Vernon, George John Warren (DNB00)

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VERNON, GEORGE JOHN WARREN, fifth Baron Vernon (1803–1866), the only son of George Charles Vernon, fourth baron Vernon (1779–1835) of Sudbury, Derbyshire, and Frances Maria, only daughter of Admiral Sir John Borlase-Warren [q. v.], was born at Stapleford Hall, Nottinghamshire, on 22 June 1803. Sir Richard Vernon [q. v.], speaker of the house of commons in 1426, was an ancestor. Vernon entered public life in 1831 as M.P. for Derby. After the passing of the Reform Bill, of which he was a warm supporter, the county had two divisions, and he became the member for the southern part. He continued in the House of Commons until 1835, when he was called to the House of Lords on the death of his father. In 1837 he exchanged his patronymic Venables Vernon for that of Warren, in compliance with the will of Viscountess Bulkeley, but his children born before 1839 retained their own name. He was an expert rifle-shot, an energetic supporter of the volunteer movement, and in 1859 raised a company at Sudbury, where he erected a firing-range. As a mere youth he was taken to Italy, and afterwards lived much in Florence, where he studied the Italian language and history. His whole life was devoted to Dante, to whom he erected a noble literary monument. His friends and collaborateurs were Luigi Passerini, Francesco Bonaini, Giuseppe Antinori, Brunone Bianchi, Giuseppe Canestrini, Giunio Carbone, Stefano Audin, and especially Sir Anthony Panizzi [q. v.], Sir J. P. Lacaita, Mariano Armellini, Vincenzo Nannucci, and Pietro Fraticelli. With their advice and help he printed, not for sale, some hitherto inedited texts and two important works. The earliest of these was ‘Le prime quattro Edizioni della Divina Commedia letteralmente ristampate,’ London, 1858, a careful reprint of the first editions of the poem edited by Sir Anthony Panizzi with a learned preface. This was followed by a remarkable publication, ‘L'Inferno di Dante Alighieri disposto in ordine grammaticale e corredato di brevi dichiarazioni di G. G. Warren, Lord Vernon,’ London, 1858–65, 3 vols. folio, of which only a limited number of copies were issued for private circulation. The few which have appeared for sale have sold for high prices. The work was described by Henry Clark Barlow [q. v.] (On the Vernon Dante, 1870, p. 1) as one ‘which, for utility of purpose, comprehensiveness of design, and costly execution, has never been equalled in any country.’ Some of the most distinguished artists and men of letters in Italy were occupied for twenty years in its preparation. It includes the text of the ‘Inferno,’ with a grammatical ordo and many notes and tables; the second volume is an encyclopædia of history, geography, topography, and heraldry relating to Dante and Florence, with many unpublished documents; the third or album volume, which appeared after Lord Vernon's death, contains 112 original engravings of incidents in the ‘Inferno,’ views of towns, castles, and other localities mentioned therein, as well as portraits, paintings, plans, and historical monuments illustrating the history of the fourteenth century.

He was a socio corrispondente of the Academia della Crusca, and was a member of many other literary societies. He was also created Cavaliere di San Maurizio e Lazzaro in May 1865, in recognition of his labours on behalf of the national poet.

After a long illness he died at Sudbury Hall, near Derby, on 31 May 1866. He married, first, on 30 Oct. 1824, Isabella Caroline, daughter of Cuthbert Ellison of Hebburn, Durham, who bore him Augustus Henry (1829–1883) [see below], William John Borlase Warren Venables Vernon (b. 1834), and three daughters; secondly, on 14 Dec. 1859, his cousin, Frances Emma Maria, only daughter of the Rev. Brooke Boothby, who survived him but was childless. An engraved portrait of Vernon is in the album of his ‘Inferno.’

Besides the two works above mentioned, he also printed: 1. ‘L'Inferno, secondo il testo di B. Lombardi con ordine e schiarimento per uso dei forestieri di L. V.,’ Florence, 1841, 8vo (only the first seven cantos; a kind of foreshadowing of his great work on the ‘Inferno’). 2. ‘Petri Allegherii super Dantis ipsius genitoris comœdiam commentarium,’ Florence, 1846, 8vo (edited by Vincenzo Nannucci). 3. ‘Chiose sopra Dante, testo inedito, ora per la prima volta pubblicato,’ Florence, 1846, 8vo (commonly known as ‘Il falso Boccaccio’). 4. ‘Il Febusso e Breusso, poema ora per la prima volta pubblicato,’ Florence, 1847, 8vo (a ‘romanzo cavalleresco’). 5. ‘Chiose alla Cantica dell' Inferno di Dante Allighieri attribuite a Jacopo suo figlio,’ Florence, 1848, 8vo. 6. ‘Comento alla cantica di Dante Allighieri di autore anonimo,’ Florence, 1848, 8vo (the oldest commentary on the ‘Inferno’ in existence, probably written about 1328). He had intended to print the famous Latin commentary of Benvenuto da Imola, delivered as public lectures at Bologna about 1375; but this work was carried out by his second son, William Warren Vernon, in 1887, 5 vols. 4to, under the editorship of Sir J. P. Lacaita.

Vernon's eldest son, Augustus Henry Vernon, sixth Baron Vernon (1829–1883), was born at Rome on 1 Feb. 1829. He was lieutenant and captain in the Scots fusilier guards, but retired in 1851. On 7 June of the same year he married Harriet (d. 15 Feb. 1898), third daughter of Thomas William Anson, first earl of Lichfield, who bore him four sons and six daughters. On the death of his father in 1866 he succeeded to the title. He was a president of the Royal Agricultural Society, and as chairman of the French farmers' seed fund in 1871 took an active part in the relief of the French agriculturists who had suffered during the war. Though not an Italian scholar, he shared in the family devotion to Dante, and the third or album volume of the father's edition of the ‘Inferno’ was issued under his care. He died in Dover Street, London, on 1 May 1883, in his fifty-fifth year, and was succeeded by his son, George William Henry Venables Vernon, seventh baron Vernon (1854–1898).

[Information from the Hon. William Warren Vernon. See also Memoir of the fifth Lord Vernon by Sir J. P. Lacaita in Album of the great edition of Inferno; H. C. Barlow's Vernon Dante and other Dissertations, 1870; Times, 1 June 1866, 3 and 9 May 1883.]

H. R. T.