Online Encyclopedia

WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY (1849-1903)

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V13, Page 271 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY (1849-1903), British poet, critic and editor, was born on the 23rd of August 1849 at Gloucester, and was educated at the Crypt Grammar School in that city. The school was a sort of Cinderella sister to the Cathedral School, and Henley indicated its shortcomings in his article (Pall Mall Magazine, Nov. 1goo) on T. E. Brown the poet, who was headmaster there for a brief period. Brown's appointment, uncongenial to himself, was a stroke of luck for Henley, for whom, as he said, it represented a first acquaintance with a man of genius. " He was singularly kind to me at a moment when I needed kindness even more than I needed encouragement." Among other kindnesses Brown did him the essential service of lending him books. To the end Henley was no classical scholar, but his knowledge and love of literature were, vital. Afflicted with a physical infirmity, he found himself in 1874, at the age of twenty-five, an inmate of the hospital at Edinburgh. From there he sent to the Cornlzill Magazine poems in irregular rhythms, describing with poignant force his experiences in hospital. Leslie Stephen, then editor, being in Edinburgh, and Macaire at His Majesty's on the 2nd of May 1901. Admiral Guinea also achieved stage performance. In the meantime Henley was active in the magazines and did notable editorial work for the publishers: the Lyra Heroica, 1891; A Book of English Prose (with Mr Charles Whibley), 1894; the centenary Burns (with Mr T.F. Henderson) in 1896—1897, in which Henley's Essay (published separately 1898) roused considerable controversy. In 1892 he undertook for Mr Nutt the general editor-ship of the Tudor Translations; and in 1897 began for Mr Heinemann an edition of Byron, which did not proceed beyond one volume of letters. In :898 he.published a collection of his Poems in one volume, with the autobiographical " advertisement " above quoted; in 1899 London Types, Quatorzains to accompany. Mr William Nicolson's designs; and in 1900 during the Boer War, a patriotic poetical brochure, For England's Sake. In 1901 he published a second volume of collected poetry with the title Hawthorn and Lavender, uniform with the volume of 1898. In 1902 he collected his various articles on painters and artists and published them as a companion volume of Views and Reviews: Art. These with " A Song of Speed " printed in May 1903 within two months of his death make up his tale of work. At the close of his life he was engaged upon his edition of the Authorized Version of the Bible for his series of Tudor Translations. There remained uncollected some of his scattered articles in periodicals and reviews, especially the series of literary articles contributed to the Pall Mall Magazine from 1899 until his death. These contain the most outspoken utterances of a critic never mealy-mouthed, and include the splenetic attack on the memory of his dead friend R. L. Stevenson, which aroused deep regret and resentment. In 1894 Henley lost his little sixyear-old daughter Margaret; he had borne the " bludgeonings of chance" with "the unconquerable soul" of which he boasted, not unjustifiably, in a well-known poem; but this blow broke his heart. With the knowledge of this fact, some of these out-bursts may be better understood; yet we have the evidence of a clear-eyed critic who knew Henley well, that he found him more generous, more sympathetic at the close of his life than he had been before. He died on the 11th of July 1903. In spite of his too boisterous mannerism and prejudices, he exercised by his originality, independence and fearlessness an inspiring and inspiriting influence on the higher class of journalism. This influence he exercised by word of mouth as well as by his pen, for he was a famous talker, and figures as " Burly " in Stevenson's essay on Talk and Talkers. As critic he was a good hater and a good fighter. His virtue lay in his vital and vitalizing love of good literature, and the vivid and pictorial phrases he found to give it expression. But his fame must rest on his poetry. He excelled alike in his delicate experiments in complicated metres, and the strong impressionism of Hospital Sketches and London Voluntaries. The influence of Heine may be discerned in these " unrhymed rhythms "; but he was perhaps a truer and more successful disciple of Heine in his snatches of passionate song, the best of which should retain their place in English literature. See also references in Stevenson's Letters; Cornhill Magazine (1903) (Sidney Low) ; Fortnightly Review (August 1892) (Arthur Symons) ; and for bibliography, English Illustrated Magazine, vol. xxix. p. 548. (W. P. J.) HENLEY-ON-THAMES, a market town and municipal borough in the Henley parliamentary division of Oxfordshire, England, on the left bank of the Thames, the terminus of a branch of the Great Western railway, by which it is 351 M. W. of London, while it is 571 M. by river. Pop. (1901) 5984. It occupies one of the most beautiful situations on the Thames, at the foot of the finely wooded Chiltern Hills. The river is crossed by an elegant stone bridge of five arches, constructed in 1786. The parish church (Decorated and Perpendicular) possesses a lofty tower of intermingled flint and stone, attributed to Cardinal Wolsey, but more probably erected by Bishop Longland. The grammar school, founded in z6o5, is incorporated with a Blue Coat school. Henley is a favourite summer resort, and is celebrated for the annual Henley Royal Regatta, the principal gathering of amateur oarsmen in England, first heldin 1839 and usually taking place in July. Henley is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors. _Area, 549 acres. Henley-on-Thames (Hanlegang, Henle, Handley), not mentioned in Domesday, was a manor or ancient demesne of the crown and was granted (1337) to John de Molyns, whose family held it for about 250 years. It is said that members for Henley sat in parliaments of Edward I. and Edward III., but no writs have been found. Henry VIII. having granted the use of the titles " mayor " and " burgess," the town was incorporated in 1570—1571 by the name of the warden, portreeves, burgesses and commonalty. Henley suffered from both parties in the Civil War. William III. on his march to London (1688) rested here and received a deputation from the Lords. The period of prosperity in the 17th and 18th centuries was due to manufactures of glass and malt, and to trade in corn and wool. The existing Thursday market was granted by a charter of John and the existing Corpus Christi fair by a charter of Henry VI. See J. S. Burn, History of Henley-on-Thames (London, 1861).
End of Article: WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY (1849-1903)
[back]
JOHN HENLEY (1692-1759)
[next]
HENNA

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.