By Richard Hillyer (auth.)
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What the dead prince never lived to accomplish left ample scope for speculation about unfulﬁlled promise, but also seems to have held greater signiﬁcance in Browne’s mind than Sidney’s death while ﬁghting Spanish forces in the Netherlands. Nothing in the nature of Britannia’s Pastorals precluded its author’s forging a tighter bond between Sidney and Henry than he did. If Browne pursued an oblique strategy by so openly praising his Elizabethan heroes and categorizing Sidney so as to divorce his pastoral writing from political concerns, this indirection involved the apparently costly step of only associating him with “conventions,” not prompting a “EQUALL PORTIONS” 31 link between them and ideological values only hidden to the extent that Jacobean idealization of Elizabethans routinely implies dissatisfaction with James.
18 Here, the key to Jonson’s many-sided response becomes the one subject playing no part in it. Raphael Falco’s chapter on Jonson paints him as far more engaged with Sidney than Dutton supposes. 19 O. B. ”20 But if Jonson himself heard any resemblance here, he gave Sidney no credit for it. Conversely, the harshest verdict on Sidney as a writer that Jonson records (“no poet”) is James’s, and must be regarded as questionable (1: 142). 21 Nonetheless, Jonson’s own assessments of Sidney’s romance sound backhanded: he complained to Drummond that the author of the Arcadia “did not keep a Decor¯um in making every one speak as well as himself ” (1: 132); “for a Heroik poeme he said ther was no such Gro¯und as King Arthurs ﬁction & yt S.
13 Doubtless Browne’s dedication of the second book of Britannia’s Pastorals to William Herbert, third earl of Pembroke, accounts partly for Sidney’s prominent position near the beginning (in the second song) of that volume. As another William in the Herberts’ extensive and powerful clan remarked approvingly (or ominously) in his commendatory verses “To His Worthily-Affected Friend Mr. W. Browne,” “He masters no low soule who hopes to please/The Nephew of the brave Philisides” (1: 157). But Browne himself emphasizes his own “low soule” and also sounds truly appreciative for the extent to which Sidney’s “Arts-Mastry,” even in so far exceeding “my unablenesse,” had nonetheless inspired and perhaps uplifted a lesser poet, who meekly-proudly explains that He sweetly touched, what I harshly hit, Yet thus I glory in what I have writ; Sidney began (and if a wit so meane May taste with him the dewes of Hippocrene) I sung the Past’rall next; his Muse, my mover: And on the Plaines full many a pensive lover Shall sing us to their loves, and praising be My humble lines: the more, for praising thee.