Born around 50–45 BC, the Latin poet Sextus Aurelius Propertius in one of his Elegies pronounced that ‘Passion is always warmer towards absent lovers’ (Semper in absentes felicior aestus amantes).
The phrase first appeared in English 1500 years later as the title of a poem by an anonymous writer. This poem and others on the theme of absence were included in the collection called Poetical Rhapsody (1602), put together by the Elizabethan poet Francis Davison. But the expression only began to assume the status of a proverb after 1844, following the publication of Thomas Haynes Bayly’s poem ‘Isle of Beauty’
The stanza which drew attention was:
What would not I give to wander
Where Absence makes the heart grow fonder:
Isle of Beauty,fare thee well!
Poor Bayly never knew how widely used the phrase would become as his poem appeared over a decade after he had died.