‘home is where the heart is’: meaning and origin

The phrase home is where the heart is and its variants mean that the place with which one has the strongest emotional connection is the place that one regards as home.

The earliest occurrence of this phrase that I have found is from an unsigned poem published in the 1829 issue of The Winter’s Wreath: A Collection of Original Contributions in Prose and Verse (London: Published by George B. Whittaker; for George Smith, Liverpool – [October 1828]):

’Tis Home where’er the Heart is.

’Tis Home where’er the heart is;
Where’er its loved ones dwell,
In cities or in cottages,
Thronged haunts or mossy dell:
The heart’s a rover ever,
And thus on wave and wild,
The maiden with her lover walks,
The mother with her child.

’Tis bright where’er the heart is;
Its fairy spells can bring
Fresh fountains to the wilderness,
And to the desert—spring.
There are green isles in each ocean,
O’er which affection glides;
And a haven on each shore,
When Love’s the star that guides.

’Tis free where’er the heart is;
Nor chains, nor dungeon dim,
May check the mind’s aspirings,
The spirit’s pealing hymn!
The heart gives life its beauty,
Its glory and its power,—
’Tis sunlight to its rippling stream,
And soft dew to its flower.

X. X.

The above-quoted poem was reprinted in many British and U.S. newspapers and magazines, under various titles (such as Home is where the Heart is), and over a long period of time. For example:
– It appeared under the title ’Tis Home Where the Heart Is in Heart Throbs of the Poet, published in the Northern Weekly Gazette (Stockton-on-Tees, Durham, England) of Saturday 3rd June 1922—one A. Seaton, of Skelton Green, claiming to have written it…
– Its first stanza was quoted by one Jay J. Thomas, of the Boys Club, in Beautiful Are Dreams Of Days Gone By, published in The Sylacauga Advance (Sylacauga, Alabama, USA) of Thursday 17th October 1963.

These are, in chronological order, the other earliest occurrences of the phrase that I have found:

1-: From Reflections on Married Life, an unsigned communication published in the Christian Register (Boston, Massachusetts, USA) of Saturday 13th February 1830:

Why is Clementina unhappy? Because she loves pleasure better then [sic] she does her husband, and cannot relinquish it cheerfully to gratify him. Her heart is abroad, and ‘the home is where the heart is.’

2-: From The Replevin Act, published in The National Gazette and Literary Register (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA) of Thursday 10th January 1833—quoting “the Charleston Mercury of the 1st instant”:

There are merchants with the spirit and patriotism to avail themselves of our laws, who will import and pay no duties. If there were not, an association would soon be formed which would make it the interest of every merchant to do so. And as to the sense of honor in those who now say, that they WILL pay the duties, decreasing profits will soon modify their honorable notions. “’Tis home where the heart is”, and “where the treasure is there will the heart be also”, the purse will plead more persuasively with them, than even the most eloquent State Rights consolidationist, radical Federalist, and Anti-tariff tariffite in their party. Its voice of increasing hollowness will come home to their business and their bosoms.

3-: From an unsigned poem published in The Essex Gazette (Haverhill, Massachusetts, USA) of Saturday 23rd April 1836:

THE HOME OF THE HEART.

O ’tis not the cottage—the dearest on earth,
The sweet little cottage that first gave me birth;
Through scenes unaccustomed, ’midst strangers I roam,
With nought to remind me of childhoods [sic] sweet home.
                    Home, sweet home,—
O nought here reminds me of childhood’s sweet home.
No woodbine that used o’er that cottage to creep,
No willow tree, ’neath which my forefathers sleep,
No green grass plot, no wild waterfall’s foam,
Nought, nought here reminds me of childhood’s sweet home.
O nought here reminds me of childhood’s sweet home.
Yet here’s deep affection, the wanderer to bless,
A mother’s fond welcome, a sister’s caress,—
Far dearer than cottage or proud princely dome
For home’s where the heart is, and this is sweet

4-: From a poem published in The Weekly Courier and Journal (Natchez, Mississippi, USA) of Friday 17th November 1837—this poem is obviously based on the one that was originally published in the 1829 issue of The Winter’s Wreath:

’TIS HOME WHERE’ER THE HEART IS!
From the new Drama Pocahontas.—By R. D. Owen.

’Tis home where’er the heart is,
Where’er its living treasures dwell;
In cabin or in princely hall,
In forest haunt or hermit’s cell.
’Tis bright where’er the heart is;
Its fairy spells have power to bring
Fresh fountains to the wilderness,
And to the desert vernal spring.
’Tis free where’er the heart is,
Nor rankling chains, nor dungeon dim
Can check the mind’s aspirings,
The bounding spirits’ pealing hymn.
The heart gives life its beauty,
Its warmth, its radiance, and its power,
Is sunlight to its rippling stream,
And soft dew to its drooping flower.