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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Thursday, 12 December 2019

"Bohemia in London" by Arthur Ransome

Ransome is the author who later became famous as the writer of the Swallows and Amazons series of children's books (including Swallowdale, reviewed in this blog). This book was first published in 1907, written when Ransome was a very young man who had just left his family to rent a single 'sordid room in Chelsea' (to quote Sally Bowles in Cabaret), to mingle with writers and painters and sculptors and poets, most of them also young, penniless, and hungry. Ransome later went on to become a correspondent for the Manchester Guardian in Russia during the Soviet revolution who married the secretary of Trotsky; the children';s books came after all of that!

Bohemia in London is a charming collection of anecdotes about Ransome's contemporaries (mostly anonymous) and the famous artists and writers who lived in London in the past, such as Dr Johnson, Richard Steele, and John Keats. As the introduction says: "I wanted to write a book that would make real on paper the strange, tense, joyful and despairing, hopeful and sordid life that is lived in London by young artists and writers." I think he succeeds.

Great moments:
  • Of all kinds of bondage, vagabondage was the most cruel and the hardest from which to escape.” (Introductory Chapter)
  • Give a fool a proselyte, and he will be ten times happier than a sage without one.” (A Chelsea Evening)
  • The whole world was a pageant to him, with himself a central figure.” (A Chelsea Evening)
  • And so the talk goes on, like the talk of puppets, she just passing the time, trying to keep interested and real without moving out of her pose; he slashing in the rough work, bringing head, neck, shoulders, the turn of the waist, the fold of the skirt, into their places on the canvas.” (In the Studios)
  • Artist’s models are not hampered, like the painters themselves, by knowing too much, and at the same time they are not ignorant as the ordinary picture buyer is ignorant.” (In the Studios)
  • The people who buy in ordinary shops are so disheartening. There is no spirit about them, no enthusiasm.” (Book-shops of Bohemia)
  • They are buying books for other people, not to read themselves. The books they buy are doomed, Christmas or birthday presents, to lie about on drawing-room tables. I am sorry for those people, but I am sorrier for the books.” (Book-shops of Bohemia)
  • Walking the pavement with the air prescribed by the best of drill sergeants, ‘as if one side of the street belonged to him, and he expected the other shortly’.” (Old and New Fleet Street)
  • It is in its way rather fun to be suddenly an authority on subjects of which you knew nothing till you sat down to write about them. And it is very good practice in journalism - though it is always easier to write when you are ignorant then when you know too much.” (Ways and Means)
  • No one is content to live as life has made them and as they are.” (Old and New Hampstead)
  • A sculptor and painter girl fell in love with each other and, as they had neither money nor prospect of getting any, had nothing to wait for, and so got married at once.” (A Wedding in Bohemia)

December 2019; 284 pages

An more objective account of Ransome's life is given in Arthur Ransom and Capt Flint's Trunk by Christine Hardyment

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