Henry Vaughan the Silurist



F. E. Hutchinson, Henry Vaughan: A Life and Interpretation (Oxford, 1947)


The Works of Henry Vaughan, ed. L.C. Martin, 2nd edition (Oxford, 1957)


Until relatively recently no literary autograph manuscript by Henry Vaughan was known to have survived; neither is there evidence that any of his works ever had any circulation in manuscript outside his immediate family. A six-line English translation of ‘The famous Hexastic which Sannazarius made upon the Citty of Venice’, evidently written and signed by Vaughan himself in his most formal flourished italic hand (found in other books inscribed by him), is written in a printed exemplum of A Survay of the Signorie of Venice now in the National Library of Wales (*VaH 1).


The chief evidence for Henry Vaughan's handwriting is his original autograph letters, of which nine are known to survive and which are given entries below (*VaH 2-10).

Books Inscribed by Vaughan

Besides the volume noted above (*VaH 1), a single notable cache of books from Vaughan's library has survived elsewhere. No fewer than fourteen of Vaughan's books, all containing his autograph signature or annotations in Latin, are preserved in the library formed by James Logan (1674-1751), now owned by the Library Company of Philadelphia. This remarkable collection — which throws considerable light on Vaughan's preoccupation with the science of medicine — was first recorded, with two facsimile examples, in Edwin Wolf 2nd, ‘Some Books of Early English Provenance in the Library Company of Philadelphia’, The Book Collector, 9 (1960), 275-84. It should be noted that one curious inaccuracy which crept into the caption for one of the facsimiles in that article is the misleading statement that ‘The notes on the flyleaf in [*VaH 13] are in another hand’. Iin fact these notes are in exactly the same hand as most of those in the other volumes, namely that of Henry Vaughan himself. The only notes that seem to be in a different hand (and neither is it that of Thomas Vaughan) are those at the end of the book by Hermann Grube (*VaH 15). The books are given entries below (*VaH 12-25).

A single addition to this collection is an exemplum of Vaughan's own Olor Iscanus (London, 1651) which is recorded as bearing ‘the Author's Signature’ but which has not been known since 1904 (*VaH 26).

Books with Contemporary Manuscript Alterations

A few exempla of Vaughan's printed works (not given separate entries here) are recorded as bearing occasional textual alterations in contemporary or near-contemporary hands, although none of these can claim any particular significance.

An exemplum of Vaughan's Poems, with the tenth Satyre of Iuvenal Englished (London, 1646) in the British Library (C. 56. b. 16) is recorded by Martin (pp. xxii, 6-8) as containing manuscript alterations on pp. 16, 18, 23 to the Song (‘Amyntas goe, thou art undone’); To Amoret, Walking in a Starry Evening (‘If Amoret, that glorious Eye’); and A Song to Amoret (‘If I were dead, and in my place’).

Martin also records (pp. 633-4, 666) an exemplum of Vaughan's Thalia Rediviva (London, 1678) in the Bodleian (Antiq. f. E. 4 (2)) containing (on pp. 12, 47, 55) small single-word manuscript alterations in the text of On Sir Thomas Bodley's Library; the Author being then in Oxford (‘Boast not proud Golgotha: that thou can'st show’);of To his Books (‘Bright books! the perspectives to our weak sights’); and of The true Christmas (‘So stick up Ivie and the Bays’).

A British Library exemplum of Vaughan's Poems, with the Tenth Satire of Iuvenal Englished (London, 1646) (C.56.b.16) bears manuscript alterations which were reported as being contemporary by Alexander S. Grosart in his edition of The Works in Verse and Prose Complete of Henry Vaughan, Silurist (1871). However, as Alan Rudrum notes in his edition of The Complete Poems (New Haven & London, 1981), p. 441, the emendations were probably made in the late 18th century.

In addition, an exemplum of Vaughan's Olor Iscanus (London, 1651) in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Dyce Collection, Cat. No. 10,164; Pressmark D.16. B. 32) bears a few contemporary manuscript notes on an end-paper.


Two untitled twelve-line stanzas (the first beginning ‘ffond eies made to behould yor makers skill’, the second beginning ‘Stay me, o stay mee? hand of prouidence’) are copied in a cursive mid-seventeenth century hand on a single quarto leaf now in the National Library of Wales (NLW MS 4580C). These anonymous verses are dated c.1640 and have been tentatively ascribed to Vaughan, on stylistic grounds, in some accompanying correspondence of 1924. The hand is, however, not that of Vaughan himself and there is no real evidence for this tentative attribution.

Two petitions by the poet's daughter, Catherine, to the Justices of the Great Sessions for the counties of Brecon, Glamorgan and Radnor in April-September 1693, with related documents (including Vaughan's letter, *VaH 9), and an order of 15 September 1693 referring the matter to the Justices of the Peace in Quarter Sessions, are in the National Library of Wales (Great Sessions P 2032-3). Second copies of Catherine Vaughan's first petition and of the order of 15 September are in the same library among the records of the Breconshire Quarter Sessions (Brecon Q/SR/1693 Michaelmas Nos 15-16). For these documents and others relating to the lawsuits in which Vaughan was imbroiled, particularly in his later years in connection with his own daughters, see Hutchinson, pp. 232-7 et passim.

The name — and sometimes signatures — of various other Henry Vaughans are to be found in seventeenth-century documents. Examples are the Henry Vaughan (1617/18-61) of Cathlin, Merioneth, who matriculated at Oriel College, Oxford, on 4 July 1634, signing on that date the Oxford Subscriptions Book, f. [186r]; the Henry Vaughan, academic prælector of logic, some of whose orations are copied in St John's College, Cambridge (MS K. 38 (James 347)); the Henry Vaughan of Gray's Inn who petitioned the King and Lord Arlington in 1672 to be allowed to search for ‘English bibles and Singing psalms’ illegally imported from Holland (National Archives, Kew, SP 29/305/145; SP 29/315/363); and the Liming registrar who signed an extant inventory of 2 August 1693. The name was not rare and such instances can be multiplied.

Collections on the life and works of Vaughan made by Miss Louise Immogen Guiney (1861-1920) and Miss Gwenllian E.F. Morgan — collections to which Canon F. E. Hutchinson was considerably indebted for his biography of Vaughan (1947) and which Martin also acknowledges (pp. iii-iv) — are now in the National Library of Wales. Their annotated collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century editions of Vaughan are NLW MSS 15969-76A. Two boxes of their files and notebooks arranged by Hutchinson and with his additional typescript notes are shelved as ‘Gwenllian E .F. Morgan MSS’. Some letters by Miss Guiney to Professor G. H. Palmer, dating from 15 December [1909] to 14 December 1911 and relating in part to her projected edition of Vaughan, are now at Wellesley College. A second copy of Canon Hutchinson's typescript notes on the Guiney-Morgan materials is in the Bodleian (MS Eng. poet. d. 1253). Hutchinson's own annotated exemplum of Martin's 1914 edition of Vaughan's works — a two-volume set used by Martin for his second edition of 1957 — is now in the English Faculty Library at Oxford (K67).

The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins's exemplum of an 1858 edition of Vaughan's poems, a volume inscribed and presented to Hopkins by Robert Bridges in 1867, was sold at Sotheby's on 13 December 1990, lot 116, to Simon Finch, reappearing in his sale catalogue No. 8 (1991), item 97.

Some notes on Vaughan by the Rev. Joseph Hunter (1783-1861) in his Chorus Vatum Anglicanorum (Volume I) are in the British Library (Add. MS 24487, f. 70v).

For materials relating to Henry's twin brother, the writer and alchemist Thomas Vaughan (1622-66) — whose work is discussed in certain of Henry's letters to Aubrey — see Hutchinson, passim, and The Works of Thomas Vaughan, ed. Alan Rudrum (Oxford, 1984). Rudrum prints (pp. 585-96) extracts from Thomas Vaughan's remarkable autograph notebook Aqua Vitæ: Non Vitis in the British Library (Sloane MS 1741). This manuscript, which most notably records Thomas Vaughan's dreams about his dead wife in 1658-9, is transcribed in full in O.E. Crashaw's unpublished doctoral dissertation The Alchemical Ideas of Thomas Vaughan and their Relationship to the Literary Work of Henry Vaughan (University of Wales, 1970). A facsimile example of the manuscript is reproduced in Greg, English Literary Autographs, Plate LIX(c).

Peter Beal