Vernon, George (1637-1720) (DNB00)


VERNON, GEORGE (1637–1720), divine, born in 1637, was a native of Cheshire, but his name does not figure in the pedigree of any branches of the well-known Cheshire family of Vernon (Ormerod, Cheshire, iii. passim). He was admitted as a servitor at Brasenose College, Oxford, on 17 March 1653–4, and graduated B.A. in October 1657 and M.A. in July 1660. Having taken holy orders, he became chaplain of All Souls', and in 1663 rector of Sarsden, Oxfordshire. Subsequently he was appointed rector of Bourton-on-the-Water, Gloucestershire.

In 1670, in an anonymous ‘Letter to a Friend concerning some of Dr. John Owen's Principles and Practices, with a Postscript to the Author of the late Ecclesiastical Polity [Samuel Parker],’ Vernon made a violent attack upon that nonconformist divine, whom he charges with having broken his oath to observe the Oxford statutes, the oaths of allegiance and canonical obedience, and even the ‘solemn league and covenant.’ Owen had ‘played at Bo-peep with the dreadful name of God in his most solemn appeals unto him;’ had been a Machiavel to Cromwell, and was the implacable enemy both of Charles I and his successor. To the ‘Letter’ Vernon appended ‘An Independent Catechism made in Imitation of Dr. Owen's Catechism at the end of the Book against Mr. John Biddle.’ He himself wished to remain anonymous, as being ‘cloistered in obscurity, known to few, and enemy to no man.’

Vernon next entered into a controversy with his neighbour in Gloucestershire, Sir Thomas Overbury the younger, by publishing ‘Ataxiæ Obstaculum: an Answer to certain Queries entitled “Queries dispers'd in some parts of Gloucestershire,”’ 1677, 8vo. His object he declares to have been ‘to remove false pretences of conscience in matters of religion, and to defend the magistrate's power in the same.’ Overbury rejoined [see Sir Overbury, Thomas]. Vernon's last and principal work was his ‘Life of the Learned and Reverend Dr. Peter Heylin,’ originally published in 1681 with Heylyn's ‘Historical and Miscellaneous Tracts.’ It was reissued in 1682 with dedications to two Henry Heylyns (son and nephew of the subject), on account of a dispute with Barnard, a rival biographer, to whom the work had been submitted by desire of the publisher [see art. Heylyn, Peter, authorities]. In his preface Vernon says he was not personally acquainted with Heylyn, and undertook the work ‘with some unwillingness.’ He was induced to write it ‘out of reverence to his memory, and the honour he owed to some of his nearest relations,’ as well as for public reasons. He attacks Heylyn's opponent Baxter, and charges him with an act of inhumanity towards a certain Major Jennings during the great rebellion. In the body of the work Vernon labours to disprove the story of Heylyn's clandestine marriage, which Barnard, the divine's own son-in-law, says he cannot justify. As a writer he defends him against the strictures of Burnet. He deals at some length with Heylyn's works, of which he appends a catalogue. Barnard, in his own biography, deals very contemptuously with Vernon's work, concurring only in his treatment of Baxter (see ‘A Necessary Vindication,’ prefixed to his Life of Heylyn, 1683).

Vernon died on 17 Dec. 1720. On the north wall of the chancel of Bourton-on-the-Water church is a handsome pyramidal monument of marble, with inscription to himself and his wife, as well as to their two sons, Thomas and Richard. It was erected by his daughter, Dorothy Vernon, who in 1764 bequeathed by her will to All Souls', Oxford, the advowson of Bourton. Of Vernon's sons, Richard (1674–1752) succeeded him as rector of Bourton-on-the-Water, and died on 18 Feb. 1752; and Charles (1679–1736) became vicar of West Ham, Essex, in 1705, and rector of Shadwell St. Paul, Middlesex, in 1725, dying on 20 July 1736.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iv. 605–6; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Rudder's New Hist. of Gloucestershire, pp. 304–5; Vernon's Works.]

G. Le G. N.