If there’s one thing New Yorkers love to do, it’s reminisce about how great New York used to be. Apparently that was as true 100 years ago as it is today.
There was a time when New York held many haunts dear to the hearts of men whom the world called bohemians; now it holds places dear to the hearts of those who love to call themselves by that name — and have thereby made the title odious.
Many things and much genius have died as a result of overpopularity. At some time enthusiastic admirers scaled the walls of bohemia and proceeded to smother it within their embraces. For fear they could not succeed in completing the delightful task they sent word broadcast of their remarkable discovery.
Before that invasion, to be a bohemian was, and is yet when rightly interpreted, a state of mind. Dress, occupation, and mode of living have nothing to do with it — no more than a love of rare roast beef may be said to typify an Englishman. Today the popular conception of a bohemian is one who washes little and indifferently, and whose manner of dress is studiously freakish, rather than carelessly following the lines of least resistance, as one is apt to do in all incidental matters when the heart is set on great purpose.
And so with New York’s bohemian resorts. The places not killed by prosperity have been driven out by commerce.
Today commerce imitates bohemia. Look at the cartoon on the top right, the guy with a coffee cup, and newspapers and magazines scattered all around. The caption says, “With a Cup of Coffee He May Read Undisturbed as Long as Possible.” The article laments the loss of the old German cafe where this was possible. Now it might as well be a Starbucks.
NEW YORK’S REAL BOHEMIA IS DEAD AND GONE (PDF)
From July 24, 1910