Henley, William Ernest


Henley, William Ernest
born Aug. 23, 1849, Gloucester, Gloucestershire, Eng.
died July 11, 1903, Woking, near London

British poet, critic, and editor.

After a tubercular disease forced the amputation of one foot and radical surgery on the other leg, Henley began writing free-verse impressionistic poems about hospital life that established his poetic reputation. They appeared in A Book of Verses (1888). His most popular poem, "Invictus" (1875), dates from the same period. He later edited several journals, the most brilliant of which, the Scots Observer (later the National Observer), published the early work of Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, James M. Barrie, and Rudyard Kipling.

* * *

▪ British writer
born Aug. 23, 1849, Gloucester, Gloucestershire, Eng.
died July 11, 1903, Woking, near London
 British poet, critic, and editor who in his journals introduced the early work of many of the great English writers of the 1890s.

      Son of a Gloucester bookseller and a pupil of the poet T.E. Brown, Henley contracted a tubercular disease that later necessitated the amputation of one foot. His other leg was saved only through the skill and radical new methods of the surgeon Joseph Lister (Lister, Joseph, Baron Lister, Of Lyme Regis), whom he sought out in Edinburgh. Forced to stay in an infirmary in Edinburgh for 20 months (1873–75), he began writing impressionistic poems (some in free verse) about hospital life that established his poetic reputation. Some of these were published in The Cornhill Magazine in 1875; the whole sequence appeared in A Book of Verses (1888). Dating from the same period is his most popular poem, “Invictus” (1875), which concludes with the lines “I am the master of my fate; / I am the captain of my soul.” Subsequent volumes of verse include London Voluntaries (1893), Poems (1898), Hawthorn and Lavender (1899), and For England's Sake (1900).

      Henley's long, close friendship with Robert Louis Stevenson (Stevenson, Robert Louis) began in 1874 when he was still a patient, and Stevenson based part of the character of Long John Silver in Treasure Island on his crippled, hearty friend.

      Restored to active life, Henley edited The Magazine of Art (1882–86), in which he championed the artists James McNeill Whistler and Auguste Rodin, and worked on the Encyclopædia Britannica. He became editor of the Scots Observer of Edinburgh in 1889. The journal was transferred to London in 1891 and became the National Observer. Though conservative in its political outlook, it was liberal in its literary taste and published the work of Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, James Barrie, William Butler Yeats, and Rudyard Kipling. As an editor and critic, Henley was remembered by young writers as a benevolent bully, generous in his promotion and encouragement of unknown talents and fierce in his attacks on unmerited reputations. The “hearty,” realist, and imperialist writers particularly associated with Henley in the 1890s—sometimes known as the “Henley regatta”—were seen as an alternative to the Decadent writers of the period.

Additional Reading
Jerome Hamilton Buckley, William Ernest Henley: A Study in the “Counter-Decadence” of the 'Nineties (1945, reissued 1971); John Connell (pseudonym of John Henry Robertson), W.E. Henley (1949, reprinted 1972).

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Henley, William Ernest — (1849 1903)    He was born and educated in Gloucester, where he was the pupil of Thomas Edward Brown (see entry). Tuberculosis necessitated the amputation of one foot in 1867, then in 1873 he underwent surgery at Edinburgh under Dr. Joseph Lister …   British and Irish poets

  • Henley, William Ernest — (23 ago. 1849, Gloucester, Gloucestershire, Inglaterra–11 jul. 1903, Woking, cerca de Londres). Poeta, crítico y editor británico. Después de que una tuberculosis obligó a que le amputaran un pie y a que le practicaran una cirugía radical en la… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • HENLEY, WILLIAM ERNEST —    poet and critic, author of a Book of Verses and Song of the Sword, in which he reveals superior powers as a poet, and of a volume entitled Views and Reviews, in which he evinces discriminative criticism of the highest order; he has edited,… …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Henley, William Ernest — (1849 1903)    Poet and critic, b. at Gloucester, made the acquaintance of Robert Louis Stevenson (q.v.), and collaborated with him in several dramas, including Deacon Brodie, and Robert Macaire. He engaged in journalism, and became ed. of The… …   Short biographical dictionary of English literature

  • William Ernest Henley — William Ernest Henley. William Ernest Henley (* 23. August 1849 in Gloucester, Gloucestershire; † 11. Juli 1903 in Woking, Surrey) war ein englischer Schriftsteller …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • William Ernest Henley — William Ernest Henley. William Ernest Henley *(23 de agosto de 1849 †11 de julio de 1903) fue un poeta inglés. Nació en Gloucester, Inglaterra. De niño sufrió tuberculosis, lo que finalmente resultó en la amputación de una pierna y 1 …   Wikipedia Español

  • William Ernest Henley — (23 août 1849 11 juillet 1903) est un poète, critique littéraire et éditeur britannique. Né à Gloucester, il a reçu une …   Wikipédia en Français

  • William Ernest Henley — Infobox Writer name = William Ernest Henley imagesize = caption = pseudonym = birthname = birthdate = 23 August 1849 birthplace = Gloucester, England deathdate = death date and age|1903|7|11|1849|8|23 deathplace = occupation = Poet, critic and… …   Wikipedia

  • William Ernest Henley — (23 de agosto de 1849 11 de julio de 1903) fue un poeta inglés. Nació en Gloucester, Inglaterra. De niño sufrió tuberculosis, lo que finalmente resultó en la amputación de una pierna y 12 meses de recuperación en la famosa Enfermería de Edinburgo …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • William Ernest Henley — n. (1849 1903) English poet and editor and critic …   English contemporary dictionary


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.