By 1877 James Hayllar had established himself as a popular painter of portraits and genre scenes, exhibiting regularly at the Royal Academy. His legacy is two-fold; he bought up his five children in the idyllic surroundings of Castle Priory, near Wallingford in Berkshire; tutored by their father, they all became professional artists. James, along with three of his daughters, was well-represented in the sale of the Forbes Collection, Christie's, London, 19-20 February 2003, (The Only Daughter, lot 100 (sold £35,000).
The Village Gossip and The Reformed Character belong to that canon of much-loved, and sometimes reviled, slightly comic English archetypes that recur in both art and literature. Hayllar's talents as an observer of individual quirks were a contributing factor to the success of his series of genre works featuring children, begun in the mid-1860s. Their popularity led to his nomination as an Associate to the Royal Academy, however he missed election by one vote. The disappointment prompted his move to the country: a move which surely facilitated his ability to wryly delineate the persons shown here.