John Bayley was an Oxford University professor of English and the husband of the 1978 Booker Prize winner Iris Murdoch. His memoir Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch was later filmed.

Bayley wrote on everyone from Keats and Pushkin to Hardy and Housman, as well as being the author of five novels. His wife, with whom he shared an interest in the moral uses of fiction, called him ‘the greatest critic since Coleridge’, and he was no fan of theoretical approaches to literature. His stutter and eccentric, dishevelled appearance (he would buy his jackets from charity shops and keep left-over potatoes in the pockets) were perhaps more intentional than he liked to let on, and they disguised a steely intellect and strong personality.