Lionel Johnson

Lionel Pigot Johnson (15 March 1867 – 4 October 1902) was an English poet, essayist, and critic.

Lionel Johnson
Born(1867-03-15)15 March 1867
Died4 October 1902(1902-10-04) (aged 35)
  • Poet
  • essayist
  • critic


Johnson was born in Broadstairs, Kent, England in 1867 and educated at Winchester College. While at Winchester, Johnson became friends with Frank Russell, 2nd Earl Russell. The two started a lengthy religious discussion that Russell later published as Some Winchester Letters of Lionel Johnson (1919).

Johnson graduated from New College, Oxford, in 1890 and converted to Catholicism in June 1891.[1] At that time, Johnson introduced Lord Alfred Douglas to his friend Oscar Wilde. He later repudiated Wilde in "The Destroyer of a Soul" (1892), deeply regretting that he initiated a love affair between the two men that devolved into a public scandal.[2]

In 1893, Johnson published what some consider his greatest work, "Dark Angel". During his lifetime, he published: The Art of Thomas Hardy (1894), Poems (1895), and Ireland and Other Poems (1897). Johnson was a member of the Rhymers' Club, and cousin to Olivia Shakespear (who dedicated her novel The False Laurel to him).

Johnson died of a "cerebral haemorrhage" [Inquest, October 8, 1902][3] in 1902, after collapsing in the Green Dragon on Fleet Street in London[4] The story of Johnson's being struck and killed by a hansom cab is a myth.[5]


  • In October 2018, Strange Attractor Press published Incurable: The Haunted Writings of Lionel Johnson, the Decadent Era's Dark Angel, edited by Nina Antonia.[6]
  • Duncan Fallowell included Incurable in his list of books for the books of the year section (2018) in The Spectator.[7]
  • Michael Dirda, in his 5 December 2018 book review for The Washington Post, entitled "The '90s are having a literary moment. That is, the 1890s... " recommended Incurable as a must read.[8]
  • Eric Hoffman reviewed Incurable in the Fortean Times on 25 February 2019, saying "This handsome volume from the excellent Strange Attractor Press includes a lengthy, authoritative introduction by Antonia, which provides biographical and critical contexts...Incurable is an accessible introduction to the work of this minor, yet distinctive, poet."[9]
  • On 1 May 2019 Alan Contreras reviewed Incurable in the Gay and Lesbian Review, saying Johnson's: "writing conjured worlds of the imagination" and called Nina Antonia's illustrated biography "masterful, gorgeously written and packed with carefully researched gossip."[10]


  1. ^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Lionel Pigot Johnson" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. ^ Fisher, Trevor (2002). Oscar and Bosie. Sutton Publishing. pp. 42–3. ISBN 0-7509-2459-4.
  3. ^ Asch, Robert (2021). Lionel Johnson: Poetry and Prose. Kington: Saint Austin Press. p. 488. ISBN 978-1919673004.
  4. ^ Sweet, Matthew (2001). Inventing the Victorians. London: Faber and Faber. p. 205. ISBN 978-0-571-20663-6.
  5. ^ Asch, Robert (2021). Lionel Johnson: Poetry and Prose. Kington: Saint Austin Press. pp. 61–64, 488–496. ISBN 978-1919673004.
  6. ^ Johnson, Lionel P. (12 September 2018). Incurable: The Haunted Writings of Lionel Johnson, the Decadent Era's Dark Angel. ISBN 9781907222627.
  7. ^ "Books of the year – part one | the Spectator".
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ Eric Hoffman for Fortean Times, February 25, 2019
  10. ^ "Short Reviews". 29 April 2019.


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