the initial letters of Seneca’s Epistulae morales ad Lucilium.

99 See again the end of Sidney’s letter to Languet as translated in Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 144: “I have now pointed out the field of battle, and I openly declare war against you.”

100 Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 155. Since enough evidence has already been provided in this article to support the thesis that Sidney felt unchallenged, Languet’s phrase “escape the tempest of affairs” cannot refer to an overwhelming and distracting amount of obligations that Sidney had to fulfil. Rather, the underlying comments which Sidney had apparently made in antecedent letters or in face-to-face conversation with Languet allude to the constant blandishments by other courtiers, to the excessive Court festivities, and to certain leisure activities like hunting and animal-baiting, which were never highly regarded by Sidney. He did not speak in high terms even of the different kinds of poetic entertainment. For Sidney’s negative attitude towards this kind of courtly amusement, see Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 95-96 and 98. A general account of Court life in Tudor Britain is offered by Retha Warnicke, op. cit., p. 61-76.

101 It can indeed by argued that Sidney perceived the Court as idly standing by the conflicts in England’s neighbouring countries. He seemed to have been repeatedly annoyed about the Queen’s passivity. In a letter to Languet dated April 21st, 1576, for example, he criticised: “We are doing nothing here [i.e. at the English Court]. I long to live in your part of the world again.” See James M. Osborn, op. cit., p. 420. Similar thoughts are provided in a letter to his brother Robert, dated October 18th, 1580: “Now, Sir, for news, I refer myself to this bearer, he can tell you how idle we look on at our neighbours’ fires […].” See Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 202. For the upcoming interest of 16th century people in temporary retirements from public obligations, see also Peter Burke, op. cit.

102 Sidney’s plans to join an expedition led by Frobisher have already been mentioned above. In addition, Languet had generally advised Sidney in a letter dated February 15th, 1578 “[...] to reflect that young men who rush into danger incautiously almost always meet an inglorious end, and deprive themselves of the power of serving their country; for a man who falls at an early age cannot have done much for his country. Let not therefore an excessive desire of fame hurry you out of the course; and be sure you do not give the glorious name of courage to a fault which only seems to have something in common with it. It is the misfortune, or rather the folly of our age, that most men of high birth think it more honourable to do the work of a soldier than of a leader, and would rather earn a name for boldness than for judgment.” See Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 137. In October 1578, when Sidney had already retreated from Court, Languet finally warned Sidney to disregard established conventions and get involved in acts of warfare in Belgium by ignoring governing law: “But you, out of mere love of fame and honour, and to have an opportunity of displaying your courage, determined to regard as your enemies those who appeared to be doing the wrong in this war. It is not your business, nor any private person’s, to pass a judgment on a question of this kind; it belongs to the magistrate, I mean by magistrate the prince, who, whenever a question of this sort is to be determined, calls to his council those whom he believes to be just men and wise. You and your fellows, I mean men of noble birth, consider that nothing brings you more honour than wholesale slaughter; and you are generally guilty of the greatest injustice, for if you kill a man against whom you have no lawful cause of war, you are killing an innocent person.” (Ibid., p. 154).

103 See Neil L. Rudenstine, op. cit., p. 12.

104 Berta Siebeck, op. cit., p. 14. “By means of creative actions that finally enabled his nature to develop completely, Sidney liberated himself from the pressure of inactivity.” (The translation is mine).

105 See, for instance, Katherine Duncan-Jones, op cit., p. 16, 144-147, 175-176.

106 This assessment seems to be quite constant through the last century. See Berta Siebeck, op. cit., p. 15 (“Mit dem Erwachen von Sidneys dichterischer Tätigkeit war seine Schwester Mary aufs Engste verknüpft.”); Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 16 (“[…] Mary was of incalculable importance to him as a writer, for she and her entourage of ‘fair ladies’ at Wilton were the audience for whom he originally wrote his Arcadia.”); or, more recently, Michael G. Brennan, op. cit., p. 67 (“[...] an intimacy [between Philip and Mary] which proved to be the single greatest catalyst to his prolific recreational activities as a writer.”).

107 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 140.

108 Dorothy Connell, Sir Philip Sidney. The Maker’s Mind, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1977, p. 91.

109 Nowell Smith, op. cit., p. 15.

110 Edward Waterhouse, Secretary of State for Ireland in 1577, praised the power of Philip Sidney’s words in a letter to Sir Henry Sidney, dated September 30th, 1577: “[…] Mr. Philip had gatherid a Collection of all the Articlis, which have been enviously objectid to your Goverment, whereunto he had framid an Answer in way of Discours, the most excellently (if I have eny Judgement) that ever I red in my Lief; the Substance whereof is now approved in your Letters, and Notes by Mr. Whitten. But let no Man compare with Mr. Philips Pen.” Quoted in Martin Garrett, Sidney. The Critical Heritage, London, Routledge, 1996, p. 87.

111 See Judith Dundas, “‘To Speak Metaphorically’: Sidney in the Subjunctive Mood”, Renaissance Quarterly, 41 (2), Summer 1988, p. 268-287.

112 Ibid., p. 268.

113 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 186.

114 See, for instance, the comment by Clive S. Lewis: “Its woods are greener, its rivers purer, its sky brighter than ours.” in English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1954, p. 341.

115 Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 187.

116 Sidney not only used the subjunctive mood in order to hedge against charges, he also drew on certain phrases like “as it were” or “me seems” to soften his metaphors in order to accommodate them to a more rational discourse. On a related note, Judith Dundas (op. cit., p. 273) explains: “Responding to narrative fiction as only a poet can, he knows that his proper mode of expression is the subjunctive, what ‘may be or should be’, but he is willing to make it as easy as possible for others, even the unpoetic, to understand what he is saying.” With respect to Sidney’s use of the verb “to seem”, she further expounded: “Sidney’s use of the word ‘seems’ is indicative or declarative in form, rather than subjunctive, but it implies a similar disclaimer for the use of tropical language” (Ibid., p. 280).

117 For a thorough analysis of Sidney’s ideas as deducible from his Arcadia, see William D. Briggs, “Political Ideas in Sidney’s Arcadia”, Studies in Philology, 28 (2), April 1931, p. 137-161 and William D. Briggs, “Sidney’s Political Ideas”, Studies in Philology, 29 (4), October 1932, p. 534-542. In addition, see Dorothy Connell, op. cit., p. 104-113; Alan Sinfield, “Power and Ideology: An Outline Theory and Sidney’s Arcadia”, ELH, 52 (2), Summer 1985, p. 259-277; Blair Worden, The Sound of Virtue. Philip Sidney’s Arcadia and Elizabethan Politics, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1996; Michael G. Brennan, op. cit., p. 7.

118 Ewald Flügel, Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella und Defence of Poesie, Halle, Verlag Max Niemeyer, 1889, p. 74-75.

119 James M. Osborn, op. cit., p. 503.

120 See, for instance, John N. King, “Queen Elizabeth I: Representations of the Virgin Queen”, Renaissance Quarterly, 43 (1), Spring 1990, p. 30-74. In her article, Susan Doran hints at an interesting fact: in the plays Elizabeth had witnessed at her Court between 1561 and 1578 virginity was initially not idealised but instead marriage was celebrated as a preferable state of chastity. But when the marriage negotiations with Alançon became manifest, the plays’ message was altered and virginity was praised as supernatural quality – the Queen was called “unspoused Pallas”, “a Virgine pure”, and “a sacred Queene.” See Susan Doran, “Juno versus Diana: The Treatment of Elizabeth I’s Marriage in Plays and Entertainments, 1561-1578”, The Historical Journal, 38 (2), June 1995, p. 257-274, here p. 271.

121 See Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 160.

122 Ibid.

123 Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 131.

124 For a sententious summary of Sidney’s line of argumentation in this letter, see William D. Briggs, “Sidney’s Political Ideas”, op. cit., p. 534-535.

125 Irving Ribner, “Machiavelli and Sidney’s Discourse to the Queenes Majesty”, Italica, 26 (3), September 1949, p. 177-187, here p. 179. With regard to the fear of change, Ribner moves Sidney in close vicinity to the writings of Machiavelli, a point which would clearly deserve greater attention than one can concede in the context of this article.

126 This hypothesis is also favoured by James M. Osborn (op. cit., p. 503). He conjectures that this group probably consisted of Sir Francis Walsingham (Philip Sidney’s father-in-law), Robert Dudley (Philip Sidney’s uncle, the Earl of Leicester), Sir Christopher Hatton (a fellow-courtier), Henry Herbert Pembroke (2nd Earl of Pembroke), Sir Henry Sidney and Philip Sidney himself. Katherine Duncan-Jones (op. cit., p. 160) also subscribes to the collaborative collection of arguments; however, she excludes both Henry and Philip Sidney from the main players of this anti-marriage faction for the Sidneys had at least not been in the front row before. To me, this assessment seems plausible since Henry Sidney, on the one hand, had been under fire from many sides due to his moderate success in Ireland and therefore had to keep in the background, while Philip Sidney, on the other hand, was absent from Court and thus from courtly affairs unlike the other members of the group, who had more immediate and regular contacts with the royal household.

127 Albert Feuillerat, op. cit., p. 54.

128 Ibid., p. 56.

129 Ibid., p. 60.

130 See Berta Siebeck, op. cit., p. 20. Here, Siebeck maintains that Sidney was commissioned by Walsingham and Leicester to compile this letter.

131 Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 187.

132 The first person plural pronoun is used only once in the text, namely in the following passage: “Very common reason would teach us to hold that jewel deare the losse of which should bring us to we know not what [...]” (Albert Feuillerat, op. cit., p. 58). However, it does not refer to the anti-marriage group, but rather to the entire nation in the sense of “we as English nation” in order to describe the aporia which would result from the loss of the “jewel“, i.e. the established manifestation of the English monarchy.

133 Among others, Katherine Duncan-Jones (op. cit., p. 160) has indicated that the French Duke had arrived in England on August 17th, 1579. Therefore, the group was pressed for time so that the Queen had an opportunity to read the letter in good time prior to the advancement of their marriage plans.

134 Dorothy Auchter, Dictionary of Literary and Dramatic Censorship in Tudor and Stuart England, Westport, Greenwood Press, 2001, p. 345.

135 See the examples of censorship presented by Dorothy Auchter, op. cit., especially p. 7-10, 344-346, 350-353. For a detailed analysis of censorship in Elizabeth’s times, see Cyndia S. Clegg, Press Censorship in Elizabethan England, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997.

136 With respect to the political and personal significance of The Lady of May, see Edward Berry, “Sidney’s May Game for the Queen”, Modern Philology, 86 (3), February 1989, p. 252-264.

137 See James M. Osborn, op. cit., p. 503.

138 Nowell Smith, op. cit., p. 61.

139 Ibid.

140 See Derek B. Alwes, Sons and Authors in Elizabethan England, Newark, University of Delaware Press, 2004, p. 77.

141 See Robert Kimbrough, Sir Philip Sidney. Selected Prose and Poetry, Madison, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1983, p. xix; Katherine Duncan-Jones, op. cit., p. 154; Julie Campbell, Literary Circles and Gender in Early Modern Europe. A Cross-Cultural Approach, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2006, p. 17-18 and 123-147. Henry Woudhuysen, however, has outlined that these literary friends had probably not been “the great and the famous, [but] tended to be local, courtly, or university acquaintances.” See Henry R. Woudhuysen, Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts, 1558 1640, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1996, p. 385.

142 See Berta Siebeck, op. cit., p. 15.

143 See Matthew Woodcock, op. cit., p. 7.

144 Katherine Duncan-Jones (op. cit., p. 168) points at the paucity of letters from Sidney during his period at Wilton. As plausible explanation, she offers that “so much of his writing energies were now going into his romance [i.e. the Arcadia].” However, some letters have survived. For an insight into Philip Sidney’s correspondence after the summer of 1579, see Charles S. Levy, “A Supplementary Inventory of Sir Philip Sidney’s Correspondence” , Modern Philology, 67 (2), November 1969, p.177-181; Robert Shephard and Noel J. Kinnamon, “The Sidney Family Correspondence during Robert Sidney’s Continental Tour, 1579-1581”, Sidney Journal, 25 (1/2), 2007, p. 43-66.

145 Stubbs felt compelled to object to the Queen’s proposed marriage with Duke Alançon trying to persuade his readers that the French prince would be corrupt and unfit for marriage with the glorious Queen. “Elizabeth had always been particularly sensitive about her martial negotiations, and fiercely resented interference from a commoner in her affairs. […] Stubbs and his associates were charged with disseminating seditious literature.” See Dorothy Auchter, op. cit., p. 90. As a penalty, the publisher William Page and John Stubbs himself had one of their hands cut off. For a deeper analysis of the case of John Stubbs, see also Cyndia S. Clegg, op. cit., p. 123-137. Whether Leicester and Walsingham were involved in John Stubbs’s project, too, has been under discussion for quite a long time. Strong evidence against this thesis has been offered by Natalie Mears, “Counsel, Public Debate, and Queenship: John Stubbs’s The Discovery of a Gaping Gulf, 1579”, The Historical Journal, 44 (3), September 2001, p. 629-650.

146 See Ivan L. Schulze, “The Final Protest Against the Elizabeth-Alençon Marriage Proposal”, Modern Language Notes, 58 (1), January 1943, p. 54-57.

147 Steuart A. Pears, op. cit., p. 170.

148 Dennis Kay, “‘She Was a Queen, and Therefore Beautiful’: Sidney, His Mother, and Queen Elizabeth”, The Review of English Studies, New Series, 43 (169), February 1992, p. 18-39, here p. 22.

149 Michael G. Brennan (op. cit., p. 7) holds that “the Sidneys frequently compiled for their own use, and occasionally for public dissemination, analyses and polemical tracts on current political issues.”

150 Albert Feuillerat, op. cit., p. 129.

151 Ibid. Sidney wrote that he is “[...] so full of the colde as one can not heere me speake.”

152 Dennis Kay, op. cit., p. 29.

153 For the notion of “publicatio sui”, see Michael L. Humphries, “Michel Foucault on Writing and the Self in the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and Confessions of St. Augustine”, Arethusa, 30 (1), Winter 1997, p. 125-138, here p. 136.

154 Jan van Dorsten, “Sidney and Languet”, Huntington Library Quarterly, 29 (3), May 1966, p. 215-222, here p. 215.

155 Åke Bergvall, The “Enabling of Judgement”. Sir Philip Sidney and the Education of the Reader, Stockholm, Almqvist & Wiksell International, 1989, p. 60.

156 Dorothy Connell, op. cit., p. 91.

157 See Andrew D. Weiner, Sir Philip Sidney and the Poetics of Protestantism. A Study of Contexts, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1978, p. 3-4.

158 Ewald Flügel, op. cit., p. 67. Albert Hamilton has analysed Sidney’s poetic development and arrives at the conclusion that it would better be termed his “elected vocation”, and not – as Sidney himself proposed in the context of this quote – his “unelected vocation”. For the reasons, see especially Albert C. Hamilton, Sir Philip Sidney, op. cit., p. 58-106.

159 Ibid., p. 68.

160 Kenneth O. Myrick, Sir Philip Sidney as a Literary Craftsman, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1935, p. 6.

161 Ewald Flügel, op. cit., p. 93.

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Dirk Weidmann, « Writing as socio-political commitment. Sir Philip Sidney’s alternative », Études Épistémè [En ligne], 21 | 2012, mis en ligne le 01 avril 2012, consulté le 22 octobre 2017. URL : http://episteme.revues.org/415 ; DOI : 10.4000/episteme.415

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Dirk Weidmann

Dirk Weidmann studied English, Latin, and educational sciences at Philipps University, Marburg (Germany). After having conducted a longer period of research at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (USA), he is currently working on his dissertation, which focuses on the relation between emotions, imagination, and virtuous behaviour in Sir Philip Sidney’s Defence of Poesy. As a co-editor, he has written the general introduction to the conference proceedings From Plato to Global Governance. Drafts for Human Coexistence (German original title: Von Platon bis zur Global Governance. Entwürfe für menschliches Zusammenleben) and has published on the reception of ancient literature in T. S. Eliot’s long epic poem The Waste Land.

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