Bohemianism and Counter-Culture

Students as Career

Main Page




"The student has more bad habits and rediculous traits than vices; and when he has them, those vices have such shallow roots that he need only take his examinations and cross again the threshold of his paternal home to become calm, positive, reliable . . . What infinite nuances there are in that population of children, or half-men, which Paris continually sees renewing itself, like dissimilar victuals mixed in the vast stomach of the Latin Quarter! There are as many classes of students as there are rival and various classes within the bourgeoisie."
--George Sand (48)

Like the members of the Societe de l'ABC, many Bohemians were students. The Sorbonne and other branches of the University of Paris were located in the Latin Quarter, so young men did not have to go far to attend classes - that is, when they went to classes. The chronicles of Bohemia say little about study, concentrating instead on the more informal aspects of student life: philosophical discussions with peers, amateur artistic creation, and constant flirtations.

In Horace, Sand describes the various types of students, giving them these titles:

  • Carousers "who spent their day at the Chaumiere, at cabarets, at the Pantheon dance hall, screaming, smoking, vociferating in the foul and hideous air" (50)
  • Grinds - "very restrained, who shut themselves in, lived in poverty, and gave themselves over to material labor resulting in cretinism" (50).
  • Café Students - "attached to their habits of strolls, billiard rooms, and endless smokes in taverns, or walks in noisy groups in the Luxembourg Gardens" (51).
  • Bousingots - "student rioters," political youths who sometimes stir up trouble and sometimes have a legitimate gripe (52).

Some students of the Latin Quarter were studying art rather than the liberal arts or a profession. In Trilby, Little Billee attends painting classes at Carrell's atelier, an attic studio that attracts many young artists. Really the "classes" are no more than a chance to be with other painters and to practice painting the daily models; Carrell is quite famous, but his instruction consists of nothing more than glancing at everyone's easel on Fridays for a few moments.