"Henry Murger has been hailed as both the Columbus and the Homer of the Latin Quarter. He was neither its discoverer not its only bard. But he was the first chronicler to establish in the conventional mind that romantic picture of Bohemian life which has persisted to this day." In their study of Murger and the birth of Bohemia, Arthur Moss and Evalyn Marvel examine the origins of the group of artists who existed on the fringes of Parisian society.
Home to the Bohemians of Murger's novel and Puccini's opera, Paris's Latin Quarter developed in the thirteenth century around the Collége de Sorbonne. Founded by Robert de Sorbon in 1257, the Collége de Sorbonne was the theological college of the Université de Paris; in recent times, the entire Université has come to be referred to as "La Sorbonne." The common language of the students that flocked to the center of learning from all over Europe was Latin, hence the designation of the area around the university as the "Quartier Latin." The lives of the scholars, painters, and musicians who populated this neighborhood were brought into high relief by Murger's novel, and remained an inspiration to artists from around the world for years to come.
Starting as a serial publication in a Parisian magazine in 1845, Murger's Scènes de la vie de bohème created an idealized and glamorized legend around the Bohemian lifestyle. Compiled and published as a novel in 1851, Murger suceeds in combining the Romanticism popular with the general readership with the realism and verisimilitude that was the new trend in the literary world, weaving both elements together with wit, charm, and sentimentality.