Bohemian Paris

Degenerates are not always criminals. Anarchist and pronounced lunatics; They are often authors and artists—Max Nordan, Degeneration.

I have spent the last several years in a dark and depressing world far below the Paris streets. I have been absorbed in researching the undergrounds of society to bring to life a man who was nota handsome Scotsman in a stunning a white half-mask as portrayed by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s popular movie. Leroux’s Erik was a passionate and unstable gentleman who hid his murderously vengeful ways in the counter-culture of Paris.

Jean Béraud “La Lettre”

The Bohemian movement prevalent in late 19thcentury Paris was a counter-culture effort to reject the values of mainstream society and mock the upwardly mobile bourgeoisie. While the Bohemian moment isn’t something that was ubiquitous in Leroux’s original novel it was a culture that influenced Paris in the Victorian era—whether you were a journalist, lawyer, aristocrat or artist. Those involved were not the upper class or the deviants of the underground, but writers, students, and artists who contented themselves with ignoring the social ladder-climbing around them. The terms “Boheme” and “Bohemian” came to denote a generation who hated the idea of a work ethic. Bohemians were portrayed as vagabonds, misfits, drunks, philosophers, and narcissists—the lifestyle

associated with idleness. Public opinion of the Bohemian movement solidified after du Maurier’s 1894 best-selling novel of Bohemian culture: Tribly. This body of work was used by Gaston Leroux to craft the original story of Erik—the Phantom.

Bohemians lived by their own sets of rules; they were wanderers of the most extreme extent. Social values weren’t their concern. Their lives were carefree events filled with drink, merriment, arts, and sexual freedom. They usually didn’t work and instead poured themselves into living solely for the sake of art and literature. Renouncing private property made them glaringly different from the bourgeoisie, a class that desired to achieve the status of the aristocracy. Members of the Bohemian culture shared this lifestyle with others in communal camps, an area I have had great delight in exploring in my body of works. Who can resist a vagabond who carries all his wealth with him and hangs his hat wherever the road may take him? It’s been fabulous crafting how this sort of life has impacted my characters in the 4thbook in my series.

A snapshot of a daily routine for a Bohemian might be to rise and work on a painting or poem. But the goal was not to be productive, instead to interact and enjoy one’s company. The night was pure entertainment hanging out in salons or seeking the latest sexual encounter.  You could spot a Bohemian, if the long hair and pockets overflowing with all they owned didn’t give it away, by their out-of-date fashions and bright colored clothing.

Bohemians weren’t just men; women joined the movement too. These Grisettesbecame a source of inspiration for many Bohemians. Grisetteswere young women usually of the countryside who headed to Paris to find work—but Bohemia found them. The allure of freedom called to these women. Women of the bohemian mindset didn’t want to be ruled by marriage, and it took a great deal for them to leave behind the stability that such a life might have offered. It was harder to break the ties with their former lives because women were encouraged to be respectable and upstanding individuals. They were carefree and longed for the best of both worlds: the money of the upper class and the thrill of being considered an equal in the eyes of the Bohemian man.

I think it would be a fascinating culture to explore if one was able to time-travel. Though, I think there are plenty of types of Bohemian lifestyles found in the 21stcentury!

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