Twenty One Poems by Lionel Johnson. Inscribed By W.B. Yeats (1904)
Author: Lionel Johnson
Book ID: 60042
Author: Lionel Johnson
Twenty One Poems by Lionel Johnson. Selected by William Butler Yeats. Dublin: Dun Emer Press, 1904. One of 220 Copies Printed. Publisher’s quarter linen paper boards, title label to spine. Light dust soiling to covers, contents in fine condition. Housed in custom made cloth folder and morocco-backed cloth slip-case, spine lettered in gilt.
Inscribed by Yeats on the front free end-paper:
“I am one of those who fall, W.B. Yeats”
The quote is from Johnson’s poem ‘Mystic and Cavalier,’ which appears as the first poem in this personal selection of twenty-one poems by his friend, Lionel Johnson.
Lionel Pigot Johnson was an English poet, essayist, and critic. He first met Yeats (and Oscar Wilde) in 1891 when he joined The Rhymers’ Club, co-founded by Yeats and Ernest Rhys. This was principally a group of London poets who met and read poetry — usually in the Cheshire Cheese pub in Fleet Street. The group published two collections of poems in 1892 and 1894, with Johnson contributing to both. A cousin of Olivia Shakespeare, whom Yeats would later call his ‘first lover and long-time friend.’ (Several of Yeats’s early poems in the 1899 collection, ‘Wind Among the Reeds,’ refer to the romance with Shakespeare which, by his own admission, ended because he could not dispel the image of Maud Gonne out of his mind). Influenced by Yeats, Johnson took a lively interest in the Irish Literary Society, and his collection ‘Ireland and Other Poems’ (1897) shows his intense love for Ireland. Johnson converted to Roman Catholicism in 1891, about the same time that he introduced his other famous cousin Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosey) to his friend Oscar Wilde. It’s said Johnson lent his copy of ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ to his young cousin, who begged to be taken to meet the author. Although Orthodox Catholic in practice, Johnson could never quite reconcile his sexuality to his adopted religion and in later years lived a rather solitary life in London. Struggling with alcoholism & ill health he and died of a stroke aged 35.
This collection included what some consider his masterpiece, “The Dark Angel” [Quote: As far as I am aware, ‘The Dark Angel’ and the sin it refers to specifically concern dissident sexual desire and the poem was probably expressive of Johnson’s struggles with his homosexuality in a Christian setting – Professor Jane Wright]