Johnson and Wilde (1)

Lionel Pigot Johnson, English poet, essayist, and critic, was born on 15 March 1867 in Kent.
He studied at Winchester College and then at New College, Oxford, graduating in 1890 ; after that he went to London to pursue a literary career and to work as a writer and critic for a number of periodicals.

When he was a teenager, he started drinking eau-de-cologne and became an alcoholic .
He was a tragic figure who produced some brilliant works of decadent and wistful poetry but ruined the lonely life he led in London, suffering from spiritual malaise and struggling not only with alcoholism, but also with his repressed homosexuality, in direct conflict with the Catholic Church to which he converted in 1891.
A habitual insomniac, he visited medieval graveyards after dark, composing epitaphs for those who died too young, He too died young, at the age of 35, from a fall in the street, or, more likely, a fall from a bar stool in a pub.

When he met Oscar Wilde, he enthusiastically wrote to a friend describing that encounter and said that he had fallen in love with him.
Just as soon as “The Portrait of Dorian Gray” was published, Wilde sent copies to friends, including Johnson, who responded with a witty Latin poem, ‘In Honorem Doriani Creatorisque Eius’ (‘In Honour of Dorian and His Creator’) to celebrate the novel.

The poem begins with these lines

Benedictus sis, Oscare!
Qui me libro hoc dignare
Propter amicitias:
Modo modulans Romano
Laudes dignas Doriano,
Ago tibi gratias

Bless you, Oscar,
For honouring me with this book
For friendship’s sake.
Casting in the Roman tongue
Praises that befit Dorian,
I thank you.
(1)
[…]

And it ends this way:

Hic sunt poma Sodomorum;
Hic sunt corda vitiorum;
Et peccata dulcia.
In excelsis et infernis,
Tibi sit, qui tanta cernis,
Gloriarum gloria!

Here are the apples of Sodom!
Here are the hearts of vice
And sweet sins!
In heaven and hell
May there be glory of glories to you,
who perceive so much!
(2)

But soon his admiration turned to contempt

… to be continued

(1) Sii benedetto, Oscar!
Che mi hai onorato con questo libro
per amicizia
Esprimendo in lingua romana
lodi degne di Dorian,
ti ringrazio.

(2) Qui sono i pomi di Sodoma;
qui sono i cuori dei vizi;
e i dolci peccati.
Nei cieli e negli inferi
a te, che capisci tante cose, sia
la gloria delle glorie!

Image: TLS (Times Literary Supplement) August 2, 2019

25 thoughts on “Johnson and Wilde (1)

  1. Alcohol and narcotics seem to provide the essential ingredients for producing great literature, but I can’t help thinking what a waste of talent to overdo it so early in his life. Already looking forward to the next part.

    Liked by 1 person

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