| There is no portrait of Metaphysical poet Henry
Vaughan (1621 - 95), and little documentation of his life.
However, at the tercentenary of his death his writing remains
as influential as ever and the writer continues to fascinate.
Stevie Davies uses her skills as a novelist and critic
to bring to life her now distant subject: 'I wanted to imagine
him as a real and breathing person in a landscape both geographical
and historical,' she writes in her Preface to this book.
Through Vaughan's writing and other sources she has produced
a persuasive picture of a man beset by anxieties and challenges.
The death of his twin brother Thomas, and the English Civil
War were two crucial turning points. His outgoing writer
brother predeceased Henry by some thirty years leaving him
to search for a single identity, while the defeat of the
Royalist party and the execution of Charles I left members
of his class and political affiliation social and religious
outcasts. Even the Restoration could not rescue the naturally
introvert Vaughan. He had become a man who turned failure
into glory and who was most himself alone, silent and outdoors.
His writing was driven by nostalgia for his childhood and
attempted to recapture the individual, society and mankind
had lost, a loss manifested in man's pollution of the environment.
Stevie Davies' use of contemporary research on twinship,
her knowledge of the seventeenth century (she has written
extensively on Milton) and her novelist's intuition have
resulted in an invaluable and accessible life of a writer
whose poetry is still relevant today.