Lionel Johnson

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Lionel Johnson
Born (1867-03-15)15 March 1867
Died 4 October 1902(1902-10-04) (aged 35)
Nationality English
Occupation Poet and critic

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


Johnson was born at Broadstairs, and educated at Winchester College and New College, Oxford, graduating in 1890. He became a Catholic convert in 1891.[1] He lived a solitary life in London, struggling with alcoholism and his repressed homosexuality.[2][3] He died of a stroke after a fall in the street, though it was said to be a fall from a barstool[2] in the Green Dragon in Fleet Street.[4]

During his lifetime were published his The Art of Thomas Hardy (1894), Poems (1895), 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).

In June 1891, Johnson converted to Catholicism, at the same time as he introduced his cousin Lord Alfred Douglas to his friend Oscar Wilde, whom he then repudiated, directing a sonnet at him called "The Destroyer of a Soul" (1892).[5] In 1893, Johnson wrote what some consider his masterpiece, "The Dark Angel".[2][6]

"The Dark Angel" also served as one of the influences for the Dark Angels chapter of Space Marines in the Warhammer 40,000 fictional universe. Their Primarch, Lion El'Jonson, is also named after the poet.


  1. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Lionel Pigot Johnson". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
  2. ^ a b c O'Gorman, Francis (2004). Victorian Poetry: An Annotated Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 672–677. ISBN 0-631-23435-7. 
  3. ^ Arkins, Brian (1990). Builders of My Soul: Greek and Roman Themes in Yeats. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 8. ISBN 0-389-20913-9. 
  4. ^ Sweet, Matthew (2001). Inventing the Victorians. London: Faber and Faber. p. 205. ISBN 978-0-571-20663-6. 
  5. ^ Fisher, Trevor (2002). Oscar and Bosie. Sutton Publishing. pp. 42–3. ISBN 0-7509-2459-4. 
  6. ^ Hanson, Ellis (1997). Decadence and Catholicism. Harvard University Press. p. 88. ISBN 0-674-19444-6. 


  • Twenty one poems written by Lionel Johnson, selected by William Butler Yeats (Dun Emer Press, 1904) online text
  • Some Winchester Letters of Lionel Johnson, (George Allen & Unwin, London, 1919.)
  • The collected poems of Lionel Johnson (1953) edited by Ian Fletcher, Unicorn Press, London (reprinted 1982).
  • Post Liminium. Essays and Critical Papers (1911) edited by Thomas Whittemore, Elkin Mathews, London (reprinted 1968).
  • Lionel Johnson Victorian Dark Angel by Richard Whittington-Egan, Cappella Archive (2012).
  • At the Heart of the 1890s: Essays on Lionel Johnson Gary Paterson, AMS Press (2008)

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