Greenwich Village, 1859: Artist Wendell Harte Parry is about the discover that freedom means more than "free love," and love is anything but free.
The Bohemian and the Abolitionist begins in 1859 as John Brown is preparing his raid on Harper's Ferry, and ends in 1863 with the New York City Draft Riots. Fictional protagonist Wendell, a Greenwich Village artist, tries to protect his mysterious lover, Lillian, as she steals her husband's art collection to support John Brown's mad scheme to free the slaves. When things go awry and her husband returns from Europe, Wendell must not only face the Civil War, but a war of his own making.
The historical characters include habitues of Greenwich Village: Artists of the Hudson River School, poet Walt Whitman, photographer Mathew Brady, "King and Queen of the Bohemians" Henry Clapp and Ada Clare, author Fitzhugh Ludlow (The Hasheesh Eater), actors Edwin and John Wilkes Booth, actresses Adah Isaacs Menken and Laura Keene,
The abolitionists include Henry David Thoreau, Harriet Tubman, John Brown, Louisa May Alcott, and members of the "Secret Six."
The Afro-American Rosecrucian and "Sex Magician," Dr. Paschal Beverly Randolph, is in a category all his own.
Praise for the book
NEW REVELATIONS ON THE CIVIL WAR
by Lacy Lackey for the Middletown Mercury
When I first read the The Bohemian and the Abolitionist (a Civil War love story without a single Southern belle!) I thought I knew a lot about that era, but this book holds many revelations. The first revelation: Who knew that in 1859 there were self-styled "bohemians" in Greenwich Village?
The second revelation was that Marxism, and the fear of it, was already playing a major role. Many abolitionists wanted slavery to be addressed along with factory worker conditions as part of a new labor union movement.
The third revelation was the vastness of the conspiracy/complicity surrounding John Brown, and his inspiration throughout the war. Those complicit or conspiring with him in his raid at Harper's Ferry included Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, Gerrit Smith and Frederick Douglass. As the war progressed, some of Brown's cohorts - such as Harriet Tubman (called "The General" by John Brown) - were active in leading black troops into battle in the South. Also with a surprising connection to John Brown was the actor, John Wilkes Booth, who turned out to be a far different character than I'd supposed.
Lastly, meeting the black doctor, Paschal Beverly Randolph, America's first Rosicrucian and self styled "Sex Magician" (tantrika?), was startling and delightful.
These revelations, as well as the many nuanced real characters, are seamlessly woven into one of the best fictional love stories I've read. It has an uncanny and unsettling resonance with today. I give it five stars.