1. John Hoskyns [1566 - 1638] was educated at Winchester College and at New College, Oxford, where he proceeded M.A. in 1592, but was forced to resign his fellowship after a “bitterly satirical” performance as University jester (terrae filius) at the ceremony at which degrees were conferred. After a year as a schoolmaster at Ilchester in Somerset, where he is said to have compiled a Greek lexicon to the letter M he entered the Middle Temple in 1593. He was called to the bar in 1600, and elected to Parliament in 1604 and 1614. After delivering an incendiary speech against King James’ fiscal policies in 1614, he spent a year as a prisoner in the Tower, but was back in royal favour by 1621. He was appointed a judge on the Carmarthen circuit, became a sergeant at law in 1623, and was elected to a further term in Parliament in 1628. He was credited with having an excellent wit, and throughout his life wrote occasional verse in both Latin and English, as well as a rhetorical treatise, Directions for Speech and Stile.
2. Anne Cecil [1556 - 1588] was the daughter of Queen’s Elizabeth’s Lord Treasurer, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, and his learned wife, Mildred Cooke. Anne herself was well educated. In 1577 the German scholar Sturmius mentioned in a letter to Lord Burghley his understanding that Anne spoke Latin, and George Baker, Abraham Fleming and Geoffrey Fenton, who dedicated books to Anne, praised her learning. She is considered by Ellen Moody to have been the author of six poems on the death of her infant son which were published in 1584 in John Southern’s Pandora (see Moody, Ellen, "Six Elegiac Poems, Possibly by Anne Cecil de Vere, Countess of Oxford", English Literary Renaissance 19, 1989) pp. 152 - 70). Steven May, however, is of the view on stylistic grounds that these were likely Southern’s own compositions.
3. Anne married Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, at Westminster Abbey on 19 December 1571, and had three surviving daughters by him, as well as other children who died as infants, including a son, Lord Bolebec, who died shortly after his birth in May 1583. Anne’s surviving daughters were Elizabeth, who married William Stanley, sixth Earl of Derby, Bridget, who married Francis Norris, 1st Earl of Berkshire, and Susan, who married Philip Herbert, Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, one of the “two noble brethren” to whom the First Folio was dedicated in 1623.
4. She died at Greenwich on 5 June 1588 at the age of thirty-one. Hoskyns had no known connection with her family, and his motive for composing this epigram cycle on the occasion of her death is not quite clear (although the emphasis two epigrams place on clearing Anne of charges of adultery and bearing an illegitimate child suggest a possible interest in ingratiating himself with Burgley, possibly in the hope of gaining patronage or employment). The epitaph survives in two manuscripts, BL Cotton Julius F.X., ff. 114 - 15, and BL Lansdowne 104, ff. 195 - 8. The version in BL Lansdowne 104 was transcribed by Louise Brown Osborn in The Life, Letters, and Writings of John Hoskyns 1566-1638, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937), pp. 184 - 8. In BL Lansdowne 104, Hoskyns’ verses are among epitaphs on Anne by several other authors: Robert Moore, William Thorne, Thomas Bastard, Matthew Kinge, Nicholas Love, Anthony Lake, John Favour, Peter Kekewich, John Hunt, John Shaxton, Henry Marten, William Button, N. Harris, Robert Biley, Henry Blaxton, B. Dodington, John Lluid and Richard Clerke. Of these, besides Hoskyns, Bastard, Button, Clerke, Favour, Hunt, Kekewich, Kinge, Lluid, Love, and Marten are identifiable as contemporaries of Hoskyns at New College; there seems to be no extant evidence for collegiate affiliation of any of the others, although it is worth noting that in no case do we find testimony that these men belonged to any college other than New College. Academic anthologies intended to commemorate and monumentalize events of national importance, including the deaths of great personnages, were commonplace, but with one exception these were issued in the name of a university as a whole. They also routinely feature the same kind of stuff one finds in the Landsdowne collection: epigrams in exotic language intended as a display of a poet’s learning, and trick compositions such as pattern poems meant to show off his virtuosity. The only example of an anthology issued by a single college was the New College memorial one mourning the death of Sir Philip Sidney, the 1587 Peplus Illustrissimi Viri D. Philippi Sidnaei (edited by none other than our John Lluid or Lloyd) to which Hoskyns himself was a contributor. So were John Bastard and a number of the other just-listed New College men. It therefore looks as if the Lansdowne ms. contains the text of a proposed memorial anthology for Anne, that for some reason failed to eventuate.