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SIR PHILIP SIDNEY,
Or Sydney, son of sir Henry Sidney, by Mary his wife, eldest daughter of John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, was born in 1554, at Penshurst in Kent. His father being lord president of Wales, he was sent to school at Shrewsbury, in the vicinity, and afterwards entered, at the age of 12 or 13, the College of Christ-church, Oxford. Quitting the university in 1572, he soon after commenced his travels, though only 18 years old ; and in France, Charles IX. is said to have been so struck with his merit, that he made him one of the gentlemen of his chamber. This, however, was justly thought to be an act of treacherous favour in that prince, with a view to decoy admiral Coligni and his adherents to Paris, at the king of Navarre's wedding, when the pro
testants thinking themselves secure by that marriage, were barbarously massacred on the 24th of August, 1572. At this awful juncture, sir Francis Walsingham being resident at Paris as ambassador from queen Elizabeth, Sidney, with many others, took refuge in his house. Leaving Paris soon after, he pursued his route through Germany and Italy, and returned to England in 1575.
He was knighted in 1583; and some time after appointed governor of Flushing, one of the cautionary towns delivered by the Dutch to queen Elizabeth; and also general of the horse under his uncle Robert, earl of Leicester. His high merit and fame as a general in the Low Countries gained him the honour of being nominated, on the death of Stephen Batori, for the crown of Poland; but Elizabeth refused to aid him with her interest, impatient of the thought of losing him. His authority in the United Provinces became so powerful, that prospects calculated to excite and reward ambition opened before him ; but to his glory be it spoken, his reason was accustomed to cast in the opposite scale his duties as a patriot and a man, and, thus preserved the just equilibrium of his soul. He died in 1586, at the age of 32, from a wound he had received in the thigh, in a battle near Zutphen, in Gelderland.
After he had received his death-wound, being overcome with thirst from excessive - bleeding, he called for drink, which was immediately brought him. At the moment he was lifting it to his mouth, a poor soldier was carried by, desperately wounded, who fixed his eyes eagerly upon the bottle. Sidney observing this, instantly delivered it to him, with these words." Thy necessity is yet greater than mine."
Sir Philip Sidney was regarded by his cotemporaries with enthusiastic admiration. His valour, his generosity and nobleness of soul, his warm humanity, which prompted him to relieve the distressed, not to mention his intellectual polish and superiority, interested and attached all hearts. So deep was the sorrow for his untimely fate, that many months after his death, it was thought unbecoming for any gentleman of quality to appear at court or in the city, in any light or gaudy apparel.
As an author, he is remembered chiefly by his Arcadia, a pastoral Romance, which was written about the year 1580; and may be said
to have owed its birth to a quarrel with Edward Vere, earl of Oxford, at a tennis-court, in consequence of which he retired for a while from court, during which recess it was composed. It appears, that he wrote it simply for the amusement of his sister Mary, the wife of Henry, earl of Pembroke; that it was never designed for publication, as he desired upon his death-bed that it might be suppressed. Notwithstanding this, it was published, and so universally read, and admired, as to come to an eighth impression, as early as 1633.
The description of Arcadia presents an interesting picture of the simplicity and innocence of the pastoral life.-Musidorus is shipwrecked on the coast of Laconia, where he is found by two Arcadian shepherds, Strephon and Claius, who conduct him to their own country, &c.
Now sir, thus for ourselves it is, we are in profession but shepherds, and in this country of Lacos nia, little better than strangers; and therefore neither in skill, nor ability of power, greatly to stead you. But what we can present unto you is this. Arcadia, of which country we are, is but a little
way hence, and even upon the next confines, there dwelleth a gentleman, by name Kallander, who vouchsafeth much favour unto us a man who for his hospitality is so much haunted, that no news stirs, but comes to his ears; for his upright dealing so beloved of his neighbours, that he hath many ever ready to do him their uttermost service; and by the great good will our prince bears him, may soon obtain the use of his name and credit, which hath a principal sway, not only in his own Arcadia, but in all these countries of Peloponnesus. And(which is worth all) all: these things give him not so much power, as his nature gives him will to benefit; so that it seems, no music is so sweet to his ear as deserved thanks. To him we will bring you; and there you may recover again your health; without which you cannot be able to make any diligent search for your friend (Pirocles, who had been taken by pirates]: and therefore you must labour for it. Besides, we are sure, the comfort of courtesy, and ease of wise council, shall not be wanting.
Musidorus (who besides he was merely unacquainted in the country, had his wits astonished with sorrow) gave easy consent to that, from which he saw no reason to disagree; and therefore, they took their journey together through Laconia; Claius and Strephon by course carrying his chest for him, Musidorus only bearing in his countenance evident