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Summary of Week 1

Week 1 Thank you all for your comments, It is wonderful to see so much excitement about the Sidneys , their writing, and the historical contexts from which they wrote. It is also lovely to have a mixture of international and local learners exchanging views: those who have visited #Penshurst in the past and those of you for whom it is a very strange and new.

The history and ownership of #penshurstplace has taken centre stage along with interests in the Sidneys’ connection to the #Dudleys, through #MaryDudleySidney. We will come back to this connection in Week 3.

Your most popular focus for the week was Sir Philip Sidney, #philipsidney #sirphilipsidney the best known of the writers. He was certainly a remarkable man in terms of his interests and skills – something of a hard model to live up to for subsequent generations of Sidneys, especially those descendants called Philip! Sir Philip Sidney’s writing features in each of the next three weeks for those of you who want to follow this thread.

Many of you commented on his literary #SidneyLegacy, his inspiration of other writers – #BenJonson, #Shakespeare Milton, Donne – and another ‘heroic / antiheroic figure Byron. George Herbert the religious poet was a relation of the Herbert family (Earls of Pembroke) too.

Others expressed an interest in the poetry of #RobertSidney the owner of Penshurst Place throughout the period of writing that we are covering. We will study two of his sonnets next week, but I can provide more examples of his sonnets if you wish. Just ask. His position as Chamberlain of Queen Anne’s household secured the Sidney family their place in court.

We traced the importance of women writers in the Sidney family: #MarySidney, the #Countess of Pembroke, also known as #MarySidneyHerbert and her niece #MaryWroth as elite women privileged to be educated and encouraged to write within the supportive Sidney family #coterie. The melancholy tone of Wroth’s pastoral in comparison to Arcadia was noted.

In the later part of the week we covered relationships to nature, the idyllic pastoral scenes conjured up in the Sidneys writing, drawing on both classical literature and Christian ideas of paradise. Many of you also took up the questions of power, wealth and authority that are raised by Adam Nicholson and thought sensitively about the relationship between green politics, the fair sharing of plenty. Is this a utopian ideal or can literature move us to think about it and change the ways we behave in the interests of ‘community’ so celebrated in Jonson’s poem?

It has been a privilege to read your developing responses to the material and I look forward to teaching and learning from you again next week. Alison Professor Alison Findlay (Lead Educator)

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This article is from the free online course:

Penshurst Place and the Sidney Family of Writers

Lancaster University