at left) and other literary figures described Bohemia as the
"country of youth." Most of the famous artistic
and literary figures that emerged from Bohemia had lived in
this world when they were young students. The factors that
influenced the association between youth and Bohemia include:
change in Paris during the 18th and 19th centuries affected
the distribution of wealth and
the lives of many young, aspiring parisians.
- The traditional
European view of youth as agents of change was synonomous
with the Bohemian phenomenon: the rejection of social and
political order. Although
Bohemians were not activists by will, many became involved
in political dissent during the momentous uprisings of the
1830's, advocating liberty and freedom of expression.
image appeared in the illustrated version of Victor Hugo's
Les Miserables, 1862
image is a good representation of down and out youth. It
shows Marius, one of Hugo's
characters, as a bohemian living in poverty. The poor living
conditions are evident from the old furniture and the drab
looking room. The youth's contemplative and tired posture
give the impression of someone who does not know where he
belongs or what will become of him.
Change: Mid-18th century marked the beginning of a period
of rapid population growth all over Europe. The
birth rate kept growing until the population of people ages
fifteen through thirty had reached an all time high. This
growth put economic pressures on society, for population was
expanding faster than industry. There was a great deal of
competition for jobs, especially professional positions. (Seigel,
21) It is likely that many of these unlucky, marginalized
young people fed the population of bohemia.
seems fitting to how Balzac identified bohemia: "youth
waiting for society to make a place for them." (Seigel,
20) As Murger pointed out, Bohemia
was supposed to be a phase of life, a temporary period of
rebellion and intellectual contemplation before becoming an
accepted member of society.
Marius, a character
from Les Miserables is a good representation of a young
student waiting to find his place in society. Click here
to read more about one
of Hugo's representations of youth in Bohemia.
Youth: Europeans traditionally viewed youth as a "separate
stage of life." (Seigel, 19)
Aristotle described the importance of youth in political change.
In the Middle Ages unmarried people in their late teens and
twenties tended to form their own distinct groups with their
own defining culture. In the 19th century, these preconseptions
contributed to the concept of youth as the agents of social
and historical change.
in general chose to ignore political issues. As Houssaye recounted
in his memoires, "We [bohemians] neither attacked
nor defended the law; we had simply placed ourselves outside
legal bounds." (Knepler,
32) However, circumstances led great dissatisfaction to
build in the Latin Quarter after
the Revolution of 1830 and the reinstatement of the Bourbon
dynasty. Romantisism had grown up in Paris during the previous
decade, and the monarchy's rigidity and reactionism aroused
increasing hostility. As author Seigel
observes, "the conservative policies of the new regime
gave new life to the connection between cultural innovation
and political dissatisfaction." (27)
Some non political Bohemians began to criticize and denounce
the regime through their art. For
example, in 1832 Petrus Borel became
one editor of a paper called La Liberte Journal des Arts;
it's articles demanded that the government abolish official
institutions and restrictions and also called for "the
broadest and most complete liberty in the arts."
(Seigel, 27) Although it was
short-lived, political protest became more widespread during
Thus, Bohemia became
the "country of youth" because there were too many
students and young people for society to accomodate, and because
it was in many ways natural for young people to rebell against
norms and convention, as well as authority.