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Sir Philip Sidney: Courtier Poet Paperback – 26 Sep 1991

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton Ltd (26 Sept. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241126509
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241126509
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 3 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 362,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Roman Clodia TOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Dec. 2007
Format: Hardcover
I can't quite put my finger on what makes this biography oddly unsatisfactory (3.5 stars) since Duncan-Jones is known as an emininent Sidneian, and follows the original sources. Perhaps it's merely that I have imbibed the mythologising that has grown up around Sidney and was slightly taken aback at the reality? I'm not sure, but after finishing this book and felt like I wanted to read the Alan Stewart book on Sidney to see whether he concurs or not.

D-J describes Sidney as not a handsome youth marked by acne and a bad temper, but at some stage in the book seems to resort herself to the ideal of the Elizabthan courtier that she has set out to correct. Markedly unsuccessful in worldy terms despite being entrusted with political embassies at the tender age of 22, he dies at 30 after a few year's marriage to Francis Walsingham, leaving his father-in-law to pay off all his debts.

There is little sense of Sidney's inner life, his relationships with his brother Robert (father of the Jacobean poet Mary Wroth) or his sister Mary; and his relationship with Leicester (his uncle) lacks coherence.

Perhaps ultimately D-J is being too scrupulous to the sources as reigns in her imagination too far. Whatever the cause, this is an oddly sterile book for such a provocative subject.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars 3 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid 28 Jun. 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
What a great book! This is biography at its best. Katherine Duncan-Jones succeeds in that most difficult of tasks - writing a biographical work that is at the same time scholarly and amusing. She paints a convincing portrait of this gifted, generous and tormented individual,who was also remarkably tolerant and warm-hearted for the times in which he lived. Sidney emerges from this book as a sophisticated and highly intelligent man who felt bitter and frustrated because of the unfair treatment he received at the hands of a capricious Queen, in whose service he nevertheless lost his very life. Altogether, I found Sidney very different from the typical Elizabethan - his dislike of hunting as a cruel, bloody sport, and his enlightened views on women are some of the traits in which we recognize a modern mind. And, nevertheless, after his absurd death he became a sort of hero or role-model for his contemporaries - many of whom hadn't recognized his worth while he lived. Duncan-Jones writes elegantly and in an entertaining style, quoting extensively from Sidney's writings as well as from those of his relatives and friends. I completely disagree with another reviewer, who criticized the "extraneous material" and the quantity of facts and persons in the book. No material is extraneous here: everything is relevant, either to Sidney's life or to the social and political context in which it must be viewed. As to the amount of characters - well, think about your own life: if someone were to write your biography, how many characters would there be? Four of five? I wouldn't trust a biography that didn't have many characters (even counting only the significant ones). After all, every person's life is complex - and full of other persons. All in all, this book is highly recommended - you'll gain a great awareness of an exceptional man.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars dark knight 29 April 2015
By toronto - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent biography, covering both the life in extensive detail, and the poetry. Contrary to the legend, it is clear from the biography that Sidney struggled throughout his life with all kinds of disappointment as well as ill treatment from the Queen, the dry fountain. It is all really kind of a sad mess in the midst of knightly splendour. But what a great writer.

My only disappointments with the book are that Duncan-Jones hardly deals at all with Sidney's sister Mary, an interesting person in her own right and crucial to Sidney's life and after-life; and the decision not to talk about the funeral and the fate of Leicester and the Netherlands afterwards. She wittily displays the long visual portrayal of the funeral along the end pages of the book, but some accompanying text would have been nice.
2 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disjointed, difficult to follow. 20 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Out of print? Good! This book is so filled with bits of extraneous material that it is almost impossible to follow. Despite considerable interest in the subject matter, and despite returning to the book four or five times, I could not distinguish which facts pertained to Sir Philip Sidney and which to the hundreds of people with whom he came into contact without almost graphing out the characters. It was worse than any Russian novel.
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