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The “ Marcellus of the English nation, and its short-lived ornament,” as Wood* quaintly, but truly terms the gallant Sir Philip Sidney, was the son of Sir Henry Sidney, knight of the garter, and lord deputy of Ireland. His mother was the eldest daughter of John Dudley, duke of Northumberland. He received his education at Christchurch, Oxford, and in 1572, being then seventeen years of age, he went on his travels, and happening to be at Paris during the time of the atrocious massacre of the protestants, he obtained an asylum in the house of the English ambassador, Sir Francis Walsingham, whose daughter he afterwards married. In 1576, queen Elizabeth sent him on an extraordinary embassy to the emperor Rodolph, and on his return from the imperial court, he visited don John, of Austria, viceroy in the low countries for the king of Spain. That high minded prince at first thought lightly of the youthful ambassador, but, after some discourse with him, he paid him the highest respect.
In 1579, we find Sir Philip venturing upon a step for which it is difficult to account. This was addressing a remonstrance to the queen, against
Antiq. Oxon. I. p. 226. edit. 1721.
her proposed marriage with the duke of Anjou.--The letter may be seen in the Cabala ; and it was written, in Wood's opinion, by the desire of Sir Philip's uncle, Robert earl of Leicester. But it doe's appear extraordinary that so very young a man as Sir Philip then was, should meddle in a concern of this kind, and for which another person had his right hand cut off. This remonstrance occasioned, however, his retirement from court in: the summer of 1580, and it was during this seclusion that he wrote his celebrated romance, entituled " Arcadia,” addressed to his sister, Mary, countess of Pembroke.
In 1582 he received the honour of knighhood, and in 1585 he projected an expedition to South America, with that famous navigator, Sir Francis Drake, but the queen refused her consent, and made him the same year governor of Flushing, and general of the horse. The English forces were then engaged in assisting the Dutch to shake off the Spanish yoke, and Sir Philip distinguished himself in this service with great skill and valour. In July 1586, he surprised Axil, and preserved the lives and honour of the English army at the enterprize of Gravelin. So great, indeed, was his reputation on the continent, that it is said, an offer was made him of the crown of Poland, which advancement was hindered by his sovereign, not out of jealousy, but from an unwillinge, ness to lose the jewel of her times. Such is the story, but the foundation on which it rests is
suspicious. The name of Sidney stands so high in the history of the age of which he was one of the brightest ornaments, that it is not to be wondered at if somewhat of the marvellous heightens his biography. A circumstance which marked the close of his short, but brilliant life, proves that the high estimation in which he was held by his queen and countrymen was no more t!ian a just respect for superior virtue.
On the 22d of September, 1586, Sir Philip Sidney was mortally wounded in the battle before Zutphen, while he was mounting his third horse, having had two slain under him before. In this sad state as he was conveyed along the ranksto the place where his uncle, Robert, earl of Leicester, the general, was ; and being thirsty with excess of bleeding, Sir Philip called for drink, which was presently brought him. But as he was putting the bottle to his mouth, he saw a poor
soldier carried along, who had been wounded at the same time, and who cast up his eyes wistfully at the bottle, which Sir Philip perceiving, immediately took it from his lips without drinking, and delivered it to the poor man with these words, “ Thy necessity is yet greater than mine.*"
This beautiful incident, which displays the most exalted courage, blended with the tenderest feelings of sympathy and benevolence, has been
• Life of Sir Philip, by his friend Sir Fulk Grevil.