London has always been home to outsiders. To people who won't or can't abide by the conventions of respectable society. For close to two centuries these misfit individualists have had a name. They have been called Bohemians.
This book is an entertaining, anecdotal history of Bohemian London. A guide to its more colourful inhabitants. Rossetti and Swinburne, defying the morality of high Victorian England. Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley in the decadent 1890s. The Bloomsburyites and the Bright Young Things. Dylan Thomas, boozing in the Blitz, and Francis Bacon and his cronies, wasting time and getting wasted in 1950s Soho.
It's also a guide to the places where Bohemia has flourished. The legendary Cafe Royal, a home away from home to artists and writers for nearly a century. The Cave of the Golden Calf, a First World War nightclub run by the Swedish playwright August Strindberg's widow. The Colony Room, the infamous drinking den presided over by the gloriously foul-mouthed Muriel Belcher, and the Gargoyle Club in Dean Street, where the artistic avant-garde mixed with upper-crust eccentrics. The pubs of Fitzrovia where the painters Augustus John and Nina Hamnett rubbed shoulders with the occultist Aleister Crowley and where the short-story writer Julian Maclaren-Ross, wearing mirror sunglasses and clutching a silver-topped Malacca cane, held court for his acolytes and admirers.
The story of Bohemian London is one of drink and drugs, sex and death, excess and indulgence. It's also a story of achievement and success. Some of the finest art and literature of the last two centuries has emerged from Bohemia. Nick Rennison's book provides a lively and enjoyable portrait of the world in which Bohemian Londoners once lived.