1883 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Haynes Bayly

William Bates, in Maclise Gallery (1883; 1898) 512-14.



To obviate any such confounding of persons, a word or two may be said about THOMAS HAYNES BAYLY, — a poet of altogether another stamp [than F. W. N Bayley], — of infinitely greater sparkle, elegance, refinement and tenderness. Possibly Horace might not unfairly describe such poems as those which he produced, as — "Versus inopes rerum, nugaeque canorae," — but still, as a lyric poet, Bayly possessed no mean ability, and his songs are all that is easy and graceful. He was author of two or three novels which I happen never to have read; and some thirty or forty pieces for the stage, which I never saw. Older theatre-goers may, however, remember his Tom Noddy's Secret, Perfection, etc.; and every one knows his beautiful songs, "Oh no, we never mention her," and "I'd be a Butterfly," which were the charm of every London drawing-room, while the writer was pining in sickness and distress. There is a charming little volume, PSYCHAE; or Songs of Butterflies. By T. H. Bayly, attempted in Latin Rhyme by the Rev. Francis Wrangham, M.A., F.R.S. (Arch-deacon of the East Riding of York), of which a few copies only were printed at Malton (1828, 8vo), for private distribution. In it occurs the following exquisite version of the song I have spoken of:—

Ah sim Papilio, natus in flosculo,
Rosae ubi liliaque et violae patent;
Floribus advolans, avolans, osculo
Gemmulas tangens, quae suave olent!
Regna et opes ego neutiquam postulo,
Nolo ego ad pedes qui se volutent—
Ah sim Papilio, natus in flosculo,
Osculans gemmas quae suave olent!

Magicam si possem virgam furari,
Alas has pulchras aptem mi, eheu!
Aestivis actis diebus in aere,
Rosa cubant Philomelae cantu.
Opes quid afferunt? Curas, somnum rare;
Regna nil proctor aerumnas, eheu!
Ah sim Papilio, die volans aere,
Rosa cubans Philomelae cantu!

Quemque horum vagulum dicis horrore
Frigora Autumni ferire suo;
Alstas quando abiit, mallem ego mori,
Omni quod dulce est cadente pulchro.
Brumae qui cupiunt captent labore
Gaudia, et moras breves trahunto—
Ah sim Papilio; vivam in errore,
Concidamque omni cadente pulchro.
F. W. January, 1828.

One, and probably the best known, of Bayly's dramatic pieces, Perfection, had to contend with many difficulties before it found its way to the public. It was originally offered to a minor theatre, where Mrs. Waylett was performing; but was rejected, though subsequently that graceful actress made the principal part, "Kate O'Brien," one of her most successful characters. After this rejection, it was submitted to the manager of Covent Garden Theatre, during the engagement of Miss Foote, afterwards Countess of Harrington; but was once more rejected, though the Irish heroine afterwards became one of this charming lady's favourite parts, when acting in the Provinces. Finally it was fortunately offered to Drury Lane; and, instantly accepted by the management, achieved a great success in the original cast of Madame Vestris, and Mrs. Orger, supported by Messrs. Webster, Jones and Browne.

This play has been rather a favourite with amateur performers; and its personae have had aristocratic representatives. Thus, on the occasion of the Christmas Festivities at Brakelow, January 1st, 1831, after the performance of Lady Dacre's comedy, A Match or No Match, it was successfully enacted by Viscount Castlereagh, the Marchioness of Londonderry, Lady Sophia Gresley, Sir Roger Gresley, and Mr. Lister. Perfection is printed in a very scarce volume entitled Musings and .Prosings, by Thomas Haynes Bayly (Boulogne, 1833, 8vo), where also will be found the capital Fashionable Eclogues, Lunatic Lays, sundry poems and songs, and The Proof of the Pudding, a burletta in one act, founded on and partly translated from the Vatel of Scribe, and performed at the Olympic, under the management of Madame Vestris.

Another volume in my hands, — rare also, as printed for private distribution only, — is Fifty Original Ballads, by Thomas Haynes Bayly (Bath, Printed by Mary Meyler, 1829, 4to, pp. 8vo). This is dedicated, "on the plea of relationship," to the Earl of Stamford and Warrington; the fact being that the great-grandfather of the preceding Earl, and of the father of the poet, were brothers.

Mr. Bayly was thus of good family; and was born in 1797, in Bath, where his father was a solicitor in good position. The latter made ample provision for his son; but this was lost through the rascality of a trustee. The young man, who was in every sense a gentleman, of handsome person and distinguished manners, was thus thrown on literature as a resource. He was on the staff of the John Bull, during the editorship of Theodore Hook; and was a frequent contributor to the New Monthly Magazine, when under the management of S. C. Hall. But his health broke down, and he died at Cheltenham, in the forty-second year of his age, April 22nd, 1839, leaving a widow and two children in adverse circumstances. A benefit at Drury Lane produced the sum of 200 for them; and his widow, Helena Becher Bayly, edited his Songs, Ballads and other Poems, and prefaced them by a memoir (1844, 2 vols. 8vo).

In Fraser's Magazine (vol. iv. p. 52), will be found the LAY OF THE TWADDLE SCHOOL, a Pastoral Duet between ROBERT MONTGOMERY AND THOMAS HAYNES BAYLY; of which I will only transcribe the lines which relate to the latter:—

Satins and Silks I sang gravely and gaily,
And the bard of the boudoir was Thomas Haynes Bayly;
With my butterflies, buttercups, butter-flowers daily,
I butter'd my bread, — heigh, for Thomas Haynes Bayly?
With my songs, and my sonnets, the girls I wooed frailly,
Tom Moore, the chaste model of Thomas Haynes Bayly;
Apollo, — though radiant his rays, — shines but palely,
When the eyes of the fair shine on Thomas Haynes Bayly;
With "Miniature Lyrics" the Muse did I waylay,
And a miniature picture of Thomas Haynes Bayly;
I sang about Bath, till I bother'd them really,
And eclipsed was Kit Anstey by Thomas Haynes Bayly;
Herrick, Waller, Burns, Byron, Moore, Morris and Shelley,
Were poor sing-song strummers to Thomas Haynes Bayly.