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OWEN, JOHN (1560?–1622), epigrammatist, third son of Thomas Owen of Plas Dhu, in the parish of Llanarmon, Carnarvonshire, was born at Plas du about 1560. His mother was Jane, sister of Sir William Morris. He was educated at Winchester School under Thomas Bilson [q. v.], and at New College, Oxford, of which he became probationer fellow in 1582, and actual fellow in 1584. On 2 May 1590 he proceeded B.C.L. In 1591 he left Oxford, and taught school at Trelech, Monmouthshire. About 1594 he became headmaster of King Henry VIII's school, Warwick, where he had Sir Thomas Puckering (1592–1636) [q. v.] as a pupil. His earliest dated epigram is of 1596, on William Cecil, lord Burghley [q. v.]; his first publication was in 1606. Wood and others affirm that this first publication was placed on the Roman index for the epigram

An Petrus fuerit Romæ, sub judice lis est;
Simonem Romæ nemo fuisse negat.

But this epigram first appeared in his third collection (i. 8); in his first collection (iii. 139) is the epigram—

Ultimus in Solyma Kaiphas fuit urbe sacerdos;
Ut perhibent, Roma primus in urbe Kephas.

For these and similar hits, his uncle, a Roman catholic, ‘dashed his name out of his last will.’ Owen's epigrams, which exhibit what Wood calls ‘an ingenious liberty of joking,’ won great popularity, and retained it longer abroad than at home. He deals freely in anagrams, puns, and the like, and at best is an imitator of Martial; but he will always be read with interest for his contemporary allusions and his sprightly good sense. The best known line in Owen's work—

Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis

(fourth collection, i. 58)—is not of his own composition. It appeared in Harrison's ‘Description of Britayne’ in 1577, and is erroneously referred to as Ovid's in Lyly's ‘Euphues’ (ed. Arber, p. 142) (cf. Notes and Queries, 8th ser. iv. 446, v. 74, 192, 373).

Latterly Owen is said to have owed his maintenance to his kinsman, Lord-keeper Williams. It is remarkable that though he addresses epigrams to numerous patrons and relatives, there are none addressed to Williams. Some epigrams in his earlier collections were addressed to Owen himself by such writers as Sir John Harington [q. v.], John Hoskins (1566–1638) [q. v.], and William James (1542–1617) [q. v.] In his third collection he explains the exclusion of verses ‘in laudem autoris,’ on the principle that verses must stand or fall by their own merits. Owen died in London in 1622, and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral, where a memorial brass, bearing his effigy and six Latin verses, was placed by Williams. He was unmarried. His epitaph describes him as short in stature; his portrait, prefixed to his epigrams, has often been reproduced. His name is latinised by himself, Audoenus.

There are eleven books of Owen's epigrams, with a small posthumous appendix, but (except in some translations) they are not numbered consecutively. They were originally published as follows: 1. ‘Joannis Audoeni Epigrammatvm Libri Tres,’ &c., 1606, 8vo; two editions within a month; dedicated to Mary, daughter of Thomas Sackville, first earl of Dorset, and wife of Sir Henry Neville, afterwards seventh baron Abergavenny. 2. ‘Epigrammatum Joannis Owen … Liber Singularis,’ &c., 1607, 8vo, dedicated to Lady Arbella [sic] Stuart; appended is ‘Monosticha, quædam Ethica et Politica veterum Sapientum.’ 3. ‘Epigrammatum Joannis Owen … Libri Tres,’ &c., 1612, 8vo; bks. i. and ii. dedicated to Henry, prince of Wales; bk. iii. to Charles, duke of York. 4. ‘Epigrammatum Joannis Owen … Libri Tres,’ &c., 1613? 12mo; dedicated respectively to Sir Edward Noel (afterwards second viscount Campden) [q. v.], Sir William Sidley, and Sir Roger Owen [see under Owen, Thomas, d. 1598)].

The first collected edition appears to be Amsterdam, 1624. Of numerous Elzevir editions, the best is 1647, 24mo (three slightly varying issues same year); the finest edition is Paris, 1794, 18mo, 2 vols., large paper, 12mo; largest paper, 8vo (four copies); also vellum (four copies); the latest edition is Leipzig, 1824, 8vo. Neither Lowndes nor Brunet mentions editions at Breslau, 1658, 24mo; 1705, 12mo.

Translations into English were published by John Vicars [q. v.], 1619, 8vo; R[obert] H[ayman] [q. v.], 1628, 8vo; Henry Harflete [q. v.], 1653, 8vo; Thomas Pecke [q. v.], six hundred epigrams, in ‘Parnassi Puerperium,’ 1659, 8vo; and Thomas Harvey, 1677, 12mo, 1678, 12mo (complete). Into French by Lebrun, Brussels, 1709 12mo, 1710 12mo (complete); De Pommereul, Ixelles, 1818, 8vo (anon.); and De Kérivalant, Lyons, 1819, 18mo. Into German by Valentin Löber, Hamburg, 1653, 12mo; Jena, 1661, 24mo (complete); and into Spanish by F. de la Torre, Madrid, 1674–82, 4to; 1721, 8vo.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), ii. 320 seq.; Brunet's Manuel du Libraire, 1862 ii. 1493, 1863 iv. 300 seq.; Colvile's Worthies of Warwickshire, 1870 pp. 559 seq.; Lowndes's Bibliographer's Man. (Bohn), 1864; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. viii. 64, 10th ser. ii. 146, and xi. 21; Vapereau's Dictionnaire Universel des Littérateurs, 1876.]

A. G.