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Lunching with a talented English comedian and his wife the other day, the conversation turned on Bohemia, the evasive no-man’s-land that Thackeray referred to, in so many of his books, and to which he looked back lovingly in his later years, when, as he said, he had forgotten the road to Prague.

The lady remarked: “People have been more than kind to us here in New York. We have dined and supped out constantly, and have met with gracious kindness, such as we can never forget. But so far we have not met a single painter, or author, or sculptor, or a man who has explored a corner of the earth. Neither have we had the good luck to find ourselves in the same room with Tesla or Rehan, Edison or Drew. We shall regret so much when back in England and are asked about your people of talent, being obliged to say, ‘We never met any of them.’ Why is it? We have not been in any one circle, and have pitched our tents in many cities, during our tours over here, but always with the same result. We read your American authors as much as, if not more than, our own. The names of dozens of your discoverers and painters are household words in England. When my husband planned his first tour over here my one idea was, ‘How nice it will be! Now I shall meet those delightful people of whom I have heard so much.’ The disappointment has been complete. Never one have I seen.”

I could not but feel how all too true were the remarks of this intelligent visitor, remembering how quick the society of London is to welcome a new celebrity or original character, how a place is at once made for him at every hospitable board, a permanent one to which he is expected to return; and how no Continental entertainment is considered complete without some bright particular star to shine in the firmament.

“Lion-hunting,” I hear my reader say with a sneer. That may be, but it makes society worth the candle, which it rarely is over here. I realized what I had often vaguely felt before, that the Bohemia the English lady was looking for was not to be found in this country, more’s the pity. Not that the elements are lacking. Far from it, (for even more than in London should we be able to combine such a society), but perhaps from a misconception of the true idea of such a society, due probably to Henry Murger’s dreary book Scenes de la vie de Boheme which is chargeable with the fact that a circle of this kind evokes in the mind of most Americans visions of a scrubby, poorly-fed and less-washed community, a world they would hardly dare ask to their tables for fear of some embarrassing unconventionality of conduct or dress.

Yet that can hardly be the reason, for even in Murger or Paul de Kock, at their worst, the hero is still a gentleman, and even when he borrows a friend’s coat, it is to go to a great house and among people of rank. Besides, we are becoming too cosmopolitan, and wander too constantly over this little globe, not to have learned that the Bohemia of 1830 is as completely a thing of the past as a grisette or a glyphisodon. It disappeared with Gavarni and the authors who described it. Although we have kept the word, its meaning has gradually changed until it has come to mean something difficult to define, a will-o’-the-wisp, which one tries vainly to grasp. With each decade it has put on a new form and changed its centre, the one definite fact being that it combines the better elements of several social layers.