The Last Cavalier Poet

Lionel Johnson: Poetry and Prose edited by Robert Asch

If Lionel Johnson is remembered today, it is likely to be in a footnote to Yeats, or Wilde, or even T. S. Eliot. He was highly valued by all of them, both as poet and critic. But the shadow of fin de siècle morbidity hangs over him, as over other writers of the 1890s, whose sense of an ending, full of sin and death, was soon left behind by the imaginative energy of the new century. The ebullience of the Edwardians, and the youthful pastoral of the Georgians before the deluge, even the ever avant-garde appeal of the Modernists, all provide a more vigorous appeal to sensibility than the palely loitering Decadents, doomed since to haunt a recondite and submerged period of English letters.

Johnson has lived on, to some extent, in collections (e.g., Yeats’s Oxford Modern Poetry, Palgrave, and the Wain Oxford anthologies), where “The Dark Angel” typically gives a flavor of both poet and period. But since the attention paid to him by Eliot (and also by Pound), he has largely faded from view, like The Yellow Book, absinthe, and artificial flowers. Robert Asch, however, has now restored Johnson to his rightful place of significance, and in superb fashion.

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André Gushurst-Moore is a graduate of Oxford University and a former Senior Fellow of the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal. Currently, he is Second Master at Worth School in Sussex, UK. His work has appeared in a number of periodicals in the UK and the US, and he is the author of two books: The Common Mind: Politics, Society and Christian Humanism, from Thomas More to Russell Kirk (Angelico Press, 2013) and Glory in All Things: St Benedict and Catholic Education Today (Angelico Press, 2020).

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