Lot 255
  • 255

Sidney, Sir Philip

7,000 - 10,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Sidney, Sir Philip
  • "Sir Phillipp Sidneys Devise Presented Before the Queenes Majestie att Wanstedd" [i.e. The Lady of May]
  • ink on paper
within a scribal manuscript miscellany, the volume comprising: "The Coppie of a Letter written by a Master of Arts in Cambridge" [i.e. Leicester's Commonwealth], 188 pages; "Pia, & utilis Meditatio, Desumpta Ex Libro Iobi Cap. 20", 2 pages; "The Use of the Lawe", a tract sometimes attributed to Francis Bacon, 59 pages; "The Lady Frauncis Howard before the Kinges Delegates ... under the Kinges Broad Seale of England Plaint: 1613", 14 pages; "Sir Philipp Sidneys ... Devise ... Att Wanstedd", 11 pages; a short series of poems including epitaphs on the Duc de Guise, Sir Philip Sidney's poem "All my Sense thy Sweetnes gayned" (Certain Sonnets 27), Sir Walter Ralegh's poem "Fortune hath taken Thee away my Love" (incomplete, four lines only), 2 pages; altogether c.276 pages, 4to, in a single scribal hand mostly in a secretary hand but with some passages in italic, c.1610s, contemporary calf with gilt roll border and centrepiece, "Robert Dymocke | owner" stamped in blind on the upper cover, tie-holes, repaired with endpapers replaced (watermarked 1830), binding worn, especially at hinges, joints weak, incomplete at end


Robert Dymoke, name stamped on binding; William St John Hodson, ownership inscription; W. Freshney, Lincoln 1831, ownership inscription; Lord Monson, Burton Library, bookplate

Catalogue Note

A previously unrecorded manuscript of one of Sir Philip Sidney's most charming works, and probably the most accomplished of the many entertainment performed before Queen Elizabeth I, written by Sidney for his uncle, Elizabeth's favourite the Earl of Leicester. The Queen was visiting Leicester's house at Wanstead, Essex, in May 1578, when: "walking at Wanstedd Garden, As shee passed downe into the Grove there Came sodeinly aomnge the Trayne One Apparelled like an honest mans Wyfe of the Countrey ... Crying out for Justice". The Queen thus found herself drawn into a pastoral comedy - complete with shepherds, foresters, and a pedantic scholar - in which she invited to choose the husband of the "Maye Ladye": should she prefer "the many Desartes and many Faults of Therion: Or the very small Desartes and noe Faultes of Espilus"? 

The Wanstead entertainment appeared in print appended to the 1598 edition of Sidney's Arcadia and there is only one other complete manuscript witness of the work (the Helmingham Hall MS, now British Library Add. MS 61821). The current manuscript, although it includes distinct and possibly independent readings, is closer to the printed edition than the Helmingham Hall manuscript. Sidney's work, together with a small number of other literary pieces, is found at the end of a scribal manuscript miscellany in a single hand. The longest item is the famous libel against the Earl of Leicester commonly known as Leicester's Commonwealth, which circulated widely in manuscript in Elizabethan England. It also includes "The Use of the Law", which was attributed to Sir Francis Bacon when it was published in 1630 but is now not generally thought to be Bacon's work. This treatise is found in a number of manuscript copies. Whilst most of the content of the miscellany is Elizabethan, the manuscript itself is slightly later in date, since it includes a copy of the proceedings of the 1613 hearing into the annulment of the marriage between the Earl of Essex and Lady Frances Howard. The manuscript, although apparently still in its original binding, is incomplete at the end. The final item, a poem by Ralegh here entitled "Sir Walter Rawl. to the Queenes Majestie", has only 4 of its 24 lines, although the presence of a catch-word at the end strongly suggests that the manuscript originally contained the entire poem.