Bohemianism and Counter-Culture

Bohemian London


   Cafe Culture

   Daily Life







La Boheme
London 1900's
Beat Culture
Hippie Culture

Works Cited


The bohemian movement in London had many similarities with that of the Parisian movement. However, there were also some fundamental differences between the bohemian movements in the two cities. Features of the London bohemian movement include

  • a long literary history involving Grub Street and hack writers
  • the exclusion of women in bohemian society


    Grub Street: Bohemian Literary History

Victorian bohemians were closely associated with Grub Street, the infamous neighborhood of London where hack writers lived and worked. A group of young men, followers of Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray, worked hard to create lives where they could work as authors, producing whatever they liked.

picture courtesy of

For these bohemian hack writers, the most important source of income came from journalism. Few hack writers never made it out of literary obscurity, and most lived in the shadows of Dickens and Thackeray.

As lower middle-class writers without private incomes or university educations, they lived a simple bohemian life out of necessity, not by choice. However, Grub Street hack writers enjoyed the freedom from Victorian society that bohemia had to offer. George Augustus Sala, pictured at left, once said of his life as a Grub Street writer that

"...most of us were about the idlest young dogs that squandered away their time on the pavements of Paris or London. We would not work. I declare in all candour that...the average number of hours per week which I devoted to literary production did not exceed four." (Cross, 94)

The Exclusion of Women

The salon culture of bohemian Paris meant that women were included in important cultural events. Women in London's bohemia, however, were a rare presence. Women's roles were not as easily changed in London, and even intellectual women were shunned. Coffeehouses were places for men to gather, and women stayed in the home. In London, bohemianism was an exclusively male concern