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British and Irish Literature Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke
by
Margaret P. Hannay

Introduction

Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke (b. 1561–d. 1621), was the first woman in England to be celebrated as a literary figure. She evidently began her public literary writing and patronage to honor her famous brother Sir Philip Sidney after his death in 1586, encouraging writers who praised him, translating works that he would have approved, writing encomia, and completing the metrical Psalms that he had begun. She published two French translations under her own name in 1592, Antonius by Robert Garnier (her translation influenced Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra), and Discours de la vie et de la mort by Philippe de Mornay, Sieur du Plessis-Mornay. She also translated Petrarch’s Triumph of Death into terza rima; it survives only in a transcription by Sir John Harington, indicating limited manuscript circulation. She wrote a pastoral drama, “A Dialogue between Two Shepherds, Thenot and Piers, in Praise of Astrea,” evidently in preparation for Queen Elizabeth’s planned visit to her home in 1599. Two dedicatory poems accompany the Sidney Psalter, “Even Now That Care” to Queen Elizabeth, and “To the Angell Spirit of Sir Philip Sidney.” She may also have written an early poem in praise of her brother, “The Dolefull Lay,” though authorship is disputed. Most important are her metrical Psalms that use 126 different verse forms: these were praised by contemporaries including Nicholas Breton, Abraham Fraunce, John Donne, Aemilia Lanyer, and Edmund Spenser. The Sidney Psalms strongly influenced the 17th-century devotional lyric, particularly that of George Herbert. Contemporaries celebrated her poetry, scholarship and piety, as well as her beauty and her excellence in the feminine accomplishments of needlework, singing, and lute playing. She was an active member of court circles, seeking and accepting political favors. Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke may also be referred to as Mary Sidney Herbert, Mary Herbert, or Mary Sydney. (Note that references may be alphabetized under Herbert, Pembroke, Sidney, or Sydney. She is sometimes erroneously referred to as “Lady Mary Herbert,” which was the title of her sister-in-law. To be concise in this bibliography she is referred to as MSH and her famous brother Sir Philip Sidney as SPS.)

General Overviews

Beilin 1987 was the first to present MSH in the context of other women writers, stressing her literary vocation; Clarke 2001, Demers 2005, and Walker 1996 also analyze her work with that of other early modern women; Alexander 2006 stresses the influence of SPS on MSH and others. Waller 2009 reassesses early work on MSH, including his own. Hannay 2009 offers reprints of twenty-five important articles by as many authors and provides a lengthy bibliographic essay as introduction.

  • Alexander, Gavin. Writing After Sidney: The Literary Response to Sir Philip Sidney, 1586–1640. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    Focuses on Mary and Robert Sidney, Fulke Greville, and Mary Wroth. See chapter 4, “The Last Word: Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke” (pp. 76–127). Essential study of the literary influence of SPS on MSH and others. Biographical rather than political interpretation of MSH’s works: “It is writing about death that Pembroke comes alive as a poet” (p. 103). Perceptive analysis of poetic technique, particularly that of Psalms 55 and 143.

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  • Beilin, Elaine. Redeeming Eve: Women Writers of the English Renaissance. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.

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    Foundational study, including chapter 5 on MSH, the first early modern women “who sought a clear literary vocation.” Notes her growth as a writer and follows her three related interests: “the godly life, the relationship between poetry and divine truth, and the role of the pious female poet” (p. 122).

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  • Clarke, Danielle. The Politics of Early Modern Women’s Writing. London: Longman, 2001.

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    Overview of women’s writing in various genres; treats MSH’s Psalms with Anne Lock. Argues that MSH’s complex text is neither translation nor original in the usual sense; it “has much to teach us about Renaissance notions of authorship and female agency” (p. 147). Reworks Clarke’s article “The Politics of Translation and Gender,” Translation and Literature 6.2 (1997): 149–166.

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  • Demers, Patricia. Women’s Writing in English: Early Modern England. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005.

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    A helpful general introduction for undergraduates and general readers. MSH is treated briefly as the first of six major authors (pp. 195–202).

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  • Hannay, Margaret P., ed. Ashgate Critical Essays on Women Writers in England, 1550–1700. Vol. 2, Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009.

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    Reprints twenty-five important articles, most of which are not readily accessible elsewhere. Introduction studies critical heritage, and the book includes an extensive bibliography.

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  • Walker, Kim. Women Writers of the English Renaissance. London: Twayne, 1996.

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    MSH “locates herself as a writer within the context of the family, while employing translation, piety, and a focus on death to counter the constraints of that discourse” (p. 72), and she uses her brother’s reputation to manipulate gender ideology. Gives overview of her works.

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  • Waller, Gary. “The Countess of Pembroke and Gendered Reading.” In Women Editing/ Editing Women. Edited by Ann Hollinshead Hurley and Chanita Goodblatt, 35–54. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars, 2009.

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    Revisits his early work. To read MSH now “is to read with an awareness that there are no fixed meanings of ‘her’ text, but that her writing, her cultural situatedness, her role as a woman written by men, can be explicated in gender-sensitive terms without being limited by them” (p. 51).

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Modern Editions

Complete works (except for two recently rediscovered letters) appear in the original spelling in Hannay, et al. 1998; for those two rediscovered letters see May 2000. Selected Works (Hannay, et al. 2005) is a modern spelling edition intended for the student or general reader. Editions of the complete Sidney Psalter include the important Rathmell 1963 edition, now out of print, and Hamlin, et al. 2010. Rediscovery of Mary Sidney’s works was promoted by the Waller 1977 edition of The Triumph of Death and Other Unpublished and Uncollected Poems and by the Bornstein 1983 edition of Discourse. Waller 1996 is a facsimile edition of Antonius and Discourse. The Triumph of Death, edited in modern spelling by Gavin Alexander, is part of Sidneiana, freely accessible online at Cambridge University.

  • Alexander, Gavin, ed. Triumph of Death.

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    Modernized and emended edition with a linked article by Alexander on emendations of the text.

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  • Bornstein, Diane, ed. The Countess of Pembroke’s Translation of Philippe de Moray’s Discourse of Life and Death. Detroit: Michigan Consortium for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 1983.

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    First modern edition of A Discourse. Includes introduction that compares Mary Sidney Herbert’s (MSH’s) translation to that of the only previous translator, Edward Aggas. The notes give detailed comparisons with Mornay’s original and with Aggas.

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  • Hamlin, Hannibal, Noel J. Kinnamon, Margaret P. Hannay, and Michael G. Brennan, eds. The Sidney Psalter: The Psalms of Philip and Mary Sidney. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    The complete Sidney Psalter in modern spelling, based on the Penshurst manuscript, with contextual introduction. Based on authoritative OET text, but with notes intended for the student and general reader.

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  • Hannay, Margaret P., Noel J. Kinnamon, and Michael J. Brennan, eds. Collected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1998.

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    Includes all her literary works with extensive scholarly introduction, commentary on the text, manuscripts, literary context of each work, accuracy of translations, sources and influence. Volume 1 includes all her works except the Psalms, which are in Volume 2. Authoritative edition for scholars and graduate students.

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  • Hannay, Margaret P., Noel J. Kinnamon, and Michael G. Brennan, eds. Selected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2005.

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    Modern spelling student edition. Includes original poems, “Antonius,” “Triumph,” selected Psalms, and an abridged “Discourse,” with supplemental materials for teaching, and student-friendly commentary.

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  • May, Steven W. “Two Unpublished Letters by Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke.” English Manuscript Studies 1100–1700 9 (2000): 88–97.

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    Includes two recently rediscovered letters from MSH to John Thynne of Longleat. Both of these brief letters (the first dated 1595 and the second 1603) concern her role as patron, writing on behalf of “social inferiors.” Written by a secretary: with signature, subscription, and a postscript.

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  • Rathmell, J. C. A., ed. The Psalms of Sir Philip Sidney and the Countess of Pembroke. New York: New York University Press, 1963.

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    First modern critical edition of the Sidney Psalms, with influential contextual introduction and commentary. Oft-quoted statement that she “meditated” on the Psalms, “recreating” them as “Elizabethan poems” (p. xx). Readings of Psalm 55, 58, 88, 130. Discussion of her influence on Donne and George Herbert.

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  • Waller, Gary, ed. “The Triumph of Death” and Other Unpublished and Uncollected Poems by Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke (1561–1621). Salzburg, Austria: University of Salzburg Press, 1977.

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    Pioneering edition. Includes “The Triumph of Death,” some variant Psalms, dedicatory poems, and “A Dialogue.” Introduction includes “The Life and Milieu of Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke” and discussion of included works.

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  • Waller, Gary, ed. The Early Modern Englishwoman: Printed Writings 1500–1640. Vol. 1.6, Mary Sidney Herbert. Aldershot, UK: Scolar Press, 1996.

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    Facsimile of 1592 edition, with a brief introduction.

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Poems in Anthologies

Short selected poems by Mary Sidney appear in most anthologies of English Renaissance Literature or early modern English literature, including those published by Broadview (Black and Prescott 2010), Blackwell (Payne and Hunter 2003), Longman (Damrosch, et al. 2010), and Norton (Greenblatt, et al. 2012). Clarke 2000 includes a selection of Mary Sidney’s poems, as do Martin 2010, Stevenson and Davidson 2001, and Travitsky and Prescott 2000.

  • Black, Joseph Laurence, and Anne Lake Prescott, eds. Broadview Anthology of British Literature: The Renaissance and the Early Seventeenth Century. 2d ed. Vol. 2. Peterborough, Canada: Broadview, 2010.

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    Includes “To the Angel Spirit of Sir Philip Sidney”: Psalms 52, 58, 74, and 120; “Even Now That Care.” Also included are helpful notes.

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  • Clarke, Danielle, ed. Isabella Whitney, Mary Sidney and Aemilia Lanyer: Renaissance Women Poets. London: Penguin, 2000.

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    Includes dedicatory poems, a selection of Psalms, “A Dialogue,” and “The Triumph of Death.” Insightful introduction, notes, and commentary, connecting MSH with Whitney and Lanyer.

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  • Damrosch, David, Kevin J. H. Dettmar, Christopher Baswell, and Anne Howland Schotter, eds. Longman Anthology of British Literature. Vol. 1A, The Middle Ages. 4th ed. New York: Longman, 2010.

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    Includes Psalms 71 and 121; “The Doleful Lay of Clorinda.” Helpful notes and brief introduction, plus brief bibliography of works on MSH.

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  • Greenblatt, Stephen, Carol T. Christ, and Alfred David eds. Norton Anthology of English Literature. 9th ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2012.

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    Includes Psalms 52 and 139. A few notes and brief introduction as well as brief bibliography of works on MSH. Minimal attention to MSH.

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  • Martin, Randall, ed. Women Writers in Renaissance England. 2d ed. New York: Longman, 2010.

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    MSH is placed with other poets, including Whitney, Speght, Lanyer, and Wroth. Includes eight Psalms and “A Dialogue.” Revised and updated introduction.

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  • Payne, Michael, and John Hunter. Renaissance Literature: An Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.

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    Includes “To the Angel Spirit” and Psalms 44, 59, 138, 139, 149, and 150. Brief introduction, no glosses. Also includes a few poems by her younger brother Robert Sidney, as well as extensive selections (eighty-five pages) from SPS.

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  • Stevenson, Jane, and Peter Davidson, eds. Early Modern Women Poets: An Anthology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    Includes Psalms 51, 72, 130, and “A Dialogue.” Concise, helpful introduction, minimal notes. Useful in contextualizing MSH among nearly three hundred poems by early modern women in writing in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Includes translations from Gaelic and Welsh poems.

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  • Travitsky, Betty S., and Anne Lake Prescott. Female and Male Voices in Early Modern England: An Anthology of Renaissance Writing. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

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    Includes “The Doleful Lay of Clorinda” Paired with Henry Vaughan’s lament for his brother titled “Silence, and Stealth of Days.” Brief introduction and helpful glosses.

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Antonius and A Discourse in Anthologies

Antonius is the most widely anthologized of her prose works. Because of its influence on Shakespeare it is included as a source in the variorum edition of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra (Martin Spevak, ed., London: Modern Language Association, 1990) and in Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare (see Bullough 1966, cited under Mary Sidney and Shakespeare). It is included in Cerasano and Wynne-Davies 1996 (Renaissance Drama by Women) and Freer 1987 (Katharina Wilson’s Women Writers of the Renaissance and Reformation) and in Renascence Editions, transcribed by R. Bear. Hodgson-Wright 2002 includes selections from A Discourse in a text designed for courses on early modern women writers. (Both Antonius and Discourse are included in Renaissance Women Online from the Women Writers Project at Brown University, a fully searchable database including some one hundred early modern women writers.

Bibliographies

English Literary Renaissance has sponsored several bibliographies of recent work on early modern women writers, including MSH; see Roberts 1990a, Roberts 1990b), White 2000, and Ziegler 1994. Ottenhove 2003 surveys scholarship on metrical Psalms in general, with a section on the Sidneys. Three bibliographies are available online: Sir Philip Sidney World Bibliography, a freely accessible annotated database, invaluable for MSH’s relationship to her brother and his works; Betty Travitsky’s comprehensive bibliography (by subscription) Bibliography of English Women Writers (1500–1640); and Georgianna Ziegler’s freely accessible bibliography of online sources, Early Modern Women Online.

Biographies

There are two full-length biographies of Mary Sidney, Hannay 1990 and Young 1912, as well as a biographical introduction to study of her works Waller 1979 and Hogrefe 1977, a chapter in Women of Action in Tudor England. MSH also has entries in such standard reference works as the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Biography and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Aubrey 1982’s salacious account in Brief Lives prompted some 20th-century speculation about the nature of her relationship with her brother Philip, particularly in Crewe 1986 and Waller 1979. Brennan 2006 places her in the context of her family’s relationship to their monarchs; Brennan and Kinnamon 2003 gives an invaluable chronology of the Sidneys and their world. Brennan and Hannay 2006 provides a brief overview of her life and works.

  • Aubrey, John. Brief Lives. Edited by Richard Barber. Rochester, NY: Boydell and Brewer, 1982.

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    “In her time Wilton was like a little college, there were so many learned and ingenious persons” (p. 139) in residence. Emphasizes her interest in learning, including science. Mentions Psalms manuscript bound in crimson velvet. Salacious account of love between MSH and SPS. The famous epitaph “On the Dowager Countess of Pembroke” is correctly attributed to William Browne.

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  • Brennan, Michael G. The Sidneys of Penshurst and the Monarchy, 1500–1700. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.

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    See particularly chapters 4 and 5 for an account of the Sidneys under Queen Elizabeth, emphasizing their service in the Low Countries and their desire for additional posts.

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  • Brennan, Michael G., and Margaret P. Hannay. “Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. Edited by David Scott Kastan, 206–210. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    Introduces the life, patronage and writing of MSH, putting her into the context of her family’s service at court. Includes bibliography of original publications, modern editions, and suggestions for further reading. Available online by subscription.

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  • Brennan, Michael G., and Noel J. Kinnamon. A Sidney Chronology, 1554–1654. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230005723Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Lists events in the lives of the Sidney family, including MSH. Each of MSH’s birthdays is noted, making it easy to compute her age for any event.

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  • Crewe, Jonathan. Hidden Designs: The Critical Profession and Renaissance Literature. New York: Methuen, 1986.

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    Speculates that Sidney had incestuous longings for both his mother and his sister (see pp. 82–87, 166).

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  • Hannay, Margaret P. Philip’s Phoenix: Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

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    Comprehensive treatment of life, stressing MSH’s familial, religious, and political contexts. Includes discussion of her literary works.

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  • Hogrefe, Pearl. Women of Action in Tudor England. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1977.

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    “Biographical sketch” of MSH, situating her in her filial context and calling her “self-effacing” (p. 105). Notes MSH’s patronage and discusses dedications to her and her editorial work on her brother’s writings. Mentions “A Dialogue” and discusses Discourse, Antonius, and Psalms.

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  • Waller, Gary. Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke: A Critical Study of Her Writings and Literary Milieu. Salzburg, Austria: University of Salzburg Press, 1979.

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    MSH’s “public life was pedestrian, even dull,” but her career as writer was “rich in its cultural significance” (p. 29). Aubrey’s charge of incest with SPS is “scandalously unfounded on any public fact” but their love is “disturbing” (p. 99). Includes a reading of Psalms 51, 88, and 90.

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  • Young, Frances B. Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke. London: David Nutt, 1912.

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    Pioneering study of MSH’s life and works, with three chapters tracing her life chronologically, including one on her literary works and one on her role as patron. Includes “The Triumph of Death.”

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Original Poems

MSH wrote original poems in praise of her brother Sir Philip Sidney and in praise of Queen Elizabeth. Two of these poems, "To the Angel Spirit of the Most Excellent Sir Philip Sidney" and “Even Now That Care", appear as dedicatory verses to the Sidney psalter. "A Dialogue between Two Shepherds. . .in Praise of Astrea", a pastoral dialogue praising Elizabeth, was apparently written for the queen’s planned visit to MSH’s home in Wiltshire and was printed in 1602. MSH may also have written the "Doleful Lay of Clorinda", which mourns her brother, but the authorship is disputed.

“To the Angel Spirit of the Most Excellent Sir Philip Sidney”

This poem exists in two versions, with “Even Now That Care” as a dedicatory poem in the Juel-Jensen manuscript of the Sidney Psalms and an earlier version found in Samuel Daniel’s papers and erroneously printed as his in 1623; both versions are available for comparison in Hannay, et al. 1998 (cited under Modern Editions) and are given detailed analysis in Kinney 2003 and Schleiner 1994. Criticism has largely focused on MSH’s emerging voice as a writer, whether through her identification with her dead brother, sometimes described as quasi-sexual (Larson 2011), or through her position as melancholy mourner (Sagaser 2005, Wilcox 2001). Her apparent modesty is increasingly seen as masking assertiveness as a writer (Fisken 1990 and Wilcox 2001). Jardine 1996 connects the poem to classical models and Wall 1993 to the traditional tripartite structure of elegy.

  • Fisken, Beth Wynne. “‘To the Angell Spirit . . .’: Mary Sidney’s Entry into the ‘World of Words.’” In The Renaissance Englishwoman in Print: Counterbalancing the Canon. Edited by Anne M. Haselkorn and Betty S. Travitsky, 263–275. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1990.

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    Studies the disjuncture between the confident poetic form and the humble tone. The modesty topos masks her self assertion: “Angell Spirit” is “quietly subversive,” camouflaging “the assertiveness of her style with the self-abnegation of her subject matter” (pp. 265–266, 269).

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  • Jardine, Lisa. Reading Shakespeare Historically. London: Routledge, 1996.

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    MSH adapts the voice of the grieving female relative from classical models such as Niobe’s speech in Aphthonius’s Progymnasmata (pp. 143–146).

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  • Kinney, Clare. “‘Love Which Hath Never Done’: The Countess of Pembroke’s Elegies and the Apology for Copia.” Sidney Journal 21 (2003): 31–40.

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    Compares the two versions of “Angel Spirit,” arguing that MSH “asserts and enacts the rights and rites of a grieving sister” while emphasizing “the supplementation of language necessitated by the very act of mourning Philip Sidney” (p. 39). In the revision the “praise-singer” claims a right to speak “sacred Truth” (p. 47).

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  • Larson, Katherine R. Early Modern Women in Conversation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230319530Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reworked from Sidney Journal article, “From Inward Conversation to Public Praise: Mary Sidney Herbert’s Psalmes,” Sidney Journal 24 (2006): 21–43. Both her “transformative conversation with the divine” in her Psalms, often reimagined as direct dialogue with God, and her “eroticized creative interchange” with SPS empower her writing.

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  • Sagaser, Elizabeth Harris. “Elegiac Intimacy: Pembroke’s ‘To the Angell Spirit of the Most Excellent Sir Philip Sidney.’” Sidney Journal 23 (2005): 111–132.

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    In her position as mourner, the speaker partakes in the “male melancholic tradition,” thereby demonstrating “her seriousness as a poet” (p. 125).

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  • Schleiner, Louise. Tudor and Stuart Women Writers. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

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    Compares the two extant drafts of “Angel Spirit.” The poems enact MSH’s process of trying to become the writer and patron who could carry on her brother’s work. Claims she developed a “sustained authorial identity.”

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  • Wall, Wendy. The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993.

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    “To the Angel Spirit” presents SPS as both the origin of the Sidney Psalms and the rationale for circulating them—they were “coupled” textually if not sexually. She uses Petrarchan imagery of “broken bodies, monetary expenditure,” and “hyperbolic praise,” and follows the traditional tripartite structure of elegy (pp. 310–319).

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  • Wilcox, Helen. “‘First Fruits of a Woman’s Wit’: Authorial Self-Construction of English Renaissance Women Poets.” In Write or Be Written: Early Modern Women Poets and Cultural Constraints. Edited by Barbara Smith and Ursula Appelt, 199–221. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2001.

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    MSH gains an authorial identity by presenting herself as “a devoted follower, not an initiator”; Aemilia Lanyer, in turn, justifies her own work by making it “an image of female virtues as exemplified in Mary Sidney” and her other dedicatees (p. 204).

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“Even Now That Care”

The usual modern title of this untitled poem is taken from the first line; in the first print publication of the poem Juel-Jensen 1969 supplied his own title, “To the Thrice Sacred Queen Elizabeth.” Since leaves are missing from the only extant copy, it is not impossible that the poem began on a previous leaf and had a title lost. Commentary on the poem tends to focus on politics (Miller 2001), on MSH’s relationship to Elizabeth (Alexander 2006 and Donawerth 2000), on her relationship to her brother (Quilligan 2005), and on her use of the modesty topos (Pender 2007).

  • Alexander, Gavin. Writing After Sidney: The Literary Response to Sir Philip Sidney, 1586–1640. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    “Even Now That Care” demonstrates “aggressive humility,” saying that the Queen has subjects but that she is “subject” to the poet. Includes references to militant Protestantism but backs away from anything overt. This may never have been presented to Elizabeth and so therefore “she is playing a game with political rhetoric by herself” (pp. 108–111).

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  • Cheney, Patrick. Reading Sixteenth-Century Poetry. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

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    Contrasts MSH’s elevated style with the plain style of Isabella Whitney. In flattering Elizabeth, MSH also “aims to put herself [and SPS] into a reciprocal relationship with her sovereign” (p. 150). Poem presents Sidney siblings as leading an effort to “purify” English poetry “of its courtly style and secular ambitions” (p. 150).

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  • Donawerth, Jane. “Women’s Poetry and the Tudor-Stuart System of Gift Exchange.” In Women, Writing, and the Reproduction of Culture in Tudor and Stuart Britain. Edited by Mary Burke, Jane Donawerth, Linda L. Dove, and Karen Nelson, 3–18. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2000.

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    MSH offered her poem and the Sidney Psalter to Elizabeth as part of the court cycle of gift exchange, saying that she returns to the queen “the English language that she already owns” (p. 17).

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  • Juel-Jensen, Bent. “The Tixall Manuscript of Sir Philip Sidney’s and the Countess of Pembroke’s Paraphrase of the Psalms.” Book Collector 18 (1969): 222–223.

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    Introduces the dedicatory poem, extant only in the Tixall manuscript; supplies a title not in the manuscript, “To the Thrice Sacred Queen Elizabeth.”

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  • Miller, Shannon. “Mary Sidney and Gendered Strategies for the Writing of Poetry.” In Write or Be Written: Early Modern Women Poets and Cultural Constraints. Edited by Barbara Smith and Ursula Appelt, 155–176. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2001.

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    MSH validates her own acts of writing though “political action, personal remembrance, and poetic production” (p. 172). Her praise of SPS displaces expected praise of Elizabeth, and MSH turns the dedication into an assertion about Elizabeth’s responsibility to foster poetry, especially “this English, Protestant, and politicized poetry” (p. 169). King David is presented as Elizabeth’s ideal match.

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  • Pender, Patricia. “Mea Mediocritas: Mary Sidney and the Early Modern Rhetoric of Modesty.” In What Is the New Rhetoric? Edited by Susan E. Thomas and John O. Ward, 104–125. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars, 2007.

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    Rather than expressing patriarchal oppression, MSH employs the modesty topos subversively. She “manipulates Philip’s name and fame in order to establish her own authority” (p. 114), uses the inexpressibility topos to highlight her own writing, and presents herself as Elizabeth’s humble subject when Elizabeth is actually her poetic subject.

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  • Quilligan, Maureen. Incest and Agency in Elizabeth’s England. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.

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    Theoretical study of endogamy. Examines the relation of Philip and Mary Sidney with emphasis on their “co-creation of literary texts” (p. 103), analyzing the ways in which they authorize each other’s writing through dedication and elegy. Pembroke’s identification with her brother may have been a way for her to create agency, but his use of rank and title for his romance “helped aggrandize his text” (p. 121).

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“A Dialogue between Two Shepherds . . . in Praise of Astrea”

Erler 1990 establishes the occasion for this piece: Queen Elizabeth’s planned visit in 1599. Findlay 2006 emphasizes the intended performance context. Sheppeard 1981 studies the poem as a formal debate. Waller 1971 highlights the conflict between the neo-Platonic Piers and the courtly Thenot.

  • Erler, Mary C. “Davies’s Astraea and Other Contexts of the Countess of Pembroke’s ‘A Dialogue.’” Studies in English Literature 30 (1990): 41–61.

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    Sir John Davies’s Hymns of Astraea alludes to MSH’s “Astrea,” dating her poem in 1599 and thereby suggesting that it was composed to welcome Elizabeth on her scheduled (but ultimately cancelled) visit to Wiltshire.

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  • Findlay, Alison. Playing Spaces in Early Women’s Drama. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    Emphasizes the intended performance context, probably welcoming the queen as she approaches the gateway of Wilton. The “living theater” of the setting thus would “cast the brittle limits of pastoral encomium into relief” as the failure of language noted in the poem “is supplemented by the silent script of the landscape” (p. 82).

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  • Sheppeard, Sallye Jeannet. “Mary Herbert’s ‘A Dialogue between Two Shepherdes’: A Study in Renaissance Poetic Method.” Proceedings of the Conference of College Teachers of English of Texas 46 (1981): 17–21.

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    Studies the poetic form, noting that it is structured as a medieval debat, complete with a lying match. Piers repeatedly gives Thenot the lie. Using the standard topoi of inexpressibility and outdoing, MSH both participates in the genre of epideictic and mocks the genre.

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  • Waller, Gary F. “Mary Sidney’s ‘. . . Two Shepherds.’” American Notes & Queries 9 (1971): 100–102.

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    Notes the conflict between the neo-Platonic, courtly Thenot and the iconoclastic Protestant Piers, as Piers undercuts all of Thenot’s conventional praise of the queen as inability to express the divine.

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“The Doleful Lay of Clorinda”

“The Doleful Lay of Clorinda,” an elegy for Sir Philip Sidney, was printed with Spenser’s “Astrophel” (1595) and there attributed to Philip Sidney’s sister “Clorinda.” It is set apart from the other poems by a decorative border and other typographical features (Waller 1979) and introduced with a one-stanza bridge saying he will “rehearse” the poem, as he later says that he will “rehearse” the poems by Lodowick Bryskett and others that follow in this anthology. In his 1591 Ruines of Time Spenser had praised an early elegy by Mary Sidney, and such a poem was mentioned in her 1594 letter to Sir Edward Wotton. Because the “Doleful Lay” matches “Astrophel” in rhyme scheme and wording, it is often attributed to Spenser. Among more recent scholarship, Steinberg 1990 and Coren 2002 argue for Spenser’s authorship; Kay 1990 and Quilligan 2005 argue that the poem is hers or was written in collaboration with Spenser. Clarke 2000 and Cheney 2010 consider collaborative forms of authorship. For a fuller account of the debate, see Hannay, et al., 1998 (cited under Modern Editions), where the poem is included as “Disputed.” Many critics dismiss the work as inferior, but close readings are provided in Beilin 1987, Clarke 2000, and Kay 1990.

  • Beilin, Elaine. Redeeming Eve: Women Writers of the English Renaissance. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.

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    Her role as grieving sister to the shepherd Astrophel (SPS) gives the poem a religious register as it balances an earthly and a celestial pastoral.

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  • Cheney, Patriack. “The Doleful Lay of Clorinda.” In The Oxford Handbook of Edmund Spenser. Edited by Richard A. McCabe, 250–253. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Notes that most editors of Spenser’s works include the poem as his, though authorship in the Astrophel volume is complex. Observes that, with “Astrophel,” it makes a sequence moving from earthly to heavenly frame. Notes parallels with “A pastorall Aeglogue” usually attributed to Lodowick Bryskett.

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  • Clarke, Danielle. “‘In Sort as She It Sung’: Spenser’s ‘Doleful Lay’ and the Construction of Female Authorship.” Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts 42 (2000): 451–468.

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    The “Lay” is “embedded in the structures and fictions of authorship” and, regardless of authorship, “is being used by Spenser for his own purposes.” Its voice is “mediated, by the framing narrator, by the traditions upon which it draws, by the medium of print, and by the modalities of pastoral” (p. 468).

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  • Coren, Pamela. “Edmund Spenser, Mary Sidney, and the Doleful Lay.” Studies in English Literature 42 (2002): 25–41.

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    Discusses stanzas in the “Lay” and Spenser’s poem, concluding that “syntax, phrasing, and rhythm is Spenser’s throughout” (p. 29). Spenser uses the traditional female voice for lament.

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  • Kay, Dennis. Melodious Tears: The English Funeral Elegy from Spenser to Milton. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.

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    The poem is “a dramatized education in accommodation to grief,” as Clorinda searches for an audience, but, “finding none, turns inward” (p. 59). If MSH did write the “Lay” then she was indeed “the first of the Spenserian poets” (p. 53).

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  • Quilligan, Maureen. Incest and Agency in Elizabeth’s England. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.

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    “A Doleful Lay” is written in Pembroke’s style, suggesting that “at the very least, it is a collaboration between her and Spenser” (p. 110).

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  • Steinberg, Theodore. “Spenser, Sidney, and the Myth of Astrophel.” Spenser Studies 11 (1990): 187–202.

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    The poem criticizes “the impulses that prompted Sidney to abandon his important work as a poet for the more adventurous and less productive life—and death—of a soldier.” The campaign in which he died was a failure, a point Spenser reiterates in the poem.

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  • Waller, Gary. Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke: A Critical Study of Her Writings and Literary Milieu. Salzburg, Austria: University of Salzburg Press, 1979.

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    The “Lay” is set off from Spenser’s “Astrophel” by a decorative border and other typographical features, and introduced with a one-stanza bridge (pp. 90–91).

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Translations

MSH published two translations from the French under her own name in 1592, Antonius (reprinted in 1595 as The Tragedie of Antony) and A Discourse of Life and Death. She also translated at least one of Petrarch’s Trionfi, “The Triumph of Death,” which survives only in a manuscript transcription. There is so much scholarship on Antonius that it is divided here into discussions of sources and influence, treatments of Cleopatra, and analysis of its politics.

Antonius Sources and Influence

Antonius is sometimes discussed as a source or “analogue” for Shakespeare (see Mary Sidney and Shakespeare). Connections with Samuel Daniel’s Cleopatra, written at her request, are noted in Leavenworth 1974, Norland 1996, Raber 2001, and Schanzer 1957. Connections with Elizabeth Carey’s Mariam are discussed in Cotton 1980, Ferguson 2002, and Straznicky 1994. Findlay 2006 gives the performance context.

Antonius and Cleopatra

Acheson 2001, Lamb 1990, and Sanders 1998 stress Cleopatra’s Stoic heroism; Green 2002 notes that she is both virtuous and erotic. Burgess 2001 connects Cleopatra with Elizabeth Cary’s Mariam and Lady Mary Wroth’s Venus. Hillman 2004 discusses the heroine’s eroticized mourning; Krontiris 1992 treats MSH’s favorable presentation of her as lover and mother. MacDonald 2002 considers the racial difference between Roman and Egyptian.

  • Acheson, Katherine O. “‘Outrage Your Face’: Anti-theatricality and Gender in Early Modern Closet Drama by Women.” Early Modern Literary Studies 6.3 (January 2001): 1–16.

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    MSH’s Cleopatra is distinguished not by her beauty but by her modesty and faithfulness—and by her self-defacement at the close of the play. She becomes an example of “female Stoic heroism” (p. 4). Rather than being subject to the male gaze, Cleopatra has a gaze that controls others.

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  • Burgess, Irene Stephanie. “‘The Wreck of Order’ in Early Modern Women’s Drama.” Early Modern Literary Studies 6.3 (January 2001): 6.1–24.

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    Connects Cleopatra with Salome in Cary’s Mariam and Venus in Wroth’s Love’s Victory as “corrupted women.”

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  • Green, Reina. “Eroticizing Virtue: The Role of Cleopatra in Early Modern Drama.” In Women as Sites of Culture: Women’s Roles in Cultural Formation from the Renaissance to the Twentieth Century. Edited by Susan Shifrin, 93–103. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2002.

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    Compares MSH’s portrayal of Cleopatra with Dryden’s All for Love, concluding that their representations of her “as both virtuous and erotic undermine accepted societal definitions of female propriety even as they present her containment by such boundaries” (p. 94). In Antonius, Cleopatra dies well first as a mother and then as a lover.

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  • Hillman, Richard. “De-Centring the Countess’s Circle: Mary Sidney Herbert and Cleopatra.” Renaissance and Reformation 28 (2004): 61–79.

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    MSH translated Garnier’s play not for political reasons but because of the eroticized mourning of its noble heroine, which he connects with “Angel Spirit.” Her revisions restrain “the extravagant impulses” of Garnier’s depiction of Cleopatra, including the presentation of suicide (pp. 66–69).

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  • Krontiris, Tina. “Mary Herbert: Englishing a Purified Cleopatra.” In Oppositional Voices: Women as Writers and Translators of Literature in the English Renaissance. By Tina Krontiris, 64–78. London: Routledge, 1992.

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    Cleopatra is presented favorably as a lover, not a political conniver or a seductress, and her affair is legitimatized by the use of “conventional marriage terminology” (p. 70), despite some sympathy for Octavia. Cleopatra is also shown as a mother, though she chooses Antony over her children.

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  • Lamb, Mary Ellen. Gender and Authorship in the Sidney Circle. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.

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    Cleopatra exemplifies the Stoic virtues advocated in A Discourse of Life and Death, showing heroism through her death.

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  • MacDonald, Joyce Green. Women and Race in Early Modern Texts. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511483721Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    “The Petrarchan whiteness” of Cleopatra enables MSH’s “bold reimagination of Cleopatra” (p. 38). MSH uses “Cleopatra’s sexuality to efface the existence of racial difference between Roman and Egyptian” (p. 39).

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  • Sanders, Eve Rachele. Gender and Literacy on Stage in Early Modern England. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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    The most sustained discussion of Antonius. Cleopatra is admirable without being conventionally chaste: “She is by turns regal, maternal, defiant, loyal, physically courageous, and candidly sensual,” and she “demonstrates her virtue . . . by the arduous feat of raising Antoine from the ground to the top of the monument” (pp. 97, 100).

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Antonius and Politics

Most critics, including Clarke 2001, Ferguson 2002, Findlay 2006, Lewalski 1993, Raber 2001, and Skretkowicz 1999, have seen Antonius, like the form of closet drama in general, as being politically charged. Hillman 2004 disagrees, saying that other plays by Garnier were more political than Antoine. Prescott 2008 says that MSH may have translated the play because of it depiction of civil war, but perhaps also because of its literary qualities.

  • Clarke, Danielle. The Politics of Early Modern Women’s Writing. London: Longman, 2001.

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    Addresses issues topical in the 1590s, including “the nature of rule, the fear of tyranny, and the place of femininity in the public sphere.” Cleopatra demonstrates “virtuous resistance” to tyranny and so “foregrounds the problematics of the female subject as a political agent, as ruler and subject,” in her death (p. 95).

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  • Ferguson, Margaret. “Sidney, Cary, Wroth.” In A Companion to Renaissance Drama. Edited by Arthur F. Kinney, 482–506. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002.

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    Surveys possible reasons that MSH translated Antoine, finding political motivations the “most compelling.” The dangers of civil war were topical in a time anxious about the English succession. Garnier’s play gave MSH a “vehicle for speaking publically while not seeming to do so in a way that provoked censure” (p. 491).

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  • Findlay, Alison. Playing Spaces in Early Women’s Drama. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    “Antonius is a critique of “aggressive Protestant militarism” and an ethos that “privileges public, masculine competition over feminine values of nurture and community” (p. 25).

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  • Hillman, Richard. “De-Centring the Countess’s Circle: Mary Sidney Herbert and Cleopatra.” Renaissance and Reformation 28 (2004): 61–79.

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    If MSH had wanted to translate Robert Garnier for political reasons, she would have chosen one of his more explicitly political plays.

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  • Lewalski, Barbara Kiefer. Writing Women in Jacobean England. Cambridge, UK: Harvard University Press, 1993.

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    Classicizing dramas by MSH and those she influenced became “a recognized vehicle for the exploration of dangerous political topics” (p. 191), like appropriate responses to tyranny.

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  • Prescott, Anne Lake. “Mary Sidney’s French Sophocles: The Countess of Pembroke Reads Robert Garnier.” In Representing France and the French in Early Modern English Drama. Edited by Jean-Christophe Mayer, 68–89. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008.

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    Addresses complex history of France between Garnier’s publication and MSH’s translation. Yet the paratextual materials present Antoine as less indebted to Seneca than Sophocles, stressing the play’s theatricality. MSH may have been attracted by its depiction of “the dangers of civil tumult” (p. 73), but also by its “literary chic” (p. 85).

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  • Raber, Karen. Dramatic Difference: Gender, Class and Genre in the Early Modern Closet Drama. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2001.

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    MSH’s writing “re-asserts the potential for domestic power to intervene in the public world,” demonstrating that political power is “the product of domestic spaces, domestic activities and domestic relationships” (pp. 54–55). Translating French Senecan drama could address advice to the monarch “without attracting personal retribution or public opprobrium” (p. 81).

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  • Skretkowicz, Victor. “Mary Sidney Herbert’s Antonius, English Philhellenism and the Protestant Cause.” Women’s Writing 6 (1999): 7–26.

    DOI: 10.1080/09699089900200063Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    MSH adapted “Garnier’s allegory to describe the plight of the Huguenots” and published it with A Discourse to gain English support for them. She chose blank verse because of her “admiration for Plutarch’s Lives as a work in which models of Christian virtue are described in clear and unadorned prose” (p. 7).

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A Discourse of Life and Death

Relatively little has been written on MSH’s translation of A Discourse of Life and Death. The most substantial discussion remains Collected Works (Hannay, et al. 1998). Bornstein 1985 compared MSH’s translation with that of her only predecessor, Edward Aggas; Duncan-Jones 1977 notes it as a source for Shakespeare; and Hannay 2000 offers Richardson’s summary and adaptation. Lamb 1990 notes the biographical context, connecting it to MSH’s other works on death.

  • Bornstein, Diane. “The Style of the Countess of Pembroke’s Translation of Philippe de Mornay’s Discours de la vie et de la mort.” In Silent but for the Word: Tudor Women as Patrons, Translators, and Writers of Religious Works. Edited by Margaret P. Hannay, 126–148. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1985.

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    Detailed contrast of MSH’s translation with that of Edward Aggas, the only previous translator.

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  • Duncan-Jones, Katherine. “Stoicism in Measure for Measure: A New Source.” Review of English Studies 28 (1977): 441–446.

    DOI: 10.1093/res/XXVIII.112.441Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A Discourse may have been a source for the duke’s speech about death and Claudio’s reply.

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  • Hannay, Margaret P. “Elizabeth Ashburnham Richardson’s Meditation on the Countess of Pembroke’s Discourse.” English Manuscript Studies 1100–1700 9 (2000): 114–128.

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    Richardson adapts A Discourse to her own purposes in a book of instruction for her children and “other Christians.”

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  • Hannay, Margaret P., Noel J. Kinnamon, and Michael G. Brennan, eds. Collected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke. Oxford: Clarendon, 1998.

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    “Literary Context” and “Fidelity of Originals” discuss the context and the accuracy of her translation.

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  • Lamb, Mary Ellen. “The Countess of Pembroke and the Art of Dying.” In Gender and Authorship in the Sidney Circle. By Mary Ellen Lamb, 115–141. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.

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    Originally printed in Women in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Literary and Historical Perspectives, edited by Mary Beth Rose (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1986), pp. 207–226. Influential study of the impact of family deaths on the works of MSH, particularly her elegies and her translations of A Discourse of Life and Death and The Triumph of Death. Originally published in 1986.

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The Triumph of Death

Beilin 1987 and MacArthur 1990 connect MSH’s translation of Triumph to her depiction of Cleopatra in Antonius. Bell 1998 studies the way she deliberately alters Petrarch’s text to emphasize Laura’s voice. Benson 2005 argues that Lanyer’s dedicatory poem imitates MSH’s translation. Clarke 2001 connects Triumph to MSH’s Psalms and to her portrayal of Elizabeth. Lamb 1990 says that Laura demonstrates the same Stoic virtues praised in MSH’s translation of A Discourse. Kennedy 1994 places MSH in the context of women regendering Petrarchan discourse.

  • Beilin, Elaine. Redeeming Eve: Women Writers of the English Renaissance. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.

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    The virtuous Laura is the opposite of Cleopatra; see pp. 121–150.

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  • Bell, Ilona. Elizabethan Women and the Poetry of Courtship. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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    Contrasting her work with other translations, Bell argues that MSH made deliberate changes, not errors, in her use of first person and verb tenses, as well as omitting the adjective “almost,” so that Laura and Petrach burnt in “equal flames” of love (p. 104). Her changes make Laura more of a speaking subject, rather than just the object of Petrarch’s love. See pp. 100–108.

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  • Benson, Pamela Joseph. “The Stigma of Italy Undone: Aemilia Lanyer’s Canonization of Lady Mary Sidney.” In Strong Voices, Weak History: Early Women Writers and Canons in England, France, and Italy. Edited by Pamela Joseph Benson and Victoria Kirkham, 146–175. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005.

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    The Trionfi were given a Protestant interpretation and read as moral instruction, making this work appropriate for MSH to translate. Lanyer writes an original triumph in her “Authors Dreame to the Ladie Mary, the Countesse Dowager of Pembroke,” imitating the language and structure of Pembroke’s Triumph.

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  • Clarke, Danielle. The Politics of Early Modern Women’s Writing. London: Longman, 2001.

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    Pembroke, in her nuanced translation, provides a “veiled and ambitious critique of the literary discourses that surround the aging Elizabeth” (p. 283). Also echoes of the Psalms in MSH’s translation.

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  • Kennedy, William J. Authorizing Petrarch. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994.

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    Traces the Protestant adoption of Petrarch, including by MSH (pp. 67–81). Important discussion of women poets regendering the Petrarchan tradition (pp. 114–194).

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  • Lamb, Mary Ellen. Gender and Authorship in the Sidney Circle. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.

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    Laura exemplifies the Stoic virtues advocated in A Discourse of Life and Death, showing heroism through her death.

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  • MacArthur, Janet. “Ventriloquizing Comfort and Despair: Mary Sidney’s Female Personae in The Triumph of Death and The Tragedy of Antony.” Sidney Newsletter and Journal 11 (1990): 3–13.

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    MSH’s “confusing nexus of noble, chaste, and idealized love for her brother, on the one hand, and frustrated, desperate, and even subliminally erotic feelings for him on the other” are reflected in “Angel Spirit” and in her depictions of Laura and Cleopatra (p. 5).

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Metrical Psalms

SPS began a rendition of the biblical Psalms as English poems, completing Psalms 1–43 before his death. MSH completed the 150 Psalms, continuing her brother’s pattern of using different verse forms for (almost) every Psalm. Her Psalms were praised for their poetic achievement, for their scholarship, and for their piety. There has been so much published on her Psalms that this section is divided into discussions of sources and influence, treatments of their religious contexts, and consideration of their literary contexts.

Psalms Sources and Influence

Zim 1987 remains the best overview of English metrical Psalms and MSH’s place within that tradition. Kinnamon 2009 notes the influence of Beza on her Psalms, Todd 1987 the possible influence of Dutch Psalms, and Prescott 2005 the imagery of ruination, tying her to Daniel, Spenser, and Shakespeare. Hamlin 2005, Lewalski 1979, and Wilcox 2000 trace the influence of the Sidney Psalms on English poetry. Brennan 2009 considers the possibility that the Sidney Psalms could have been printed at the close of the 16th century, thereby increasing their influence.

  • Brennan, Michael G. “The Queen’s Proposed Visit to Wilton House in 1599 and the ‘Sidney Psalms.’” In Ashgate Critical Essays on Women in England, 1550–1700. Vol. 2. Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke. Edited by Margaret P. Hannay, 175–202. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009.

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    Reprinted from Sidney Journal 20 (2002): 27–53. In 1599 the proposed royal visit to Wilton and some complications over licensing the printing of Psalms might have made it possible for MSH to win Elizabeth’s approval to print the Sidney Psalms. Includes a concise explanation of the regulation of the printing of metrical Psalms by the Stationers’ Company.

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  • Hamlin, Hannibal. “‘The Highest Matter in the Noblest Form’: The Influence of the Sidney Psalms.” Sidney Journal 23 (2005): 133–157.

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    The Sidney Psalter had a profound influence on 17th-century literary psalters in its “metrical and stanzaic variety” and in its “more flexible treatment of the line,” including enjambment and caesurae (pp. 137–138).

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  • Kinnamon, Noel J. “God’s ‘Scholer’: The Countess of Pembroke’s Psalmes and Beza’s Psalmorum Davidis . . . Libri Quinque.” In Ashgate Critical Essays on Women in England, 1550–1700. Vol. 2, Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke. Edited by Margaret P. Hannay, 213–218. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009.

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    Reprinted from Notes and Queries 44 (1997): 85–88. MSH was a scholar who used both Theodore Beza’s original Latin and a 1580 English translation by Antony Gilbie as she composed her metrical Psalms.

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  • Lewalski, Barbara Kiefer. Protestant Poetics and the Seventeenth-Century Religious Lyric. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979.

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    The Sidneys present the psalmist as an Elizabethan poet, leading to the 17th-century religious lyric. MSH’s Psalms include dramatic openings and “vivid and witty elaboration” of metaphor anticipating Donne, and they foreshadow the poems of Goerge Herbert in form and “deceptively simply formulations of staggering religious paradoxes” (pp. 243–244).

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  • Prescott, Anne Lake. “The Countess of Pembroke’s Ruins of Rome.” Sidney Journal 23 (2005): 1–18.

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    MSH emphasizes and expands biblical imagery of ruination, emphasizing God’s triumph over Time. Parallels language in Spenser’s Ruins of Time and in the works of Samuel Daniel and William Shakespeare.

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  • Todd, Richard. “‘So Well Atyr’d Abroad’: A Background to the Sidney-Pembroke Psalter and Its Implications for the Seventeenth-Century Religious Lyric.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 29 (1987): 74–93.

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    Suggests the Souterliedekens (little psalter songs), attributed to Jonkkheer Willem van Zuylen van Nyevelt, as an analogue and perhaps a source for the Sidney Psalms.

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  • Wilcox, Helen. “Whom the Lord with Love Affecteth’: Gender and the Religious Poet, 1590–1633.” In This Double Voice: Gendered Writing in Early Modern England. Edited by Danielle Clarke and Elizabeth Clarke, 185–207. New York: St. Martin’s, 2000.

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    Traces influence of Sidneys, and particularly MSH, on devotional verse by John Donne, Aemilia Lanyer, and George Herbert, concluding that these writers should be seen as “the school of Sidney, or perhaps, even the tribe of Mary” (p. 204).

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  • Zim, Rivkah. English Metrical Psalms: Poetry as Praise and Prayer, 1535–1601. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

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    Remains the best overview, including an annotated list of English Psalm versions. Chapter 6 treats the Psalms of MSH, which are “often remarkably individual and forceful” but follow SPS’s pattern (p. 187). Readings of Psalms 44, 51, 139, 141. Compares her Psalm 73 to Surrey’s version and to SPS’s Astrophil 5.

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Psalms Religious Contexts

Steinberg 2009 argues that MSH had some knowledge of Hebrew; Goodblatt 2006 contends that they had access to Jewish exegetical sources as transmitted through Christian Hebraicists. Coles 2008 sees the Sidney Psalter as opposed to Protestant ideals in its efforts to resituate poetry within a religious context; Reinstra and Kinnamon 2002 suggests that MSH decided to restrict the Psalms to manuscript circulation because she was concerned that her literary method would not be appreciated in religious contexts. Quitslund 2005 points to a desire to use the Sidney Psalms liturgically, which their literary complexity made an impossibility. Osherow 2009, White 2005, and Trull 2011 address the strategies used by MSH to find a voice within the Protestant religious community. Trull 2011 examines her use of the doctrine of sacrifice.

  • Coles, Kimberly Anne. Religion, Reform, and Women’s Writing in Early Modern England. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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    The intention of the Sidney Psalter “to elevate English lyric” was “fundamentally at odds with Protestant ideals,” and therefore failed “to achieve a revaluation of poetry” within Protestant theology. Pembroke was nonetheless a key figure in the “shift from secular to devotional lyric registers” (p. 111).

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  • Goodblatt, Chanita. “‘High Holy Muse’: Christian Hebraism and Jewish Exegesis in the Sidneian Psalmes.” In Tradition, Heterodoxy and Religious Culture: Judaism and Christianity in the Early Modern Period. Edited by Chanita Goodblatt and Howard Kreisel, 287–309. Beersheeba, Israel: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Press, 2006.

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    The Sidneys had access to Jewish exegetical sources, notably the commentaries of Rashi and Kimhi, as transmitted through Christian Hebraists. Particular attention is paid to Psalm 51 and 139, in which MSH’s translation echoes Jewish commentary.

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  • Osherow, Michele. Biblical Women’s Voices in Early Modern England. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2009.

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    Analyzes MSH’s Psalms 51, 62, 68, 104, and 106, arguing that she adds allusions to Miriam and thereby “constructs herself (as psalmist) in the image of the first biblical prophetess” (p. 21).

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  • Quitslund, Beth. “Teaching Us How to Sing? The Peculiarity of the Sidney Psalter.” Sidney Journal 23 (2005): 83–110.

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    Argues that the “early reception” of the Sidney Psalter demonstrates a desire to use them “paraliturgically” (i.e., musically) but that such use was “difficult if not impossible” (p. 97). Yet in the 17th century it influenced psalters for congregational singing, literary psalms for private use, and devotional verse.

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  • Rienstra, Debra, and Noel Kinnamon. “Circulating the Sidney-Pembroke Psalter.” In Women’s Writing and the Circulation of Ideas: Manuscript Publication in England, 1550–1800. Edited by George Justice and Nathan Tinker, 50–72. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

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    MSH chose scribal publication over print for the Sidney Psalter because she was concerned that “the theological implications of her artistic method would not be widely appreciated” by those who valued a plain style for devotional meditation (p. 52). Includes perceptive close readings of individual psalms to demonstrate her poetic method.

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  • Steinberg, Theodore. “The Sidneys and the Psalms.” In Ashgate Critical Essays on Women in England, 1550–1700. Vol. 2, Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke. Edited by Margaret P. Hannay, 265–281. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009.

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    Reprinted from Studies in Philology 92 (1995): 1–17. Notes how “faithful” the Sidney Psalms are to the Hebrew original, suggesting that they “had some access either to the Hebrew language or to an accomplished ‘Hebrician’” (p. 8). MSH’s translations are literal enough in many places to indicate that she knew Hebrew.

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  • Trull, Mary. “‘Theise Dearest Uffrings of My Heart’: The Sacrifice of Praise in Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke’s Psalmes.” In English Women, Religion, and Textual Production, 1500–1625. Edited by Micheline White, 37–58. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2011.

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    MSH expands the imagery of sacrifice, making it a symbol for “generosity on the part of both God and the human singer” (p. 39).

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  • White, Micheline. “Protestant Women’s Writing and Congregational Psalm Singing: from the Song of the Exiled ‘Handmaid’ (1555) to the Countess of Pembroke’s Psalmes (1599).” Sidney Journal 23 (2005): 61–82.

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    Discusses Pembroke’s revisions to her version of Psalm 68 and a previously unknown song by a “handmaid” in the Wesel Psalter (1555). Both texts were designed for private use, but the authors “imagined themselves writing/singing in a communal religious space” (p. 79) where their voices were approved.

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Psalms Literary Contexts

Hamlin 2004 places the Psalms of the Sidneys and others in the context of English literary traditions. Bennett 2004, Fisken 1985, and Schleiner 1994 analyze MSH’s rhetoric and poetic technique. Clarke 2007, Hannay 2001, and Larson 2006 analyze MSH Psalms in the context of other writings by early modern women. Ottenhoff 2003 gives a helpful bibliographic essay on the metrical Psalms as a literary genre. See also the extensive section on “Psalms: Literary Context” in Hanney, et al. 1998 (cited under Modern Editions), and Sidney Journal 23 (2005) for a special issue on the Sidney Psalms.

  • Bennett, Lyn. Women Writing of Divinest Things: Rhetoric and the Poetry of Pembroke, Wroth and Lanyer. Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 2004.

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    Detailed rhetorical analysis, particularly of Psalms 51, 58, 72, 73, 130 (in comparison to Gascoigne and Wyatt), and 139. Concludes that she “is surely as important a figure in the history of rhetoric as she is in the history of English poetry” (p. 101).

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  • Clarke, Danielle. “Mary Sidney Herbert and Women’s Religious Verse.” In Early Modern English Poetry: A Critical Companion. Edited by Patrick Cheney, Andrew Hadfield, and Garrett A. Sullivan Jr., 184–194. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    Eloquent and concise statement of the centrality of the Psalms in early modern life, of MSH’s efforts to replicate the poetry of the Hebrew Psalms, and of the family and political context of her work. An excellent starting place—appropriate for undergraduates and general readers as well as scholars.

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  • Fisken, Beth Wynne. “Mary Sidney’s Psalmes: Education and Wisdom.” In Silent but for the Word: Tudor Women as Patrons, Translators, and Writers of Religious Works. Edited by Margaret P. Hannay, 166–183. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1985.

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    MSH learned her poetic craft through extensive revision of her own Psalm versions and changes to her brother’s versions. Psalm 45 reflects her experience at court and Psalm 139 her experience of childbirth. Helpful attention to her literary style.

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  • Hamlin, Hannibal. Psalm Culture and Early Modern English Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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    Essential work on the literary context of English metrical Psalms and the development of English verse, emphasizing the importance of the Sidney Psalter. Examines three central Psalms in literary context: Psalm 23 and the pastoral, Psalm 51 and penitence, and Psalm 137 and poems of exile. For MSH, particularly helpful on her literary techniques, on the penitential Psalm 51, and on her quantitative Psalms (pp. 92–100).

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  • Hannay, Margaret. “‘So May I with the Psalmist Truly Say’: Early Modern Englishwomen’s Psalm Discourse.” In Write or Be Written: Early Modern Women Poets and Cultural Constraints. Edited by Barbara Smith and Ursula Appelt, 105–134. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2001.

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    Psalms became a “foundational discourse” that permitted women’s entry into three literary genres: life writing, religious instruction, and poetry. Anne Lock and MSH wrote within a women’s Psalm tradition that authorized their work.

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  • Larson, Katherine R. Early Modern Women in Conversation. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230319530Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Chapter 3 on the Sidney-Pembroke Psalter includes material printed as “From Inward Conversation to Public Praise: Mary Sidney Herbert’s Psalmes,” Sidney Journal 24 (2006): 21–43. MSH employs “intimate and inward conversation” as the source of her poetic and political authority (p. 64). Demonstrates how MSH shifts some Psalms from third to first person to intensify dialogic effect. Emphasizes movement from inward conversation to outward articulation.

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  • Ottenhoff, John. “Recent Studies in Metrical Psalms.” English Literary Renaissance 33 (2003): 252–275.

    DOI: 10.1111/1475-6757.00028_2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Useful commentary and listing of studies on metrical Psalms in general. Includes a section on the Sidney Psalms, and undergraduates working on metrical Psalms should start here.

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  • Schleiner, Louise. Tudor and Stuart Women Writers. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

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    Proposes a graduated scale of translation/originality, arguing that Pembroke’s Psalms are “original poems” as much as translation (p. 55). Complex stylistic study of style and voice in Pembroke’s Psalms, with detailed close readings of Psalms 45, 55, and 73.

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Mary Sidney and Shakespeare

Mary Sidney’s sons, William Herbert, Third Earl of Pembroke, and Philip Herbert, Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, were the “incomparable pair of brethren” to whom the first folio edition of Shakespeare’s works was dedicated because they had “so much favor.” The Sidneys and the Herberts were patrons of drama, and Mary Sidney’s sons had served, in turn, as King James’s Lord Chamberlain, in charge of entertainments at court. William Herbert called Richard Burbage, the lead actor in Shakespeare’s company, “mine old acquaintance” and mourned his death. Mary Sidney, on at least one occasion, was herself responsible for paying the players. She almost certainly knew Shakespeare, and she had probably seen his plays performed at Wilton House as well as at court. Her Antonius was probably an important source for Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra: see Bullough 1966, Spevack 1990, Steppat 1987, and Schanzer 1956. Beginning in the 1930s there have been recurring assertions that MSH wrote some or all of Shakespeare’s works—this type of scholarship is not to be fully trusted.

  • Bullough, Geoffrey, ed. The Tragedy of Antony [1595]. In Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare. Vol. 5, The Roman Plays: Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus. Edited by Geoffrey Bullough, 358–405. New York: Columbia University Press, 1966.

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    Prints the play as an “analogue” to Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.

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  • Schanzer, Ernest. “Antony and Cleopatra and the Countess of Pembroke’s Antonius.” Notes & Queries 201 (1956): 152–154.

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    Reviews previous scholarship and adds his own list of parallels between Antonius and Antony and Cleopatra. Prints the play as an “analogue” to Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra.

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  • Spevack, Marvin, ed. “Antonius [1592].” In A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra. Edited by Marvin Spevack. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1990.

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    Lists specific parallels to Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Concludes that her influence on Shakespeare is “both conceptual and, in places, verbal” (p. 478).

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  • Steppat, Michael. “Shakespeare’s Response to Dramatic Tradition in Antony and Cleopatra.” In Shakespeare: Text, Language, Criticism: Essays in Honour of Marvin Spevack. Edited by Bernard Fabian and Kurt Tetzeli von Rosador, 254–279. Hildesheim, West Germany, and New York: Olms-Weidmann, 1987.

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    Shakespeare found in Antonius a tragic portrayal of Antony, emphasizing his “inner suffering and soul-searching” (p. 255).

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Patronage

MSH had traditionally been praised as a major patron. Witherspoon 1924 charged that she intended to reform English drama by substituting Senecan closet drama for Shakespeare and the popular stage. Lamb 1990 argued that her influence had been much exaggerated, as did Brennan 1988. Her patronage is considered among that of other women patrons by Bergeron 1981, Hiller 1991, and Williams 1962. Recent work tends to look at dedications to her by individual writers, such as Aemilia Lanyer (Barroll 1998), and Nicholas Breton (Trill 2009).

  • Barroll, Leeds. “Looking for Patrons.” In Aemilia Lanyer: Gender, Genre, and the Canon. Edited by Marshall Grossman, 29–48. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1998.

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    Lanier made a “strategic error” by placing the Countess of Bedford after the Dowager Countess of Pembroke in her cluster of dedications to potential female patrons.

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  • Bergeron, David M. “Women as Patrons of English Renaissance Drama.” In Patronage in the Renaissance. Edited by Guy Fitch Lytle and Stephen Orgel, 274–290. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981.

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    MSH led a group of writers in translating Garnier and espousing the principles of French classical drama. Samuel Daniel aided her attempt “To chace away this tyrant of the North/ Gross Barbarism.” MSH was a patron of extraordinary quality, even if her effort was “a failure” (p. 288).

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  • Brennan, Michael G. Literary Patronage in the English Renaissance: The Pembroke Family. London: Routledge, 1988.

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    Her friends and employees included amateur writers; others dedicated works to her because of her “enviable public reputation as a major literary figure” (p. 81). As sister of SPS, “an honorary Protestant saint,” she had “a remarkable spiritual potency, comparable to the aura of semi-divinity which surrounded Queen Elizabeth” (p. 82).

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  • Hiller, Geoffrey G. “‘Where Thou Doost Live, There Let All Graces Be’: Images of the Renaissance Woman Patron in Her House and Rural Domain.” Cahiers Elisabéthains 40.2 (1991): 37–52.

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    Daniel praises MSH’s guidance. Breton portrays her as the mistress of “the ideal household which extends hospitality to writers” (p. 39). Clergymen praise her recognition of her obligation to provide “spiritual example and guidance” to those under her (p. 40). Moffet and others present her as a tutelary pastoral figure.

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  • Lamb, Mary Ellen. Gender and Authorship in the Sidney Circle. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.

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    Includes material reworked from an influential essay on “The Countess of Pembroke’s Patronage” (1982). Argues that Witherspoon exaggerated her influence. Highlights the squabbles among those seeking her patronage and finds that only “writers most secure in their vocations,” such as Daniel and Spenser, acknowledge her as a writer (p. 29).

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  • Trill, Suzanne. “Engendering Penitence: Nicholas Breton and ‘the Countesse of Penbrooke.’” In Ashgate Critical Essays on Women in England, 1550–1700. Vol. 2, Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke. Edited by Margaret P. Hannay, 385–404. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009.

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    Reprinted from Voicing Women: Gender and Sexuality in Early Modern Writing (Keele, UK: Keele University Press, 1996), pp. 25–44. Breton’s depiction of MSH as “a model of female penitence” exposes “anxieties about the limitations of gendered roles” in his time (p. 26). Self-abnegation “culturally defined as feminine,” was required of all believers in their devotional lives. Adopting a female voice allows Breton to express desire for a union with Christ.

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  • Williams, Franklin F. Jr. “The Literary Patronesses of Renaissance England.” Notes and Queries 207 (1962): 364–366.

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    Lists thirty works dedicated to MSH.

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  • Witherspoon, Alexander Maclaren. The Influence of Robert Garnier on Elizabethan Drama. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1924.

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    Argues that MSH, a “bluestocking,” was an antagonist of Shakespeare and the popular stage, which she found “rough, uncouth, and unlearned,” preferring the classical closet drama that she attempted to sponsor as an alternative (p. 75). Concluding chapter is entitled “The Failure of Lady Pembroke’s Movement.”

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Publication of the Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia

MSH saw herself as SPS’s literary executor and, unhappy with Fulke Greville’s 1590 edition of the Arcadia (with added chapter divisions and headings), supervised another edition in 1593 that grafts the ending of his Old Arcadia onto the unfinished New Arcadia. In 1598 she supervised an expanded edition including the Defence of Poetry, Certain Sonnets, the Lady of May, and the first complete edition of Astrophil and Stella, one that corrected the corrupt edition of 1591. Much scholarship has turned on whether MSH or Greville had a better understanding of SPS’s intention in writing Arcadia and thus produced a superior edition; see Alexander 2006, Davis 2009, Dobell 1909, Robertson 1973, Skretkowicz 1986, and Zandvoort 1929. Lamb 1990, in contrast, looks at Sidney’s construction of his woman reader in the Old Arcadia, and Wall 1993 examines SPS’s letter of dedication to MSH.

  • Alexander, Gavin. Writing After Sidney: The Literary Response to Sir Philip Sidney, 1586–1640. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    MSH removes Greville’s chapter headings, “making each book a seamless whole,” restores the epitaph, adds eclogues, and supplies the ending from the earlier version, making it “self-contained and not open-ended” (pp. 88–89).

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  • Davis, Joel. “Multiple Arcadias and the Literary Quarrel between Fulke Greville and the Countess of Pembroke.” In Ashgate Critical Essays on Women in England, 1550–1700. Vol. 2, Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke. Edited by Margaret P. Hannay, 285–310. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009.

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    Reprinted from Studies in Philology 101 (2004): 401–430. Greville and MSH differed in their readings of and intentions for the Arcadia because of philosophical and political differences. Greville inserts chapter headings to impose “a Neostoic critical framework” on the narrative, associating it with the Essex circle. MSH sought to emphasize the familial and pastoral contexts.

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  • Dobell, Bertram. “New Light upon Sir Philip Sidney’s ‘Arcadia.’” Quarterly Review 211 (1909): 74–100.

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    Discovered manuscripts of the Old Arcadia and assumed that MSH “allowed herself a good deal of freedom in dealing with her brother’s work,” both in rearranging and revising sections of Books 1–3, and in “suppressing” some less virtuous actions of the princes (p. 75).

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  • Lamb, Mary Ellen. Gender and Authorship in the Sidney Circle. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.

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    Analyzes the nature of SPS’s addresses to his sister and her friends as “fair ladies,” depicting them as sympathetic to the plight of the characters.

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  • Robertson, Jean. “Introduction.” In The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (The Old Arcadia). By Sir Philip Sidney. Edited by Jean Robertson. Oxford: Clarendon, 1973.

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    Revisions to the Old Arcadia were probably completed by SPS or at his direction.

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  • Skretkowicz, Victor. “Building Sidney’s Reputation: Texts and Editors of the Arcadia.” In Sir Philip Sidney and the Creation of a Legend. Edited by Jan van Dorsten, Dominic Baker-Smith, and Arthur F. Kinney, 111–123. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1986.

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    MSH and Greville had different editorial policies; MSH wanted to present SPS as a literary figure, and Greville wanted to present his “epic and religious writings alone” (p. 120).

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  • Wall, Wendy. The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993.

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    Publishing SPS’s private letter as the printed dedication recasts “Sidney’s dedication of his trivial amateur labors” to her as “her dedication to him of the published monumental folio” (pp. 155–156).

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  • Zandvoort, Rienart Williem. Sidney’s Arcadia: A Comparison between the Two Versions. Amsterdam: N.V. Swets and Zeitlinger, 1929.

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    Detailed study of the six extant MSS and the 1590 and 1593 editions, attributing some alterations to MSH.

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LAST MODIFIED: 09/20/2012

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199846719-0053

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