Bayly, Ada Ellen (1857–1903)

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Bayly, Ada Ellen (1857–1903)

British popular novelist, author of seventeen books, all with a religious theme. Name variations: Edna Lyall. Born on March 25, 1857, in Brighton, Sussex, England; died on February 8, 1903, in Eastbourne, England; daughter of Mary (Winter) Bayly and Robert Bayly (a lawyer); educated at home and at boarding school in Brighton; never married; no children.

Ada Ellen Bayly became a celebrity only reluctantly. Her books, strongly religious in view and tone, inspired intense admiration and curiosity in Britain. They were the work of a fragile woman, who was too sickly to attend school. In 1858, the year after her birth, her father died. Three years later, her mother died. At the time, Bayly's two elder sisters and one brother had long since been dispatched to boarding school and were old enough to be independent. Ada passed into the care of an uncle.

She was just 22 when her first book Won by Waiting was published under the pseudonym Edna Lyall. Popularity arrived with the 1882 release of another Lyall tome, Donovan, about an agnostic who returns to his faith. The book won a recommendation by Prime Minster William Gladstone and also caught the attention of Charles Bradlaugh, a radical free-thinker. As readers clamored for word of the author's true identity, several writers claimed the work but were disproved. Then the rumor spread that the author of these popular books was insane and institutionalized. Only then did Bayly publicly announce her identity. In 1887, she defended herself in Autobiography of a Slander, personifying gossip, allowing it to report on its travels and the damages it inflicted. The notoriety, however, continued to promote sales; in 1898, Hope the Hermit amazed the literary community by selling 9,000 copies on its first day.

Throughout her life, Bayly lived in her sisters' homes, each of whom had married clerics (her brother Robert Burges Bayly also took up the ministry). She traveled occasionally, including a trip to Italy in 1898, while women's suffrage and charitable work occupied her time away from the desk. The autobiographical The Burges Letters and The Hinderers, both 1902, were Bayly's final published works. Ada Bayly died of heart failure at age 46 in 1903; she was interred at Brosbury, Herefordshire.

suggested reading:

Escreet, J.M. The Life of Edna Lyall, 1904.

Payne, Reverend George A. Edna Lyall. London: John Heywood, 1903.

Crista Martin , freelance writer, Boston, Massachusetts

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Bayly, Ada Ellen (1857–1903)

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