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This review is taken from PN Review 42, Volume 11 Number 4, March - April 1985.

SIDNEY'S YOUNGER BROTHER The Poems of Robert Sidney, edited by P. J. Croft (OUP) £35.00

Robert Sidney was born in 1563, nine years after his famous brother. Living in the shadow of this paragon, Robert could hardly have been expected to excel at anything, and he did not. The advice of his father to 'Imitate his [Philip's] virtues, exercises, studies and actions; he is a rare ornament of this age, the very formula that all well disposed young gentlemen of our Court do form also their manners and life by', in a letter written when Robert was in his late teens, is the kind to excite despair rather than any spirit of emulation; the image of the two brothers which Fulke Greville has left us in the deathbed scene from the Life of Philip has the dying hero 'shewing infinite strength in suppressing sorrow' while Robert only shows 'infinite weakness in expressing of it', clearly a man condemned to the role of constant foil to his brother's excellence. Robert's political career never really got going; from the age of twenty-six to that of fifty-three he was Governor of plague-ridden Flushing, a dead-end appointment which led to some compensatory honours (created Baron Sidney of Penshurst in 1603, Viscount L'Isle in 1605, Earl of Leicester in 1618); yet he appears to have made a successful marriage, had many children, and Ben Jonson's account of him in 'To Penshurst' suggests an enviable life, even if Jonson's main object of praise seems to be the lady rather than the lord of the house.

He was certainly ...

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