Bemerton and Wilton House
On the edge of the city environs to the west stands the village of Bemerton and St Andrews Church, Bemerton, where the great metaphysical poet, George Herbert, spent the last three years of his life.
Then further west you'll find Wilton, and Wilton House and Gardens, the home of the Earl of Pembroke, where his ancestor, Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke (1561-1621), ran a famous literary salon after the death of her brother, Sir Philip Sidney.
Mary Herbert was patron to many poets, including Edmund Spenser,
Christopher Marlowe, Samuel Daniel, Ben Jonson, John Donne and Michael
Drayton. Between 1578 and 1582 her brother, Sir Philip Sidney, was a
frequent visitor, and wrote much of his major work whilst at Wilton
House, including The Arcadia, an account of two princes and their adventures in love and combat; Astrophil and Stella, an analysis of love and desire; and A Defence of Poetry, which defends poetry as the highest art and the equal of Nature under God.
Mary, who preserved and published her brother’s work after his death in 1586, completed his translation of the Psalms and was the model for Urania in Edmund Spenser’s Colin Clout (1595).
Under Mary’s leadership, Wilton House became a college of
learning, poetry and alchemy. It was the spiritual centre of the
Sidney-Spenser movement in English poetry, with many links with the
poets and writers associated with the Mermaid Tavern in London. Sir
Walter Ralegh’s half-brother, Adrian Gilbert, was her resident advisor.
Both Elizabeth I and Charles I visited Wilton House and it was here in
1603 that William Shakespeare, encouraged by Mary’s son, William, the
third Earl, visited to see As You Like It performed before King James I.