New York, Nov. 24--If there is a word in the English language which is subjected to more abuse and misuse than any other word--with the possible exception of "lady"--that word is "Bohemian." For my own part I have come to loath the term "Bohemia" or "Bohemians," because I have so often heard them misapplied. Society reporters will speak of "chromoliterary" receptions as "delightfully Bohemian," when they know perfectly well that nothing is served to the guests stronger than a red punch which is hardly superior to lemonade; and I have even heard the expression used in describing a kettledrum given by a dude artist who is an artist, not because he can paint, but because he has ten thousand dollars' worth of rugs and bric-a-brac in the large room which he calls a studio.
The genuine Bohemian would never think of posing or advertising his whereabouts in order that people might come and see him eat. He leaves that to certain more pretentious men of arts and letters.
And yet I am convinced that we own three-quarters of all that is good in art, literature or music to men and women whose lives have been spent in Bohemia, and who have loved that bright land for the good company they have found in it.
There have been, within my memory, dozens of cafes, restaurants and saloons which could be truthfully termed Bohemian resorts, and, of course, the most famous of all these was the one from which Artemus Ward telegraphed his celebrated reply of "brandy and water" to the lecture agent who wanted to know what he would take fora hundred nights in California. It was this place which afforded me the first glimpse I ever had of Bohemia. It happened in this accidental way:
A NOTED GROUP.
One afternoon a great many years ago I stopped on my way up Broadway and descended into a basement beer saloon situated at No. 653, two doors below the old Canterbury Music Hall. As I went down a long flight of stairs I saw, through the glass partition at my right, an oblong table, about which were seated a number of men smoking long clay pipes. Many of these men were old and grizzled, and the table at which they sat was under the sidewalk and lighted from above by glass bull's eyes let into the pavement.
The group of men at that table constituted the Bohemia of a quarter of a century ago, the most notable gathering of its kind that one city has ever known. Although I did not know it then there were about that table Henry Clapp, known in his day as the "King of Bohemia," Charles Gayler, the father of American dramatists; Walt Whitman, William Winter, Artemus Ward, Fitz James O'Brien, N. P. Willis, Clemenceau, the French statesman, and a score of others famous in their day and generation.
Their place of meeting was Pfaff's beer saloon, from which circumstance they aer spoken of to this day as "the old Pfaff crowd."
Pfaff was a German inn keeper, possessed of great kindness of heart and a remarkable knowledge both of cookery and of beer. He was famous for his coffee and German pancakes, and was one of the first men in New York who thoroughly understood the art of drawing and keeping lager beer. Moreover his benevolence and fondness for the society of his artistic and literary patrons led him to extend to them a generous credit which was too often abused. In the rear of the saloon was a garden with green vines and an awning, and in one corner of this garden was an American eagle tethered to a post. Pfaff used to feed the bird on pretzels, saurkraut [sic] and other German dishes, in short the national old bird received the same nourishment as American arts and letters, and was fed with the same generous hand.
It must have been in 1876 that Pfaff moved up to West Twenty-fourth street, directly opposite the Fifth Avenue Hotel. A few of his old clients went with him, and he was followed besides by a dozen old beggars and pensioners, whom he had helped for years and who never deserted him as long as he lived. But the old Bohemians dropped off one by one, and a new Bohemia arose further down town, so that the old German gradually dropped out of sight of the public, and one day I happened to notice, when passing along Twenty-fourth street, that his sign was down and the place closed. He died not more than two years ago, and there were very few of his old-time customers to attend his funeral....