Bohemia in London: The Social Scene of Early Modernism by P. Brooker

By P. Brooker

This unique examine discovers the bourgeois within the modernist and the dissenting sort of Bohemia within the new creative activities of the 1910s. Brooker sees the bohemian because the instance of the fashionable artist, at odds with yet outlined by way of the codes of bourgeois society. It renews once again the complexities and radicalism of the modernist challenge.

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In one such mood he rapes Bertha. The tragic farce of his life leads him thence to a duel and suicide. Tarr resolves to alternate between Bertha (until she divorces him for an eye doctor) and Anastasya. Thereafter, at the novel’s abrupt close, he is said to take up with two other women, ‘the dim though solid’ Rose Fawcett, by whom he has three children and ‘the painted, fine and 18 Bohemia in London inquiring … Prism Dirkes’, in a pattern of now more ‘stodgy’ bourgeois, now more sexy bohemian as before.

Tarr is difficult to place in this period of concentrated rethinking, but while it rejects the concept of the ‘indivisible ego’ targeted in Blast 1 in favour of the externalised and emptied self of Vorticism, it also ridicules the extremes of a Vorticist subjectivity. It does not dispose of the ego, therefore, so much as de-compose it into the ‘new egos’ announced in Blast 1, only then to expose these new types of the artist to the satirical chemicals of the social-sexual world of the novel. The end product is less the ‘anti-individualist’ novel Peppis describes than the double-voiced ‘(anti-) Vorticist’ hybrid described by Richard Sheppard.

Pater had died in 1894, Beardsley in 1898, Wilde in 1900. And so too soon had the Rhymers: Dowson in 1900, Johnson in 1902, and Davidson in 1909. In 1908 Symons himself suffered a mental breakdown. Yeats who had been his closest associate (Symons was ‘the best critic of his generation … the most sympathetic, and understanding of friends’) visited him two or three times and then according to Rhoda Symons in 1917, ‘now studiously avoids meeting him’ (Beckson and Munro, 1989: 198). Symons recalls the earlier time between 1893–96 in essays fifteen years apart, recycling passages in a mechanical but defiant affirmation of a retreating past.

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