looking into the past of the bohemian lifestyle.
In Search of Bohemians with a Little (b).
I am not looking for a nation state or even a region of one. Such as Bohemia in the Czech Republic. Which quite correctly has a big (B). Though all the dictionaries point me this way.
No bohemians are not found there.
Bohemianism is a lifestyle. Associated with Gypys, Romany and Vagabonds. Also since the 19th century in English, with artists and literary types.
Therefore little (b) bohemians are stateless. A community of the like minded or perhaps some other link. Equally reviled and envied for their lifestyle.
In France Henri Murger's 'Scenes de la Vie de Boheme' 1851. A series of vignettes.
Forms the basis of Puccini's opera La Boheme in 1896.
For those who do not know or care a brief synopsis.
Act 1 opens in a garret in the Latin quarter of Paris. Shared by four men. Rudolfo writer/poet, Marcello a painter, Schaunard a musician and Colline a philosopher.
Marcello is painting while Rudolfo gazes out of the window. They complain about the cold. Marcello suggests breaking a chair for fire wood, then Rudolfo offers to burn a manuscript he was working on. Is this just the libretist building up some capital for the hero. He burns his own work to keep his companions warm. Colline the philosopher enters dishevelled and angry he could not pawn his books to get some money for them all. He is followed by Schaunard the musician carrying food, wine and cigars. He relates how he came by these wonders. Though his friends are not listening they are setting the table to devour this win fall. Schaunard interrupts them. Saying they must keep some of the food for poor days ahead. Tonight they will dine out at a cafe and he will pay.
Is this artistic community the link for bohemians.
In England William Makepeace Thackeray's 'Vanity Fair' 1848. A satire of public perceptions of the alternative lifestyle that people may have lived. This lifestyle is not artistic. The lead characters are either amoral or clueless. Some do little to help themselves. Others can do nothing but promote their own interests.
No. Surely this is not the little (b) bohemians.
George Du Maurier's 'Trilby' 1894. Further romanticises the culture of bohemians. Again a female lead character. A girl working as an artists model in Paris. Comes under the influence of an eastern European Jewish musician and rogue named Svengali. Here we have another artistic link, but also a menacing character from the east who uses hypnotism to manipulate the girl Trilby.
Could bohemians be artistic and manipulative?
In America around the 1850's a group of cultured journalists in New York described themselves as bohemians. Many went off to cover the civil war. During this conflict many reporters and those working in the newspaper business took up the tag 'bohemian'. By 1872 San Francisco even had a private club called 'The Bohemian Club'. Originally for journalists but like so many of these types of establishments the net opens wider to encompass many who would not qualify under the original title.