John Bayley (writer)

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For other people named John Bayley, see John Bayley (disambiguation).

John Oliver Bayley, CBE, FBA, FRSL (27 March 1925 – 12 January 2015) was a British literary critic and writer. He was Warton Professor of English at the University of Oxford from 1974 to 1992.


Bayley was born in Lahore, British India, and educated at Eton, where he studied under G. W. Lyttelton, who also taught Aldous Huxley, J. B. S. Haldane, George Orwell and Cyril Connolly. After leaving Eton, he went on to take a degree at New College, Oxford.[1] From 1974 to 1992, Bayley was Warton Professor of English at Oxford. He was also a novelist and wrote literary criticism for several newspapers. He edited Henry James' The Wings of the Dove and a two-volume selection of James' short stories.

From 1956 until her death in 1999, he was married to the writer Dame Iris Murdoch. He thought that sex was "inescapably ridiculous." Nevertheless, his wife had multiple affairs with both men and women, which he occasionally witnessed for himself.[2] When she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, he wrote the book Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch, which was made into the 2001 film Iris by Richard Eyre. In this film, Bayley was portrayed in his early years by Hugh Bonneville, and in his later years by Jim Broadbent, who won an Oscar for the performance. After Murdoch's death he married Audi Villers, a family friend.[3] He was awarded the CBE in 1999.[4]

John Bayley died on 12 January 2015.[3]



  • In Another Country (1986)
  • Alice (1994)
  • The Queer Captain (1995)
  • George's Lair (1996)
  • The Red Hat (1997)

Other works[edit]

  • The Romantic Survival (1953)
  • The Characters of Love: A Study in the Literature of Personality (1960)
  • Keats and Reality (1969)
  • Pushkin: A Comparative Commentary (1971)
  • The Uses of Division (1976)
  • An Essay on Hardy (1978)
  • Shakespeare and Tragedy (1981)
  • Selected Essays (1984)
  • The Order of Battle at Trafalgar (1987)
  • The Short Story: Henry James to Elizabeth Bowen (1988)
  • Tolstoy and the Novel (1988)
  • Housman's Poems (1992)
  • Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch (1998)
  • Elegy for Iris: A Memoir (1999)
  • Iris and the Friends: A Year of Memories (1999)
  • Widower's House (2001)[5]
  • Hand Luggage: A Personal Anthology (2001)
  • The Power of Delight (2005)


  1. ^ Adams, Tim (18 March 2001). "Marriage made in heaven". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 January 2015. 
  2. ^ Ann Wroe (January 31, 2015). "Of literature and love". The Economist. Retrieved 2015-02-15. Sex did not feature much, for the act, he thought, was inescapably ridiculous, and Iris was happy to have multiple affairs with both men and women which, on discomposing occasions, he witnessed for himself. 
  3. ^ a b Whitehead, Tom (21 January 2015). "John Bayley, husband of Iris Murdoch, dies aged 89". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 22 January 2015. 
  4. ^ "John Bayley, scholar - obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 21 January 2015. Retrieved 22 January 2015. 
  5. ^ Andreas Dorschel, 'Kuschelecke Liebe. 'Das Haus des Witwers': John Bayley erinnert sich kaum an Iris', in: Süddeutsche Zeitung Nr. 115 (21 May 2002), p. 20.

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