‘Borne in Arcady’
Sidney’s literary rebirth
in English literary afterlives
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Chapter 3 is concerned with the problems involved in reconciling a poet’s life-narrative with the vita activa model and examines the potential causes for the ‘gap’ between Sir Philip Sidney’s public life and his works, which continues to pose a challenge for modern biographers. It considers the two ‘waves’ of responses to Sidney’s death: the elegies published in the immediate aftermath of his death and funeral, which seek to establish him as an exemplary soldier and courtier, and the first portrayals of Sidney as an exemplary poet figure (often referred to as ‘Astrophil’ or ‘Philisides’), following the printing of his works during the 1590s. For the most part, these two categories of life-narrative provided for Sidney remained distinct from each other, and there were few attempts to read his works biographically, beyond an ‘identification’ of Stella as Penelope Rich. Nevertheless, there is one remarkable exception: Edmund Spenser’s ‘Astrophel’, which should be read not as an unsuccessful belated elegy for Sidney but as a response to his rebirth in print and an innovative attempt to bridge the gap between the dead knight and the poet ‘borne in Arcady’.

English literary afterlives

Greene, Sidney, Donne and the evolution of posthumous fame

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