William Ernest Henley (23 August 1849 – 11 July 1903) was an influential English poet, critic and editor of the late Victorian era in England. Though he wrote several books of poetry, William Ernest Henley is remembered most often for his 1875 poem “Invictus”, a piece which recurs in popular awareness (e.g., see the 2009 Clint Eastwood film, Invictus). A fixture in literary circles, the one-legged Henley was also the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s character Long John Silver (Treasure Island, 1883), while his young daughter Margaret inspired J.M. Barrie’s choice of the name Wendy for the heroine of his play Peter Pan (1904).
The sum total of Henley’s professional and artistic efforts is said to have made him an influential voice in late Victorian England, perhaps with a role as central in his time as that of Samuel Johnson in the eighteenth century. As an editor of a series of literary magazines and journals, Henley was empowered to choose each issue’s contributors, as well as to offer his own essays, criticism, and poetic works; like Johnson, he said to have “exerted a considerable influence on the literary culture of his time.”