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Vol. II. PART I.
Art. I. The Countesse of Pembroke's Arcadia. A pastorale Ro
mance. By Sir Philip Sidney. The eighth edition. London, 1633; folio; pp. 482.
The name of Sir Philip Sidney is associated with many pleasing and delightful recollections. We remember him as one of the greatest ornaments of the most glorious reign in our annals
as one of the chief favourites of that great queen whom we are taught from childhood to regard with respect and admiration. We remember him as the darling son of chivalry-as the inheritor of the noble and knightly qualities of Sir Lancelot and Sir Tristrem, of their courage without their ferocity, of their generosity without its concomitant rudeness—as the chain or connecting link which was interposed between the chivalric pageantry which had gone before, and the scarcely settled refinement which succeeded—as the compound of all that was high-spirited and romantic, of all that was gallant and brave. We remember him as one who communicated to the court of Elizabeth that tincture of romance, which gives it to our view, when seen through the dusky distances of antiquity, a mellow and chastened richness, not unlike the variegated and brilliant colouring with which the rays of the departing sun are embued by the painted windows through which they penetrate, as they
“ Illume with mellow light the brown-brow'd aisle.”
We remember him as the patron' and friend of our English Ariosto, the author of that enchanting production, The Fairy Queen, which we are sorry to see it is now the fashion to underrate and neglect. And lastly, we remember him as the contemporary of Shakspeare, and as one of the kindred spirits of that enchanted circle, of which Shakspeare was the master magician and wizard supreme.
Few characters, indeed, appear so well fitted to excite enthusiastic admiration as that of Sir Philip Sidney. Uniting all the accomplishments which youthful ardour and universality of talent could acquire or bestow delighting nations with the varied witchery of his powers, and courts with the fascination of his address-leaving the learned astonished with his proficiency, and the ladies enraptured with his grace, and communicating, wherever he went, the love and spirit of gladness-he was, and well deserved to be, the idol of the age he lived in. He appeared to be a good in which all nations considered themselves to be interested not the partial and sole property and product of one people, but an universal benefaction, given and intended for all, and in the glory and honour of which all had a right to be partakers. His death, therefore, was lamented by every court he had visited; and, to do honour to his memory, kings clad themselves in the habiliments of grief, and universities poured forth their tribute of academical sorrow. So rare an union of attractions, so unaccustomed a concentration of excellence, such a compound of military renown with literary distinction, and courtly refinement with noble frankness, gave him a passport to every heart, and secured him, at once, universal sympathy and esteem. He was, indeed, if ever there was one, a gentleman, finished and complete, in whom mildness was associated with courage, erudition mollified by refinement, and courtliness dignified by truth. He is a specimen of what the English character was capable of producing, when foreign admixtures had not destroyed its simplicity, or politeness debased its honour. The very stiffness it then possessed had a noble original; it was the natural consequence of that state of society, when the degrees of order and subordination were universally observed and understood, when the social relations were not broken down by the incroaching power of innovation, and when each was as ready to pay as to exact his tribute of observance and respect. No lax discipline in morals had then interwoven itself with the manners of the great, nor was the court, as in the reign of Charles the Second, converted into a painted sepulchre, where the spirit, the gaiety, and the gilding without, could ill disguise the darkness and rottenness within: it was not, as in that court, a great national reservoir of iniquity, where all the degrees of order, and all the barriers of principle, were le