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years after his death, under the title of “ Astrophel and Stella.” Sidney is Astrophel, and Lady Rich is Stella. Sidney resolved, nay, felt compelled, in spite of his conscience, to “ Joy therein” and proclaim his love, “ though nations count it shame,” (Sonnet 28;) and he asks himself in the 34th, “whether he is not ashamed to publish his disease?” “No,” he says, “it being so rare, it will bring him fame; and lest wise men should view his loving as folly, he will write close, that is, in a riddle-like way, so that none seeing his drift, he will offend none;" he thus resolved to address Sonnets, 108 in number, to another man's wife, and in them to deride her husband as a “ Rich fool,” an expression which he again and again repeats, and his only excuse is, that her husband is not worthy of her, nor does he trat herworthily. In one Sonnet he exclaims
“But that Rich fool, who by blind fortune's lot,
He knows not) grow in only folly rich."-Sonnet 22. And again, he says, though she is rich in beauty, nature, wit, and
“Rich in those gifts which give th' eternal crown;
Hath no misfortune, but that Rich she is.”—Sonnet 37. Such was Sidney's excuse for his passion, and to some extent he might claim her love as his own by right, though another's, for he had long been taught to view her as reserved for him alone.
Two years after Penelope's marriage, Sidney married the daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham, yet, according to Sidney's confession and the assertions of others, his heart remained with Stella. Sidney tells us that Stella's love for him, and his love for her grew stronger, after they were divided by marriage, than it had been before. Sidney's wife devoted her love to her husband to the last; she was never poisoned with jealousy, she possessed one whom she sincerely loved, and, perhaps, even sympathised with for his grievous loss. To be the wife of Sidney was her heart's sole desire ; * and after his death, she permitted Spenser, in a panegyric upon Sidney, to address her as Stella, that the world might not cast any aspersion upon Sidney's fair name, as he had become glorified by a heroic and patriotic death.
Had Sidney taken his friend Languet's constant advice to find a wife, he would not have penned these Sonnets, which have brought shame upon him ; nor need he have blamed himself in his 18th Sonnet, for having allowed his best days to slip before he married ; neither need he have called on “Lordings” to listen
“For of my life I must a riddle tell.” The simple solution to which is, that he loved a lady who richly excelled all others in rich gifts, but whose great misfortune was that she was Rich, Sidney himself tells us in Sonnet 2, that he knew not at first whether he loved her or not
“I saw and liked, I liked and loved not,” and that by his delay he lost his chance, so that Penelope was not so much to blame, and it was her pure, though
* To the 1633 edition of the Arcadia, there are added certain Sonnets written by Sir Philip Sidney, never before printed. Among them are four “made when his lady had a pain in her face.” They are not addressed to Stella, but appear to be written to his wife, in as painful a mood as the subject demanded.
blighted love for him, that won his soul to sing her praise. He then resolved, as he says
“To make myself believe that all is well,
While, with a feeling skill, I paint my hell !” For this reason he determined to write alone of her (Sonnet 3), and to virtuously love her (Sonnet 4); truth and beauty being virtue, it was virtuous for him to love her (Sonnet 5); and when he said he loved her, it was a real grief (Sonnet 6), and she appeared in mourning, by reason of her dark eyes, for her lover's fruitless love (Sonnet 7); and he then told her how it was that he must still love her (Sonnet 8). The idea evolved in this Sonnet, Shakespeare has varied in his 153rd and 154th Sonnets. In Sonnet 9 it is Stella's eyes that have inflamed Sidney's heart ; and in this way
he after idea. In Sonnet 11 he says he has played the baby in her eyes, but has not sought to get into her heart. In the 13th Sonnet he says that even he could not have won her heart easily. In the 14th he blames his love, but declares it to be chaste. In the 15th Sonnet, in selfexcuse, he says, any poet beholding Stella would praise her. In the 17th Sonnet, her brows are the bows with which Cupid shot him to the heart. Thus he goes on excusing and urging his love, but in Sonnet 19 his words are spent in vain ; since he can never win her, though he has her love, as she is the wife of another. He says
“My best wits still their own disgrace invent.” And though he felt that it was a crime to write love-verses to her, yet his grief and passion were too much for him. *
goes on, idea
* He tells us he used his utmost effort to conquer his passion, but failed in the attempt, his desire triumphed over his conscience.
Penelope, on her part, though the wife of a husband she had just cause to hate, yet resolved to remain true to him, and sought by example and entreaty to teach Sidney virtue and prudence. In the 69th Sonnet Sidney joyfully says that he possesses her heart, and so may say that she is his; but he
gave it only on condition“While virtuous course I take.” And he declares that though they sometimes had private interviews, yet their loves were pure.
In the 83rd Sonnet we are told in a riddle-like way though the solution is simple, that she possessed a bird, that she lovingly called Sir Phip; it loved to nestle in her soft white bosom, and to be billing her lips. Her lover implies by this that her bird has favours which he is denied ; but Stella is so modest, that Sidney tells the bird to desist, lest in her virtue she should wring its neck. In one Sonnet he speaks of a kiss he stole from her while she slept, and that kiss transported him into ecstacies. In other Sonnets he affects to have changed situation with the bird, to be it, and thus delusively receives loving favours. He pleads, in a puzzling way, for the bird, implying that though it playfully bites her, it is but in loving sport.
While Sidney lived, she deserved the praises he gave her for her virtue and beauty, and his sister, the Countess of Pembroke, spoke of his “love lays” to Stella as merely
She would not see a fault in her beloved brother; and his having written them to a married woman before, and very probably many of them after his own marriage was a fault innocently overlooked by her. She might have said, in her chaste religious spirit, “To the pure all things are pure.”
Lady Rich, while Sidney lived, gave scandal no tongue, but after his death, either through excessive grief, or hate of her lord, she forsook the path of virtue and fair fame, and eventually her husband behaved cruelly to her; abandoned her, though not without just cause, and treated her in a manner that drove her to despair and revenge. Neglected by her husband for years, she, following his example, transferred her affections to another : she gave her love to Mountjoy, afterwards Earl of Devonshire, who doated upon her, and after some years married her. But disaster now followed disaster. Elizabeth banished her the Court; but upon James coming to the crown she and Lord Mountjoy came again into high favour. Scandal however, followed her, and the illegality of her marriage with the earl while her husband was still living, which had just been effected to put a good colour upon their illicit loving, was discussed ; and the king, exceedingly wrathful, told Mountjoy that he had “ purchased a fair woman with a black soul,” and though Mountjoy, in a letter to the King, showed legal reasons* sufficient to show his right to marry her, it would not avail. This was more than he could bear : he retired from Court, and was soon after taken with a severe illness, consequent on his excessive grief, and died. His wife attended him to the last, and never survived this disgrace; she died shortly after, in 1606. A relative of Mountjoy declared she had brought shame upon her and her whole kindred. It would seem that Mountjoy, though deluded with the belief,
Heylin says that Mountjoy, having had some children by the lady before she actually separated from the bed of Rich, conceived he might make them legitimate by this subsequent marriage.