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Sidney Sir Philip

Sidney, SIR PHILIP (1554-86), an English statesman and poet, whose noble life and chivalrous death have justly made him the ideal of knightly heroism. He was the son of Sir Henry Sidney, an able and upright Irish Viceroy, and Mary Dudley, daughter of John, Duke of Northumberland, and sister of Elizabeth's favourite, the Earl of Leicester. He vas born at his father's seat of Penshurst in Kent, and received his education at Shrewsbury school and Christ Church, Oxford. In 1572 he set out on the grand tour, and was at Paris on the night of the massacre of St. Bartholomew. At Frankfort he made the acquaintance of his lifelong friend, the scholar Hubert Languet. After visiting Itajy, he returned to England in 1575, and, aided by the patronage of his uncle Leicester, rapidly made his way at Court. In 1577 he went as ambassador to the Emperor Rudolph for the purpose of effecting a permanent union of the Protestant states - an impossible project, for the failure of which Sidney is not to be blamed. Having incurred Elizabeth's anger by a bold address, pointing out the evils which would result from a marriage with the Duke of Anjou, he withdrew from Court in 1580, and lived for a time with his sister, the Countess of Pembroke, at Wilton, In 1585 he was about to set sail with Drake on an expedition against the Spaniards in America, when he received a message from the Queen forbidding him to leave England. He was, however, allowed to accompany Leicester, who was sent to the Netherlands to aid the Dutch in their struggle with the Spaniards, and there, through a noble act of courage and self-sacrifice, he lost his life on the battlefield of Zutphen (September 22, 1586). As a poet Sidney appears at his best in Astrophel and Stella, a series of beautiful sonnets commemorating his hopeless passion for Penelope Devereux, sister bf the Earl of Essex and wife of Lord Rich. His pastoral romance, The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, occupies an important position in the development of English prose, and was very popular in its own day, but it is too prolix and artificial to please the present age. Another prose work, The Defence of Poesie, still keeps its place as a classic.