Vaughan, Robert (1795-1868) (DNB00)

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VAUGHAN, ROBERT (1795–1868), congregationalist divine, of Welsh descent, was born in the west of England on 14 Oct. 1795. His parents belonged to the established church. He had no early advantages of education, but showed a taste for historical reading, one of his first purchases being a copy of Ralegh's ‘History of the World.’ He came under the influence of William Thorp (1771–1833), independent minister at Castle Green, Bristol, who trained him for the ministry. From Thorp he caught his early style of preaching, which was declamatory with much action. While still a student he was invited (1819) by the independent congregation, Angel Street, Worcester, accepted the call in April, and was ordained on 4 July, among his ordainers being William Jay [q. v.] and John Angell James [q. v.] He soon became popular, and in March 1825 accepted a call to Hornton Street, Kensington, in succession to John Leifchild [q. v.] By his ‘Life and Opinions of John de Wycliffe, D.D., illustrated principally from his unpublished Manuscripts’ (1828, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1831, 2 vols.), and his ‘Memorials of the Stuart Dynasty’ (1831, 8vo), he gained some repute as an historical writer. In 1834 he was appointed to the chair of history in University College, London (then known as the London University), and published his introductory lecture ‘On the Study of General History,’ 1834, 8vo. In the same year he delivered the ‘congregational lecture,’ a series of disquisitions on the ‘Causes of the Corruption of Christianity,’ 1834, 8vo. His connection with the London University brought him into relations with the whig leaders, and increased his influence as a preacher, drawing to his services persons of social position. In 1836 he received the diploma of D.D. from Glasgow University. He continued his historical labours on the ‘Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell,’ 1838, 2 vols. 8vo, and ‘The History of England under the House of Stuart … 1603–88,’ 1840, 8vo.

In 1843 he succeeded Gilbert Wardlaw as president and professor of theology in the Lancashire Independent College, removed (26 April) to new buildings at Whalley Range, Manchester. He published his inaugural discourse on ‘Protestant Nonconformity,’ 1843, 8vo. Dissatisfied with the tone of the ‘Eclectic Review,’ which, under the editorship of Thomas Price, was favouring the policy of Edward Miall [q. v.], he projected the ‘British Quarterly,’ bringing out the first number in January 1845. During the twenty years of his editorship he kept it at a high level of intelligence, and while retaining its nonconformist character and its theological conservatism, admitted on other topics a wide range of writers of different schools. Some of his own contributions were collected in ‘Essays on History, Philosophy, and Theology,’ 1849, 2 vols. 16mo.

In 1846 Vaughan occupied the chair of the congregational union. Returning to the subject of his first publication, he edited, for the Wyclif Society, ‘Tracts and Treatises of John de Wycliffe … with … Memoir,’ 1845, 8vo, and published ‘John de Wycliffe, D.D.: a Monograph,’ 1853, 8vo. In August 1857 the state of his health led him to resign his presidency of the Lancashire Independent College, when he was succeeded by Henry Rogers (1806–1877) [q. v.] After ministering for a short time to a small congregation at Uxbridge, Middlesex, he retired to St. John's Wood, and occupied himself with literary work, publishing ‘Revolutions in English History’ (1859–63, 3 vols. 8vo; 2nd edit. 1865, 8vo), and taking his part in the nonconformist publications occasioned by the bicentennial of the Uniformity Act of 1662. His tract in reply to George Venables's pamphlet questioning the right of the ejected ministers to a place in the English church bore the title ‘I'll tell you: an Answer to “How did they get there?”’ (1862, 16mo).

In 1867 he accepted a call to a newly formed congregation at Torquay. Scarcely had he removed thither when he was seized with congestion of the brain. He died at Torquay on 15 June 1868, and was buried there. He married (1822) Susanna Ryall of Melcombe Regis, Dorset, and had several children. Robert Alfred Vaughan [q. v.] was his eldest son. His eldest daughter married Dr. Carl Buch, principal of the Government College at Bareilly, Upper India, who was murdered in 1857 at the outbreak of the Indian mutiny.

Vaughan, whose portrait has been engraved, was a man of striking presence and great platform power. Stoughton describes ‘the searching glance from under his knitted brow’ and ‘his lordly bearing,’ which ‘created expectations rarely disappointed.’ He valued nonconformity as a bulwark of evangelical religion, and did real service to his denomination by extending its literary culture. Besides works specified above and single sermons and speeches, he published: 1. ‘The Christian Warfare,’ 1832, 8vo. 2. ‘Thoughts on the … State of Religious Parties in England,’ 1838, 12mo; 1839, 8vo. 3. ‘Congregationalism … in relation to … Modern Society,’ 1842, 12mo; two editions. 4. ‘The Modern Persecutor Delineated,’ 1842, 16mo (anon.). 5. ‘The Modern Pulpit,’ 1842, 12mo. 6. ‘The Age of Great Cities,’ 1843, 12mo. 7. ‘Popular Education in England,’ 1846, 8vo (enlarged from the ‘British Quarterly’). 8. ‘The Age of Christianity,’ 1849, 12mo; 1853, 8vo. 9. ‘The Credulities of Scepticism,’ 1856, 8vo. 10. ‘English Nonconformity,’ 1862, 12mo. 11. ‘Ritualism in the English Church,’ 1866, 8vo. 12. ‘The Way to Rest,’ 1866, 8vo. 13. ‘The Church and State Question’ [1867], 8vo. 14. ‘The Daily Prayer Book’ [1868], 8vo. He edited in 1866 a folio edition of ‘Paradise Lost,’ with life of Milton.

[Robert Vaughan, a Memorial, 1869 (portrait); Congregational Year-book, 1869; Waddington's Congregational Hist. (1800–50), 1878, pp. 318 seq.; Waddington's Congregational Hist. (1850–1880), 1880, pp. 8 seq.; Stoughton's Religion in England (1800–50), 1884, ii. 278; Cal. of Associated Colleges, 1887, p. 116; Urwick's Nonconformity in Worcester, 1897, pp. 120 seq., 205; Addison's Graduates of Univ. of Glasgow, 1898, p. 622.]

A. G.