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October 27, 1561 – A Poet is Born: Mary Sidney

Mary Sidney Herbert, by Nicholas Hilliard (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Ha! My last post was about Philip Sidney – this one is about his sister Mary. I am so happy the dates worked out to consider them so close together, because Mary Sidney is fascinating in her own right.

Remember the context I gave for Philip? Grandson of the Duke of Northumberland, nephew of Robert Dudley? Ditto (but substitute “granddaughter” and “niece”). Mary received the same education as her older brother, and they both were listed alongside Edmund Spenser and William Shakespeare as the notable authors of the day.

Mary’s works include the play Antonius, the poetry anthology Triumphs, and translations, notably of Petrarch’s “Triumph of Death” and one which created a lyrical, metrical version of the Psalms. She married Henry Herbert, the 2nd Earl of Pembroke, and turned their estate, Wilton House, into a “paradise for poets” (legend has it that this was where Shakespeare first staged As You Like It). She also built a chemistry laboratory there, where she developed medicines and invisible ink (!). All of this has led her to be called “the greatest patroness of wit and learning of any lady in her time.”

And still, the world knows so much more about her brother. Sigh.


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October 27, 1561 – A Poet is Born: Mary Sidney
Published inOn This Day

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