In the first volume of the American journal The Art Critic from 1893, there appears an article titled “What is Fin de Siècle?” The anonymous writer, a self-described “Critic Fin de Siècle”, both mocks and parodies the fin de siècle spirit.
He (or she) describes the fin de siècle as: ‘A meaningless phrase, not new, but lately suggestive of everything new and odd. The phrase was evolutionized in the golden dust that whirls along the social avenues of the city of Notre Dame. […] All, young or old, regardless of color, creed, and sex, who rush head over heels with new ideas towards the 20th century are, hommes et femmes fin de siècle.’
He goes on to write that: ‘They are a set of strange young men, dreamers and visionaries – often morbid, broken-hearted, and poor, always nervous and impossible in society, whose first and last endeavour is to do something original, however odd and erroneous it may be. In great despair they rush about in the stage of life and yell: “My life, my life, for an original idea!”’
Is this an early description of the infamous hipster? 1893 was clearly full of them. And Paris was to blame.