Who was Baby Vaughan of 1859? A Julia Margaret Cameron mystery...
Henry Halford Vaughan (August 27, 1811-April 1885) by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1864
Mrs. Henry Halford Vaughan,Adeline Vaughan (November 14, 1837-April 14, 1881) with her daughter Augusta by Julia Margaret Cameron,
Albumen Print, 1864
NOTE: If Adeline Vaughan looks familiar to you it could be because she is the sister of Julia Jackson Duckworth Stephen, also the niece of Julia Margaret Cameron. Adeline Vaughan was the aunt to her sister Julia Stephen's daughter who became Virginia Woolf (Adeline Stephen; her namesake). (The photograph is Julia Jackson on the left with her mother Maria Jackson (nee Pattle) who was nicknamed 'Mia' by the Pattle family, sister to Julia Margaret Cameron).
I am going to share one of Julia Margaret Cameron's letters in its entirety. It is a very long letter, very telling as she shares her religious beliefs, her spirituality, her empathetic nature and her desire to help comfort her friend, Henry Halford Vaughan upon the death of 'his only child' in April of 1859. Why is this a mystery, well, in doing some research, reading geneology pages and census forms, there is no record of a son born during the year 1859. Halford and Adeline Vaughan (nee Jackson) were married on 21 August 1856 in Hendon Middlesex. Together they had five children: four daughters and one son named WilliamWyamar Vaughan born on 25 February 1865. All of their children lived into old age. So, when Mrs. Cameron referes to 'he' or 'his only child' in writng to Halford, who is she referencing? I would love to find this out. In the letter, you will read that at the time Mrs. Cameron says herself she up until that point (1859) had not experienced the loss of a child of her own. So who is this baby boy who died in April 1859 'related' to Halford? Even if we never find out Julia Margaret Cameron's letter is so very emotionally telling helping to shed some light on the woman, the wife, the mother, behind her standing camera lens.
The Shadow of the Cross by Julia Margaret Cameron,
Albumen Print from wet collodian glass negative, August 1865
Ap. 5th 59-
I have been longing to write to you all these past days yet my heart has kept uttering to itself ‘What can I who have never yet been called upon to part with a precious child say to him who has been called upon to part with so precious and so perfect a child. His only Child too-his one little Ewe Lamb the light and life of his Soul-‘One thing I can most confidently say dear Halford that that same Child is now more than ever, & will be so to all eternity more than ever the Light and Life of your Soul.
Oh let that Light shine upon you through sepulchral darkness-his little Grave seems to me transparent with Eternal Light & lined with Eternal Love. Oh let that Love mingle with the Heavenly Love that gave and that has now with equal Love taken away-altho’ the mystery of this dispensation may stagger you now-it is so heavy and so seemingly crushing a blow in its first weighty fall –Sweet little one-! Might we not all have seen that it had an angel’s soul already blessed-I was always struck with the majesty of that child-beauty-I did not then read the meaning of it as now I do-& yet I felt all its preciousness to you in unfolding the many mysteries of Earth – of Baby Life-of Parent Life-and Parent Love-of innocence-mysteries your beautiful and ardently impressible nature loved to dwell upon, but that was a part only-and a very small part of its relations with you-The mysteries of Heaven it had to teach unto you, thro’ the memories of the sacred kisses, your hand, and your foot can never forget-for I know his sweet habits and ways of caress-its life of fruitful love.
That life is not over-it is & will be more fruitful than ever-bearing fruit that will never turn to ashes, as has seemed to perish this first fair fruit of your body-The shell will perish-the corruptible part you consigned to its little mossy bed last Saturday - & I know the agony of that consignment, but your Child is less dead now than when in full health on Earth-Then it was surrounded by mortal influences, and had it continued on Earth its immortal nature might have been dimmed and obscured by sin-by assault by temptation-now it lives in its own native air of Heaven in bright realms where it will watch over you, and pray for you, and see and feel those tears you all three (Parents and Grand Parent) shed daily for its long absence and your utter loss of present bliss-Having winged away its flight to a Kingdom of Eternal peace, and unfading light it will eternally beseech God that that Light may shine with full force of Love upon you, and when your own hour comes dear Halford and in a little-twinkling of time this last hour will come to every one of us-you will hear your Child’s voice once again even as you heard his last words calling you & you will say ‘I come’ if you have been enabled thro’ this passage of darkness to feel the way to him and to Eternal life, and you will then feel I die more in peace than if I left him on this busy stage of life struggling-it is well-and even now at this present dreadful moment of visitation you must say to yourself It is some comfort that my Boy can never endure the agony I am enduring now-The cup of which I now drink these bitter dregs he can never taste.
Sweet little Lamb-one brief period of bright life he had and then, oh you must feel sure of this, he was called to the service of Heaven-and to you the blessed company of Angels-I have often felt that it was no small destiny if that is the word-no small reward or solace-rather, to have yielded to God an unspotted Angel and to feel for ever that so large a portion of one’s life already lives eternally in Heaven.
I am thankful that I saw what that blessed little one was to you-altho’ this makes me share your present pain more vividly. Ah me! If when I parted with my little Juley on a sea voyage her empty garments were more than I could bear to see, can I not understand what is and will be for ever your aching memory-and ever increasing blank-I don’t think Time softens these losses-I am not tempted to offer to you meaningless consolation-but I know out of my own heart what does console-what does inspire-what does more than reconcile one so bereaved-and it is this only certain truth that your child is not dead-Lost to sight for a little time-‘Heaviness endureth for a night but joy cometh in the Moil-‘ you will never see him a full grown man on Earth-you will meet him a full grown Angel in Heaven if you will turn your full face of Love towards him even as you always turned it when you heard his soft pattering footstep and felt his soft balmy breath and if you will now let those little hands that still belong to you help, by God’s bidding to open to you the golden gates of Eternal Life wide-wide so that you his Father may like a King of Glory enter in & be at rest an wear the crown of righteousness and redemption.
Every time you think of that child it will be a prayer-every thought is a prayer-link prayer to prayer (with him) till prayer becomes yr. Life with him-till Baby utterances have eternal meaning and he teaches you as you used to teach him-because he has been the first perfected to that perfectness you are both born unto-and both will attain for God so loved you most tenderly to give you that precious Child and still more tenderly did he love you when he removed it for a season to draw you all the nearer to Him and Heaven-I believe all these things most deeply-More shame to me that I often in conduct wander from the rooted belief I have-but God knows I believe it-and God knows that at every conception as at every birth I prayed ardently for life eternal for my offspring and every daily event that befalls every precious child I have felt equally that they belong to God-and that I at best can do but little for them if unaided by His mighty Power.
I have often lately wondered why I held this present life so dear a thing for them & even now if I did not pray perpetually that they might be granted strength & faith to weather the storms of temptation and of trial I should I am quite sure suffer as much in having, as you have suffered in losing a Child & who knows what is reserved to a Parent who has children living of suffering for them and in them-& with them yet I believe all is finally blessed so long as we commend all to God.
It is because I love you dear Halford and reverence you and honour you that I write thus in confidence to you giving you the best of my Love the undying and unfading side of our poor beating breaking bereaved hearts-We all have our losses & cares-those of Earth weigh us down-those in Heaven will lift us up with Angels Wings and bear us on high-above the storm. Your Babe was like a Cherub & Seraph Babe-We did not see his Angel Wings but they were there and now the divine Energies & Offices of Heaven are upon him and he is strong eno’ to help you upwards all those who so devotedly loved him and so deeply grieve for him-
His sweet mother & my best beloved Mia know what I feel with my Mother Heart-
May God restore their strength which is at a low ebb with both I too well know.
Yours in perfect sympathy pity-tenderness and sadness of love
Julia Margaret Cameron
(A letter from Julia Margaret Cameron to H.H. Vaughan, 5 April 1859).