CONCLUSION

Bohemian life in Paris — The charm of the café — Gradual change in one's tastes — The chez soi — Progress in one's work — New friends — Forced to return to England — A final visit to Gérome

BOHEMIAN life in Paris, once one begins to get out of the actual étudiant stage, changes very materially? It is still Bohemian, but of a different type. One can always rough it, "needs must when the devil drives," but not with the zest of youth when youth is flitting. In Paris it was curious how imperceptibly but surely one's habits gradually changed, as one progressed in one's work. There seemed to be less time and inclination for the irresponsible methods which were so characteristic of the early days of one's atelier life. Even in one's pleasures there was a certain commencement of sedateness; boisterous practical joking was losing its attraction. There was a desire to associate with men of more mature years and make new friends.

Café life in Paris never loses its charm for the artist; I mean, of course, for those who have had much experience of it, possibly because from being forced to practically live in cafés they become a sort of home for the lonely bachelor — a home where he can be alone or with company as he pleases. But after a time this life begins to appear a very empty sort of existence, and one has a feeling that a chez soi of one's own would be agreeable — a place where one can work and write one's letters in quiet privacy, surrounded by one's own pet comforts. This is the commencement of the second stage of Bohemian life in Paris — and I was now entering it.

These Arrives...
Although still quite young I recollect I had a feeling akin to admiration for men I had worked with at the École who now had studios of their own, and who were starting portraits or big pictures for the Salon. These arrivés, who in their time were amongst the most devil-may-care spirits of the Quartier — always ready for the most outrageous blagues and boyish adventures — had become serious painters now their École days were past. It appeared to me as almost remarkable that so short a time could have made so great a difference. Many indeed had been seen wearing tall hats and clean collars. Their example was contagious, and I determined to try what I could do also apart from the hats and the collars.

I had spent four happy years in Paris studying, and I felt that it was time I should decide how best to turn the knowledge I had acquired to good
account if possible. To remain in Paris permanently and endeavor to continue to live on my exiguous income, as I had hitherto done, tempted me greatly; but against this there was the feeling that what was possible as a student would no longer be so when one started attempting to make one's way seriously.

My friend and I had only taken our studio in the Passage Lathuile for a year, and our time was now up; and he was going to live away in the country, so my undecided state of mind will be the more understood. There is an old whist axiom, "when in doubt play trumps," and trumps for me meant Paris, for did I not practically owe my art training to Paris? And Paris I should have decided on had not the Fates decided otherwise. Through the failure of a big bank I found myself suddenly placed in such bad circumstances that I had no option but to give up all idea of remaining in France. To return to London and endeavor to make a living out of my brush or pencil was the only course open to me, for I felt that the chances of doing so were better there than in Paris.

It was with no slight feeling of regret therefore that I had come to the decision, but stern necessity compelled it.

I went and bid Gérome "good-bye," and told him why I was leaving Paris. He was sympathy itself, and we had quite a long talk together; whilst to my delight he presented me with a parting souvenir in the shape of an autographed photogravure of one of his most famous pictures, which I treasure amongst my most valued possessions, together with letters of introduction to two of his friends in London — Sir Frederick Leighton and John Everett Millais. As I made my way down from the studio, the memory of that day when, as a raw student, I had gone up there with Monsieur Thomas, full of trepidation as to the result of my visit, flashed through my mind. How much had happened during those four years, yet how quickly they had slipped away. I had, however, the consciousness that if I had played hard I had also worked hard; and that these years had therefore not been misspent.

As I closed the porte cochère behind me and found myself again on the familiar Boulevard, I felt a lump in my throat, for I realized that my Bohemian days as a student in Paris were ended.



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