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Getting to know Sir Philip Sidney

April 28, 2014

Authored by Roger Kuin, Professor of English Literature (emeritus) at York University, Toronto, Canada and editor of The Correspondence of Sir Philip Sidney

What does Sir Philip Sidney’s correspondence teach us about the man and his world? You have to realise what letters were, what they were like, and what they were for.

Some of them were like our e-mails: brief and to the point, sent for a practical reason. They were usually carried and delivered by a person known to the sender; so sometimes they are an introduction to the bearer, sometimes it’s the bearer who will tell the really sensitive news (frustrating for us!). These can tell us something about people and their specific interactions.

Other letters are long and more like a personal form of news media — meant to inform the recipient (often Sidney himself) about what is happening in the world of politics (with which religion is often mixed; it’s a time of religious wars). These are precious as sources for our knowledge of what happened. Take the example of the Turkish conquest of Tunis in the summer of 1574. One of Sidney’s correspondents, Wolfgang Zündelin, was a professional political observer in Venice, where all the news in the Mediterranean went first. So there is a series of letters from him recounting this huge amphibious victory by the Ottoman Turks, led by a converted Italian and a cruel Albanian, over the city of Tunis and its port La Goletta, defended by a mixed force of Spaniards and Italians, with a wealth of detail....Read the rest of this article on the OUPBlog.


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