History of Home Sweet Home

The words of Home, Sweet Home were written by an American, John Howard Payne, and the music is the composition of Sir Henry R. Bishop.

About 1820 a subscription folio was published through Goulding & Co. a folio work – ‘Melodies of Various Nations with Symphonies and Accompaniments by Henry R. Bishop, the Words by Thomas Bayly, Esq., Author of Rough Sketches of Bath.’

The work, which afterwards ran through one or two periodical volumes, appears to have been a rival to Thomas Moore’s ‘Nation Airs’ published by Power from 1818 to 1828.

The airs in both these works include Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, etc. and it is very doubtful as to how far these were genuine.

At the end of ‘Melodies of Various Nations’ is a set of verses by T. Haynes Bayly commencing:

To the home of my childhood in sorry I cam,
And I fondly expected to find it the same, etc.

The air is marked ‘Sicilian,’ and is as follows:

home-sweet-home

It will be noticed that this is ‘Home, Sweet Home’ without the characteristic refrain, and having some slight difference in melody. No notice appears to have been taken of the song and air in this form, and it was never republished.

When Bishop was writing the music for his opera ‘Clari, or The Maid of Milan,’ produced in May 1823, he took the supposed Sicilian melody, and adapted it to the two verses paraphrased by John Howard Payne from T. H. Bayly’s earlier song.

In the theater the lyric was sung by Miss Maria Tree, and it at once leaped into an extraordinary popularity.

It was included as one of the items of the Birmingham Festival of that year and was sung by Miss Kate Stephens in the second evening concert (September 25) of the York Festival of 1823.

‘Home, Sweet Home’ became a valuable copyright, and Goulding issued it as ‘composed’ by Bishop, who afterwards confessed to William Chappell and to others that he was the real author of the melody.