Mary Herbert

Biographical Information


Mary Herbert (1561-1621) Mary Herbert’s maiden name was Sidney. She was the sister of Sir Philip Sidney. Mary was extremely close to her brother and after his death vowed to keep his ideas and poems alive. She was the one who published many of Sidney’s works such as corrected copies of Astrophil and Stella and The Defense of Poetry (Waller 157). Around 1586 Mary tried writing her own poetry, using Sidney’s poems as a model and guide. As she wrote more, Mary became confident in her writing and eventually strayed from Sidney’s model and created her own model (Waller 158). Today she is described as : “the foremost literary patroness in England, a figurehead for many of the leading writers of the English Renaissance” (Cheney 184). Her poetry can be classified into four categories: poems relating to Sidney, Psalms, three poems translated from either French or Italian, and a group of other poems (Waller 158). For a more social view of her life, Mary married Henry Herbert, Earl of Pembroke and became the Countess of Pembroke. Once Henry died in 1601, she moved to London where she lived until her death in 1621. She also was well liked by Elizabeth I and even wrote some poetry for her.


Cheney, Patrick, editor. Early Modern English Poetry: A Critical Companion. 2007.
Waller, Gary. English Poetry of the Sixteenth Century. 1986.

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