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Thomas Haynes Bayley (1797-1839), from Songs, Ballads, and other poems, 1844. Courtesy Internet Archive.

Thomas Haynes Bayly
Born October 13 1797(1797-Template:MONTHNUMBER-13)
Died April 22 1839(1839-Template:MONTHNUMBER-22) (aged 41)
Nationality United Kingdom English
Occupation poet, songwriter, playwright, & miscellaneous writer

Nathaniel Thomas Haynes Bayly[1] (13 October 1797 - 22 April 1839) was an English poet, songwriter, playwright, and novelist.[2]



Bayly was the son of a wealthy lawyer in Bath. Originally intended for the law, he changed his mind and thought of entering the Church, but abandoned this idea also, and gave himself to writing for the stage and the periodical press. He is chiefly known for his songs, of which he wrote hundreds, which, set to the music of Bishop and other eminent composers, found universal acceptance. Some were set to his own music. He also wrote several novels and a number of farces, etc. Although making a large income from his writings, in addition to that of his wife, he fell into embarrassed circumstances. Among the best known of his songs are "I'd be a Butterfly," "Oh, no, we never mention Her," and "She wore a Wreath of Roses." He may be regarded as, excepting Moore, the most popular song writer of his time.[3]

Youth and education[]

Bayly was born at Bath, Somerset, the only child of Mr. Nathaniel Bayly, an influential citizen of Bath, and on the maternal side was nearly related to the Earl of Stamford and Warrington and the Baroness Le Despencer. At a very early age Bayly displayed a talent for verse, and in his 8th year was found dramatising a tale out of one of his story books.[2]

On his removal to Winchester he amused himself by producing a weekly newspaper, which recorded the proceedings of the master and pupils in the school.[2]

On attaining his 17th year he entered his father's office for the purpose of studying the law, but soon devoted himself to writing humorous articles for the public journals, and produced a small volume entitled Rough Sketches of Bath.[2]

Desiring at length some more serious occupation, he proposed to enter the church. His father encouraged his views, and entered him at St. Mary Hall, Oxford; but although Bayly remained at the university for 3 years, "he did not apply himself to the pursuit of academical honours."[2]

To console himself after an early love disappointment, Bayly travelled in Scotland, and afterwards visited Dublin. He mingled in the best society of the Irish capital, and it was here that he distinguished himself in private theatricals, and achieved his earliest successes as a ballad writer.[2]


[Wikimedia Commons.]] Bayly returned to London in January 1824. Having given up all idea of the church, he had formed the determination to win fame as a lyric poet.[2]

In 1826 he was married to the daughter of Mr. Benjamin Hayes, Marble Hill, co. Cork. The profits from his literary labours were at the time very considerable, and his income was increased by his wife's dowry. While the young couple were staying at Lord Ashtown's villa called Chessel, on the Southampton river, Bayly wrote, under romantic circumstances, the song "I'd be a Butterfly," which quickly secured universal popularity.[2]

Not long afterwards he produced a novel entitled The Aylmers, in 3 volumes; another tale, called A Legend of Killarney, written during a visit to that part of Ireland; and numerous songs and ballads, which appeared in 2 volumes, named respectively Loves of the Butterflies and Songs of the Old Château.[2]

Breaking up his establishment at Bath, Bayly moved back to London. There he applied himself to writing ballads as well as pieces for the stage, some of which became immediately popular.[2]

This was not the good fortune, however, of the play Perfection, now regarded as his best dramatic work. Bayly scrawled the whole of this little comedy in his notebook during a journey by stagecoach from Bath to London. It was declined by many theatrical managers, but ultimately Madame Vestris, to whom it was submitted, discovered its merits and produced it, the favorite actress herself appearing in it. Lord Chesterfield, who was present on the 1st night, declared that he never saw a better farce. The piece became a great favourite at private theatricals, and once was produced with a cast including the Marchioness of Londonderry, Lord Castlereagh, and Sir Roger Griesly. Perfection was succeeded by a series of popular dramas from the same pen.[2]

The year 1831 found Bayly overwhelmed by financial difficulties. He had invested his marriage portion in coal mines, which proved unproductive. The agent who managed Mrs. Bayly's property in Ireland failed to render a satisfactory account of his trust. Another agent was afterwards found, who again made the property pay; but Bayly in the meanwhile fell into a condition of despondency, and lost for a time the light and graceful touch which had made his verse so popular. He also suffered in health, though a temporary sojourn in France enabled him to recover much of his former mental elasticity.[2]

A poem he wrote at this time, "The Bridesmaid," drew a flattering letter from Sir Robert Peel, and formed the subject of a remarkable picture by a leading artist of the day. After his loss of fortune, Bayly wrote diligently for the stage, and in a short time he had produced no fewer than 36 dramatic pieces.[2]

In 1837 appeared his Weeds of Witchery, a volume which caused a French critic to describe him as the Anacreon of English romance.[4]

Illness and death[]

An attack of brain-fever prevented him from writing a work of fiction for which he had entered into an arrangement with Messrs. Bentley; but from this illness he recovered, only, however, to suffer from other and more painful diseases.[4]

He still hoped to recover, but dropsy succeeded to confirmed jaundice, and on 22 April 1839 he expired. He was buried at Cheltenham, his epitaph being written by his friend Theodore Hook.[4]


Many of Bayly's songs are familiar wherever the English language is spoken. Amongst the most popular are "The Soldier's Tear," "I never was a Favourite," "We met—'twas in a Crowd," "She wore a Wreath of Roses," "I'd be a Butterfly," "Oh, no, we never mention her;" and of humorous ballads, "Why don't the Men propose," and "My Married Daughter could you see." There is no lofty strain in any of Bayly's productions, but in nearly all there is lightness and ease in expression, which fully account for their continued popularity.[4]

"He possessed a playful fancy, a practised ear, a refined taste, and a sentiment which ranged pleasantly from the fanciful to the pathetic, without, however, strictly attaining either the highly imaginative or the deeply passionate" (D. M. Moir).[4]

In addition to his songs and ballads, which have been "numbered by hundreds," and his numerous pieces for the stage, the following is a list of Bayly's works: 1. The Aylmers, a novel. 2. Kindness in Women, tales. 3. Parliamentary Letters, and other poems. 4. Rough Sketches of Bath. 5. Weeds of Witchery.[4]



  • Epistles from Bath; or, Q.'s letters to his Yorkshire relations; and miscellaneous poems. Bath UK: Meyler, 1817.
  • Rough Sketches of Bath: Epistles, and other poems. Bath, UK: Meyler, 1818; London: Baldwin, Cradock, & Joy, 1819.
  • Parliamentary Letters, and other poems. Bath, UK: Meyler / London: Baldwin, Cradock, & Joy, 1819.
  • The Tribute of a Friend. Oxford, UK: J. Vincent, 1819.
  • Mournful Recollections. Oxford, UK: J. Vincent, 1820.
  • Outlines of Edinburgh, and other poems. London: W. Anderson, 1822.
  • Erin, and other poems. Dublin: Richard Milliken, 1822.
  • Psychae; or, Songs on Butterflies, &c. Malton, 1828.
  • Fifty Lyrical Ballads. Bath, UK: Mary Meyler, 1829.
  • Musings and Prosings. Boulogne, France: printed by F. Birlé, 1833.
  • Flowers of Loveliness: Twelve groups of female figures, emblematic of flowers. London: Ackermann, 1837.
  • Weeds of Witchery. London: Ackermann, 1837.
  • Songs and Ballads. London: D'Almaine, 1837.
  • Songs, Ballads, and other poems (edited by his widow). (2 volumes), London: R. Bentley, 1844. Volume I, Volume II
  • Songs of the Affections (edited by W.L. Hanchant). London: D. Harmsworth, 1932.


  • Perfection; or, The lady of Munster: A comedy in one act. London: Samuel French, 1830;
  • Forty and Fifty: A farce in one act. London: Chapman & Hall, 1835.
  • Comfortable Service: An entirely original farce in one act. London: William Strange, 1836.
  • The Daughter: A drama in one act. London: William Strange, 1836.
  • A Gentleman in Difficulties: An entirely original farce in one act. London: William Strange, 1836.
  • How Do You Mange? A farce in one act. London: William Strange, 1836.
  • The Barrack Room: A musical burletta in two acts. London: 1837; New York: Dramatic Publishing, 1883.
  • One Hour; or, The carnival ball: An original burletta in one act. London: J. Dicks, 1836; London: Chapman & Hall, 1838.
  • The Swiss Cottage; or, Why don't she marry? A musical burletta in two acts. 1836.
  • The Ladder of Love: A musical drama in one act. London: William Strange, 1837.
  • The British Legion: A burletta in one act. London: Chapman & Hall, 1838.
  • You Can't Marry Your Grandmother: An original petite comedy, in two acts. London: Chapman & Hall, 1838; London: Webster, 1838.
  • My Little Adopted: A farce in one act. London: Chapman & Hall, 1838.
  • The Spitalfields Weaver: A burletta in one act. London: Chapman & Hall, 1838.
  • Mr. Greenfinch: A farce in two acts. London: Chapman & Hall, 1838.
  • The Culprit: An original farce in one act. London: Chapman & Hall, 1838.
  • Tom Noddy's Secret: A farce in one act. London: Chapman & Hall, 1838; New York: Samuel French, 1840.


Short fiction[]

  • Musings and Prosings. Boulogne, France: F. Birlé, 1833.
  • Kindness in Women: Tales. London: Richard Bentley, 1837; London & New York: Routledge, Warne & Routledge, 1862.


  • The Dandies of the Present, and the Macarones of the Past. Bath, UK: J. Barrett, 1819.
  • Small Talk. Oxford, UK: J. Vincent, 1820.

Long, Long Ago (Thomas Haynes Bayly) - National Taiwan University Chorus

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[5]



Oh Ask Me Not for Sportive Lays By Thomas Haynes Bayly

  • "Gaily the Troubadour touched his Guitar"
  • "I'd Be a Butterfly"
  • "I'll hang my Harp on a Willow Tree"
  • "The Mistletoe Bough"
  • "Long, Long Ago"
  • "Oh, no! We Never Mention Her"
  • "Oh, Pilot! 'tis a Fearful Night"
  • "She wore a Wreath of Roses"
  • "We Met, 'twas in a Crowd"

See also[]


Fairies In Winter a poem by Thomas Haynes Bayly


  •  Smith, George Barnett (1885) "Bayly, Thomas Haynes" in Stephen, Leslie Dictionary of National Biography 3 London: Smith, Elder, pp. 451-452 
  •  Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Bayly, Thomas Haynes". Encyclopædia Britannica. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 557. 


  1. Nathaniel Thomas Haynes Bayly, Oxford Companion to English Literature (edited by Dinah Birch), Oxford University Press, 2009. Oxford Reference, Web, Apr. 26, 2016.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 Smith, 451.
  3. John William Cousin, "Bayly, Thomas Haynes," A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature, 1910, 25. Web, Dec. 11, 2017.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Smith, 452.
  5. Search results = au:Thomas Haynes Bayly, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Apr. 25-26, 2016.

External links[]

Audio / video

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain, the 1911 Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. Original article is at Bayly, Thomas Haynes
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain, the Dictionary of National Biography (edited by Leslie Stephen). London: Smith, Elder, 1885-1900. Original article is at: Bayly, Thomas Haynes