Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Let's Hear it For Bohemia!

"The rough-and-tumble of Afghanistan, coming on the top of a natural Bohemianism of disposition, has made me rather more lax than befits a medical man"- Watson in 'The Musgrave  Ritual.'

"It was not a collection of residential flats, but rather the abode of Bohemian bachelors" - Watson in 'The Three Garridebs.'

As Holmes went out to pursue the elusive Mrs. Sawyer, Watson passed the time "skipping over the pages of Henri Murger's Vie de Boheme." A Study in Scarlet.

Murger's sketches of the true bohemian life, which he had lived himself, enjoyed enormous success as a series of newspaper articles. These later came out in book form, as a play and finally, half a century later, an opera by Puccini. Talented young artists, writers and sculptors with no money hung out in a derelict farm- house near the Barriere d'Enfer (one of the gates of Paris) coming regularly into the City hoping to earn the price of a cup of coffee at the Cafe Momus. Murger later became respectable, deserting the Momus for the Cafe Riche but continuing to write novels which painted the really bohemian existence in the grimest of colours. It led, he said, to The Academy, the hospital or the morgue. There was nothing for it but extremely hard work, and young men without talent who simply wanted to sample the life did so knowing they could return home after a short, romantic and not too painfully poor stay in a garret, drinking in noisy taverns with genuine artists and sleeping with little grisettes.As soon as the game palled they could go home, as Murger put it, "to marry their cousins and set up as solicitors in a town of thirty thousand souls where, sitting by the fire in the evening, they boasted of their poverty-stricken artist days with all the exaggeration of travellers describing a tiger-hunt."

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