Lionel Pigot Johnson was born in Broadstairs, Kent, the son of an army officer. He was educated at Winchester and New College, Oxford, graduating in 1890. On leaving university he moved to London where he lived a solitary, ascetic, scholarly life, but appears to have struggled with alcoholism and repressed homosexuality which comes through particularly in his poem Dark Angel. He always regretted introducing Lord Alfred Douglas to Oscar Wilde, whom he had met as a fellow member of the Rhymers Club, of which his friends W B Yeats and Ernest Rhys were founders. He later viciously attacked Wilde in his poem Destroyer of the Soul.
During the 1890’s he worked as a writer and critic for a number of periodicals and published two volumes of poetry, Poems in 1895 and Ireland and Other Poems in 1897, as well as a book The Art of Thomas Hardy which helped to bring Hardy to public attention. Johnson had Celtic ancestry and had a love of both Wales and Ireland. His poetry has a wistful and melancholy flavour but his lyrics are full of elegance, beauty and poignancy. He died in 1902 at the age of 35 after a fall. His poetical works were edited by Ezra Pound in 1915.