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period of time, but ages may pass on before another is born possessing all his advantages.
The principal production of Sir Philip Sidney's pen, is the Arcadia, a romance, in five books. This work after having been the subject of hyperbolical praise for a century and half, is now neglected and forgotten. A late writer on the subject of English style, has drawn the following character of it :
“Sir Philip Sidney's literary productions are unfortunately remarkable for little else than their feebleness, tautology, and conceit. They however contain no phrases that are not genuine English ; no sesquipedalia verba, and few inversions or deviations from the idiom of the language. Coldness, and puerility of conception, and with few exceptions, a total want of energy and compression in the style, are the defects which have hurried the Arcadia into oblivion.” *
In looking over the pages of the Arcadia, the critical reader should keep in mind that it bears the title of the Countess of Pembroke's work, and that it is said to have received some final touches from the
of that noble lady. The original, Sir Philip Sidney himself informs us, was written hastily on loose “sheets of paper,” most of it in his sister's presence, and the rest in detached parts, sent to her as soon as they were composed.f There are reasons to suppose, from internal evidence, that portions of this romance, more particularly some of the numerous specimens of poetry, were written on various occasions, and worked into the tissue of the story afterwards, by the author or publisher, as opportunity offered. After all, the tale is
Essays, &c. by Dr. Drake, vol. 2, p. 9. + Dedication of the Arcadia to Lady Penıbroke.
serve as an
brought to a hasty termination, and an additional book has been added to it by another writer. What portions of the work are to be attributed to the pen of the Countess, canuot now be ascertained, but the hand of a lady is visible throughout, more particularly in the minutiæ of dress and costume. There are sufficient reasons to presume that the whole was made up by Lady Pembroke, not merely from the loose sheets, but also from the common place books of her deceased brother.
It is not an easy task to select from such a work as the Arcadia, a short extract which fairly exhibits the character of the writer. In the Arcadia are found tales of love and of chivalıy, delineations of character, speeches frequently long and elaborate, descriptions of natural scenery, and of knightly combats. This may
excuse for the length of the following specimen, which is sufficiently detached from the tissue of the narrative to be intelligible, and embraces all the usual topics of the author.
From the second book of the Arcadia. “As I passed through a land, each side whereof was so bordered both with high timber trees, and copses of far more humble growth, that it might easily bring a solitary mind to look for no other companions, than the wild burgesses of the forest, I heard certain cries, which coming by pauses to mine ears from within the wood of the right hand, made me well assured by the greatness of the cry, it was the voice of a man, though it were a very unmanlike voice, so to cry. But making my ears my guide, I left not many trees behind me, before I saw at the bottom of one of them a gentleman, bound with many garters hand and foot, so as well he
might tumble and toss, but neither run nor resist he: could. Upon him, like so many eagles upon an ox were nine gentlewomen ; truly such, as one might well enough say, they were handsome. Each of them had bodkins in their hands, wherewith continually they pricked him, having been before-hand unarmed of any defence from the waste upward, but only of his shirt : so as the poor man wept and bled, cryed and prayed while they sported themselves in his pain, and delighted in his prayers as the arguments of their victory.
“I was moved to compassion, and so much the more that he streight called to me for succour, desiring me at least to kill him, to deliver him from those tormentors. But before myself could resolve, much less any other tell what I would resolve, there came in choleric haste towards me about seven or eight knights; the foremost of which, willed me to get away, and not to trouble the ladies, while they were taking their due revenge; but with so over-mastering a manner of pride, as truly my heart could not brook it: and therefore, answering them, that how I would have defended him from the ladies I knew not, but from them I would, I began a combat first with him particularly, and after his death with the others, that had less good manners, jointly. But such was the end of it, that I kept the field with the death of some, and flight of others. In so much as the women, afraid, what angry victory would bring forth, ran all away, saving only one, who was so flesht in malice that neither during, nor after the fight, she gave any truce to her cruelty, but still used the little instrument of her great spight, to the well witnest pain of the impatient patient: and was now about to put out his eyes, which all this while were spared, because
they should do him the discomfort of seeing who preVailed over him. When I came in, and after much ado brought her to some conference, for some time it was before she would hearken, more before she would speak, and most before she would in her speech leave off the sharp remembrance of her bodkin, but at length when I pullid off my head-piece, and humbly intreated her pardon, or knowledge why she was cruel, out of breath more with choler, which increased in his own exercise, than with the pain she took, much to this. purpose she gave her grief unto my knowledge. Gentleman, said she, much it is against my will to forbear any time the executing of my just revenge upon this naughty creature, a man in nothing, but in deceiving
But because I see you are young, and like enough to have the power, if you would have the mind, to do much more mischief than he, I am content upon this bad subject to read a lecture to your virtue.
“ This man called Pamphilus, in birth I must confess noble, but what is that to him, if it shall be a. stain to his dead ancestors to have left such an off-spring, in shape as you see, not uncomly, indeed the fit mask of his disguised falsehood, in conversation wittily pleasant, and pleasantly gamesome; his eyes full of merry simplicity, his words of hearty companiableness : and such an one, whose head one would not think so stayed as to think mischievously : delighted in all such things, which by imparting the delight to others, makes the user thereof welcome ;-as musick, dancing, hunting, feasting, riding, and such like. And to conclude, such an one, as who can keep him at arms-end, need never wish a better companion. But under these qualities lies such a poisonous adder, as I will tell you.
For by those gifts of nature and fortune, being in all places acceptable, he creeps, nay, to say truly, he flies so into the favour of poor silly women, that I would be too much ashamed to confess, if I had not revenge in my hand, as well as shame in
cheeks. For his heart being wholly delighted in deceiving us, we could never be warned, but rather one bird caught, served for a stale to bring in more. For the more he got, the more still he shewed, that he, as it were, gave way to his new mistress, when he betrayed his promises to the former. The cunning of his flattery, the readiness of his tears, the infiniteness of his vows, were but among the weakest threads of his net. But the stirring our own passions, and by the entrance of them, to make himself lord of our forces, there lay his master's part of cunning, making us now jealous, now envious, now proud of what we had, desirous of inore; now giving one the triumph, to see him that was prince of many, subject to her; now with an estranged look, making her fear the loss of th at mind, which indeed could never be had: never ceasing humbleness and diligence, till he had embarked us in some such disadvantage, as we could not return dry-shod; and then suddenly a tyrant, but a crafty tyrant. For so would he use his imperiousness, that we had a delightful fear, and an awe, which made us loath to lose our hope. And which is strangest, when sometimes with late repentance, I think of it, I must confess, even in the greatest tempest of my judgment was I never driven to think him excellent; and yet so could set my mind, both to get and keep him, as though therein had lain my felicity : like them I have seen play at the ball, grow extremely earnest, who should have the ball, and yet every one