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the summer of 1575, and after taking part in those festivities attended the queen during her subsequent progress to Lichfield and Chartley Castle. At Chartley he first met Penelope Devereux, who was afterwards to play so important and tragical a part in his life. In the spring of 1577 a very important duty was entrusted to him. He was sent to Germany to congratulate the new Emperor Rodolf the Second, who had just succeeded to the throne vacated by the death of Maximilian in October, 1576. It was necessary for the Protestants to ingratiate themselves with the new emperor, for, as he had grown up under the influence of the Jesuits, it was feared that he would not allow those privileges to the Huguenots which his more tolerant predecessor had done. This embassy not only initiated Sidney's public life, but brought him for the first time into intimate contact with the great struggle of that age. The object of Sidney and of those who supported the Protestant cause was to form an alliance of the Protestant powers against the Catholic. Knowing well that the new emperor's tendency was to depress the Protestants and favour the Catholics, Sidney is said to have pointed out to him in an eloquent speech the necessity of a union among the German powers against Spain and the Catholic countries. The dream of the Fædus Evangelicum, as it was called, was to combine the Lutherans of Germany, the Calvinists of France, Sweden, and the Low Countries, and the various other Protestant sects, into a grand confederation for the defence of religion and liberty. That it should fail was only natural, for the schisms which tore these sects and divided them from one another were not less rabid, obstinate, and irremediable than the schism which separated the Protestants collectively from the Catholics.
After his visit to the Imperial Court, Sidney had an interview at Dordrecht with the great bulwark of Pro74 testantism, William the Silent, Prince of Orange, on
whom he made a most favourable impression. On his return to England we find him playing a conspicuous part in social life. A visit of Queen Elizabeth to his uncle at Wanstead led to the composition of his first extant work—a masque entitled The Lady of the May, a wretched performance which is only remarkable for having possibly suggested to Shakespeare the character of Holofernes in Love's Labour's Lost.
And now began his connexion with the literary life of his time. It appears to have been initiated by his introduction in July, 1578, to Gabriel Harvey, then busy with his pedantic attempt to revolutionize the form of English poetry by substituting for native metres the metres of the Greek and Roman Classics. Harvey no doubt introduced Spenser to him. Spenser, just fresh from Cambridge, had already translated Du Bellay's Visions, and was no doubt meditating his Shepherd's Calendar. To Sidney, Spenser was probably indebted for an introduction to the Earl of Leicester, in whose house he was, we know, residing at the end of 1578. Next year the Shepherd's Calendar was finished and dedicated to Sidney. The three friends, for acquaintance soon ripened into intimacy, were joined by Sidney's old college friends, Fulke Greville and Edward Dyer, and a literary society was formed which they called the Areopagus. The presiding spirit appears to have been the wretched pedant Gabriel Harvey, who, bent on naturalizing the classical metres in England, persuaded both Spenser and Sidney to turn their hands to them. Spenser soon revolted; what Sidney produced may still be seen in the Arcadia.
At this juncture an event occurred which gave Sidney more leisure for purely literary pursuits than was agreeable to him. In 1579 the Duke of Alençon, now Duke of Anjou, renewed his application for the hand of Elizabeth, and it
was supposed that Elizabeth regarded him with favour. The people generally were greatly opposed to such a match, partly because Anjou was a Frenchman and partly because he was a Catholic. A faction at Court, headed by Leicester, were still more emphatically hostile to such a step; and Sidney, probably prompted by his uncle, had the incredible folly to address an elaborate letter to the queen, condemning the marriage and appealing to her patriotism and Protestant zeal. The letter, which is printed in his works, is as admirably expressed as any such letter could be, but considering his youth and position nothing could justify such a liberty. The queen was furious, and for some months Sidney was excluded from her presence and had to go into retirement. The place of his retirement was Wilton, the seat of Henry Herbert, second Earl of Pembroke, who in 1577 married Sidney's sister Mary
The gentlest shepherdess that lives this day,
She shines out in the social history of those times a gracious and beautiful figure. Intellectually at least the equal of her brother, she shared his tastes and his studies. She assisted him in a poetical version of the Psalms, completing it after his death. For her amusement during this retirement at Wilton he wrote the Arcadia, which he dedicated to her. • Your dear self can best witness the manner [in which it was written] being done on loose sheets of paper most of it in your presence, the rest by sheets sent unto you as fast as they were done '-so he writes in the dedication. At Wilton too he probably wrote the Apologie for Poetrie, though it is not possible to speak with certainty on the subject.
The anger of the queen did not last long, and in October of this year, 1580, as we learn from a letter of Languet, he was again at Court; and on New Year's Day, 1581, he made his peace with the queen by presenting her with a goldheaded whip and a chain and heart of gold. But the year thus auspiciously opened was destined to be a very troubled one for him. In September he lost his beloved friend and good genius Hubert Languet, just when he most needed his sympathy and advice. To understand what was at this time filling Sidney's life with distress we must go back a little. We have seen that he first met Penelope Devereux, the daughter of the Earl of Essex, at Chartley in 1575, when she was in her thirteenth year. From that time they often met, and though there appears to have been no love-passages between them, it was cer. tainly the wish of her father, expressed, so it was said, on his death-bed, that she should become Sidney's wife. But Penelope's mother, the Countess of Essex, a hard and worldly woman, was not inclined to further his suit, and during his temporary disgrace in 1579 encouraged another suitor, Lord Rich, the son of that infamous Lord Chancellor who tried More and Fisher, Into a marriage with this man, who appears to have been worthy of his father, Penelope was forced either in 1580 or in 1581. Sidney, mad with rage and chagrin at thus being superseded, now found himself ardently in love with one to whom he seems to have been comparatively indifferent before. There is no doubt that this passion exercised for some time a discomposing and evil influence on his life. The story of it is told in his Sonnets and Songs entitled Astrophel and Stella, a singularly interesting and beautiful series of poems entitling him to a very distinguished place among the minor Elizabethan poets.
But his life was a busy one. He sat in Parliament for Kent: he was a prominent figure in most of the great Court functions. He was nominated with the Earl of Warwick joint-master of the ordnance. In January, 1583, he was knighted, and not long afterwards we find him a candidate for the office of Captain of the Isle of Wight. In the autumn of the same year his affection found a worthier object than Stella, and on September the 21st he became the husband of Frances Walsingham, the daughter of Elizabeth's famous Secretary of State. His marriage appears to have been a happy one, but his restless energy found little satisfaction in a life of repose. At one time he meditated joining an expedition to Newfoundland. At another time he was on the point of setting out on a voyage of discovery to the new world, letters patent being actually issued authorizing him to 'hold for ever such and so much quantity of ground as should amount to the number of thirty hundred thousand acres' in America, but these lands he never claimed, remaining in England.
In 1584 Sidney's chief attention seems to have been devoted partly to Colonial affairs and partly to the interests of Protestantism in Europe. Thus we find him watching with close attention Sir Walter Raleigh's designs in South America, and serving on a commission for settling the boundaries of the projected colony in Virginia. On the death of the Duke of Anjou, the brother of Henry III of France, which took place in the autumn of the year, Sidney was chosen by Elizabeth to convey her condolences to Henry, with instructions also to point out to him the desirableness of opposing the progress of Spain in the Netherlands. In this he was not successful, but on his return from France he pointed out to Elizabeth how important it was that active steps should be taken to prepare for a conflict which was, as he saw, imminent.