Johnson and Wilde (2) … and Bosie

Lionel Johnson (see here) was the cousin and tutor of 20-year-old Lord Alfred Douglas, ‘Bosie’ for short. He lent him his copy of “The Portrait of Dorian Gray” and the young man claimed he had been so ‘passionately absorbed’ in the book, that he had devoured it, reading it ‘ fourteen times running’.
The two of them went to visit Oscar Wilde at his house in Chelsea, probably in June 1891, and Wilde was fascinated by Bosie’s beauty. He gave him his own copy of a newer edition of the book, and offered to tutor him for his final university exams. Douglas was an undergraduate at Oxford at Wilde’s old college Magdalen College, and he was spoilt and handsome , with a mop of blond hair flopping over his eyes.

A love affair was about to start and Johnson, maybe jealous, soon turned his adoration for the Irishman (do you remember? “In heaven and hell/ May there be glory to you,/ Who perceive so much!”) into hatred.

In 1892 he wrote a vituperative sonnet titled “The Destroyer of a Soul” attacking Wilde’s relationship with his cousin.

“The Destroyer of a Soul”
I hate you with a necessary hate.
First, I sought patience: passionate was she:
My patience turned in very scorn of me,
That I should dare forgive a sin so great,
As this, through which I sit disconsolate;
Mourning for that live soul, I used to see;
Soul of a saint, whose friend I used to be:
Till you came by! a cold, corrupting, fate.

Why come you now? You, whom I cannot cease
With pure and perfect hate to hate? Go, ring
The death-bell with a deep, triumphant toll!
Say you, my friend sits by me still? Ah, peace!
Call you this thing my friend? this nameless thing?
This living body, hiding its dead soul?


The soul is the soul of Lord Alfred Douglas, whom Johnson introduced to Wilde the previous June. He regrets initiating that highly scandalous love affair between the two men and attributes the social ruin of Bosie’s reputation to Wilde.
The nameless thing may be a reference to the phrase of the poem “Two Loves” by Lord Alfred Douglas, whose last line, ‘I am the love that dare not speak its name’, is an allusion to homosexuality.

Il distruttore di un’anima

Ti odio con un odio indispensabile.
Dapprima ho cercato la pazienza: era appassionata:
la mia pazienza si è trasformata in disprezzo per me,
un peccato grande che dovrei avere la forza di perdonare,
un peccato che mi ha reso sconsolato,
a piangere per quell’anima ardente che un tempo vedevo;
anima di un santo, di cui ero amico:
finché non sei arrivato tu! fato freddo e corruttore.

Perché vieni adesso? Tu, che non posso smettere
di odiare con odio puro e perfetto? Vai, suona
la campana della morte con un rintocco profondo e trionfante!
Di’, il mio amico si siede ancora vicino a me? Ah, pace!
chiami questa cosa amico mio? questa cosa senza nome?
Questo corpo vivente, che nasconde un’anima morta?
(L.Z.)

29 thoughts on “Johnson and Wilde (2) … and Bosie

  1. LUISA, I CAN’T READ TOO MUCH ABOUT OSCAR WILDE AND BOSIE AND THEIR FRIENDSHIP BECAUSE I GET VERY UPSET ABOUT THE WAY THEY HANDLED IT IN THE COURTROOM AND IN THE PUBLIC. TOO MUCH OF IMPORTANCE PERTAINING TO LIFESTYLES WAS GIVEN NEEDLESSLY. IN MY OPINION. BOSIE WAS A JERK, LED AROUND BY HIS EVIL FATHER. SO MUCH JEALOUSY FOR MY LOVELY OSCAR AND THE GIFTED MAN HE WAS . IT BRAKES MY HEART the bastards got away with his murder even though he was released from prison they broke him The Narcissist we’ll do that to you every time he wasn’t strong enough he should have listened to his good friends like George Bernard Shaw but he didn’t listen he thought he was Stronger then evil he wasn’t they broke him .he had two sons with his wife his wife changed their last name what did he get out of prison?to come home to his friends abandoned him he had no money his health was very poor they broke his eardrum they beat him up,,,,,,for what??????👺💔

    Liked by 2 people

  2. These people certainly led complicated lives, but at least we have somebody such as your good self who can help unravel it all. Thank you 🙂
    Just as a small matter of interest, I touched on the relationship between Oscar Wilde and Bosie in a post I did about Babbacombe (which is near to where I live). If you fancy taking a quick look, it’s towards the end of the post, and so you don’t need to read it all, as the rest might not be of any interest to you.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. JEALOUSY , SUCH AN EVIL TRAIT BUT THATS WHAT HAPPENS IN STRAIGHT& HOMOSEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS THE MOST VICIOUS MURDERS TAKE PLACE BECAUSE OF IT . MY BEST FRIEND 30 YREARS AGO WAS KILLED OVER JEALOUSY. MY BEAUTIFUL AUNT EVELYN S FACE WAS DESTROYED BECAUSE OF IT , AND DEFIANTLY MEN LIKE BEAUTIFUL OSCAR WILDE WERE DESTROYED BECAUSE OF JEALOUSY ✂📕🌎🌍

    Liked by 1 person

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