'The Bohemian Club': A Study of Edinburgh's Cape Club'

Brown, R. (2019) 'The Bohemian Club': A Study of Edinburgh's Cape Club'. In: Wallace, M. C. (ed.) The Need to Belong: Scottish Associationism in the Age of Enlightenment. Bucknell University Press: Lewisburg, PA. (In Press)

Full text not currently available from Enlighten.


In his edition of Songs from David Herd's Manuscripts (1904) Hans Hecht describes the Cape Club, of which Herd himself was a founding member, as possessing a significant 'bohemian element'. This chapter will take Hecht's statement as its starting point: beginning with an analysis of the Cape's membership list and social composition, the essay will continue with an exploration of the club roles of its artist (including Runciman, Raeburn and Nasmyth), literary (including Herd, Fergusson and Bruce), actor (including Lancashire and Woods) and musical members (including Clarke, Smeaton and Arrigoni). I will analyse the role of poetry and song in the Cape, offering reflections on a newly-discovered Cape Club poem by its most famous poet-member, Robert Fergusson (1750-74) and an exploration of the club's annual celebration of its poet-heroes, Shakespeare and James Thomson. My study will continue with an examination of ritual in the club, with particular reference to the membership application process, initiation and the club's use of 'knightly' pseudonyms, as well as the Cape's use of discipline for members' disorderly behaviour, demonstrating that it was, in contrast to Hecht's description, a place of rather strict convention. The chapter will end with a discussion of the club's engagement with contemporary politics, demonstrating that, far from being a 'bohemian' club cut off from contemporary concerns, the Cape was actively engaged in the key literary, artistic, musical, theatrical and political networks of the day.

Item Type:Book Sections
Keywords:Eighteenth-century Edinburgh; Cape Club; literary societies; associationism; literary memorialisation
Status:In Press
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Brown, Dr Rhona
Authors: Brown, R.
Subjects:P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Scottish Literature
Publisher:Bucknell University Press

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record