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400 , LETTERS IN CANADA 1977 materials of a very complex subject. Generations of readers who otherwise would have been intimidated by the appearance of manuscripts and by the technicalities and profusion of palaeographical manuals none of which, moreover, covers the scope of this book - will remain greatly in Petti's debt. (KENNETH BARTLETT) A.C. Hamilton. Sir Philip Sidney: A Study of His Life and Works Cambridge University Press. viii, 216. $13.95 Late in this study of the life and writings of Sir Philip Sidney, A.C. Hamilton observes that Sidney left Fulke Greville the manuscript of the revised Arcadia because it is Greville's book, even as the Old Arcadia, which he wrote for the Countess of Pembroke, is hers. Yet it is the later work which goes under the title of The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, and the remark thus illustrates what is best about Hamilton's book: a shrewd feeling for the patterns in Sidney'S career, combined with a resolute verdict on the direction that career was moving in at Sidney'S premature death. Hamilton's book is a new work in an old genre: more than most writers Sidney has tempted his critics to the one-volume survey. More than most critics, Hamilton has earned the right to give us one, in a long series of articles examining with great learning and hard common-sense almost all of the works of the Sidney canon. Here he draws these materials and others into five chapters which survey first the life, legend, and works, second Sidney'S early interest in pastoral, third the poems, fourth the Defence of Poesie, and fifth, the New Arcadia, that 'absolute heroicall poem' on which, Hamilton states firmly, Sidney'S greatness as a writer rests. His high opinion of the Arcadia indicates clearly Hamilton's perspective on Sidney; no one doubts the distinction of that remarkable novel in which, Virginia Woolf notes, 'as in some luminous globe, all the seeds of English fiction lie latent.' Yet contemporary criticism prefers to view Sidney through the glass of his great sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella. Hamilton's Sidney is not the 'English Petrarke' of that work, but a deeply moral man with a fundamentally novelistic genius, whose major formal innovation is his representation of idealized moral abstractions in the characters of freely acting individuals. 'To identify the ideal virtuous state with the fully human is one of Sidney's greatest triumphs in the Arcadia,' Hamilton writes, and with a genuinely Sidnaean appreciation concludes, 'no man may enter truly into the work without leaving it a better person.' As well as this responsiveness to Sidney'S 'feigning notable images' Hamilton has Sidney's appetite for paradox; his first chapter exposes the HUMANITIES 401 dichotomy between Sidney's life and legend with ironic sympathy, and thus establishes for us that impulse to a divided response which Sidney's own works provoke even into the third book of his uncompleted novel, and which virtually defines Astrophil and Stella. But the book is short, and though it provides a forceful interpretation of the whole of Sidney'S career, it presents the individual moments of that career less clearly; inordinate space is given to source study and plot-untangling, and too little to the personal relationships within Sidney'S life with which Hamilton 's moral and psychological interpretation might well be interwoven. His very gift for articulating patterns raises exciting issues which are not always resolved. One is that question of the divided response, which he seems always prepared to make a major theme but never quite does; another is the relation between-the fiction-making sonneteer of the most fiction-like of all sonnet sequences and the mature novelist of the Arcadia . In the end, it is Hamilton's capacity to follow the 'directing threds' through the Sidnaean labyrinth that rewards us most, in his striking observation that Sidney'S true heir in the following century is Milton rather than George Herbert, a verdict that encompasses more of the essential Sidney - and of the seventeenth century - than many critics have yet been able to do. (GERMAINE WARKENTIN) Anne Lancashire, editor. Editing Renaissance Dramatic Texts: English, italian...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 400-401
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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