Vaughan, Thomas (1622–1666)
British alchemist and poet, who wrote under the pseudonym
Eugenius Philalethes. He was born April 17, 1622, at Newton,
Breconshire, the younger twin brother of poet Henry Vaughan.
He matriculated at Oxford and entered Jesus College, Oxford
University, becoming a fellow of his college. In 1640, at the age
of eighteen, he received the living [i.e., the income as parish
priest] of St. Bridget’s [Church of England], Breconshire, and
on February 18, 1642, the B.A. degree. He was a royalist during
the Civil War and in 1658 was accused of ‘‘drunkenness, swearing,
and incontinency, being no preacher,’’ and deprived of the
living of St. Bridget’s. However, this may have been no more
than high spirits. He became a devoted student of chemistry,
following his research both in Oxford and London, under the
patronage of Sir Robert Murray. He died February 27, 1666,
at the rectory of Albury, Oxfordshire, allegedly from inhalation
of fumes of mercury, upon which he was experimenting.
Vaughan was an ardent follower of Cornelius Agrippa, to
whom, as he stated, ‘‘he acknowledged that, next to God, he
owed all that he had.’’ He claimed to be a philosopher of nature
rather than a vulgar alchemist. In one of his manuscripts he recorded
strange dreams of premonitions that he had experienced
and prayed for forgiveness of past errors, including former
revels and drunkenness. Although he published a
translation of a Rosicrucian work with a preface by himself, he
explicitly stated that he was not a member of any such fraternity.
Under the pseudonym of Eugenius Philalethes, he published
a number of books including Anthroposophia Theomagica,
with Anima Magica (London, 1650; Amsterdam, 1704; and in
German, Leipzig, 1749); Magia Adamica; or the Antiquities of
Magic (London, 1650, 1656; Amsterdam, 1704, in German),
Lumen de Lumine (London, 1651; Hof, 1750, in German), Aula
Lucis; or the House of Light (London, 1652), Euphrates; or the Waters
of the East (London, 1655, Stockholm & Hamburg, 1689, in
German), and The Chymists Key to shut, and to open; or the True
Doctrine of Corruption and Generation (London, 1657). He contributed
verses for Thomas Powell’s Elementa Opticæ (1651), for
the English translation of Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult
Philosophy (1651), and William Cartwright’s Comedies
(1651). A collection of his Latin verses was included at the end
of Henry Vaughan’s Thalia Rediviva (1678).
Vaughan was falsely identified with the mystical writer
‘‘Eirenæus Philalethes’’ through the Diana Vaughan writings
of Leo Taxil (pseudonym of Gabriel Jogand-Pagés), who also
popularized a false legend of a pact between him and Satan.