The Swan of Avon

Dr Robin Williams says ” the history plays in particular are peopled with the ancestors of the Sidney and Herbert families”


slide swann

 The ‘Sweet Swan of Avon’ features in Ben Jonson’s introduction to the First Folio and traditionally is assumed to refer to William Shakespeare of Stratford upon Avon. Another view is that the phrase fits Mary Herbert [nee Sidney], the sister of the poet Sir Philip Sidney. Mary,is famed as an outstanding patron of writers and co-founder of the literary Wilton Circle. The learned Countess of Pembroke was an admired translator and a distinguished poet in her own right. Mary Sidney’s personal motif was the swan and known to all.

This notable literary figure exerted an exceptional influence upon the leading poets of the age and sought to preserve notable writings, an ambition shared by Mary’s sons William and Philip Herbert who were the dedicatees of the First Folio of 1623.

In Doctor Robin P. Williams’ book Sweet Swan of Avon the author researches the connections between Mary Herbert’s ancestors and the English history plays in the First Folio and there are too many associations to be assigned to mere chance. Several generations of the Sidney- Herbert family clearly had a major input to the 1623 collection of plays and their publication as the momentous First Folio.

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