Henley was born on August 23, 1849, in Gloucester, England. He was the oldest of six kids in a working-class family, and his love for books was clear from a young age. He was a bookworm, and it paid off, landing him a scholarship to the Crypt Grammar School, where he had a chance to read and write to his heart's content.
As a teenager, Henley faced a big challenge: he was diagnosed with tuberculosis of the bone. This meant that he had to spend a lot of time in hospitals. But he didn't let that stop him. In fact, it was during one of his hospital stays that he wrote the first drafts of his most famous poems.
Henley's early writing career began with journalism. He worked as an editor for several magazines, but poetry was always his true love. And in 1875, he finally published his first book of poems, "A Book of Verses". It was well received, but Henley's breakout moment came a little later with his poem "Invictus" (1888). This poem, with its famous line, "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul," became a symbol of resilience and determination for many people.
Henley had a knack for painting vivid pictures with words. His poems were full of rich imagery and emotion. But he wasn't just a poet. He was also a literary critic, a playwright, and an editor. He wore many hats, and he wore them all well.
Henley's personal life was full of love and friendship. He married Anna Boyle in 1878, and they had a daughter, Margaret. Fun fact: Margaret was a close friend of author J.M. Barrie, who was so charmed by her that he based the character of Wendy in "Peter Pan" on her.
Given all of these achievements, let's tip our hats to William Ernest Henley, a man who, despite the challenges he faced, became a beacon in the world of literature. His life and his work are reminders that no matter what life throws our way, we are, indeed, the masters of our fate and the captains of our souls.