Katherine Duncan-Jones Sir Philip Sidney: Courtier Poet.
Yale University Press, 350 pages, $29.95
reviewed by James Bowman
What is it that makes a great man? It is easy enough to tell in the case of Napoleon or Newton or Shakespeare, whose lives made the world an irrevocably different place from what it had been before. But in every age there are people who seem great to their contemporaries not so much for making anything different (although they may do that too) but, as it were, for being the same, for summing up in their own lives what the age sees itself as being about. Sports heroes, explorers and adventurers, film stars and popular heroes like Charles Lindbergh and Neil Armstrong fall into this category. They may or may not retain their greatness in the eyes of subsequent generations.
Such a man, too, is Sir Philip Sidney. Although he produced in his short lifetime (1554-1586) two or...