George John Cayley was born in 1826 at Brompton by Sawdon, Yorkshire, England. He was the son of Edward Cayley and Emma Cayley. He was baptised at Brompton by Sawdon on 28 March 1826. He was educated at Eton College and Trinity College, Cambridge (where he did not graduate) before entering Inner Temple, London. He was called to the Bar in 1852, but partly devoted himself to writing. In 1854 he was a correspondent for the Daily News in Crimea (during the Crimean War), and afterwards travelled in the Near East.
In 1860 he married Mary Anne Frances Wilmot. The marriage was registered in the Swansea district of Glamorganshire, Wales in the 3rd quarter of that year.
He was a noted craftsman and skilled amateur artist who illustrated his own works. In 1862 he and the artist George Frederick Watts designed a challenge shield for a shooting championship at Wimbledon, Surrey, England. He also published several light poems and a travel book.
In 1869 poor health led him to move with his family to Majorca, and then the following year, to Algiers. There he was a keen tennis player and he wrote what is believed to be the first article on what came to be called lawn tennis (published in the Edinburgh Review in 1875). He and a craftsman he knew developed new designs for tennis rackets.
He passed away in 1878 at Hunton Rectory, Kent, England on his way back from England to Algiers. He was buried at Hunton, Kent on 16 October 1878. Probate was granted on 28 December 1878, with the death date recorded as 11 October 1878.
He had a small but select circle of close friends, among them the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, Caroline Norton, Monckton Milnes and the artist John Everett Millais. According to the Dictionary of National Biography, he was often regarded as an eccentric, with his long beard, independent political views, skills at craftsmanship, high harsh voice and early championship of cigarette-smoking.
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