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Peter James Bayley (20 November 1944 – 10 April 2018) was a British scholar of French literature, specialising in 17th-century French literature, sermons and essays. He was Drapers Professor of French at the University of Cambridge from 1985 to 2011, and a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge from 1971 until his death.[1][2][3][4]

Peter Bayley
Born(1944-11-20)20 November 1944
Redruth, Cornwall
Died10 April 2018(2018-04-10) (aged 73)
Partner(s)Angus Bowie
Awards Commandeur de l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques
Academic background
EducationRedruth Grammar School
Alma materEmmanuel College, Cambridge
Academic work
DisciplineFrench literature
Sub-discipline17th-century French literature, sermons and essays
  • Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge (1971–2018)
  • Drapers Professor of French, University of Cambridge (1985–2011)


Peter Bayley was born in Portreath, Cornwall, and was educated at Redruth Grammar School. In 1963, he went up to Emmanuel College, Cambridge to read modern and mediaeval languages (French and Spanish); in 1966, he graduated with a First. He continued at Emmanuel as a postgraduate student, and in 1969 was elected to a Research Fellowship. In 1971, he was awarded his PhD for a thesis on 17th-century French sermons. That same year, he was appointed to a college lectureship at, and was elected Fellow of, Gonville and Caius College. In 1974, he was appointed university assistant lecturer in the Department of French; and in 1978, university lecturer.[4]

In 1982, Peter Rickard retired as Drapers Professor of French. Bayley was appointed acting head of department. The process of electing a new Drapers Professor was a protracted one, and he was installed in the chair only in 1985. At that time, it was unusual for Cambridge professors to supervise undergraduates; but Bayley did. Other offices he took on were: various college posts; 1989–1997, vice-president of the Association of University Professors and Heads of French; 1990–1992, president of the Society for French Studies; 1994–1996, member of the executive of the University Council for Modern Languages; and 2000–2002, chairman of the (newly formed) School of Arts and Humanities at Cambridge.[4]

In 2006, he suffered a stroke, and a bad fall. He never fully recovered his faculties, and was unable to complete his monograph on the oratory of Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (1627–1704). His friends had the novel and distressing experience of finding themselves the dominant partners in conversations.[5] In 2011, he retired, and was presented by his colleagues with a volume in his honour containing contributions by leading scholars from the United Kingdom, France and North America.[6] He increasingly spent his days at the house in Hackleton, Northamptonshire he shared with his partner Angus Bowie, classicist, of The Queen's College, Oxford; who delivered the eulogy at his funeral in Caius Chapel on 4 May 2018.[7]


In 1988, Bayley was made an Officier (Officer) of the Ordre des Palmes Académiques by France.[1] In 2006, he was promoted to Commandeur (Commander): this is the highest rank of the order and he was the first British academic under retirement age to achieve it.[8]

Selected works


  1. "Bayley, Prof. Peter James". Who Was Who. Oxford University Press. 18 December 2017. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  2. "Professor Peter Bayley (1944–2018)". Gonville & Cauis. University of Cambridge. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  3. "Professor Peter Bayley". Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages. University of Cambridge. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  4. "Peter Bayley (1944–2018)". French Studies. 72 (4): 649–651. October 2018. doi:10.1093/fs/kny221.
  5. Windeatt, Barry (2017–2018). "Peter Bayley". Emmanuel College Magazine: 312–313.
  6. Hammond, Nicholas; Moriarty, Michael, eds. (30 October 2012). Evocations of Eloquence: Rhetoric, Literature and Religion in Early Modern France. Oxford: Peter Lang. ISBN 978-3034308496.
  7. "Funeral of Professor Bayley takes place in the College chapel". Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. 4 May 2018. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  8. "French honour for Cambridge Professor". University of Cambridge. 23 November 2006. Retrieved 20 December 2018.

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