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The miracle of our age,
Sir Philip Sidney.
The subject of all verse,
THERE is not upon record, perhaps, a more illustrious and interesting instance of the mutual affection of brother and sister than that which subsisted between the celebrated sir Philip Sidney, and Mary, countess of Pembroke; an affection not merely founded on the bonds of relationship, but cemented into the firmest friendship by a perfect congeniality in manners, tastes, and dispositions.
It is ever a useful and delightful occupation to bring forward characters such as these, however much they may have been previously noticed and admired; and more peculiarly appropriate is it at the present time, when a truly valuable work, which
* Remaines concerning Britaine. Edit. 1614. p. 44.
had hitherto lain concealed in manuscript, the joint production of sir Philip and his sister, and one of the strongest proofs of their piety and reciprocal attachment, has within these three years been given to the public. To notice, indeed, this monument of family genius and devotional taste, without in some degree dwelling on the beauty of the characters to whom we owe it, would be, in fact, to strip the critique of no inconsiderable portion of its interest.
No children could be more fortunate than were Philip Sidney and his sister, in the possession of parents whose lives were a model for all that is great and good. Their father, sir Henry Sidney, the beloved and confidential friend of Edward the Sixth, was not more eminent for his talents in public than for his virtues in private life, whilst at the same time he stood confessedly inferior to none in the learning and accomplishments of his age. Nor was their mother, lady Mary, the eldest daughter of John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, who perished on the scaffold for his attachment to the exemplary but ill-starred lady Jane Grey, in any degree less distinguished in her sphere; one, indeed, if not of equal splendour and publicity with that
in which her husband moved, yet to her children, and, through their example, to the world at large, not less useful and honourable; for, with abilities every way adequate to the task of instruction, and with a devotedness and sense of duty which rendered her exertions a never-failing source of gratification and delight, she gave up her time almost exclusively to the early education of her offspring, superintending not only their initiation into the principles of religion and virtue, but directing their studies, and regulating, and even partaking in their sports and relaxations.
In this pleasing, and, in every point of view, highly important occupation, lady Sidney was powerfully supported and assisted by her husband, whenever the numerous duties which awaited him in public life would allow of his reposing in the bosom of his family. Nor was the reward which followed this assiduity beneath their fondest hopes and warmest aspirations; for it may be truly said, that English history can scarcely show two characters more thoroughly good and amiable than were sir Philip Sidney and his beloved sister.
At a very early period, indeed, and when but a mere boy in age, we are told by one who knew him
well, that young Sidney never appeared to him other than a man in mind and carriage; that though grave beyond his years, so lovely and unaffected was the seriousness of his disposition, as to give him grace and reverence in every eye; and that such was his industry and thirst of knowledge when placed at school, that his father then termed him, with prophetic intuition, Lumen familiæ suæ, the bright ornament of his family*.
We are fortunately in possession of documents, which not only confirm this assertion as to the precocity of the son, but place the parental affection of sir Henry and lady Sidney in, a singularly prominent and interesting light. They consist of a letter by the former and a postcript by the latter, addressed to their little Philip, then at school at Shrewsbury, and when not more than twelve years of age. He had, it seems, written two letters to his father, one in Latin and the other in French; and the reply of sir Henry to these striking proofs of his son's successful application to his studies may be justly considered as one of the most precious manuals of instruction which was ever drawn
* Sir Fulke Greville's Life of Sir Philip Sidney, p. 6.
up by a parent for the use of his child; nor is it possible to avoid paying a tribute of admiration and esteem to the pure maternal tenderness which breathes through every line of lady Mary's concluding appeal. I deem it, indeed, a peculiar happiness belonging to the subject which I have chosen, that I have it in my power to transfer these invaluable reliques to my pages, allowing myself no other liberty whilst copying them, than that of accommodating their orthography to the usage of the present times.
Sir Henry Sidney to his son Philip Sidney, at school at Shrewsbury, in 1566, then being of the age of twelve years.
"I HAVE received two letters from you, one written in Latin, the other in French; which I take in good part, and will you to exercise that practice of learning often; for that will stand you in most stead, in that profession of life that you are born to live in. And, since this is my first letter that ever I did write to you, I will not that it be all empty of some advices, which my natural care of you provoketh me to wish you to follow, as documents to you in this your tender age. Let your first first action