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Hilda Vaughan

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Hilda Campbell Vaughan (married name Morgan, 12 June 1892 – 4 November 1985) was a Welsh novelist and short story writer writing in English. Her ten, varied novels, set mostly in her native Radnorshire, concern rural communities and heroines. Her first was The Battle to the Weak (1925) and her last The Candle and the Light (1954). She was married to the writer Charles Langbridge Morgan, who had an influence on her writings. Although favourably received by her contemporaries, Vaughan later received minimal critical attention. Rediscovery began in the 1980s and 1990s, as part of a renewed interest in Welsh literature in English.


Early years[edit]

Vaughan was born in Builth Wells, Powys, then the county of Breconshire, into a prosperous family, as the youngest daughter of Hugh Vaughan Vaughan and Eva (née Campbell). Her father was a successful country solicitor and held various public offices in the neighbouring county of Radnorshire.[1] She was a descendant of the 17th-century poet Henry Vaughan.[2]

Vaughan was educated privately, and remained at home until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, after which she served in a Red Cross hospital and for the Women's Land Army in Breconshire and Radnorshire. Her work brought her into contact with women living on the local farms, and would become an influence on her writing.[3] At the end of the war she left home for London. While she was attending a writing course at Bedford College, she met the novelist Charles Langbridge Morgan. They were married on 6 June 1923 and then spent nine years in a flat in Chelsea.[1] In December 1924, Vaughan gave birth to the couple's first child, Elizabeth Shirley.

First major writings[edit]

On her husband's advice, Vaughan decided not to publish The Invader as her first novel. Instead she opted for The Battle to the Weak (1925), whose manuscript Morgan had extensively edited. Both being writers, the couple were equipped to guide and advise each other on literary matters.[4] Christopher Newman noted that although her literary technique would develop throughout her career, this novel contains "virtually all the themes developed in her later works", especially those of duty and self-sacrifice.[5] The novel was favourably received, with reviews noting its accomplished character, despite being her first.[6]

In 1926, Vaughan gave birth to the couple's second child, Roger. The success of her first novel was repeated in this same year with the publication of the novel Here Are Lovers. When The Invader was finally published in 1928, it was also favourably received, being considered by Country Life to be "one of the best novels of the year".[6] Her next two novels, Her Father's House (1930) and The Soldier and the Gentlewoman (1932) were also critically acclaimed.[6] The latter, probably her most successful novel, was dramatised and produced at the Vaudeville Theatre, London.[1]

The Vaudeville Theatre, London, c. 1905, where a drama based on Vaughan's novel The Soldier and the Gentlewoman (1932) was performed

Later writings[edit]

Her subsequent novels, The Curtain Rises (1935), Harvest Home (1936), The Fair Woman (1942), Pardon and Peace (1945) and The Candle and the Light (1954) were also favourably received, but with less fervour.[6] With the outbreak of the Second World War, Charles sent Vaughan along with their children to the United States, where they stayed there from 1939 to 1943, and The Fair Woman was published whilst there,[1] although it was later published in England under the title Iron and Gold (1948). An exception to this more muted success was the short story or novella A Thing of Nought (1934; revised edition 1948), which returns to some of the same themes as The Battle to the Weak.[7] As well as being critically acclaimed, it was an unexpected commercial success to the extent that it was out of print within four days of publication.[8] During this time, Vaughan also wrote two plays with Laurier Lister: She Too was Young (1938), which was performed at Wyndham's Theatre, London; and Forsaking All Other, which was never performed.[1]

Final years and death[edit]

The 1950s and 1960s were a time of disappointment for Vaughan, in which she sought unsuccessfully to have earlier work re-issued.[9] In 1957 she visited the West Indies with Charles, as it was thought the climate might benefit his ailing health. However, the visit proved ineffectual and he died the following year. Her own health being also affected, Vaughan would publish no more novels, and only minimal writing for the remainder of her life. Her final piece was an introduction to Thomas Traherne's Centuries, published in 1960, in which she offers an account of her religious faith in terms that are described as "quasi-mystical".[10] In 1963 she was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.[1]

Hilda Vaughan died on 4 November 1985 at a nursing home in Putney, London, and was buried at Diserth, Radnorshire.[1] She and her husband were survived by their daughter and son. The former married the Marquess of Anglesey in 1948, thereby becoming a marchioness. Their son, Roger Morgan, is a former librarian of the House of Lords.[11]


Vaughan's work was favourably received by her contemporaries, and her works were reviewed by publications across the world.[12] During her own lifetime, her reputation was overshadowed by that of her husband,[13] especially after the publication in 1932 of his novel The Fountain.[14] However, her reputation declined towards the end of her life, and she received minimal critical attention in subsequent years.[15] As an example of her status, Vaughan's entry for the Encyclopedia of British Women's Writing 1900–1950 is as one of the "'recovered' writers", whose entries are briefer than the "better known writers".[14][16]

For some time, Gustav Felix Adam’s Three Contemporary Anglo-Welsh Novelists: Jack Jones, Rhys Davies and Hilda Vaughan (1950) constituted the last critical analysis of her work, and was not entirely complimentary.[17] In Glyn Jones's The Dragon Has Two Tongues (1968), considered a seminal analysis of the tradition of Welsh literature in English, Vaughan is mentioned only once, as one of those who "write about the squirearchy and its anglicized capers."[18] A significant contribution to her legacy was Christopher Newman's biography of her, published in 1981. On this subject, Newman considers "her claims to be remembered... are two: first she extended the English regional novel to the "Southern Marches", the land [known as] rhwng Gwy a Hafren; secondly, that in doing so, she made a significant addition to Anglo-Welsh writing."[19] During the 1980s and 1990s, Vaughan's work became incorporated into a renewed analysis of Anglo-Welsh writers and writing.[20]




  • She Too Was Young (1938, with Laurier Lister)
  • Forsaking All Other (with Laurier Lister; never performed)



  • 'A country childhood.' In: Lovat Dickson's Magazine, October 1934.
  • 'Far away: not long ago.' In: Lovat Dickson's Magazine, January 1935.
  • 'Introduction' to Thomas Traherne's Centuries. Faith Press, London. 1960. (pp. xi–xxi).[21]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Stephens, Meic. "Vaughan [married name Morgan], Hilda Campbell". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/62359. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ "Writers as they see themselves". Country Life. 141: 680. 1960.
  3. ^ Thomas 2008, p. 7.
  4. ^ Thomas 2008, p. 10.
  5. ^ Newman p. 24.
  6. ^ a b c d Thomas 2008, p. 12.
  7. ^ Vaughan, Hilda. "Foreword". In Fflur Dafydd. The Battle to the Weak. Cardiff: Parthian. p. xiv.
  8. ^ Thomas 2008, p. 13.
  9. ^ Thomas 2008, p. 18.
  10. ^ Newman pp. 81–82.
  11. ^ "History of the House of Lords Library" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 January 2012. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  12. ^ Thomas 2008, p. 15.
  13. ^ Thomas 2008, p. 11.
  14. ^ a b Thomas, Lucy (2006). "Vaughan, Hilda 1892–1985". In Faye Hammill, Ashlie Sponenberg and Esme Miskimmin. Encyclopedia of British Women's Writing 1900-1950. Houndsmill: Palgrave Macmillan.
  15. ^ Newman p. 6.
  16. ^ Hammill p. xi.
  17. ^ Thomas 2008, p. 19.
  18. ^ Jones, Glyn (2001). Tony Brown, ed. The Dragon Has Two Tongues: Essays on Anglo-Welsh Writers and Writing (Rev. ed.). Great Britain: U of Wales P. ISBN 0-7083-1693-X.
  19. ^ Newman p. 79.
  20. ^ Thomas 2008, p. 20.
  21. ^ Newman pp. 83–86.