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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)
OccupationPoet, essayist, and critic


Johnson was born in Broadstairs, Kent, England in 1867 and educated at Winchester College and New College, Oxford, graduating in 1890. He became a Catholic convert in June 1891.[1] Also in June 1891 Johnson introduced his cousin Lord Alfred Douglas to his friend Oscar Wilde. He later repudiated Wilde in "The Destroyer of a Soul" (1892), deeply regretting initiating what became the highly scandalous love affair between the two men.[2]

In 1893 he published what some would consider his greatest work, "Dark Angel". During his lifetime were published: The Art of Thomas Hardy (1894), Poems (1895), and Ireland and Other Poems (1897).

He was one of the Rhymers' Club, and cousin to Olivia Shakespear (who dedicated her novel The False Laurel to him). Johnson lived a solitary life in London, struggling with alcoholism and repressed homosexuality.[3][4] He died of a stroke in 1902, after either a fall in the street, or a fall from a barstool[3] in the Green Dragon on Fleet Street.[5]

In October 2018, Strange Attractor Press published Incurable: The Haunted Writings of Lionel Johnson, the Decadent Era's Dark Angel, which is 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 February 25, 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 May 1, 2019, Alan Contreras reviewed Incurable in the Gay and Lesbian Review saying his "writing conjured worlds of the imagination" and called Nina Antonia's illustrated biography "masterful, gorgeously written and packed with carefully researched gossip."[10]

In popular cultureEdit

In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the Dark Angels legion of Space Marines, whose leader is named Lion El Jonson, derive their name from his poem.


  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. ^ a b O'Gorman, Francis (2004). Victorian Poetry: An Annotated Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 672–677. ISBN 0-631-23435-7.
  4. ^ Arkins, Brian (1990). Builders of My Soul: Greek and Roman Themes in Yeats. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 8. ISBN 0-389-20913-9.
  5. ^ Sweet, Matthew (2001). Inventing the Victorians. London: Faber and Faber. p. 205. ISBN 978-0-571-20663-6.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ [2]
  8. ^ [3]
  9. ^ Eric Hoffman for Fortean Times, February 25, 2019
  10. ^


External linksEdit