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he was recognised as one of the leading political agents of the Protestant Powers, trusted by princes, and acquainted with the ablest men of that party in France, Holland, and the German States. No one was more competent to guide Sidney through the labyrinth of European intrigues, to unmask the corruption hidden beneath the splendours of the Valois Court, and to instil into his mind those principles of conduct which governed reformed statesmen in those troubled times. They were both staying, as was then the custom, in the house of the printer Wechel at Frankfort. A few years later, Giordano Bruno also sojourned under that hospitable roof, whence he departed on his fatal journey to Venice. The elder man immediately discerned in Sidney a youth of no common quality, and the attachment he conceived for him savoured of romance. We possess a long series of Latin letters from Languet to his friend, which breathe the tenderest spirit of affection, mingled with wise counsel and ever-watchful thought for the young man's higher interests. It was indeed one of Sidney's singular felicities that he fell so early under the influence of characters like Walsingham and Languet. Together with his father, they helped to correct the bias which he might have taken from his brilliant but untrustworthy uncle Leicester. There must have been something inexplicably attractive in his person and his genius at this time; for the tone of Languet's correspondence can only be matched by that of Shakespeare in the sonnets written for his unknown friend.
Fulke Greville has penned a beautiful description of this harmony of an humble hearer to an excellent teacher," which grew up between Sidney and Languet at Frankfort; but he is mistaken in saying that the latter threw up all other business for the sake of attending his new-found friend upon his three years' travel. It is true that they
went together to Vienna in the summer of 1573. But Sidney visited Hungary alone, and in November crossed the Alps without 'Languet to Venice. He was accompanied by a gentleman of his own age and station, not very distantly connected with him, named Thomas Coningsby. Two of his attendants, Griffin Madox and Lewis Brysket, are also known to us. The latter writes thus of their journey:
Through many a hill and dale,
Through pleasant woods, and many an unknown way,
Thou with him yodest; and with him didst scale
One incident of the tour has to be recorded for the light it throws on Sidney's character. An innkeeper contrived to get his bill twice paid; and Sidney finding himself out of pocket, charged Coningsby with having made away with the money. In a letter to Languet he cleared the matter up, and exculpated his travelling companion. But the incident was not greatly to his credit. With all his gravity and suavity of nature, he was apt to yield to temper and to unamiable suspicion. I shall have to revert to this point again.
Since Sidney is now launched, without guide or tutor, upon his Italian travels, it will not be out of place to collect some contemporary opinions regarding the benefit to be derived by Englishmen from Italy. In a fine passage of "The Schoolmaster" Ascham relates a conversation which he had at Windsor with Sir Richard Sackville on this subject. His judgment was that young men lost far more than they gained by an Italian tour. Too many of
them returned Papists, or Atheists, experienced in newfangled vices, apt for treason, lying, and every form of swinish debauchery. Taking for his text the well-known proverb, "Inglese italianato è un diavolo incarnato,”— which Sidney, by the way, has translated thus:
"An Englishman that is Italianate,
Doth lightly prove a devil incarnate,”
Ascham preaches an eloquent sermon, with allegories from Plato and Homer, to prove that Italy is but a garden of Circe or an isle of sirens to our northern youth. Parker, Howell, Fuller, Hall, Gabriel Harvey, Marston, Greene, all utter the same note, and use the same admonishments, proving how very dangerous an Italian tour was reckoned in those days. Sidney, in a remarkable letter to Languet, insists upon the point. He says he wishes the Turks could come to Italy in order to find corruption there: "I am quite sure that this ruinous Italy would so poison the Turks themselves, would so ensnare them in its vile allurements, that they would soon tumble down without being pushed." Venice, in particular, had an evil reputation. There, as Ascham says, he saw in nine days' sojourn "more liberty to sin than ever I heard tell of in our noble city of London in nine years." He admits, however, that while he knows of many who “returned out of Italy worse transformed than ever was any in Circe's court," yet is he acquainted with "divers noble personages and many worthy gentlemen of England, whom all the siren songs of Italy could never untwine from the mast of God's word, nor no enchantment of vanity overturn them from the fear of God and love of honesty." To the former class belonged the Earl of Oxford. Of the latter Philip Sidney was an emi
nent example. Like the bee which sucks honey from poisonous flowers, he gained only good from the travels. which were so pernicious to his fellow-countrymen at large.
His correspondence with Languet was doubtless useful to him, while residing at Venice and Padua. From it we learn something about his studies, which seem at this time to have been chiefly in philosophy and science. Languet urges him not to overwork himself; and he replies: "I am never so little troubled with melancholy as when my mind is employed about something particularly difficult." Languet on another occasion dissuades him from geometry: "You have too little mirthfulness in your nature, and this is a study which will make you still more grave." He recommends him to devote his time to such things as befit a man of high rank in life, and to prepare himself for the duties of a statesman rather than for the leisure of a literary man. Sidney begs for a copy of Plutarch in Amyot's translation, says he is "learning astronomy and getting a knowledge of music," and is anxious to read the Politics of Aristotle. Meanwhile he frequented the sumptuous houses of the Venetian nobles: "Yet I would rather have one pleasant chat with you, my dear Languet, than enjoy all the magnificent magnificences of these magnificoes." He seems indeed to have been a grave youth. Who his intimate friends were, we do not know. Sarpi was away at Mantua; so it is not likely that he made his acquaintWe hear, however, much of the young Count Philip Lewis of Hannau.
At Venice Sidney sat for his portrait to Paolo Veronese, and sent the picture afterwards to Languet. What has become of this painting is not known. Possibly it still lies buried in some German collection. Of all the por
traits which are supposed to represent Sidney, the best to my mind is one now preserved at Warwick Castle. It is said to have belonged to Fulke Greville, and therefore we may trust its resemblance to the original. John Aubrey, the useful anecdote-monger, tells us that he was extremely beautiful. He much resembled his sister; but his hair was not red, but a little inclining, namely a dark amber colour. If I were to find a fault in it, methinks 'tis not masculine enough; yet he was a person of great courage." The Warwick Castle portrait answers very closely to this description, especially in a certain almost girlish delicacy of feature and complexion. That Sidney was indeed beautiful may be taken for granted, since there is considerable concurrence of testimony on this point. The only dissentient I can call to mind is Ben Jonson, who reported that he " was no pleasant man in countenance, his face being spoiled with pimples, and of high blood, and long." But Jonson was only thirteen years of age when Sidney died, and the conversations with Drummond, from which this sentence was quoted, abound in somewhat random state
It was natural that a Telemachus of Sidney's stamp should wish to visit Rome before he turned his face northwards. But his Huguenot Mentor, and perhaps also his friends at home, so urgently dissuaded him from exposing his immaturity to the blandishments of the Catholic Calypso, that he prudently refrained. After a short excursion to Genoa, he returned to Venice, crossed the Alps, and was again with Languet at Vienna in July. Here the grave youth, who had set his heart on becoming perfect in all gentle accomplishments, divided his time between discourse on politics and literature, courtly pleasures, and equestrian exercises. In the Defence of Poesy he has given us an agreeable