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earning labor of the bourgeois married man, yet the bachelor observer is
not entirely idle. The language that describes his strangely disembodied
brain “ ˜˜careless-working, never tired with idleness . . . hour by hour™™ “
suggests activity, even industriousness. In the bachelor™s ˜˜brilliant work-
ing imagination™™ we can recognize the ethos of productive masculine
labor, as well as an implicit class distinction between intellectual and
aesthetic labor and menial labor. The disavowal of brain work as real
labor, characteristic of antebellum discourse validating the cultural
status of professional authors, both potentially compromised the mascu-
line status of these writers and rede¬ned the bounds of normative
masculinity. The activity of this bachelor™s brain is apparently divorced,
furthermore, from any material e¬ect on anyone other than himself; his
reveries are a leisure activity whose only product is his own amusement.
Indeed, his brain is portrayed as a consumer as much as a producer,
vampiristically ˜˜feeding on long vagaries and high gigantic castles™™
µ Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
(p. °), accumulating images in ˜˜the omnium gatherum of your own brain,™™
stocking ˜˜the private larder of your head™™ (p. ±). The status of the
reverizing bachelor imagination is uncertain: is the bachelor in his
reveries at work or at play? productive or consumptive? active or
passive? Bachelor and reverie alike confound these ordering binarisms
of masculine, bourgeois, and domestic life, at once demarcating and
crossing the lines that mark the boundaries of these realms.
The text™s rhetorical equation of reverie with its written representa-
tion compounds these indeterminacies, ultimately e¬ecting a compar-
able challenge to the boundaries that de¬ne individual subjectivity. In
his original Preface to the book, Mitchell never uses the term ˜˜sketch™™ to
describe his writing. Rather, he alludes to the pieces that make up his
book as if they were themselves the reveries: ˜˜This book is neither more,
nor less than it pretends to be; it is a collection of those ¬‚oating Reveries
which have, from time to time, drifted across my brain™™ (p. v). This
rhetorical move accords with a basic premise of the sketch as a form:
that it is not a literary conceit at all, but a mental impression merely
jotted down or spewed forth without labor or calculation.¹°⁸ In his
Preface, Mitchell also asserts the honesty of his literary mode of produc-
tion: ˜˜If they [the Reveries] had been worked over with more unity of
design, I dare say I might have made a respectable novel; as it is, I have
chosen the honester way of setting them down as they came seething
from my thought, with all their crudities and contrasts, uncovered™™
(p. v). Mitchell implies here that his writing does not take any literary or
generic form at all, but that it is an unmediated transmission, a teleg-
raphing of thought and emotion, an infusion of the ¬‚uid medium of his
reveries themselves. The readers of Reveries, according to this logic,
experience the bachelor™s reveries ¬rst-hand; the act of reading joins
them with the author in a realm that is at once mental and textual.
The double life of reveries as both mental state and written text
shades into their equally mixed status as both psychic and somatic. In a
book that disdains the material realm as ˜˜crude, “ a mere reduction of
ideality to sense, “ a transformation of the spiritual to the earthly, “ a
levelling of soul to matter™™ (p. µ), the products of the bachelor imagin-
ation are strikingly, if still metaphorically, physical. The reveries that
come ˜˜seething from my thought,™™ like the ˜˜fancies thronging on my
brain,™™ seem strangely ¬‚uid: both liquid and mobile. And the brain
across which the bachelor™s reveries drift and where his fancies throng
seems as much a physical location as a body part. The bachelor™s brain
in these passages, like his heart elsewhere in this Book of the Heart, is
µµ
Bachelors and bourgeois domesticity
portrayed as a bodily organ that produces, accumulates, and ultimately
releases pent-up reveries.¹°⁹
Indeed, popular advice manuals and tracts written by mid-century
˜˜male purity™™ advocates explicitly linked reverie to masturbation.¹¹° In
a recent American Literature article, Vincent Bertolini convincingly com-
pares the narrative rhythms of the Reveries to the erotic rhythms of
masturbation, citing a passage from the second reverie in which the
bachelor, having returned from his Wood Fire in the country to his City
Grate, imagines the teasing of a ˜˜coquette™™:

And so, with my eye clinging to the ¬‚ickering blaze, I see in my reverie a
bright one dancing before me with sparkling, coquettish smile, teasing me with
the prettiest graces in the world; “ and I grow maddened between hope and
fear, and still watch with my whole soul in my eyes; and see her features by and
by relax to pity, as a gleam of sensibility comes stealing over her spirit; “ and
then to a kindly, feeling regard: presently she approaches, “ a coy and doubtful
approach “ and throws back the ringlets that lie over her cheek, and lays her
hand “ a little bit of white hand “ timidly upon my strong ¬ngers, “ and turns
her head daintily to one side, “ and looks up in my eyes, as they rest on the
playing blaze; and my ¬ngers close fast and passionately over that little hand,
like a swift night-cloud shrouding the pale tips of Dian; “ and my eyes draw
nearer and nearer to the blue, laughing, pitying, teasing eyes, and my arm
clasps round that shadowy form, “ and my lips feel a warm breath “ growing
warmer and warmer “
Just here the maid comes in, and throws upon the ¬re a panful of Anthracite,
and my sparkling sea-coal Reverie is ended. (pp. ·“)

In the ˜˜repeated short phrases and the accelerating pace that builds
towards a climax,™™ it is hard not to see masturbatory eroticism as a
de¬ning feature of reverie.¹¹¹ It is also hard to miss the tension between
an eroticized single life, epitomized by the fantasized ¬nger-play of
bachelor and coquette, and a de-eroticized domestic life, embodied in
the chambermaid™s brusque and de¬‚ationary interruptus. But if the maid
is no coquette, it is worth noting that the coquette is herself distinguished
from the ˜˜city ¬‚irt,™™ a ˜˜coarse-grained soul™™ whose ˜˜frittering passions
fuse all that is sound and combustible into black, sooty shapeless re-
siduum.™™ The coquette™s sparkle, by contrast, ˜˜will ¬‚icker around a true
soul like a blaze around an omelette au rhum, leaving the kernel sounder
and warmer. Coquetry, with all its pranks and teasings, makes the spice
to your dinner “ the mulled wine to your supper™™ (p. ·). The bachelor
here fantasizes about a woman who could bring some spice to married
domesticity. Similarly, the maid™s arrival on the scene, though sadly
µ Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
ill-timed, is not meant to extinguish the bachelor™s ¬re; she is trying,
albeit unsuccessfully, to stoke it with a di¬erent fuel. After a slow start,
the maid™s Anthracite coal glows with ˜˜true and earnest constancy™™
(p. ), ˜˜with a pure and steady ¬‚ame™™ (p. ): ˜˜The heart that with its
glow can light up, and warm a garret with loose casements and shattered
roof, is capable of the best love, “ domestic love™™ (p. ). Domestic
home¬res and the ¬res of sexual passion are not necessarily mutually
exclusive, although both seem to be best enjoyed vicariously and alone:
viewed in the shadows cast by the ¬‚ames upon the ¬re screen, and in the
images cast by the projected light of the bachelor™s reverie.
The insistent metonymic association of reveries with ¬re in this text
also contributes to the bachelor™s vexed relation to marital domesticity,
a relation that is imaginatively invested yet necessarily distanced, at
once engaged with and divorced from married home life. The hearth is
not only what we might call Mitchell™s synedoche qua non for the familial
home, it is also the site where Mitchell™s bachelor narrator most often
indulges in his reveries. Each of the reveries is organized around, and
subtitled for, a di¬erent ¬re motif. The ¬rst reverie, ˜˜Over a Wood
Fire,™™ is divided into three sections: ˜˜Smoke, Signifying Doubt,™™
˜˜Blaze, Signifying Cheer,™™ and ˜˜Ashes, Signifying Desolation.™™ The
second reverie, ˜˜By a City Grate,™™ consists of ˜˜Sea Coal™™ and ˜˜Anthra-
cite.™™ The Third Reverie, ˜˜A Cigar Three Times Lighted,™™ puns on
good matches and match-making with ˜˜Coal,™™ ˜˜A Wisp of Paper,™™ and
a ˜˜Match.™™ The last reverie, ˜˜Morning, Noon, and Evening,™™ extends
the already overextended ¬re metaphor to the diurnal cycle of that
ultimate heat source, the sun. Like the heart in this ˜˜Book of the Heart,™™
¬re is a privileged emblem for both conventional domesticity and for the
bachelor™s imagination, a metonymic signi¬er which draws these
spheres together while giving point to their di¬erences.
The bachelor™s proclivity for reverie is metaphorically as well as
structurally associated with his habit of cigar-smoking, a blatant emblem
of male sexual self-indulgence which nevertheless binds the bachelor to
more conventionally domestic home ¬res.¹¹² At the opening of the third
reverie, the bachelor portrays himself at home with his spinster ˜˜Aunt
Tabithy,™™ a familial audience-in-the-text who censures his smoking as
˜˜dirty™™ and ˜˜a ¬lthy abomination.™™¹¹³ Her epithets evoke the associ-
ation of smoking with illicit and supposedly anti-domestic sexual practi-
ces. The bachelor and his aunt strike a bargain, sealing their deal with a
clasping of hands which parodies the marriage contract: ˜˜our right
hands joined; “ my left was holding my cigar, while in hers was tightly
µ·
Bachelors and bourgeois domesticity
grasped “ her broomstick. And this Reverie, to make the matter short, is
what came of the contract™™ (p. ±°). If he cannot bring her to tears by
telling his reveries, he will give up the cigars which she abhors; if he can,
and of course he does, she must allow him to smoke his cigars on the
front porch, a liminal space that marks a permeable boundary of
domesticity. His reverie, ˜˜all twisted out of the smoke™™ (p. ±°±) of his
cigar, enables the bachelor to stake a claim in domestic territory, or at
least on its threshold.
When the bachelor defends his right to smoke in, or at least near, the
house, he reveals the potential contradiction in the ideological opposi-
tion of domestic ideals and the self-indulgence of feeling, whether erotic
or sentimental. Tellingly, the bachelor™s defense of his cigar-smoking
habit “ ˜˜It is clean and sweet . . . and a most pleasant soother of
disturbed feelings; and a capital companion; and a comforter™™ (p. ±°°) “
resembles his defense of his reverizing habit:
I know not justly, if it be a weakness or a sin to create these phantoms that we
love, and to group them into a paradise “ soul-created. But if it is a sin, it is a
sweet and enchanting sin; and if it is a weakness, it is a strong and stirring
weakness. If this heart is sick of the falsities that meet it at every hand, and is
eager to spend that power which nature has ribbed it with, on some object
worthy of its fulness and depth, “ shall it not feel a rich relief, “ nay more, an
exercise in keeping with its end, if it ¬‚ow out, “ strong as a tempest, wild as a
rushing river, upon those ideal creations, which imagination invents, and which
are tempered by our best sense of beauty, purity and grace? (p. ±)
While the bachelor may obtain relief by allowing his reveries to ˜˜¬‚ow
out “ strong as a tempest, wild as a rushing river,™™ these apparently
unregulated emissions nonetheless take a proper course, much as cigar-
smoking ˜˜makes a man meditative; and gives a current to his habits of
contemplation™™ (p. ±°°). These ˜˜phantoms™™ may not be real, but they
are nonetheless proper objects, ˜˜tempered by our best sense of beauty,
purity and grace,™™ and hence linked to the conventionally domestic, if
necessarily imaginary, ideals of home and wife.
These products of the bachelor™s imagination are also linked to a
di¬erent sphere of ˜˜beauty, purity and grace.™™ The passage continues:
“ Useless, do you say? Aye, it is as useless as the pleasure of looking hour
upon hour, over bright landscapes; it is as useless as the rapt enjoyment of
listening with heart full and eyes brimming, to such music as the Miserere at
Rome; it is as useless as the ecstasy of kindling your soul into fervor and love,
and madness, over pages that reek with genius.
There are indeed base-moulded souls who know nothing of this; they laugh;
µ Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
they sneer; they even a¬ect to pity. Just so the Huns under the avenging Attila,
who had been used to foul cookery and steak stewed under their saddles,
laughed brutally at the spiced banquets of an Apicius. (pp. ±“)

This defense connects the emotional and physical pleasures of reverie to
the aesthetic pleasures of sublime landscape, music, and literary genius.
This justi¬cation is not far from the philosophy that Pater would
famously expound in his ± ˜˜Conclusion™™ to The Renaissance. When he
celebrates ˜˜kindling your soul into fervor and love and madness,™™
Mitchell demonstrates a critical sensibility reminiscent of Pater who
recommends that one ˜˜burn always with this hard, gem-like ¬‚ame, to
maintain this ecstasy.™™¹¹⁴ Both images sustain the opposition of sanity
and insanity but reverse their assigned values to e¬ect an essentially
Romantic revision of Victorian masculinity. Like Pater™s defense of art
for art™s sake, Mitchell™s art-for-sentiment™s-sake defense of reverie ¬nds
true ˜˜success in life™™ in the realm of the aesthetic, thereby suggesting an
alternative to the economic rewards and respectability of conventional
bourgeois masculinity. By making anarchy into an avatar of culture and
not its antithesis, Mitchell sets his aesthetic bachelor above and against
crass ˜˜Huns™™ who, like Arnold™s Philistines, are characterized by a
materialistic yet impoverished insensibility to true culture. Like the
Arnoldian man who celebrates ˜˜the best which has been thought and
said in the world,™™ and the Paterian man who gets ˜˜as many pulsations
as possible into the given time,™™ the bachelor of Reveries is ¬nally a
bachelor of art.¹¹µ
Mitchell™s aesthetic defense of reverie is, at heart, a defense of the
sentimental relations that imaginative creativity enables. In what is
perhaps this text™s most radical move, the solitary vice of reverie is
touted as a¬ording not only a virtuous communion with oneself, but a
vitalizing community of feeling with others. In order to accomplish this
startling reversal of expectations, Mitchell™s narrator must go beyond his
equation of mental reverie with its written representation and his elision
of the distinction between physical and mental generativity. He must
ultimately valorize writing over speech, claiming for writing a truth
which is at once more artistic and more natural than that of spoken
words. Mitchell™s narrator makes this crucial move in the opening
passage of his second reverie:

Blessed be letters! “ they are the monitors, they are also the comforters,
and they are the only true heart-talkers! Your speech and their speeches,
are conventional; they are moulded by circumstance; they are suggested by
µ
Bachelors and bourgeois domesticity
the observation, remark, and in¬‚uence of parties to whom the speaking is
addressed, or by whom it may be over-heard.
Your truest thought is modi¬ed half through its utterance by a look, a sign, a
smile, or a sneer. It is not individual: it is not integral: it is social and mixed, “
half of you, and half of others. It bends, it sways, it multiplies, it retires, and it
advances, as the talk of others presses, relaxes, or quickens.
But it is not so of Letters . . . Utter it then freely; “ write it down “ stamp it “
burn it in the ink! “ There it is, a true soul-print! (pp. µ“)

The bachelor™s desire to forestall ˜˜lip-slang™™ (p. µ) signals a possible
aversion to the physical presence of other people, but his anxiety about
the potential in¬‚uence of ˜˜a look, a sign, a smile, or a sneer™™ indicates
neither indi¬erence to nor independence of others. Rather, his prefer-
ence for the written word can be traced to his excessive susceptibility to
the in¬‚uence of others. The act of writing, construed along these lines, is
a way of coping with or managing this over-sensitivity, a way for the
bachelor to avoid getting too mixed up by, or with, others: ˜˜there you
are, with only the soulless pen, and the snow-white, virgin paper. Your
soul is measuring itself by itself, and saying its own sayings . . . nothing is
present, but you, and your thought™™ (p. µ). The image of resolute
authorial self-reliance evoked by this passage is mitigated by the fact that
the ˜˜glory, the freedom, the passion of a letter™™ (p. µ) a¬ords commu-
nion between the writer and his readers. Indeed, this encomium to the
written word is Mitchell™s acknowledgment of correspondence from the
readers of the ± ˜˜A Bachelor™s Reverie,™™ now the book™s ˜˜First
Reverie.™™
In the introductory section of the second reverie, Mitchell describes a
range of readers who have sent him what we now call fan mail: a mother
who has lost a child; another mother who is afraid of losing hers; a wife
whose family is still intact; a young girl who has not yet found love; and a
father who ˜˜has laid down the book, overcome by its story of his own
griefs™™ (p. µ·). Mitchell™s bachelor keeps these ˜˜Souvenirs du Coeur™™
(p. µ) from his readers in a packet of saved letters from his own mother
and sister, thereby making an extended family of his reading audience.
This quasi-familial reading public might also be described as a decidedly
˜˜private public™™; although he gladly outlines the domestic situations
described in the letters of these writing readers, Mitchell contends that
˜˜[I]t would be cold, and dastardly work to copy them; I am too sel¬sh
for that™™ (p. µµ), making a conspicuous display of keeping the letters to
himself. This public performance of privateness is reinforced by the
contrast Mitchell draws between the feeling responses of his quasi-
° Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
familial audience and the ˜˜cold praise of newspaper paragraphs, or the

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