Vaux, Thomas (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 58
Vaux, Thomas

by Sidney Lee
1904 Errata appended.
Contains subarticle on William Vaux, third Baron Vaux (1542?–1595), & Edward Vaux, fourth Lord Vaux of Harrowden (1591–1661).

VAUX, THOMAS, second Baron Vaux of Harrowden (1510–1556), poet, born in 1510, was eldest son of Nicholas Vaux, first baron Vaux [q. v.], by his second wife, Anne Green. He seems to have been educated at Cambridge, and on the death of his father in 1523 he succeeded to the barony. Although he had not completed his thirteenth year, he attended Cardinal Wolsey on his embassy to France in 1527, and in 1532 accompanied the king to Calais and Boulogne. He was first summoned to the House of Lords on 9 Jan. 1530–1. He was created a knight of the Bath at the coronation of Anne Boleyn in May 1533. His only public office seems to have been that of captain of the Isle of Jersey, which he surrendered in 1536. He was present at the disputation at Cambridge before Edward VI on 24 and 25 June 1549. He attended the House of Lords until 6 Dec. 1555. Dying in October 1556, he was buried apparently at Harrowden in Northamptonshire (Machyn, Diary).

Vaux married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Thomas Cheney, knt., of Irthlingborough. She was five years his junior. By her he had two sons—William (see below) and Nicholas—and two daughters: Anne, wife of Reginald Bray of Stene; and Maud, who died unmarried.

Drawings by Holbein for portraits of both Vaux and his wife are at Windsor, and were engraved by Bartolozzi. Another drawing of Lady Vaux by Holbein is in the Imperial Palace at Prague. Holbein's finished portrait of Vaux's wife, which was executed about 1537, when the lady was apparently thirty-two years old, is at Hampton Court (Law, Catalogue of Pictures at Hampton Court, p. 196).

Vaux belonged to the cultured circle of the courts of Henry VIII and Edward VI, and emulated the poetic efforts of Sir Thomas Wyatt the elder and the Earl of Surrey. Such of his work as survives and has been identified consists of short lyrics. Most of it breathes an affected tone of melancholy which is unredeemed by genuine poetic feeling; but some of Vaux's poems show metrical facility and a gentle vein of commonplace reflection which caught the popular ear. Puttenham, in his ‘Art of English Poesie’ (1589), noticed Vaux's poetic achievements, in close conjunction with those of Surrey and Wyatt, and carelessly gave Vaux the christian name of his father, Nicholas, thus causing some confusion between the two among biographers and historians of literature. Puttenham wrote (p. 76): ‘The Lord Vaux his commendation lyeth chiefly in the facillitie of his meetre, and the aptnesse of his descriptions such as he taketh upon him to make, namely in sundry of his songs, wherein he sheweth the counterfait action very lively and pleasantly.’ Elsewhere (p. 247) Puttenham described Vaux as ‘a noble gentleman’ who ‘much delighted in vulgar making’ (i.e. vernacular poetry), but ‘a man otherwise of no great learning.’

The two poems by which Vaux is best known were first printed as the work of ‘an uncertain author’ in 1557 in the ‘Songes and Sonettes’ of Surrey, commonly quoted as Tottel's ‘Miscellany.’ In the last century both poems acquired a fresh vogue on being included in Percy's ‘Reliques of Ancient English Poetry.’ That entitled ‘The assault of Cupide upon the fort where the louers hart lay wounded, and how he was taken,’ was quoted by Puttenham, who first assigned it to Vaux, in the ‘Arte of English Poesie’ (p. 247), as an excellent specimen in English of ‘pragmatographia or counterfait action.’ It was widely imitated by Elizabethan poets. The second of Vaux's poems that Tottel printed was called ‘The aged louer renounceth loue.’ George Gascoigne, in a prefatory epistle to his ‘Posies’ (1575), refers to the poem as the work of Vaux, and says it ‘was thought by some to be made upon his deathbed,’ a notion which Gascoigne ridicules. An early manuscript version in the British Museum (Harl. MS. 1703, No. 25) is superscribed, ‘A dyttye or sonet made by the Lord Vaus, in the time of the noble Quene Marye, representing the image of Death.’ Another unprinted version is in Ashmolean MS. No. 48. A license for the publication of this poem in the form of a broadside ballad, with the title ‘The Aged Lover renownceth Love,’ was issued to R. Serle in 1563–4. It obviously enjoyed a very wide popularity at the end of the sixteenth century. Three verses of it are quoted with intentional inaccuracy by Shakespeare in ‘Hamlet,’ where they are sung by the First Gravedigger (act v. sc. i. 69–72, 79–82, 102–5). Other anonymous pieces (‘by uncertain authors’) in Tottel's ‘Miscellany’ may well be by Vaux. A sonnet assigned by Tottel to Surrey (‘The frailtie and hurtfulness of beautie,’ which begins ‘Brittle beautie, that nature made so fraile’) is tentatively assigned to Vaux by Surrey's editor, Dr. Nott.

Thirteen other pieces signed ‘L[ord] Vaux’ appear in the popular poetic anthology entitled ‘The Paradyse of daynty deuises,’ to which Richard Edwards [q. v.] was the chief contributor. A fourteenth poem (‘Being asked of the occasion of his white head’) which bears Vaux's name in a later edition of the ‘Paradyse’ is signed by William Hunnis in the first. A fifteenth piece in the ‘Paradyse,’ signed ‘E. S.’ (No. 33 in 1576 edition), ‘Of sufferance cometh ease,’ is assigned to Vaux by Collier (Bibl. Cat. i. 245). The ‘Paradyse’ was first issued in 1576, and subsequently passed through many editions; it was reprinted in Brydges's ‘British Bibliographer’ (vol. iv.) and in J. P. Collier's ‘Poetical Miscellanies.’ Four of the best of Vaux's authentic contributions to the ‘Paradyse,’ entitled respectively ‘Being disdained he complaineth,’ ‘Of the mean estate,’ ‘Of a contented mind,’ and ‘Of the instability of youth,’ are printed in Hannah's ‘Poems of Raleigh and other courtly Poets’ (1885, pp. 128–34). All Vaux's undoubted contributions to the ‘Paradyse’ and to Tottel's ‘Miscellany’—fifteen pieces in all—are included in Dr. Grosart's ‘Fuller Worthies' Library Miscellanies,’ 1872, vol. iv.

Vaux's son and heir, William Vaux, third Baron Vaux (1542?–1595), distinguished himself by his devotion to the catholic faith, and by his zeal in protecting priests and jesuits. He married twice: first, Elizabeth, daughter of John Beaumont of Grace Dieu, Leicestershire; and, secondly Mary, daughter of John Tresham of Rushton, Northamptonshire, and sister of Sir Thomas Tresham. Both his wives (especially his second wife, Mary Tresham) were, with his sons and daughters, as enthusiastically devoted as himself to the cause of the Roman catholic faith. In the summer of 1580 he offered the jesuit Campion an asylum in his houses at Hackney and Harrowden. There Vaux devised means for secretly observing all Roman catholic rites which were imitated in many catholic households. The fact became known to the government, and Vaux and his brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Tresham, were summoned before the Star-chamber on 18 Aug. 1581. On refusing to answer the questions put to them they were straightway committed to the Fleet prison. They were put on their trial on 28 Nov. 1581 for contempt of court, and were recommitted to prison (Harl. MS. 859; Simpson, Campion, p. 247; Foley, Records, iii. 657 seq.). Subsequently Vaux confessed that the accusation of harbouring Campion was justified, and flung himself on the queen's mercy (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1581–90, passim; Strype, Annals, iii. i. 180–1). He was set at liberty on paying a heavy fine. On 12 June 1591 a government spy reported that Vaux and his friends, ‘Sir Thomas Tresham, Mr. Talbot, Mr. Owen, and Mr. Townsley, are accounted very good subjects, and great adversaries of the Spanish practices; these are the most markable catholics’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1591–4, p. 56). But while Vaux held aloof from Spanish conspiracies, he continued to spend his fortune in the cause of his religion. Writing to Lord Burghley on 18 Feb. 1591–2, he begged to be excused from attendance in parliament on the ground that he had pawned his parliament robes and was suffering the extremes of poverty (Ellis, Original Letters, 3rd ser. iv. 108–10). He died on 20 Aug. 1595 (cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1595–7, p. 154). Henry, his son by his first wife, died in his lifetime without issue. George, his son by his second wife, married in 1590 Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Roper (afterwards Lord Teynham), but died in 1594 (in his father's lifetime), leaving his widow to be guardian of their infant son Edward, who succeeded his grandfather as fourth Baron Vaux.

Edward Vaux, fourth Lord Vaux of Harrowden (1591–1661), was brought up as a devoted catholic by his mother and her sisters-in-law, Anne Vaux [q. v.], and Eleanor, wife of Edward Brooksby (cf. Gerard, Narrative of the Gunpowder Plot, ed. Morris, passim; Foley, Records, v. 960). When he was a boy of fourteen suspicion fell on his mother and aunts of encouraging the gunpowder plot, and they were examined by the council. Although he was regularly summoned to the House of Lords during the reign of Charles I, the fourth lord spent much of his time on the continent. He married, in 1632, Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Howard, earl of Suffolk [q. v.], and widow of William Knollys, earl of Banbury [q. v.] He was believed to have lived with the lady in her first husband's lifetime, and to be the father of the latter's reputed children. Vaux died without lawful issue on 8 Sept. 1661, being buried at Dorking. He settled in 1646 on his wife's son, Nicholas Knollys, called third earl of Banbury, his lands at Harrowden. His title passed to his only surviving brother, Henry, on whose death without issue on 25 Sept. 1662 it fell into abeyance. It was revived on 12 March 1838 in the person of George Charles Mostyn of Kiddington, who traced his descent to Mary Vaux, wife of Sir George Symeon of Britwell, Oxfordshire, and a daughter of George, son of William, third lord Vaux of Harrowden. The House of Lords decided in favour of Mostyn's claim to the title, in preference to that of Edward Bourchier Hartopp, who sought to trace his descent to Katherine Vaux, wife of Henry Neville, lord Abergavenny, another daughter of George, son of the third lord Vaux of Harrowden.

[Dugdale's Baronage, ii. 304–5; Burke's Peerage; Warton's Hist. of English Poetry; Ritson's Bibliographia Poetica, 1802; Bridges's Northamptonshire, ii. 103; House of Lords Report on the Vaux of Harrowden Peerage Case, 1838. A collection of documents dealing with peerage litigation is preserved in the British Museum (press-mark Banks, 3. i. 3.]

S. L.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.270
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
195 i 5 Vaux, Thomas, 2nd Baron Vaux: after apparently insert in the neighbourhood of his seat, Harrowden
196 i 28  for Gatehouse at Westminster read -Fleet prison
ii 4  for 1662) read 1661)
6-7  for Elizabeth read Eleanor
34  for a daughter of William read a daughter of George, son of William
40  for another daughter read another daughter of George, son