Vaughan, Henry Halford (DNB00)

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VAUGHAN, HENRY HALFORD (1811–1885), professor of modern history, born in August 1811, was the son of Sir John Vaughan (1769–1839), by Augusta, daughter of Henry Beauchamp, twelfth lord St. John of Bletsho. Sir Henry Halford (previously Vaughan) [q. v.] was his father's brother. He was sent to Rugby in 1822, and left in 1829 for Christ Church, Oxford. In 1833 he took a first class in literæ humaniores, along with Deans Scott and Liddell, and Robert Lowe (afterwards Lord Sherbrooke). In 1836 he was elected fellow of Oriel; ‘a very good election,’ according to Pattison, who notes that Vaughan was said to have read nothing in the previous vacation except Bacon's ‘Advancement of Learning.’ In the same year he gained the chancellor's prize for an English essay upon the ‘Effects of a National Taste for general and diffusive Reading.’ In 1840 he was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn, but never practised as a barrister. His taste was for philosophical and historical rather than professional studies. In 1841 he was appointed clerk of assize on the South Wales circuit. In 1843 he was appointed a temporary assistant to the poor-law commission to inquire into the employment of women and children in agriculture. In 1848 he was appointed professor of modern history at Oxford. His inaugural lectures are said to have caused a ‘thrill of excite- ment’ in the university. His later courses were upon the history of England down to the death of Stephen. Many distinguished hearers have continued to speak of the profound impression made upon them by Vaughan's eloquence. The inaugural lectures alone have been published, and are remarkable as expositions of a philosophical view of historical evolution very unusual in England at the time. Vaughan gave evidence before the university commission of 1850 (noticed in Quarterly Review of June 1853), and afterwards defended part of their report in a pamphlet. His general aim was that of the liberals, who desired that the professorate element should be strengthened and have more opportunities for original research. Mark Pattison afterwards advocated similar views. A reference in a note to Pusey's evidence led to a correspondence, part of which was published by Vaughan in a ‘Postscript’ (see Pusey's Life, iii. 386–90, including a slight reflection upon Vaughan, answered by anticipation in the ‘Postscript’).

Vaughan resigned his professorship in 1858. He served on the public school commission of 1861. In 1867 he settled at Upton Castle, Pembrokeshire. Vaughan was long occupied in writing a philosophical treatise upon ‘Man's Moral Nature,’ of which his friends had formed the highest expectations. A good deal was written, when unexplained accidents happened to the manuscript; and, for whatever reasons, it was never completed. Vaughan consoled himself by copying out and publishing some very elaborate annotations upon the text of Shakespeare, made during his residence in Wales. Vaughan died at Upton Castle on 19 April 1885. He married in 1856 Adeline Maria, daughter of John Jackson, M.D. She died in 1881. They were survived by one son and four daughters. Few men have had a higher reputation among their friends, and Vaughan's friends included many of the most eminent men of his day. Lord Selborne thought that he had more power of mind than any of his contemporaries. Jowett in 1844 regarded him as the best possible candidate for the professorship of moral philosophy. Unfortunately, he did not leave materials for forming any adequate judgment of his powers.

Vaughan's works (besides the prize-essay) are: 1. ‘Two General Lectures on Modern History delivered on Inauguration,’ 1849. 2. ‘Oxford Reform and Oxford Professors,’ 1854. 3. ‘Postscript’ to the same, 1854. 4. ‘New Readings and New Renderings of Shakespeare's Tragedies,’ 3 vols. 8vo, 1878–1886. 5. ‘British Reason in English Rhyme,’ 1889 (Welsh proverbs with verse translations, edited by his son, W. W. Vaughan).

[Information from W. W. Vaughan, of Clifton College, Vaughan's son; Times, 22 and 28 April 1885; Oxford Magazine, May 1885; Jowett's Life, i. 50, 92; Pattison's Memoirs, pp. 159, 246; Selborne's Memorials, pp. 165, 201, 225; Dean Boyle's Recollections, 1895, pp. 153, 154; Dr. Stubbs's Seventeen Lectures, 1886, p. 384.]