Sarah Vaughan's Lending Library


“The manifest design of learning is, either to render a man an agreeable companion to himself, or a useful member to society; to teach him to support solitude with pleasure, or to pass through promiscuous temptation with prudence; to assist him in managing an estate, if born to one; or if not, to furnish him with the means of acquiring one. A person who applies himself to learning with the first of these views, may be said to study for ornament; as he who propose to himself the latter, properly studies for use.”

The Amusing Instructor: or Tales and Fables in Prose and Verse, For the Improvement of Youth, 1777


Portrait of Sarah Manning Vaughan, aged 76, and Benjamin Vaughan, aged 78.

Sarah Manning Vaughan portraits, age 26 and 76, against a background of Dutch floral brocade, by Tara McGowan.



As Sarah Manning Vaughan transitioned from the role of mother to that of grandmother, her activities in the community expanded beyond her immediate family. She could frequently be seen traveling around Hallowell in a horse and cart to distribute food, clothing, and, of course, to lend out books. 

In her obituary in the Hallowell Gazette of 1834, Sarah was remembered particularly for

...that habitual kindness which always prompted her to relieve distress and to promote the happiness of those around her--and the pleasure she took in personally administering to the comforts of others during a long life...Allied to this beneficent disposition, was the deep interest which she took in youth and children--in their education--in their pleasures and morals. This was not confined to children of her friends, though they were in the way to receive more constantly the tokens of her kindness, but extended to all who came within the range of her acquaintance.  

The Vaughans chose to live simply and to avoid signs of ostentation, but they did send their children at regular intervals to England to stay with relatives and to learn about the wider world. Sarah and Benjamin, for their part, never returned to England, much to the sadness of their family and friends, particularly the Marquess of Lansdowne, who had always viewed Benjamin as a surrogate son.  


People of the World, but not Worldly 


Contes Moraux,

Inscription by Sarah Vaughan Junior.

The inscription on the inside cover of the first volume of Contes Moraux is signed "Sarah Vaughan" in different ink and in a hand that looks like that of Sarah Manning Vaughan. It seems likely that Sarah Vaughan Junior added the "Junr" (Junior) and the inscription later on, but with so many Sarahs in the family, it is not always possible to be absolutely certain.


Moral Sketches for Young Minds

The Young Moralist, consisting of Allegorical and Entertaining Essays, in Prose and Verse;

Detail from frontispiece engraving for The Young Moralist.


In the frontispiece engraving for The Young Moralist, consisting of Allegorical and Entertaining Essays, in Prose and Verse; compiled from Various Authors; Chiefly Designed to implant the Principles of Virtue and Morality in the Minds of Young Gentlement and Ladies, we see a solitary young man, reading a book beside a river much like the Kennebec, and on a tombstone nearby are the words:

Life glides away, Lorenzo, like a brook. Forever changing, unperceived the change.

Although it may be difficult today to imagine young people choosing to read such didactic fare, the well-read state of these little volumes suggests otherwise. 

Ticklepitcher's Fables below appears to have been so well loved, in fact, that Sarah had to resurrect some of the stories by hand, stitching new pages into the worn binding. 

Tales and Fables selected by T. Ticklepitcher from the works of eminent Writers... for the Improvement and Instruction of the Rising Generation

Sarah and Benjamin Vaughan's Later Years

In Old Hallowell on the Kennebec, Emma Huntington Nason (1909) provides us with a first-hand account of the influence of Benjamin and Sarah Vaughan's library on the younger generation in the Hallowell community, including John and Jacob Abbott, who later became such important figures in early American children's literature. Nason quotes John S. C. Abbott:

Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Vaughan, whose names I can never speak but with the most profound emotions of reverence and affection, opened their spacious library every week to the children of the village. It contained, among its other literary treasures, as choice a collection of juvenile books as money could afford. Every Saturday afternoon the children were accustomed to cluster on the piazza of the spacious mansion to exchange these well-read volumes. One good mother in Hallowell, whose five sons imbibed from this library such tastes that they all passed through Bowdoin College and Andover Theological Seminary, said to one of them: 'You children will never be able to appreciate the debt of gratitude you owe to the Vaughan family'

Portrait of Sarah Manning Vaughan, aged 76, and Benjamin Vaughan, aged 78.

Portrait of Sarah Manning Vaughan, aged 76, and Benjamin Vaughan, aged 78.



John Abbott's portrait of Sarah Vaughan perfectly coincides with the image of her that emerges from the manuscripts and books in the APS archive:

Mrs. Vaughan...was a very lovely woman full of vivacity and activity, with a face beaming with intelligence. I can now see her questioning the children as to what they had read, and, with her slight and fragile form, nimbly ascending the library steps and selecting such a book as she thought best adapted to the capacity of the child...I can yet recall the intensity of pleasurable emotion with which those precious volumes were read during the long evenings of a Maine winter. The influence of this library upon that little community was very remarkable; so much so that in the social gatherings of the children which were of their principle joys was to entertain each other with the recital of original stories, made up extempore upon the occasion.

Although literature from the early national period (1780-1830) has often been described as didactic and uninspired compared with the later literature for children that emerged in America, it is evident that these books, when supplemented by the interactive and enlightened conversation at which Sarah Manning Vaughan so naturally excelled, had ample power "To breathe th' inspiring spirit, and to fix The generous purpose in the glowing breast" of a new generation of American authors. 




The Rising Generation: The Books of Jacob Abbott