Henry Vaughan's Early Life

Henry Vaughan, like Richard Crashaw, was a second generation Metaphysical poet. At one point he quite openly acknowledges his debt to George Herbert, whose The Temple, was published when Vaughan was twelve years old. He was born in mid-Wales and lived most of his life there, but wrote entirely in English. Of all the Metaphysical poets, he is the one we would most call a nature poet, and some of his verse anticipates the nature poetry of William Wordsworth, the Romantic poet born some 150 years later.

Henry Vaughan’s family

Henry Vaughan was born in 1621 to Thomas and Denise Vaughan, at Newton-upon-Usk, Breconshire.

  • He had a twin brother, Thomas, who became a philosopher and alchemist
  • A younger brother, William, died when he was 20.

Henry Vaughan's Education

Second quad at Jesus College Oxford, photo by John Ward, available through Creative CommonsThe Vaughan twins seem to have attended Jesus College, Oxford together in 1638, but there is no record of Henry having gained a degree. He probably went to London to study law, as the family considered that life as a country lawyer would be his best career. His brother trained to be a clergyman.

Henry Vaughan and The English Civil War

In 1642, Vaughan returned to Breconshire and became secretary to Judge Lloyd. By then the Civil War had broken out, with Vaughan supporting the Royalists. He probably saw some action, either in South Wales or at the Battle of Rowton Moor, outside Chester. After the war, he became a doctor and practised medicine for the rest of his long life.

Henry Vaughan's Marriage

In 1646, Vaughan married Catherine Wise, and had a son and three daughters. After her death, he married her younger sister in 1655 and had another son and another three daughters by her.

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