John Payne was born on 23rd August 1842 in Bloomsbury, London.
He began his career in the legal profession but thus was soon put to one side as he began his renowned translations of Boccaccio's Decameron, The Arabian Nights, and then the poets Omar Khayyam, François Villon and Diwan Hafez. Of the latter, who he ranked in the same bracket as Dante and Shakepeare, he said; he takes the "whole sweep of human experience and irradiates all things with his sun-gold and his wisdom".
Later Payne became involved with limited edition publishing, and the Villon Society, which was dedicated to the poems of François Villon who was Frances’ best known poet of the middle Ages and unfortunately also a thief and a murderer.
John Payne died on 11th February, 1916 at the age of 73 in South Kensington, London.