Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America’s First Bohemians (A Merloyd Lawrence Book)
Although the time period of this book is the civil war, the title does not refer to that conflict, but to a group of revelers who nightly sat around a long table at a bar in New York City run by a German immigrant, Herr Pfaff. Although Walt Whitman is the most well-known regular in this circle, it was headed by Henry Clapp Junior, the editor of a literary journal and a major supporter of Whitman’s poetry, known for his wit and bon mots. The book is very interesting, not so much for its cast of characters, but for Martin’s excellent writing.
The circle was composed of eight regulars. Henry Clapp had been to Paris where he discovered bohemian clubs, women, and hard drink. Upon his return to New York, Clapp instituted this Bohemian group at a bar located under the streets of Broadway, unusual for its time because women were allowed to be served within the bar and were regular participants at the Bohemian table. Among these women was actress Adah Isaacs Menken who was famous for her “naked lady” bareback ride in the play Mazeppa. Edwin Booth, the Shakespearean actor was also peripheral to this group as was the first stand up comedian, Art emus Ward. It is fascinating to read of this group who brought the bohemian lifestyle to the states.
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