Winchester College, College St, Winchester SO23 9NA, United Kingdom
University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 2JD, UK
20 Fitzroy St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 4BP, UK
St Mary Roman Catholic Cemetery Kensal Green, London Borough of Brent, Greater London, England, Plot Grave no. 1781 C
Lionel Pigot Johnson (15 March 1867 – 4 October 1902) was an English poet, essayist and critic. The Destroyer of a Soul (1892) is cited as example in Sexual Heretics: Male Homosexuality in English Literature from 1850-1900, by Brian Reade.
Johnson was born at Broadstairs, and educated at Winchester College and New College, Oxford, graduating in 1890. He became a Catholic convert in 1891. He lived a solitary life in London, struggling with alcoholism and his repressed homosexuality. He died of a stroke after a fall in the street, though it was said to be a fall from a barstool in the Green Dragon in Fleet Street.
Poets W.B. Yeats, Ernest Rhys and Lionel Johnson appear to have held a certain curiosity and veneration not only for Simeon Solomon’s homoerotic imagery but for the artist himself. Certainly, many of the Rhymers’ poets, including Oscar Wilde, had been introduced to Solomon’s artwork as undergraduates at Oxford during the late 1870s and 1880s, a period some years after the artist’s arrest and during a time when Solomon’s name had been somewhat somewhat lost to obscurity and myth. Wilde described Solomon as that ‘strange genius’ and Yeats recalled that Johnson’s rooms at Fitzroy Street were walled with ‘overpowering pictures’ by Solomon, many of them collected during his time at Oxford. Yeats also described how one might meet the ‘ragged figure’ of Solomon as of some ‘fallen dynasty’ in the rooms of one of the Rhymers’ Club members. To the Rhymers, Solomon was an enigma, a Bohemian artist like Paul Verlaine, who had appeared to cast aside all the trappings of wealth and all attempts at respectability and was willingly living in poverty in the area of St Giles that so attracted other Decadents such as Ernest Dowson.
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. 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.
In 1893, Johnson wrote what some consider his masterpiece, "The Dark Angel". Over a century later, the poem inspired the Dark Angels chapter of Space Marines in the Warhammer 40,000 fictional universe. Lion El'Jonson, the chapter's central character, is also named after the poet.
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