The First Bohemians

The First Bohemians: Life and Art in London's Golden Age

Cover of the first edition
Author Vic Gatrell
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Subject Covent Garden, History of London
Set in Covent Garden
Published London
Publisher Allen Lane, Penguin (2014)
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 512
ISBN 9780718195830

The First Bohemians: Life and Art in London's Golden Age is a 2013 book by British writer and academic Vic Gatrell.


The book details the colourful history of the London district of Covent Garden which Gatrell describes as "teeming, disordered and sexually charged" and argues was the world's first "creative Bohemia". During the 18th century many of the UK's most significant artists, actors, poets, novelists, and dramatists lived in the district. The book features more than 200 pictures, many of which have been rarely seen.


In Times Higher Education Supplement, Professor Clare Brant, a Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture in the Department of English at King's College, London praised the "evocation of non-conformists in the capital’s cultural ‘heart’", which she described as "compelling".[1] In The Guardian Faramerz Dabhoiwala, a Professor of History at the Oxford University wrote that "Gatrell's book does it (the history of Covent Garden) justice in all the right ways. It is beautifully produced – from the sumptuous, almost three-dimensional dust jacket to the more than 200 illustrations sprinkled liberally throughout the text" and that the "book is mainly a celebration: a relaxed, confident and triumphantly successful re-creation of a fascinating world of male companionship, drunkenness, poverty, sex and art".[2] In the New Statesman Frances Wilson wrote that the author is "terrific company" and "The First Bohemians is generously, often ingeniously, illustrated".[3] The book was also reviewed in The Economist, in which the reviewer wrote that the "richness of detail makes “The First Bohemians” a pleasure to read".

The First Bohemians was shortlisted for the Hessell-Tiltman Prize in 2014.


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