‘Invictus’ has ensured that Henley is a significant Victorian literary figure, but the phenomenal popularity of this one poem has perhaps led to the neglect of his other work. In fact, Henley was an influential critic, journalist and poet, although a less successful dramatist.

He began work as a journalist, but his career was interrupted by a long stay in hospital. Tuberculosis of the bone had led to the amputation of one leg below the knee, and it was only through innovative treatment by Joseph Lister that his other leg was saved. While in hospital, he produced a series of poems recording his observations and feelings in a variety of poetic forms and using a range of techniques.

Henley was an exceptionally talented critic and journalist, editing a number of magazines throughout his life. He developed a close friendship with Robert Louis Stevenson, who allegedly modelled Long John Silver from Treasure Island on the poet.

Poems by W. E. Henley


Read by Daljit Nagra
Invictus - W. E. Henley - Read by Daljit Nagra

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