He attended Grantham Grammar School, and then in 1849 enrolled at Lincoln College, Oxford.
Although he wrote on Shakespeare and other subjects, his most successful work was his 1862 book The New Forest: its History and its Scenery, which describes the scenery, the natural history, the antiquities, and the dialect of the New Forest, in Hampshire, England. He took no degree, and left the university to travel abroad. On returning to England he wandered through country districts, frequently changing his residence.
He was a correspondent for a London paper during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.
Wise never married. He was resident in the New Forest in the early 1860s which allowed him to research and write his book on the locality, but by the summer of 1863 he was residing in lodgings near Hathersage in the Peak District. He hoped to write a book on the Peak District, similar to the one he had written for the New Forest but did not receive sufficient encouragement to go on with the work.
By 1875 he was settled at Sandsend, near Whitby. Some years later he had migrated to Edwinstowe, Nottinghamshire.
He visited Lyndhurst in the New Forest in August 1889, and being in a weak state of health he remained there through the winter.
He died on 1 April 1890, aged 59, and was buried in Lyndhurst cemetery. List of works Robin Hood, and other poems (1855) The Cousin"s Courtship (1860) Shakspere: his Birthplace and its Neighbourhood (1861) The New Forest: its History and its Scenery (1863) The First of May: a fairy Masque (1881).
Wise held radical views on religion and politics. According to his friend, Walter Crane, Wise was intended for the Church, but he left Oxford and quarrelled with his parents "on account of his free opinions." He came to know John Chapman, editor of the Westminster Review. Foreign many years he wrote the section on Belles-Lettres in that magazine, but withdrew suddenly owing to political differences with Chapman.
Subsequently he was a contributor to the Reader, a weekly periodical which also advocated advanced views.