Image of Sir Philip Sidney


Lifetime: 1554 - 1586 Passed: ≈ 437 years ago


Poet, Scholar, Soldier



Sir Philip Sidney

Sir Philip Sidney was an English poet, courtier, scholar and soldier who is remembered as one of the most prominent figures of the Elizabethan age. His works include Astrophel and Stella, The Defence of Poesy (also known as The Defence of Poetry or An Apology for Poetry) and The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia.

Born at Penshurst Place, Kent, of an aristocratic family, he was educated at Shrewsbury School and Christ Church, Oxford. He was the eldest son of Sir Henry Sidney and Lady Mary Dudley. His mother was the eldest daughter of John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, and the sister of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester. His younger brother, Robert Sidney was a statesman and patron of the arts, and was created Earl of Leicester in 1618. His younger sister, Mary, married Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke and was a writer, translator and literary patron. Sidney dedicated his longest work, the Arcadia, to her. After her brother's death, Mary reworked the Arcadia, which became known as The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia.

In 1572, at the age of 18, he was elected to Parliament as a Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury and in the same year travelled to France as part of the embassy to negotiate a marriage between Elizabeth I and the Duc D'Alençon. He spent the next several years in mainland Europe, moving through Germany, Italy, Poland, the Kingdom of Hungary and Austria. On these travels, he met a number of prominent European intellectuals and politicians.

Returning to England in 1575, Sidney met Penelope Devereux (who would later marry Robert Rich, 1st Earl of Warwick). Although much younger, she would inspire his famous sonnet sequence of the 1580s, Astrophel and Stella. Her father, Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, was said to have planned to marry his daughter to Sidney, but he died in 1576 and this did not occur. In England, Sidney occupied himself with politics and art. He defended his father's administration of Ireland in a lengthy document.

More seriously, he quarrelled with Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, probably because of Sidney's opposition to the French marriage of Elizabeth to the much younger Alençon, which de Vere championed. In the aftermath of this episode, Sidney challenged de Vere to a duel, which Elizabeth forbade. He then wrote a lengthy letter to the Queen detailing the foolishness of the French marriage. Characteristically, Elizabeth bristled at his presumption, and Sidney prudently retired from court.

Books by Sir Philip Sidney

Astrophil and Stella  Cover image

Astrophil and Stella

Love Poems Freedom Happiness Stars Desire Sonnets Criticism

The name derives from the two Greek words, 'aster' (star) and 'phil' (lover), and the Latin word 'stella' meaning star. Thus Astrophil is the star lover, and Stella is his star. Sidney partly nativized the key features of his Italian model Petrarch,...

Astrophel and Stella Cover image

Astrophel and Stella

Love Beauty Imagery Exploration Desire Emotion Sonnets Depths

Astrophel and Stella by Sir Philip Sidney is a captivating work of poetry that explores themes of love, passion, and desire. Written in the late 16th century, this collection of sonnets is considered one of the most significant works of the English...

The Defense of Poesy Cover image

The Defense of Poesy

Theory Analysis Poems Literary Criticism Humanity Verses Renaissance Literature Imagination Introspection

In the realm of literature's defense, Sir Philip Sidney's words rise like a clarion call. "The Defense of Poesy" encapsulates a vibrant discourse on the profound power of poetry and its enduring impact on the human spirit. With eloquence that ignites...

My True Love Cover image

My True Love

LibriVox volunteers bring you 13 recordings of My True Love by Sir Philip Sidney. This was the weekly poetry project for May 24th, 2009.

To Sleep Cover image

To Sleep

LibriVox volunteers bring you 11 recordings of To Sleep by Sir Philip Sidney. This was the Weekly Poetry project for January 23, 2014. Sir Philip Sidney (30 November 1554 – 17 October 1586) was an English poet, courtier and soldier, who is remember...

Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia Cover image

Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia

Arcadia is a prose work by Sir Philip Sidney, a classic of the Renaissance pastoral and a work of high romance, a fleeting vision of a lost world of gallantry and adventure, representing an escape from the realities of politics in the Elizabethan cou...

Double Sestina - Ye Goatherd Gods Cover image

Double Sestina - Ye Goatherd Gods

LibriVox volunteers bring you recordings of Double Sestina - Ye Goatherd Gods by Phillip Sidney. This was the Fortnightly Poetry project for May 5, 2019. ------ Poem is included in the book "Countesse of Pembroke's Arcadia" Ye Goatherd Gods" de...

Psalmes of David (Sidney Psalms) Cover image

Psalmes of David (Sidney Psalms)

A poetic version of the Psalms by Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586) and his sister, Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke (1561-1621). "It is possible that the original Autograph manuscript of Sir Philip Sidney may still exist in the library at W...

Cabinet of Gems Cover image

Cabinet of Gems

A Cabinet of Gems, cut and polished by Sir Philip Sidney; now, for the more radiance, presented without their setting by George MacDonald. "By these extracts from writings I have long loved, I hope to help some of my friends to a genuine acquainta...