William Hayley was born in 1745, went to Eton in 1757 and to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in 1763. He won fame among his contemporaries for his poetical Essays and Epistles that included in 1780 a Poetical Epistle to the Emminent Painter addressed to his friend Romney. They remained the greatest of friends up to the artist's death, and in 1809 Hayley published Romney's biography.
Hayley married Eliza Ball, daughter of the Dean of Chichester in 1767, then made a second marriage in 1809 to Mary Welford from whom he separated three years later. He died in 1820.