The First Bohemians
Life and Art in London's Golden AgeBook - 2013
In the teeming, disordered, and sexually charged square half-mile centred on London's Covent Garden something extraordinary evolved in the eighteenth century. It was the world's first creative 'Bohemia'. The nation's most significant artists, actors, poets, novelists, and dramatists lived here. From Soho and Leicester Square across Covent Garden's Piazza to Drury Lane, and down from Long Acre to the Strand, they rubbed shoulders with rakes, prostitutes, market people, craftsmen, and shopkeepers. It was an often brutal world full of criminality, poverty and feuds, but also of high spirits, and an intimacy that was as culturally creative as any other in history. Virtually everything that we associate with Georgian culture was produced here.
Vic Gatrell's spectacular new book recreates this time and place by drawing on a vast range of sources, showing the deepening fascination with 'real life' that resulted in the work of artists like Hogarth, Blake, and Rowlandson, or in great literary works like The Beggar's Opera and Moll Flanders . The First Bohemia is illustrated by many rarely seen pictures, for Gatrell celebrates above all one of the most fertile eras in Britain's artistic history. He writes about Joshua Reynolds and J. M. W. Turner as well as the forgotten figures who contributed to what was a true golden age- the men and women who briefly dazzled their contemporaries before being destroyed - or made - by this magical but also ferocious world.
'I then sallied forth to the Piazzas in rich flow of animal spirits and burning with fierce desire . . . I was quite raised, as the phrase is . . . I parted with my ladies politely and came home in a glow of spirits.' James Boswell
Praise for Vic Gatrell's prize-winning City of Laughter- Sex and Satire in Eighteenth-Century London
'The most sumptuous and beautiful history book in years.' Stella Tillyard, Sunday Times
'Brilliant. It would be hard to overstate the importance of this wonderful book . . . rude and funny and crowd-pleasing . . . A fabulous story.' Kathryn Hughes, Guardian
'Magnificent . . . City of Laughter is an overflowing cornucopia of a book, stuffed with illustrations, rippling with stories, packed with characters, ripe quotations, rich with insights and argument.' Jenny Glow, Financial Times
'A marvellously illustrated survey of the satirical prints that so entertained the public and so mercilessly savaged the powerful in late eighteenth-century London.' Philip Pullman, Mail on Sunday , Books of the Year
'Vic Gatrell's investigation into rude old-fashioned laughter almost bursts out of its cover . . . Artistically this is a world we have lost, and Gatrell sets out to celebrate it in its bawdy, sardonic and satirical splendour . . . Gatrell's valuable and entertaining book is packed with information, answers many questions, and is all the better for raising many more.' Claire Tomalin, Spectator