100 Heroes: William Johnson Cory

The gay man who became an influential but controversial teacher.

100 Heroes: William Johnson Cory

William Johnson Cory was an English educator and poet. He was dismissed from his post at Eton for encouraging a culture of intimacy between teachers and pupils.


Born in Devon in 1823, Johnson was educated at Eton where - after completing a degree at Cambridge - he went on to become a master.

Johnson became an assistant master at Eton in 1845. He insisted on the centrality of personal ties between teacher and student.

Johnson was forced to resign from Eton in 1872 after an "indiscreet letter" that he had written to a pupil was intercepted by the boy's parents and brought to the notice of the headmaster.

The specifics of the scandal have not been established, but it seems fairly widely accepted that Johnson encouraged intimacy between the boys and probably between teachers and the boys. Perhaps his biggest crime was that Johnson was perceived to undermine the culture of the school.

After being forced out of Eton, Johnson changed his name to Cory and moved to Madeira.

He died on 11 June.