William Cory Johnson was a poet and an influential master at Eton College.
Cory became an assistant master at Eton in 1845, insisting on the centrality of personal ties between student and teacher. The historian G.W. Prothero described him as “the most brilliant Eton tutor of his day”. Among his former pupils were Lord Roseberry, 2nd Viscount Halifax and Arthur Balfour.
He was well-known for his English version of the elegy Heraclitus by Callimachus! He is also remembered for writing the Eton Boating Song, which was parodied during the 2020 general election as “The Eton Voting Song” with reference to the fact that both David Cameron and Boris Johnson went to Eton.
In the Easter of 1872, Johnson was forced to resign from Eton 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. Later research revealed that the headmaster hated the popularity of Cory with pupils and parents and forced his retirement by spreading false rumours about his fondness for a particular pupil.
Johnson retired and changed his name to Cory before emigrating to Madeira for health reasons in 1878 where he married and had a son. He returned to England 1882 settling in Hampstead, where he stayed until his death.
This plaque, which was part funded by Eton College, was unveiled by the cricketer David Mackindoe who was then Vice-Provost of Eton.