and reprinted from
Peck, ed., Leicester's Commonwealth (Athens and
London: Ohio University Press, 1985).
Copy of a Letter
Written by a Master of Art of Cambridge to his friend in
London, concerning some talk passed of late between two worshipful and grave men
about the present state and some proceedings of the Earl of Leicester and his
friends in England.
spoken and published with most earnest protestation of all dutiful good will and
affection towards her most excellent Majesty and the realm, for whose good only
it is made common to many.
Sidney's Defense of Leicester
the various official responses to Leicester's Commonwealth, there was one
important unofficial one. Sometime during the winter of 1584-1585 a copy came
into the hands of Sir Philip Sidney, who undertook to reply to the attack against
his uncle in his so-called Defense of Leicester.1 The
haste with which he worked is obvious both from the state of his drafts, which
survive, and from the rather hectic array of often half-completed thoughts in
the argument itself. Clearly his efforts were at first intended for publication,
but in fact they never saw print, nor were they very much circulated in manuscript.
The reasons for this forbearance should not be far to seek. Had Leicester had
a chance to see Sidney's tract, he would doubtless have considered its particular
strategies more harmful than helpful to his cause, and he would probably have
preferred to avoid public debates over the pros and cons of criminal allegations
against him. What Leicester needed, and what he got, was a testimony of categorical
innocence from the Queen, not vehement rhetoric and thrown gauntlets from his
though obviously among his less distinguished works, Sidney's essay is worthy
of more credit than it is usually given. It is customary to fault the Defense
on the grounds that it evades direct rebuttal of the substantial allegations about
the Earl, and thus "gives no picture of Leicester the man to set against
the vivid and detailed characterization of the libeller,"2
and that instead it dwells entirely upon the Earl's noble lineage, which was of
course Sidney's own lineage, whereas the charge of "want of gentry"
had been an extremely minor part of the Commonwealth's attack. This assessment
is largely just, but it requires three qualifications that are not so customarily
made. First, vindicating the Earl of specific charges would in most cases have
been impossible since the form in which they are often made does not admit of
positive evidence to the contrary. All that any defender could have done was merely
to assert (not prove) that, however circumstances appeared, the Earl had no malicious
intentions and then attempt to impugn whatever evidence had been adduced to show
that he had. The first of these Sir Philip does in the only way he can, by formally
testifying "that I could never find in the Earl of Leicester any one motion
or inclination toward any such pretended conceit," and the second he does
too, and very well, by ridiculing the kind of evidence being used
by his opponent: "Such a gentlewoman spake of a matter no less than treason;
belike she whispered, yet he heard her," and so on.
Sidney, realizing (as we have seen) that he cannot address particular libellous
allegations, attempts instead the next best thing, a largely independent counterattack
upon libels and libellers in general. It must be acknowledged that he does a good
job of this as well. Of libels he reminds us that anything can be said and anyone
traduced by an anonymous writer, that virtually anything can by innuendo be made
to look suspicious, that the enmity of certain parties can often be a kind of
praise.3 Of the Commonwealth in particular he undertakes
a critique that makes up as astute a commentary on the book's flaws as has appeared
anywhere. His isolation of its implausible kinds of evidence, such as overheard
secrets, we have already noticed. He recognizes that the Commonwealth's
authors, whatever they protest to the contrary, are being less than candid in
their professions of loyalty to the Queen, and he seems to recognize (as had Elizabeth
herself) the derogation of the Queen implicit in the allegations about her trusted
favorite. Furthermore, Sidney puts his finger squarely upon the weaknesses of
the Commonwealth's defamation - that by adopting a rhetoric "all still
so upon the superlative," it raises its villain well out of the realm of
plausibility, and that by inventing "a whole dictionary of slanders"
against him, it creates inconsistencies that cannot easily be resolved, ending
with a man who is both potent and abject, well friended and friendless, physically
debilitated and luxurious, cowardly and reckless - "the devil's roll of complaints"
against all mankind, laid at the door of only one man.
third qualification to be made concerns Sidney's exposition of the Dudley lineage.
The customary appraisal argues that Sir Philip unwisely shifts his defense from
the moral allegations to the very minor problem of Leicester's, and Sidney's own,
ancestry, but that having done so, he makes a "comparative success"
of it. In fact, he does not make very much of a success of it; he is not being
entirely straightforward when he dismisses the telling objection that the most
impressive Dudley connections accrue only through females, nor is he when he demonstrates
at length the ancient nobility of the Suttons of Dudley, since the issue was precisely
whether the Dudleys were lawfully related to that house at all. And when at last
he considers the point upon which debate had fixed, the status of John Dudley
of Atherington, he loftily characterizes the facts as well known to everyone yet
calls the man Piers instead of John. But when we imply that Sir Philip shifted
his defense to the Dudley lineage merely because Leicester was otherwise indefensible
or because his own injured family pride had distracted him, we may partially misunderstand
his intentions and do him some disservice. It is true that he defends the Earl
in general terms and that he tries to invalidate the effect of the entire libel,
but toward the end of his essay he indicates that the matter of ancestry had been
his primary topic from the start and that he had undertaken to write, not because
Dudley's lineage had been questioned, which incidentally involved his own, but
precisely because his own honor had been touched. It is quite possible that he
did not set out to exculpate his uncle squarely, then through some peculiar aristocratic
sensitivity become sidetracked by an imagined insult to himself; but rather he
may have intended from the outset to defend his own family honor, as he may have
felt required in honor to do. Characteristically of the young chevalier, he ends
his essay with an absurdly inappropriate challenge to a duel.
have taken the text of Sidney's Defense from photocopies of the holograph drafts
in the Pierpont Morgan Library, relying very heavily upon the excellent edition
by Katherine Duncan-Jones in Sidney, Miscellaneous Prose of Sir Philip Sidney,
late there hath been printed a book in form of dialogue to the defaming of the
Earl of Leicester, full of the most vile reproaches which a wit used to wicked
and filthy thoughts can imagine; in such manner, truly, that if the author had
as well feigned new names as he doth new matters, a man might well have thought
his only meaning had been to have given a lively picture of the uttermost degree
of railing. A thing contemptible in the doer, as proceeding from a base and wretched
tongue, and such a tongue as in the speaking dares not speak his own name; odious
to all estates, since no man bears a name; of which name, how unfitly soever to
the person, by an impudent liar, anything may not be spoken, by all good laws
sharply punished, and by all evil companies like a poisonous serpent avoided.
But to the Earl himself, in the eyes of any men who with clear judgments can value
things, a true and sound honor grows out of these dishonorable falsehoods, since
he may justly say as a worthy senator of Rome once in like case did,4
that no man these twenty years hath borne a hateful heart to this estate, but
that at the same time he hath showed his enmity to this Earl, testifying thereby
that his faith is so linked to her Majesty's service, that who goes about to undermine
the one, resolves withal to overthrow the other. For it is not now first that
evil contented and evil minded persons, before the occasion be ripe for them to
show their hate against the prince, do first vomit it out against his counsellors.
Nay, certainly, so stale a device it is as it is to be marvelled that so fine
wits, whose inventions a fugitive fortune hath sharpened and the air of Italy
perchance purified,5 can light upon no gallanter way than the
ordinary pretext of the very clownish6 rebellions. And yet that
this is their plot of late, by name first to publish something against the Earl
of Leicester, and after when time served against the Queen's Majesty, by some
of their own intercepted discourses is made too manifest.7 He
himself in some places brings in the example of Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall, Robert
Vere, Duke of Ireland, and De la Pole, Duke of Suffolk.8 It is
not my purpose to defend them, but I would fain know whether they that persecuted
those councillors, when they had had their will in ruining them, whether their
rage ceased before they had as well destroyed the kings themselves, Edward and
Richard II and Henry VI. The old tale testifieth that the wolves that mean to
destroy the flock hate most the truest and valiantest dogs. Therefore, the more
the filthy impostume of their wolfish malice breaks forth, the more undoubtedly
doth it raise this well deserved glory to the Earl, that who hates England and
the Queen must also withal hate the Earl of Leicester.
as for the libel itself, such is it as neither in respect of the writer nor matter
written can move, I think, the lightest wits to give thereto credit to the discredit
of so worthy a person. For the writer (whom in truth I know not, and, loth to
fail, am not willing to guess at) shows yet well enough of what kennel he is,
that dares not testify his own writings with his own name. And which is more base
(if anything can be more base than a defamatory libeller) he counterfeits himself
in all the treatise a Protestant, when any man which with half an eye may easily
see he is of the other party; which filthy dissimulation if few honest men of
that religion will use to the helping of themselves, of how many carats of honesty
is this man, that useth it as much as his poor power can to the harm of another?
And lastly, evident enough it is to any man that reads it what poison he means
to her Majesty, in how golden a cup soever he dress it.
the matter written, so full of horrible villainies as no good heart will think
possible to enter into any creature, much less to be likely in so noble and well
known a man as he is, only thus accused to be by the railing oratory of a nameless
libeller. Perchance he had read the rule of that sycophant, that one should backbite
boldly, for though the bite were healed, yet the scar would remain. But sure that
schoolmaster of his would more cunningly have carried it, leaving some shadows
of good, or at least leaving out some evil, that his treatise might have carried
some probable show of it. For as reasonable commendation wins belief, and excessive
gets only the praiser the title of a flatterer, so much more in this far worse
degree of lying it may well rebound upon himself the vile reproach of a railer,
but never can sink into any good mind. The suspicion of any such unspeakable mischiefs,
especially it being every man's case even from the meanest to the highest, whereof
we daily see odious examples, that even of the great princes the dear riches of
good name are sought in such sort to be picked away by such night thieves. For
through the whole book, what is it else but such a bundle of railings as if it
came from the mouth of some half-drunk scold in a tavern, not regarding, while
evil were spoken, what was fit for the person of whom the railing was, so the
words were fit for the person of an outrageous railer? Dissimulation, hypocrisy,
adultery, falsehood, treachery, poison, rebellion, treason, cowardice, atheism,
and what not, and all still so upon the superlative that it was no marvel though
the good lawyer he speaks of made many a cross to keep him from such a father
of lies. And in many excellent gifts passing all shameless scolds, in one he passeth
himself, with an unheard of impudence bringing persons yet alive to speak such
things which they are ready to depose upon their salvation never came in their
thoughts. Such a gentlewoman spake of a matter no less than treason; belike she
whispered, yet he heard her. Such two knights spake together of things not fit
to call witnesses to, yet this ass's ears were so long that he heard them.9
And yet see, his good nature all this while would never reveal them till now,
for secrecy sake, he puts them forth in print. Certainly, such a quality in a
railer as I think never was heard of, to name persons alive as not only can but
do disprove his falsehoods, and yet with such familiarity to name them, without
he learned it of Pace, the Duke of Norfolk's fool;10 for he when
he had used his tongue as this heir of his hath done his pen, of the noblest persons,
sometimes of the Duke himself, the next that came fitly in this way, he would
say he had told it him of abundance of charity, not only to slander but to make
bait.11 What therefore can be said to such a man? Or who lives
there, even Christ himself, but that so stinking a breath may blow infamy upon?
Who hath a father by whose death the son inherits, but such a nameless historian
may say his son poisoned him? Where may two talk together, but such a spirit of
revelation may surmise they spake of treason? What need more? Or why so much?
As though I doubted that any would build belief upon such a dirty seat. Only when
he, to borrow a little of his inkhorn, when he plays the "statist,"12
wringing very unluckily some of Machiavel's axioms to serve his purpose, then
indeed he triumphs. Why, then, the Earl of Leicester means and plots to become
king himself; but first to rebel from the prince to whom he is most bound and
of whom he only dependeth; and then to make the Earl of Huntingdon king; and then
to put him down, and then to make himself. Certainly, Sir, you shoot fair. I think
no man that hath wit and power to pronounce this word "England" but
will pity a sycophant so weak in his own faculty. But of the Earl of Huntingdon,
as I think, all indifferent men will clear him from any such foolish and wicked
intent of rebellion. So I protest, before the Majesty of God, who will confound
all liars, and before the world, to whom effects and events will witness my truth,
that I could never find in the Earl of Leicester any one motion or inclination
toward any such pretended conceit in the Earl of Huntingdon. I say no whit further.
For as for the present, or for drawing it to himself, I think no devil so wicked
nor no idiot so simple as to conjecture. And yet, being to him as I am, I think
I should have some air of that which this gentle libel-maker doth so particularly
and piecemeal understand. And I do know the Earls of Warwick, of Pembroke, my
father and all the rest he names there will answer the like. And yet such matters
cannot be undertaken without good friends, nor good friends be kept without knowing
something. But the Earl's mind hath ever been to serve only, and truly, setting
aside all hopes, all fears, his mistress by undoubted right Queen of England,
and most worthy to be the queen of her royal excellencies, and most worthy to
be his queen, having restored his overthrown house and brought him to this case
that curs, for only envy, bark at. And this his mind is not only (though chiefly)
for faith, knit in conscience and honor, nor only (though greatly) for gratefulness,
where all men know how much he is bound, but even partly for wisdom's sake, knowing
by all old lessons and examples that how welcome soever treasons be, traitors
to all wise princes are odious, and that, as Matius answered Tully, who wrate
to him how he was blamed for showing himself so constant a friend to Caesar, that
he doubted not even they that blamed him would rather choose such friends as he
was than such as they were.13 For wise princes well know that
these violent discontentments grow out of the party's wicked humors, as in sick
folk that think with change of places to ease their evil, which indeed is inward,
and whom nor this prince nor that prince can satisfy, but such as are led by their
fancies; that is to say, who lean to be princes.
this gentle libel-maker, because he would make an evident proof of an unquenchable
malice, desperate impudency, and falsehood which never knew blushing, is not content
with a whole dictionary of slanders upon these persons living, but as if he would
rake up the bones of the dead, with so apparent falsehoods toucheth their houses
as if he had been afeard else he should not have been straight found in that wherein
he so greatly labors to excel. First, for Hastings he saith the Lord Hastings
conspired the death of his master King Edward's sons. Let any man but read the
excellent treatise of Sir Thomas More, compare but his words with this libel-maker's,
and then judge him if he who in a thing so long since printed and, as any man
may see by other of his allegations, of him diligently read, hath the face to
write so directly contrary;14 not caring as it seems though a
hundred thousand find his falsehood, so some dozen that never read Sir Thomas
More's words may be carried to believe his horrible slanders of a nobleman so
long ago dead. I set down the words of both, because by this one lively comparison
the face of his falsehood may be the better set forth. And who then can doubt
but he that lies in a thing which with one look is found a lie, what he will do
where yet there is though as much falsehood yet no so easy disproof?
to the Dudleys such is his bounty that when he hath poured out all his flood of
scolding eloquence, he saith they are no gentlemen, affirming that John, Duke
of Northumberland was not born so.15 In truth, if I should have
studied with myself of all points of false invective which a poisonous tongue
could have spit out against that Duke, yet would it never have come into my head
of all other things that any man would have objected want of gentry unto him.
But this fellow doth like him who, when he had shot off all his railing quiver,
called one cuckold that was never married, because he would not be in debt to
any one evil word.
am a Dudley in blood, that Duke's daughter's son, and do acknowledge, though in
all truth I may justly affirm that I am by my father's side of ancient and always
well esteemed and well matched gentry, yet I do acknowledge, I say, that my chiefest
honor is to be a Dudley, and truly am glad to have cause to set forth the nobility
of that blood whereof I am descended, which but upon so just cause without vainglory
could not have been uttered, since no man but this fellow of invincible shamelessness
would ever have called so palpable a matter in question. In one place of his book
he greatly extolleth the great nobility of the house of Talbot, and truly with
good cause, there being as I think not in Europe a subject house which hath joined
longer continuance of nobility with men of greater service and loyalty. And yet
this Duke's own grandmother, whose blood he makes so base, was a Talbot, daughter
and sole heir to the Viscount of Lisle, even he the same man who, when he might
have saved himself, chose rather manifest death than to abandon his father, that
most noble Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, of whom the histories of that time make
so honorable mention.16 The house of Grey is well known; to no
house in England in great continuance of honor, and for number of great houses
sprung of it, to be matched to none, but by the noble house of Neville. His mother
was a right Grey, and a sole inheritrix of that Grey.17 Of the
house of Warwick, which ever strave with the great house of Arundel which should
be the first earl of England, he was likewise so descended as that justly the
honor of the house remained chiefly upon him, being the only heir to the eldest
daughter and one of the heirs to that famous Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, that
was Regent of France. And although Richard Neville, who married the youngest sister,
because she was of the whole blood to him that was called Duke of Warwick, by
a point in our law carried away the inheritance, and so also, I know not by what
right, the title, yet in law of heraldry and descents, which doth not consider
those quiddities of our law, it is most certain that the honor of the blood remained
upon him chiefly, who came of the eldest daughter.18 And more
undoubtedly is it to be said of the house of Berkeley, which is affirmed to be
descended lineally from a king of Denmark, but hath ever been one of the best
houses in England. And this Duke19 was the only heir general
to that house, which the house of Berkeley doth not deny, howsoever as sometimes
it falls out between brothers there be question for land between them.20
Many other houses might herein be mentioned, but I name these, because England
can boast of no nobler, and because all these bloods so remained in him that he,
as heir, might if he had listed have used their arms and name, as in old time
they used in England and do daily both in Spain, France, and Italy. So that I
think it would seem as great news as if they came from the Indies, that he who
by right of blood, and so accepted, was the ancientest viscount of England, heir
in blood and arms to the first or second earl of England, in blood of inheritance
a Grey, a Talbot, a Beauchamp, a Berkeley, a Lisle, should be doubted to be a
gentleman. But he will say these great honors came to him by his mother. For these,
I do not deny they came so, and that the mother being an heir hath been in all
ages and countries sufficient to nobilitate is so manifest that even from the
Roman time to modern times in such case they might, if they listed, and so often
did, use their mother's name; and that Augustus Caesar had both name and empire
of Caesar only by his mother's right, and so both mother's. But I will claim no
such privilege. Let the singular nobility of his mother nothing avail him, if
his father's blood were not in all respects worthy to match with hers, if ancient,
undoubted and untouched nobility be worthy to match with the most honorable house
that can be. This house, therefore, of Dudley, which in despite of all shamelessness
he so doth deprave, is at this day a peer, as we term it, of the realm, a baron,
and, as all Englishmen know, a Lord of the Parliament, and so a companion both
in marriage, Parliament, and trial to the greatest duke that England can bear.
So hath it been ever esteemed, and so in the constitutions of all our laws and
ordinances is it always reputed. Dudley house is so to this day and thus it hath
been time out of mind. In Harry V's time the Lord Dudley was his Lord Steward,
and did that pitiful office in bringing home, as the chief mourner, his victorious
master's dead body, as who goes but to Westminster in the church may see.
think if we consider together the time, which was of England the most flourishing,
and the king he served, who of all English kings was most puissant, and the office
he bare, which was in effect as great as an English subject could have, it would
seem very strange, so that Lord Dudley if he could out of his grave hear this
fellow make question whether his lawful posterity from father to son should be
gentlemen or no.21 But though he only had been sufficient to
erect nobility to his successors, bringing, as the Romans termed it, so noble
an image into the house, yet did he but receive his nobility from his ancestors,
who had been lords of that very seignory of Dudley Castle many descents before,
even from King Richard I['s] time, at which time Sir Richard Sutton married the
daughter and heir of the Lord Dudley; since which time, all descended of him,
as diverse branches there be, left the name of Sutton and have all been called
Dudleys, which is now above four hundred years since, and both those houses of
Sutton and Dudley having been before that time of great nobility. And that Sutton
was a man of great honor and estimation that very match witnesseth sufficiently,
it being a dainty thing in that time that one of Saxon blood, as Sutton's name
testifieth he was, should match with such an inheritrix as Dudley was; the like
example whereof I remember none but the great house of Raby, who matched with
Neville, who of that match, as the Suttons were called Dudleys, so did they ever
since take the name of Neville. So as of a house, which these four hundred years
have been still owners of one seignory, the very place itself to any that sees
it witnessing, such as for any other I know in England none but the noble house
of Stafford hath the like, considering the name of the house, the length of time
it hath been possessed, the goodliness of the seat, with pleasures and royalties
about it, so as I think any that will not swear themselves brothers to a reproachful
tongue will judge of his other slander by this, most manifest, since all the world
may see he speaks against his own knowledge. For if either the house of Dudley
had been great anciently and now extinguished, or now great and not continued
from old time, or that they had been unentitled gentlemen, so as men must not
needs have taken knowledge of them, yet there might have been cast some veil over
his untruth. But in a house now noble, long since noble, with a nobility never
interrupted, seated in a place which they have each father and each son continually
owned, what should be said but that this fellow desires to be known suitable:
having an untrue heart, he will become it with an untrue tongue.
perchance he will seem to doubt: for what will he not doubt who will affirm that
which beyond all doubt is false, whether my great grandfather, Edmund Dudley,
were of the Lord Dudley's house or no. Certainly he might in conscience and good
manners, if so he did doubt, have made some distinction between the two houses,
and not in all places have made so contemptible mention of that name of Dudley,
which is borne by another peer of the realm.22 And even of charity
sake he should have bestowed some father upon Edmund Dudley, and not leave him
not only ungentled but fatherless. A railing writer extant against Octavius Augustus
saith his grandfather was a silversmith;23 another Italian, against
Hugh Capet, though with most absurd falsehood, saith his father was a butcher.
Of divers of the best houses of England there have been such foolish dreams, that
one was a farrier's son, another a shoemaker's, another a milliner's, another
a fiddler's - foolish lies, and by any that ever tasted any antiquities known
to be so. Yet those houses had luck to meet with honester railers, for they were
not left fatherless clean, they descended from somebody, but we, as if we were
Deucalion's brood new made out of stones, have left us no ancestors from whence
we are come. But alas, good railer, you saw the proofs were clear, and therefore
even for honesty sake were contented to omit them. For if either there had been
difference of name or difference of arms between them, or if, though in name and
arms they agreed, yet if there had been many descents fallen since the separating
of those branches - as we see in many ancient houses it so falls out as they are
uncertain whether came out of other - then, I say, yet a valiant railer may venture
upon a thing where, because there is not an absolute certainty, there may be some
possibility to escape. But in this case, where not only name and arms, with only
that difference which acknowledgeth our house to be of the younger brother, but
such nearness of blood as that Edmund Dudley's was no further off than son to
the younger brother of the same Lord Dudley, and so as he was to be Lord Dudley
if the Lord Dudley had died without heirs, and by the German and Italian manner
himself was to have been also called Lord Dudley, that his father being called
Piers Dudley, married to the daughter and heir of Bramshot in Sussex, it was the
only descent between him and the Lord Dudley who was his grandfather, his great
grandfather being that noble Lord Dudley whom before I mentioned.24
And no man need doubt that this writer doth not only know the truths hereof, but
the proofs of this truth, this Piers, Edmund's father, being buried at Arundel
Castle, who married Bramshot and left that land to Edmund, and so to the Duke
in Sussex, which after the Duke sold, by confiscation came to the crown. This
tomb any man at Arundel Castle may see. This Bramshot land I name, a thing not
in the air, but which any man by the ordinary course of those things may soon
know, whether such land did not succeed unto Edmund from his father. So as where
is this inheritance of land and monuments in churches and the persons themselves
little more than in man's memory, truly this libeller deserves many thanks, that
with his impudent falsehood hath given occasion to set down so manifest a truth.
to the Dudleys, he deals much harder withal, but no whit truer. But therein, I
must confess, I cannot allege his uncharitable triumphing upon the calamities
fallen to that house; though they might well be challenged of any writer of whom
any honesty were to be expected. But God forbid I should find fault with that,
since in all his book there is scarce anyone truth else. But our house received
such an overthrow, and hath none else in England done? so I will not seek to wash
away that dishonor with other honorable tears. I would this island were not so
full of such examples. And I think, indeed, this writer, if he were known, might
in conscience clear his ancestors of any such disgraces; they were too low in
the mud to be so thunderstricken. But this I may justly and boldly affirm: let
the last fault of the Duke be buried.25
in good faith, now I have so far touched there, as any man that list to know a
truth - if at least there be any that can doubt thereof - may straight be satisfied,
I do not mean to give any man's eyes or ears such a surfeit as by answering to
repeat his filthy falsehoods, so contrary to themselves as may well show how ill
lies can be built with any uniformity. The same man in the beginning of the book
was so potent, to use his term, that the Queen had cause to fear him; the same
man in the end thereof so abject as any man might tread on him; the same man so
unfriendly as no man could love him; the same man so supported by friends that
Court and country were full of them; the same man extremely weak of body, and
infinitely luxurious; the same man a dastard to fear anything, the same man so
venturous as to undertake, having no more title, such a matter that Hercules himself
would be afraid to do, if he were here among us.26 In sum, in
one the same man all the faults that in all the most contrary-humoured men in
the world can remain, that sure I think he hath read the devil's roll of complaints
which he means to put up against mankind, or else he could never have been acquainted
with so many wretched mischiefs.
hard it were, if every goose quill could any way blot the honor of an Earl of
Leicester, written in the hearts of so many men through Europe. Neither, for me,
shall ever so worthy a man's name be brought to be made a question, where there
is only such a nameless and shameless opposer.
because that thou, the writer hereof, dost most falsely lay want of gentry to
my dead ancestors, I have to the world thought good to say a little, which I will
assure any that list to seek shall find confirmed, with much more. But to thee
I say, thou therein liest in thy throat, which I will be ready to justify upon
thee in any place of Europe where thou wilt assign me a free place of coming,
as within three months after the publishing hereof I may understand thy mind.
And as, till thou hast proved this, in all construction of virtue and honor all
the shame thou hast spoken is thine own, the right reward of an evil-tongued schelm,27
as the Germans especially call such people. So again, in any place whereto thou
wilt call me, provided that the place be such as a servant of the Queen's may
have free access unto, if I do not, having my life and liberty, prove this upon
thee, I am content that this lie I have given thee return to my perpetual infamy.
And this which I write I would send to thine own hands if I knew thee. But I trust
it cannot be intended that he should be ignorant of this, printed in London, who
knows the very whisperings of the Privy Chamber. I will make dainty of no baseness
in thee, that art indeed the writer of this book.28 And from
the date of this writing, imprinted and published, I will three months expect
TO APPENDIX C
There is little doubt that it was to the English edition that Sidney was responding,
rather than to the French translation of spring 1585, since the latter's addition
levels charges against Sidney himself, about which he is silent and would not
have been had he seen them.
2. Katherine Duncan-Jones, in Sidney, Miscellaneous Prose of Sir Philip Sidney,
last was the main theme of Alberico Gentili's 1585 defense of the Earl, included
in his dedication to Sidney of De legationibus tres libri, (2: v).
Cicero, Second Philippic, sec. 1 (Philippics, p. 65).
5. Sidney, though he guesses wrongly about Italy, correctly understands his adversaries
to be Catholic exiles.
"Clownish": rude, awkward, ignorant (O.E.D.).
7. Probably a reference to the invasion plans captured with Fr.
Creighton on 4 Sept. 1584, which described "infamous and slanderous libels"
already written and ready to be published against Elizabeth herself (Knox, Allen,
pp. 428, 430).
See Leicester's Commonwealth, notes 283 and 286. As Duncan-Jones points
out, conceding an association between Leicester and these villains is probably
not very wise of Sidney.
9. Midas's ass's ears were proverbial, from Ovid, Metamorphoses, bk. 11
(lines 194-216 in Golding's 1567 translation).
10. John Pace (d. 1590), a professional jester first with the third Duke of Norfolk
(ca.1545), later with Elizabeth's Court.
"Make bait": create trouble (literally "to set dogs on") (O.E.D.).
"Statist": one skilled in affairs of state. The O.E.D. credits
this passage as the first use of the word, but as Sidney indicates, he borrows
it from the Commonwealth.
Gaius Matius to Cicero, 43 B.C. (Cicero, Letters, 2: 511).
In this attempt to impugn the Commonwealth's use of history, Sidney is in error
on both counts. The tract does not say that Hastings conspired the death of Edward's
sons, only that he helped the Protector eliminate their "friends and kinsmen,"
which allegation More's History of King Richard III clearly confirms (2:
Commonwealth had not asserted that the Dudleys were not gentlemen, only
that they were lately risen into the peerage.
16. John Talbot, first Earl of Shrewsbury, commander of the army in France, was
killed with his younger son, John Viscount Lisle, in 1453.
17. Edward Grey (d. 1492) married the heiress of Viscount Lisle; his daughter
and heiress in her issue married Edmund Dudley, Leicester's grandfather.
Richard Beauchamp (d. 1439) had three daughters by his first wife, of which Margaret,
wife of the forementioned Shrewsbury, was the eldest; his son Henry (d. 1446),
by his second wife, succeeded in his title, which then devolved upon Neville,
who had married Henry's younger sister.
Northumberland, Leicester's father.
Sidney alludes to the suits being brought by the Dudleys against the Lord of Berkeley,
as charged in the Commonwealth. Thomas, fifth Lord Berkeley, died in 1417,
leaving only his daughter, who married the forenamed Richard Beauchamp, and the
son of his brother James; from this son, James, first Lord Berkeley, the Elizabethan
Berkeleys (who did deny the Dudley claim) were directly descended.
Sidney is being disingenuous. No one impugned the nobility of the Suttons of Dudley;
the question was whether Leicester's family was indeed connected to that house
main line of the Suttons of Dudley was represented by Edward, the fourth Lord
of Dudley Castle, who died in July 1586.
Duncan-Jones identifies Lucas Gauricus, De vera nobilitate, Opera omnia
(Basel, 1572), 2: 1882.
This was precisely the point raised by Leicester's detractors, whether John Dudley
(d.1510) of Atherington, Sussex, who married the Bramshot heiress and was father
of Edmund, had indeed been a younger son of John Sutton, the first Lord Dudley,
as claimed in the Dudley genealogies (e.g., British Library, Lansdowne MS. 775,
fol. 1v). It is now generally accepted that he was, though Sidney's mistaking
the man's forename may indicate how little was known of him.
Sidney is alluding to the failure of Northumberland's coup d'etat. His
point seems unfortunately to be that "anybody who is anybody" has been
executed for treason.
That is, undertake to win the crown for himself.
"Schelm": rascal (O.E.D., citing this passage as first use).
A gentleman need not ordinarily fight a duel with a common person, but Sidney
graciously offers to make an exception.