Hugh Holland was educated at Westminster School, under Camden, where he was distinguished for his classical scholarship. In 1589 he was elected to a scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge; he may have been elected later to a Fellowship. On leaving Cambridge he travelled abroad, visiting Rome and Jerusalem. At Rome he suffered for making certain observations concerning queen Elizabeth, and ‘his overfull discourse betrayed his prudence’ (Anthony Wood). In Jerusalem he may have been made a Knight of the Sepulchre, but on his return journey he touched at Constantinople where he was reprimanded by the English ambassador ‘for the former freedom of his tongue.’ In England he retired to Oxford and spent some time there reading at the libraries, and tradition associates his name with Balliol College. Later he lived in London after spending some years at the Inns of Court. After his travels he expected some preferment, and not getting it ‘he grumbled out the rest of his life in visible discontent’ (Fuller). From his poems, especially his Cypress Garland, 1625, we learn that he found one patron in George Villiers, duke of Buckingham, who introduced him to king James. In the same poem he talks of his wife ‘Ursula,’ the widow of Robert Woodard of Burnham, Bucks., of ‘Phil’ his daughter, and of a son named Martin. He was survived by another son named ‘Arbellinus’ to whom letters of administration were granted in 1633. Holland had apparently acquired some wealth; ‘he had a good estate in candlemas-rents’ (Hunter) and was buried in Westminster Abbey on 23 July 1633.
Holland's chief claim to fame is the laudatory sonnet prefixed to the first Shakespeare folio (1623). Despite a few good phrases, the sonnet is not a distinguished piece of work. Two of his longer poems and some lyrical pieces were printed; these include Pancharis: the first Booke. Containing the Preparation of the Love between Owen Tudyr and the Queene, long since intended to her Maiden Majestie and now dedicated to the Invincible James, 1603; A Cypres Garland. For the Sacred Forehead of our late Soveraigne King James, 1625; commendatory verses to Farnaby's Canzonets, 1598; Ben Jonson's Sejanus, 1605; Bolton's Elements of Armory, 1610; Coryate's The Od-combian Banquet, 1611; Parthenia, 1611; Sir Thomas Hawkin's translation of Horace, 1625; and Alabaster's Roxana, 1632. There are [some Latin verses in T. Farnaby's edition of Seneca's tragedies, 1624, and some] unpublished verses in B.M. Lansdowne MS. 777; B.M. Harleian MSS. 3910 and 6917; and some letters in B.M. Cotton MS. Julius, C.iii (15). Holland is also the author of a Latin epitaph on George Montaigne, archbishop of York.
A number of other works have also been attributed to Hugh Holland, probably due to a confusion with Henry Holland, the son of Philemon Holland. Hugh Holland of Denbigh was a scholar and poet well esteemed in his day; he was a member of the Mermaid Club and his sonnet to the first folio suggests that he may have known Shakespeare personally. Anthony Wood saw a copy of his epitaph, made by Holland himself — “ Miserimus peccator, musarum et amicitiarum cultor sanctissimus.’ In this sense is he best remembered.
Published date: 1959
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