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'The Surprize', c. 1655 60

'The Surprize', c. 1655 60

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Sir Philip Sydney, knight, was the most accomplished cavalier of his


He was not only of an excellent witt, but extremely beautifull; he

much resembled his sister, but his haire was not red, but a little

inclining, viz. a darke amber colour. If I were to find a fault in it,

methinkes ’tis not masculine enough; yett he was a person of great


My great uncle, Mr. Thomas Browne, remembred him; and said

that he was often wont, as he was hunting on our pleasant plaines,

to take his table booke out of his pocket, and write downe his

notions as they came into his head, when he was writing his

Arcadia (which was never finished by him).

He was the reviver of poetry in those darke times, which was

then at a very low ebbe,—e.g. ‘The Pleasant Comoedie of Jacob and

Esau,’ acted before King Henry VIII’s grace (where, I remember, is

this expression, that the pottage was so good, that God Almighty might

have putt his finger in’t); ‘Grammar Gurton’s Needle’; and in these

playes there is not 3 lines but there is ‘by God’, or ‘by God’s


He was of a very munificent spirit, and liberall to all lovers of

learning, and to those that pretended to any acquaintance with

Parnassus; in so much that he was cloyed and surfeited with the

Poetasters of those dayes. Among others, Mr. Edmund Spencer

made his addresse to him, and brought his Faery Queen. Sir Philip

was busy at his study, and his servant delivered Mr. Spencer’s

booke to his master, who layd it by, thinking it might be such kind

of stuffe as he was frequently troubled with. Mr. Spencer stayd so

long that his patience was wearied, and went his way

discontented, and never intended to come again. When Sir Philip

perused it, he was so exceedingly delighted with it, that he was

extremely sorry he was gonne, and where to send for him he knew

not. After much enquiry he learned his lodgeing, and sent for him,

mightily caressed , and ordered his servant to give him

[blank] pounds in gold. His servant sayd that that was too much.

‘No,’ sayd Sir Philip, ‘he is [blank]’ and ordered an addition. From

this time there was a great friendship between them, to his dying

day. [Cf. No. 66.]



At Wilton is a good library…which was collected in this learned

ladie’s [the Countess of Pembroke’s] time. There is a manuscript

very elegantly written, viz. all the Psalmes of David translated by

Sir Philip Sydney, curiously bound in crimson velvet.

This curious seate of Wilton and the adjacent countrey is an

Arcadian place and a paradise. [Aubrey deletes, and Clark

suppresses most of, the following remark in Bodleian Library, MS

Aubrey 6, f. 81.] Sir Philip Sydney was much here and there was so

great love between him and his faire sister that I have heard old

Gentlemen say that they lay together and it was thought that the

first Philip Earle of P[embroke] was begot by him. [The ‘old

Gentlemen’ are specified in a marginal note as ‘Old Sr. Wr. Long of

Draycot and old Mr. [Thomas] Tyndale.’]

[The Countess of Pembroke on her (rumoured) second marriage, to

Sir Matthew Lister] built then a curious house in Bedfordshire

called Houghton Lodge neer Ampthill. The architects were sent for

from Italie. It is built according to the Description of Basilius’s

house in the first booke of the Arcadia (which is dedicated to her).

[Cf. William Camden, Britannia, ed. Edmund Gibson, London,

1722, vol. 1, p. 340; Horace Walpole, Introduction, p. 52].

64. John Dryden

1672, 1677, 1693

Dryden still expects readers and audiences to have some

knowledge of Sidney’s work. For Isabelle in The Wild Gallant

(1663), III.i.14, ‘Damæetas’ is a familiar tern of abuse; in the

dedication to The Rival Ladies (1664) there is a reference to A

Defence of Poetry (MP, pp. 100–1) on ‘the help [rhyme] brings to

Memory’. But, as the remarks below suggest, Sidney is

becoming very much a figure from an earlier, less refined age.



(a) Defence of the Epilogue: or, An Essay on the Dramatique Poetry of

the Last Age (printed with The Conquest of Granada. The Second

Part, London, 1672), in The Works of John Dryden, vol. 11, ed.

John Loftis and David Stuart Rhodes, Berkeley, Calif., 1978,

pp. 213–14.

[Even Jonson] was not free from the lowest and most groveling kind

of Wit, which we call Clenches…. This was…the mode of wit, the

vice of the Age and not Ben. Jonson’s: for you see, a little before him,

that admirable wit, Sir Philip Sidney, perpetually playing with his


(b) ‘The Authors Apology for Heroique Poetry and Poetique

Licence’, prefaced to The State of Innocence, and the Fall of Man,

London, 1677, sig. c2

That which would be allow’d to a Grecian Poet, Martial tells you,

would not be suffer’d in a Roman. And ’tis evident that the English,

does more nearly follow the strictness of the latter, than the

freedoms of the former. Connection of Epithetes, or the conjunction

of two words in one, are frequent and elegant in the Greek, which

yet Sir Philip Sidney, and the Translator of Du Bartas, have unluckily

attempted in the English; though this I confess, is not so proper an

Instance of Poetique Licence, as it is of variety of Idiom in languages.

(c) A Discourse Concerning the Original and Progress of Satire

(printed with Dryden’s translation of Persius and Juvenal,

London, 1693), in The Works of John Dryden, vol. 4, ed. A.B.

Charlton and William Frost, Berkeley, Calif., 1974, p. 14.

The Original of every Knight [in The Faerie Queene], was then living

in the Court of Queen Elizabeth: And [Spenser] attributed to each of

them that Virtue, which he thought was most conspicuous in

them…. But Prince Arthur, or his Chief Patron, Sir Philip Sidney,

whom he intended to make happy, by the Marriage of his Gloriana,

dying before him, depriv’d the Poet, both of Means and Spirit, to

accomplish his Design.


65. Edward Phillips


Phillips (1630–96?), miscellaneous writer, did not share the

political and religious views of his uncle and tutor, John

Milton (No. 58). His possible hesitation over the merits of

Astrophil and Stella may suggest, rather, that it seemed more

old-fashioned than Arcadia to Restoration readers. Certainly it

is mentioned much less often in the period. Elsewhere in

Theatrum Poetarum (p. 3) Phillips censures the ‘Latin Measures’

in the eclogues, as unsuitable to English and other modern

languages (p. 3).

Theatrum Poetarum: or, A Compleat Collection of Poets, London,

1675, ‘The Modern Poets’, p. 152.

Sr Philip Sidney, the Glory of the English Nation in his time, and

Pattern of true Nobility, [was] as equally addicted both to Arts and

Arms, though more fortunate in the first…. He was the great

English Mecaenas of Vertue,1 Learning and Ingenuity, though in his

own Writings chiefly if not wholy Poetical; his Arcadia being a Poem

in design, though for the most part in Solute [=free, discursive]

Oration, and his Astrophil and Stella, with other things in Verse,

having, if I mistake not, a greater Spirit of Poetry, than to be

altogether disesteem’d.



Gaius Maecenas, friend of Augustus and patron of Horace and Virgil.


66. Life of Spenser


Earlier biographical accounts had stated that Sidney advanced

Spenser at court; this much expanded and intensified version

contributed another strand to the Sidney myth. It continued

to be cited in eighteenth century lives of Spenser; John Upton

dismisses the story, but quotes the whole of it (Spenser’s Faerie

Queene, London, 1758, pp. v–vii). Aubrey reports it more

briefly (No. 63b). By the mid- to late eighteenth century it is

probable that many readers were more closely familiar with

Sidney as an adjunct of Spenser than with Arcadia.

For a suggestion that the author of the life was Brooke

Bridges (1630–1702), see Alexander C.Judson, ‘The

Seventeenth Century Lives of Edmund Spenser’, Huntington

Library Quarterly, vol. 10, 1946–7, p. 45.

From ‘A Summary of the Life of Mr. Edmond Spenser’, in The

Works of that Famous English Poet, Mr. Edmond Spenser, London,

1679, sigs A1–A1v

Mr. Sidney (afterward Sir Philip) then in full glory at Court, was the

Person, to whom [Spenser] design’d the first Discovery of himself;

and to that purpose took an occasion to go one morning to LeicesterHouse, furnish’t only with a modest confidence, and the Ninth Canto

of the First Book of his Faery Queen: He waited not long, e’re he

found the lucky season for an address of the Paper to his hand; who

having read the Twenty-eighth Stanza of Despair, (with some signs in

his Countenance of being much affected, and surpris’d with what

he had read) turns suddenly to his Servant, and commands him to

give the Party that presented the Verses to him Fifty Pounds; the

Steward stood speechless, and unready, till his Master having past

over another Stanza, bad him give him an Hundred Pound; the

Servant something stagger’d at the humour his Master was in,

mutter’d to this purpose, That by the semblance of the Man that

brought the Paper, Five Pounds would be a proper Reward; but Mr.



Sidney having read the following Stanza, commands him to give Two

Hundred Pounds, and that very speedily, least advancing his

Reward, proportionably to the heigth of his Pleasure in reading, he

should hold himself oblig’d to give him more than he had: Withal

he sent an invitation to the Poet, to see him at those hours, in which

he would be most at leasure. After this Mr. Spenser, by degrees, so

far gain’d upon him, that he became not only his Patron, but his

Friend too; entred him at Court, and obtain’d of the Queen the

Grant of a Pention to him as Poet Laureat: But in this, his Fate was

unkind; for it prov’d only a Poetical Grant, the payment, after a very

short time, being stopt by a great Councellour, who studied more the

Queen’s Profit than her Diversion, and told Her, ’twas beyond

Example to give so great a Pention to a Ballad-maker.

67. D.Tyndale


For the Tyndale family, friends and neighbours of John

Aubrey, see David Tylden-Wright, John Aubrey: A Life,

London, 1991, pp. 133–4. The first name of this member of

the family, probably a son of Thomas (1588–1671) and

Dorothy, and brother of Stafford Tyndale, seems not to be


The idea that such a ‘key’ can or should be provided is

rejected by ‘Philophilippos’ (No. 61).

‘Key of Pembroke’s Arcadia’, in a letter from D.Tyndale to

John Aubrey, 18 February 1687, in ‘Brief Lives,’ chiefly of

Contemporaries, set down by John Aubrey, between 1669 and 1696,

ed. Andrew Clark, 2 vols, Oxford 1898, vol. 2, pp. 250–1.

I wishe I could give you the key you desire, but all I know of it is

not worth anything; though conversant amongst his relations, could

learne noe more then Pamela’s being my lady Northumberland,1



Philoclea my lady Rich, two sisters, the last beloved by him, upon

whose account he made his Astrophell and Stella; Miso, lady Cox,

Mopse, lady Lucy, persons altogether unknowne now; Musid[orus]

and Pericles [sic], the two ladies’ husbands. Lord Rich being then his

friend, he perswaded her mother to the match, though he repented

afterwards: she then very young and secretly in love with him but

he no consern for her. Her beauty augmenting, he sayes in his

Astrophell and Stella, he didn’t think ‘the morn would have proved

soe faire a daye’ [see AS 33]. Their mother [Lettice Knollys,

Countess of Essex and then of Leicester] was beautiful and gallant

(whether he meant Ginesia by her or noe, I know not); but their

father died, they being young…. It was thought he meant himself

by Amph[ialus] and his lady, Sir Francis Walsingham’s daughter

and heire, the queen of Corinth. If he did make his owne character

high, they sayd Philisides was himself to, but it was all a guesse. He

made it young, and dying desired his folies might be burnt.

Some others I have heard guessed at, but have forgot. Therfore

cannot satisfie the lady, which I would for your sake.



Penelope Rich’s sister Dorothy.

68. Sir William Temple


The diplomat and essayist Temple (1628–99) was the

grandson of Sidney’s secretary and friend (see No. 7). Family

tradition perhaps had some influence on his valuation of

Sidney, unusually high for its time.

‘Essay IV. Of Poetry’, in Sir William Temple, Miscellanea. The

Second Part, London, 1690, p. 33.



The last kind of Poetry in Prose, is that which in later Ages has

overrun the World, under the Name of Romances, which tho’ it

seems Modern, and a Production of the Gothick Genius, yet the

Writing is antient…. The true Spirit or Vein of antient Poetry in this

Kind, seems to shine most in Sir Philip Sidney, whom I esteem both

the Greatest Poet and the Noblest Genius of any that have left

Writings behind them, and published in ours or any modern

Language; a Person born capable not only of forming the greatest

Idæaes, but of leaving the noblest Examples, if the length of his Life

had been equal to the Excellence of his Wit and his Virtues.

69. Anthony Wood


Wood (1632–95), historian of the University of Oxford,

gathered information and opinions on writers and bishops for

Athenae Oxonienses. John Aubrey (see No. 63) was one of his

main sources.

Athenae Oxonienses, 2 vols, London, 1691–2, vol. 1, pp. 182–4.

PHILIP SIDNEY, the short-liv’d Ornament of his noble Family,

and the Marcellus of the English Nation, hath deserv’d, and without

dispute or envy enjoyed, the most exalted praises of his own and of

succeeding Ages. The Poets of his time, especially Spencer,

reverenc’d him not only as a Patron, but a Master; and he was

almost the only Person in any age (I will not except Mecænas)1 that

could teach the best rules of Poetry, and most freely reward the

performances of Poets. He was a Man of a sweet nature, of excellent

behaviour, of much, and withall of well digested, learning; so that

rarely wit, courage, breeding, and other additional

accomplishments of conversation have met in so high a degree in



any single Person. It is to be wish’d that his life might be written by

some judicious hand, and that the imperfect essay of Sir Fulk Grevill

L.Brook might be supply’d; In the mean time I am forc’d to

consider him only as an Author, and to give him these short notes

of his life and education.

In the year 1579 he, though neither Magistrate or Counsellour, did

shew himself, for several weighty reasons, opposite to the Queens

matching with the Duke of Anjou, which he very pithily expressed

by a due address of his humble reasons to her…The said address

was written at the desire of some great personage, his Uncle Robert

(I suppose) Earl of Leycester; upon which a great quarrel hapned

betwen him and Edw. Vere Earl of Oxford. This as I conceive, might

occasion his retirement from Court next Summer, an. 1580, wherein

perhaps he wrot that pleasant Romance called Arcadia.

What can be said more? He was a Statesman, Soldier, and Scholar,

a compleat Master of matter and language, as his immortal Pen

shews. His Pen and his Sword have rendred him famous enough.

He died by the one, and by the other he’ll ever live, as having been

hitherto highly extolled for it by the Pens of Princes. This is the

happiness of art, that although the sword doth atchieve the honour,

yet the arts do record it, and no Pen hath made it better known than

his own, in that book called Arcadia. Certain it is, he was a noble

and matchless Gentleman; and it may be justly said without

hyperboles of fiction, as it was of Cato Uticensis that he seemed to be

born to that only which he went about. [In a list of Sidney’s work Wood

notes that Arcadia, ‘the most celebrated Romance that ever was

written’, is still ‘taken into the hands of all ingenious Men’, and that

Astrophil and Stella is ‘Said to be written for the sake of one whom he

entirely loved, viz. the Lady Rich, by whom was understood Philoclea

in the Arcadia’ (cf. Nos 37 and 67).]



See above, n. 1 to No. 65


70. ‘J.N.’


This popularization of Arcadia greatly reduces its length and

complexity by concentrating on narrative rather than debate

and removing most of the heroic sub-plots (one of which, the

story of Argalus and Parthenia, was already widely available

in chapbook form). Much of the text is taken verbatim, or

almost so, from Sidney, but the omissions make for some very

different emphases. For instance, the orations at the trial of

Gynecia and the princes are subject to ruthless cutting, while

the doings of Dametas and his family, which have obvious

popular appeal, are more extensively retained. (See, for

instance, Dametas’ combat with Clinias (pp. 53–65) and his,

Miso’s and Mopsa’s deception by Dorus/Musidorus (pp. 84ff.,

96ff.). The concluding part of The Famous History is derived

from Beling’s Sixth Book (No. 46).

The second passage below is the much abbreviated

equivalent of OA, pp. 309–18. The abbreviation is achieved by

the exclusion of all elements which tend to slow the narrative

or to elaborate on the characters’ feelings, including the death

of the rebels and several long reflective or hortatory speeches

by Pamela and Musidorus.

The address to the reader is signed ‘J.N.’

The Famous History of Heroick Acts: or, The Honour of Chivalry.

Being an Abstract of Pembroke’s Arcadia, London, 1701, title-page

and pp. 109–11.

The Famous History of Heroick Acts or, the Honour of Chivalry.

Being an Abstract of Pembroke’s Arcadia. Containing many strange

and wonderful Adventures that happened to the two young Princes,

Pyrocles and Musidorus, Disguised, one under the habit of a Mazonian Woman, and the other in Shepherd’s Dress: With their Success

in LOVE, towards the two incomparable Princesses, Philoclea and

Pamela, the Arcadian King’s only Daughters. The whole being a

compleat Series, interwoven with the Heroick Actions of many



Valiant Men, as Kings, Princes, and Knights, of undoubted Fame;

whose matchless Deeds, have won to them immortal Honour,

Fame, and everlasting Renown.

Illustrated and lively set forth with many curious Cuts, the like

as yet not Extant.

Then began these Villains to consult what they should do; some

would rob them of their Jewels, and let them go on their Journey;

others preferring their own homes above any thing, desired to bring

them to Basilius, as Pledges of their Surety. Thus having either by

Fortune, or the force of these two Lovers inward working Vertue,

setled their cruel Hearts to this course, they took the two Horses,

and having set upon them their Princely prisoners, they returned

towards the Lodge; the Villains having decked all their Heads with

Lawrel Branches, thinking they had done a notable Act, singing and

shouting for very Joy; and being come within the Plain, near to the

Lodges, espied a Troop of Horsemen kept on their way towards the

Lodge; the Horsemen were some of those that Philanax had sent out

in search of Pamela, who came riding up to them, demanding who

they were, that in such a general manner durst sing joyful Tunes,

and in so publick a Ruine, wear the Lawrel in token of Victory?

And that which seemed strange, they might see two among them

Unarmed like Prisoners, but riding like Captains. But when they

came near, they perceived the one to be the Lady Pamela, and the

other to be Dorus. The Soldiers hastened to carry them to their Lord

Philanax, to whom they came just as he was coming out of the Lady

Philoclea’s Chamber, who had taken Pyrocles before, and had

deliver’d him to a Noble Man of that Country. As they were leading

Pyrocles to Prison, he beheld his Friend Musidorus in company with

the Noble and Beautious Lady Pamela in that unexpected sort

returned, which much augmented his Grief, for besides some small

hope he had if Musidorus was but once out of the confines of Arcadia,

did not doubt but he would bring his Desires to a good and speedy

Issue; the hard Misfortune of his Friend did more grieve him than

his own. But as soon as Musidorus was brought unto Philanax,

Pyrocles, (who not knowing whether ever he might see his Friend

again) leap’d suddenly from them that held him, embracing him as

fast as he could in his Arms; and therwith kissing his Cheeks, said,

O my Palladius, let not our vertue abandon us! and let us prove that

our Lives are not slaves to Fortune. Dear Diaphantus, answer’d


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