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There shall you see faces angelical;
Philip, like so many of his contemporaries, continued to waver between the irresistible attraction of the Court and the centrifugal force which urged him to be up and doing, anywhere, at any occupation, away from its baneful and degrading idleness. Just now, in the summer of 1578, he was hankering to join his friend, John Casimir, at Zutphen. Elizabeth had nominated this prince to her lieutenancy in the Low Countries, supplying him with money in small quantities for the levying of troops. When he took the field, Philip burned to accept an invitation sent him by the prince. But first he had to gain his father's permission. Sir Henry's answer is the model of kindness and of gentle unselfishness. He begins by acknowledging the honour paid his son, and commending Philip's eagerness. But “when I enter into the consideration of mine own estate, and call to mind what practices, informations, and wicked accusations are devised against me, and what an assistance in the defence of those causes your presence would be unto me, reposing myself so much both upon your help and judgment, I strive betwixt honour and necessity what allowance I may best give of that motion for your going." Then he goes on to say that he leaves the consideration of these matters to his son, and will in no way check his inclination or refuse his consent. Philip sacrificed his wishes, and remained in England to assist his father. This act of filial compliance cost him, as it happened, nothing; for Casimir's dealings in the Netherlands brought no credit to himself or his companions. None the less should we appreciate the amiable trait in Sidney's character.
Sir Henry returned in due course to England in the autumn, and tendered his resignation of the Irish Viceroyalty. He still maintained his post as Lord President of Wales. On New Year's Day, 1579, presents were exchanged, as usual, between Elizabeth and her chief courtiers. Poor Sir Henry, out of pocket as he was, presented her Majesty with a jewel of gold, diamonds, pearls, and rubies, upon which was wrought a figure of Diana. She returned a hundred and thirty-eight ounces of gold plate. Lady Mary and Philip offered articles of dress, receiving their equivalent in plate. Prince Casimir, who had to answer for his malconduct of affairs in the Low Countries, reached London in the month of January. The queen gave him a gracious reception. He was nominated to a stall in St. George's chapel, and entertained with various amusements. Among other sports, we hear that he shot a stag in Hyde Park. On the 12th of February he again left England with presents from the queen. A letter of the day significantly alludes to her unwilling bestowal of money on the prince: “There hath been somewhat to do to bring her unto it, and Mr. Secretary Walsingham bare the brunt thereof."
One incident of Casimir's visit must not be omitted. Hubert Languet, old as he now was, and failing in health, resolved to set his eyes once more on his beloved Philip. “I am almost afraid," he wrote in January, "that my great desire of seeing you may betray me into thinking I am better than I am, yet I will do my very utmost to be
ready for the journey, even though I should take it at the peril of my life.” He came and went safely, had the pleasure of conversing with Philip, and made friends with the chief members of the Sidney family. A letter written in the autumn of the next year shows that this experienced judge of men and cities formed no very favourable opinion of the English Court. “I was pleased last winter to find you flourishing in favour, and highly esteemed by all
Yet, to conceal nothing, it appeared to me that the manners of
your Court are less manly than I could wish; and the majority of your great folk struck me as more eager to gain applause by affected courtesy, than by such virtues as benefit the commonwealth, and are the chief ornament of noble minds and high-born personages. It grieved me then, as also your other friends, that you should waste the flower of your youth in such trifles. I began to fear lest your excellent disposition should at last be blunted, lest you should come by habit to care for things which soften and emasculate our mind.”
We have already seen that Sidney was not otherwise than himself alive to these dangers, and that he chafed continually at the expense of spirit in a waste" of frivolities. As a couplet in one of his occasional poems puts it
“Greater was the shepherd's treasure,
Than this false, fine, courtly pleasure.” From the same poem we learn that his friendship for Fulke Greville and Edward Dyer continued to be his mainstay at the Court; and when I enter upon the details of his literary career, it will become apparent that much of his time had been already spent with these and other cultivated gentlefolk in the prosecution of serious studies. For the present it seems better not to interrupt the history of his external life.
THE FRENCH MATCH AND
The years 1579 and 1580 are of importance in the bi. ography of Sidney, owing to the decided part he took in the discussion of the French match. Elizabeth's former suitor, d'Alençon, now bore the title of Duke of Anjou, by his brother Henri's accession to the throne of France. Time had cast a decent veil over the memory of St. Bartholomew, and Anjou was now posing as the protector of national liberties in the Low Countries. He thought the opportunity good for renewing negotiations with the Queen of England. That the Court of the Valois was anxious to arrange the marriage admits of no doubt. The sums of money spent in presents and embassies render this certain, for Catherine de' Medici and her sons were always in pecuniary difficulties. They could not afford to throw gold away on trifles.
Elizabeth showed a strong inclination to accept the duke's proposal. She treated his envoy, Du Simiers, with favour, and kept up a brisk correspondence with Paris. The match, however, was extremely unpopular with the English people. In the autumn of 1579 there appeared a pamphlet entitled : “The Discovery of the Gaping Gulf, whereinto England is like to be swallowed, by a French marriage, if the Lord forbid not the Banns, by letting her Majesty see the Sin and Punishment thereof." This sufficed to indicate the temper of the best part of the nation, the Protestants, who saw their religious and political liberties in danger. Stubbs and Page, the author and the printer of this "lewd and seditious book," as it was termed by royal proclamation, were each condemned to lose the right hand. Stubbs, when the hangman had performed his office, waved his hat with the left hand, crying "God save the Queen !" Page pointed to his bloody hand upon the ground, and said, "There lies the hand of a true Englishman !"
At Court opinion was divided. Elizabeth's flatterers, with Oxford at their head, declared themselves loudly in favour of the match. Leicester opposed it; but Du Simiers' opportune discovery of the secret marriage with Lady Essex ruined his credit. The great earl had to retire in disgrace. Camden relates that the queen banished him until further notice to Greenwich Castle. Fulke Greville says "the French faction reigning had cast aspersions upon his (Sidney's) uncle of Leicester, and made himn, like a wise man (under colour of taking physic) voluntarily become prisoner in his chamber.” Whether his retirement was compulsory or voluntary matters little. For the time he lost his influence, and was unable to show his face at Court. Thus Philip who had already elected to "join with the weaker party and oppose this torrent,” found himself at the moment of his greatest need deprived of the main support which powerful connections gave him.
Greville has devoted a chapter to his action in this matter, analysing with much detail the reasons which moved him to oppose the queen's inclination. It is not necessary to report his friend's view of the case, since I shall shortly have to present an abstract of the famous document which