Biography of Thomas Haynes Bayly
Thomas Haynes Bayly was born in Bath, Somerset, England on October 13, 1797. He was the only child of lawyer Nathaniel Bayly. Bayly began his interest in verse at an early age, dramatizing tales from his storybooks at the age of seven. Thomas Bayly began his writing career under the pseudonym “Q. in the Corner,” publishing Rough Sketches of Bath under this name; it was the first volume of poetry that dealt with Bath society. Bayly began studying law alongside his father in 1814 but was soon allowed to quit after realizing that it did not align with his literary aspirations. While allowing him to quit the legal profession, Bayly’s father pushed him to enter St. Mary Hall of the University of Oxford. Through this institution, Bayly formed a romantic relationship with Thomas Walter Clark Darby’s sister. Following her death, Bayly published two works under his real name, The Tribute of a Friend and Mournful Recollections.
After his time in Oxford, Bayly traveled to Scotland and to Ireland. While in Dublin, Ireland, Bayly published various works including Melodies of Various Nations (1820-1825) and Outlines of Edinburgh, and Other Poems (1822). Bayly returned to Bath in 1823, where he soon after met Helena Beecher Hayes. Hayes and Bayly married on July 11, 1826, and had their first daughter in 1827, the same year in which Bayly published his first novel. Bayly and his family moved to London in 1829 where Bayly began a new career as a dramatist. His most famous plays include Sold for a Song and Perfection. Bayly gained popularity as a dramatist and had successful runs with Perfection in New York, London, and Philadelphia.
Following this success, Bayly suffered major financial problems. The coal mines in which Bayly had been investing were no longer productive and Bayly had acquired his father’s debt, forcing him and his wife to live abroad in Boulogne and later on in Paris. During his time in Paris, Bayly continued to write plays in order to support his family, many of which were very small successes, with the exception of one or two plays that were “revived several times in the following decades” (Coleman). In 1836 Bayly and his wife moved back to London, despite still having financial troubles. They had their second daughter in 1837, the same year Bayly encountered a series of health issues, suffering from tuberculosis encephalitis, followed by an attack of “brain fever” that led to liver failure. Bayly died on April 22, 1839.
Bayly is remembered not only as a popular writer of sentimental verses and tunes but also as “one of England’s most popular balladeers” (Coleman). Although during the nineteenth century Bayly’s earlier works may have been admired “for their wit and humor,” other critics viewed the simplicity of his works as “shallow imitations” of other writers. Bayly’s new career as a dramatist during the 1830s gained him a reputation for writing plays that were “well suited to the middle-class theaters.” Most of Bayly’s plays were short and comedic, the comedy arising from “social situations – arranged or unequal marriages – in which the characters are placed” (Coleman). Audiences could relate to the dramas as Bayly made sure that the plays portrayed ideal women and domesticity as it was seen during the 19th century.
Coleman, Carla, and Angela Courtney. "Thomas Haynes Bayly." Nineteenth-Century British
Dramatists, vol. 344. Literature Resource Center,
u=viva_vpi&sid=LitRC&xid=ecd9c790. Accessed 3 Apr. 2019.
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