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Among the Bohemians


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Part 1 Paying the price: why is poverty so romantic?; why do artists despise money?; how does one survive while producing something that no one will buy?; what does an artist do who runs out of money?; does being rich disqualify one from Bohemia?; if being Bohemian means being poor, is the gain worth the pain? Part 2 All for love: what is wrong with talking about sex?; what is wrong with sex outside marriage?; why shouldn't self-expression extend to the bedroom?; is homosexuality wrong?; must relationships be confined to members of the same sex, class and colour?; is marriage a meaningful institution?; is there such a thing as free love? Part 3 Children of light: what is it like to be brought up in Bohemia?; should children be kept clean and tidy?; should children be given rules and punishments?; how do you bring up a creative child?; should children be educated, and if so, how? Part 4 Dwelling with beauty: how can one recognise a Bohemian interior?; does one really need furniture?; how can one live beautifully and cheaply?; is innovation in design compatible with authentic living?; do things have to match? what is the point of wallpaper?; must furniture be new?; is comfort more important that appearance; is living the simple life the answer to poverty? Part 5 Glorious apparel: what do one's clothes tell people about one's beliefs?; does one have to wear what other people wear?; must one wear sober colours?; evening dress? corsets?; which is more important, comfort or appearance?; must women wear skirts?; must men be clean-shaven?; is jewellery wrong for men?; do clothes have to be expensive to be beautiful? (Part contents).

About the Author

Virginia Nicholson was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. After studying at Cambridge University she lived in France and Italy and then worked as a documentary researcher for BBC Television. Her first book, Charleston - A Bloomsbury House and Garden (written in collaboration with her father, Quentin Bell), was an account of the Sussex home of her grandmother, the painter Vanessa Bell.

Books published by Penguin include Among the Bohemians- Experiments in Living 1900-1939 and Singled Out- How Two Million Women Survived without Men After the First World War. She is married and has three children.


Nicholson, granddaughter of painter Vanessa Bell and great-niece of Virginia Woolf, is uniquely qualified to write about the experimental lifestyle of her grandparents' generation. The early 20th-century British bohemians-Bloomsbury and their extended circles, and lesser-known rebels like Roy Campbell and Jacob Epstein-rejected bourgeois Victorian values and embraced life as art, open marriage, Rousseau-influenced education and even poverty. Perhaps because she is an insider (despite having been born well after its heyday), Nicholson is able to communicate the ideals and desires of this generation without romanticizing it. The exhilaration of the bohemians' freedom and the hardships of the poverty in which many chose to live are equally portrayed. Their children place a golden haze on their youth but also blame their parents for not providing a rigorous education and a few rules to guide their way. The reader could also easily get impatient with how these talented individuals seemed determined to destroy themselves (the epilogue in particular reads like a catalogue of lives left ravaged by passions), but Nicholson effectively argues that theirs was the energy of true rebellion and implies that the excess was necessary to break with the constricting bonds of the past-and that the circle of bohemia ultimately changed how we all live. Although this account is written in a neutral, almost dry style as Nicholson examines the bohemians' daily lives thematically (sexual freedom, child-rearing, styles in clothing and interior decoration, etc.), the intimate conversations and salacious details related still titillate like gossip. Readers interested in the art, literature and personalities of this era will not be disappointed. B&w photos, illus. (Mar. 1) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Between the end of the 19th century and World War II, Bohemia, a near-mythical community of artists and writers, flourished in England. The inhabitants of this realm-who included Virginia Woolf, Dylan Thomas, and painter and sculptor Augustus John, among others-exulted in their newfound liberation from the stultifying morality and staid artistic principles of Victorian England. Nicholson, the granddaughter of Vanessa Bell and great-niece of Virginia Woolf, draws upon her firsthand experiences of these personalities as well as popular contemporary portraits to uncover artifacts of their daily life, such as, for example, the kinds of dishes and furniture found in their houses and the kinds of clothes they popularized. Demonstrating through such excursions that even when it came to the little details, the Bohemians saw themselves as challenging conventional propriety and taste, Nicholson characterizes them as idealists, romantics, and sensualists who were contemptuous of material wealth and conventional propriety. Although this disorderly study of the lives of the Bohemians provides interesting moments of insight about lesser-known personalities in the group, it merely rehashes what we have long known about their revolutionary artistic and moral practices as well as their influence on contemporary art. Recommended primarily for larger libraries.-Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Lancaster, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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