Men of Kent and Kentishmen/Sir Philip Sidney

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Sir Philip Sidney,


Son of the preceding, is said to have been born at Penshurst 24th Nov., 1554. Of a character so well-known and of whom so much has been written, it is sufficient here to record the leading personal particulars. He was educated at the free school of Shrewsbury, where at the age of twelve he addressed two letters to his father, one in Latin the other in French, which elicited in answer a valuable compendium of instruction, which has been inserted in Dr. Zouch's life of Sir Philip. From Shrewsbury he went to Oxford, thence to Cambridge, and subsequently he travelled on the Continent, where he narrowly escaped the massacre in Paris on the day of St. Bartholomew. In Italy he made the acquaintance of Hubert Languet, to whom he professed himself most indebted for his knowledge of politics and government. In Vienna he devoted himself to horsemanship, the use of arms, and the manly and martial exercises befitting a youth of his position. He returned to England in 1575. He was soon after employed on several important diplomatic missions. In 1580 he retired from Court and commenced his famous romance "Arcadia." In the following year he was returned to represent Kent in Parliament. In 1583 he married Frances, daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham. In 1585 he was named a competitor for the kingdom of Poland, but withdrew, choosing, according to Fuller, to be "a subject of Elizabeth, rather then a sovereign beyond seas." In the same year he was despatched on the expedition in which he terminated his brilliant existence. This was to operate in the Netherlands, in aid of the Protestants, against the Duke of Alva. The story of his wound before Zutphen is well known. He died at Amheim, 7th Oct., 1586, at the early age of thirty-two. He was buried at S. Paul's, 16th Feb., 1587, and the whole country went into mourning. "He was a gentleman finished and complete," than which there can be no higher praise. His virtues have been the subject of panegyric by all writers of the time. Spencer commemorated him under the name of Astrophel, and Sir Walter Raleigh calls him the English Petrarch. "He trod from his cradle to his grave amid incense and flowers, and died in a dream of glory." Besides his "Arcadia," he has left many poems, songs, sonnets, and miscellaneous writings. The latter were collected and published by Gray in 1829.

[See "Zouch's Memoirs and Histories of the Period.]