<<

. 11
( 47 .)



>>

critically contrived approval of colder friends™™ (p. µ). His disdain for
intellectualizing and aestheticizing professional readers ¬‚eshes out his
preference for those readers who have already internalized the lessons of
sentimental education or who are ready for conversion.
Strangely absent from the roster of correspondents who complete the
sentimental circuit are those whom, as Samuel Otter notes, Mitchell
˜˜most explicitly and earnestly addresses in Reveries, the young men who
are or whom he hopes to render men of feeling.™™¹¹⁶ Yet these young
male addressees are present in the text, in the second-person ˜˜you™™
whom Mitchell™s ¬rst-person narrator inserts into or encloses within his
reveries. As Otter compellingly contends, ˜˜second only in the ±µ°s to
Whitman . . . Mitchell is a master of the intricate rhetoric of ˜I™ and ˜you,™
the intimate choreography between writer and implied reader . . . What
I feel you shall feel, asserts Mitchell, for every feeling belonging to me as
good belongs to you.™™¹¹· David Leverenz describes the textual activity of
a rhetoric of ˜˜I and you™™ in the work of the ¬ve most canonical male
writers of the American Renaissance, linking this rhetoric to these
writers™ development of ˜˜premodernist styles to explore and exalt their
sense of being deviant from male norms.™™¹¹⁸ While some contemporary
reviewers did criticize ˜˜the almost feminine delicacy of Mr. Mitchell™s
nature,™™¹¹⁹ Mitchell displayed little or no anxiety about joining the
˜˜damned mob of scribbling women™™ so resented by Hawthorne and
Melville. Unlike his currently canonized male contemporaries, whose
agon of professional authorship may be their distinguishing shared trait,
Mitchell embraced wholeheartedly the nascent mass audience which his
writing helped to shape. The rhetoric of ˜˜I and you™™ in Reveries e¬ects a
sentimental commerce between author and his readers which ¬nally
troubles the boundaries of individuality and the bounds of normative
manhood.
Reveries™s rhetoric of ˜˜I and you™™ engenders imaginary unions be-
tween a bachelor ˜˜I™™ and a ˜˜you™™ who is most often represented as
male; these male-male unions are also represented as essentially incom-
patible with the union of man and wife. Once married, ˜˜you™™ and
˜˜your™™ a¬ections inevitably undergo a change of heart that precludes
the wider world of masculine feeling available to bachelors. Although
the a¬ections of the married man gain ˜˜a ¬ner tone and touch™™ from
˜˜domestic attachments™™ (p. ), the husband is doomed by the ener-
vated overre¬nement of his feelings, especially given the inevitable
demise of his wife and family. The married man is cut o¬ from the more
±
Bachelors and bourgeois domesticity
extensive, more varied, and essentially male ˜˜community of feeling™™
that had been enjoyed by the bachelor:
You do not now look men in the face as if a heart-bond was linking you “ as if
a community of feeling lay between. There is a heart-bond that absorbs all
others; there is a community that monopolizes your feeling. When the heart lay
wide open, before it had grown upon, and closed around particular objects, it
could take strength and cheer, from a hundred connections that now seem
colder than ice. (p. )
Whitman probably would not have approved of Mitchell™s expression,
but surely he would have shared his sentiment. A heart which has not
been monopolized or ˜˜closed around particular objects™™ is able to
contain multitudes and to merge with them, to bond fully in what
Whitman also called ˜˜adhesive love™™ and ˜˜fervid comradeship.™™¹²° The
bachelor™s a¬ections, precisely because they are so ˜˜wide-spread and
super¬cial,™™ are able to survive and even ¬‚ourish outside the ˜˜forcing
glass of the home-roof,™™ ˜˜shoot[ing] out tendrils into barren world-soil
and suck[ing] up thence strengthening nutriment™™ (p. ), this last
eroticized image suggesting both the ¬‚exibility and the reciprocity of
these male-male relations.
While the community of feeling that Mitchell associates with single
men™s lives in the wider world is explicitly non-domestic, it strikingly
resembles the quasi-familial ˜˜heart-bond™™ that binds Mitchell to that
diverse community of readers who write to him. Like the bachelor
˜˜you™™ in the text who is able to give and receive feelingly, these other
readers-in-the-text are able to see the truth of reveries and to respond in
kind:
It is enough to say that they, the kind writers, have seen a heart in the Reverie “
have felt that it was real, true. They know it; a secret in¬‚uence has told it. What
matters it pray, if literally, there was no wife, and no dead child, and no co¬n in
the house? Is not feeling, feeling; and heart, heart? Are not these fancies
thronging on my brain, bringing tears to my eyes, bringing joy to my soul, as
living, as anything human can be living? (pp. µ“·)
This is not a denial of the ¬ctionality of the reveries but an assertion that
what the bachelor and his readers have imagined and felt, though
¬ctional, is real. The preeminence of emotional and imaginative gener-
ativity in this passage, and in Mitchell™s text as a whole, establishes an
alternative ontology, an ontology in which dreams are more real than
what elsewhere counts as reality.
A world in which fantasies are ˜˜as living as anything human can be
 Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
living™™ might well be viewed as a damagingly self-enclosed world, a
dream world fatally cut o¬ from other people in its smug insistence upon
itself, and particularly its own aesthetic forms and sentimental feelings,
as its only justi¬cations. However valid such a critique of Mitchell™s
aestheticism and sentimentalism may be, we should not allow it to
occlude the cultural and conceptual work that this text does accomplish.
The text™s elision of the di¬erence between reveries and the e¬ects of
reveries upon their imaginary (both imagining and imagined) subjects is
precisely what enables Reveries to conceive of the bachelor™s dream world
as a visionary ideal of emotional communion. The epistemological
indeterminacy produced by the text™s alternative ontology of ˜˜dream
life™™ contributes to an alternative economy of meaning: not a ¬nite
system of limited resources, but an in¬nitely renewing process of incess-
ant speculation which is a proper end in itself. In this alternative
economy, the bachelor™s reveries are themselves both a form of labor
and a commodity, at once the means of exchange and the objects of
endless circulation, just as the bachelor, like his readers, is both con-
sumer and producer of private lives. The bachelor imaginary in
Mitchell™s Reveries is both a home industry and a psychic interior that is
decidedly domestic, a space which reveals the imaginary boundaries
between private and public, between home and work, and even between
mind and body. In the bachelor™s liminal relation to domestic life, the
contradictions upon which domestic ideology itself depends become
evident.
Implicit in the alternative ontology and the alternative economy of
this text is an alternative model of manhood. Just as the bachelor™s
dream world stands as a utopian image of emotional communion, the
dreaming bachelor is himself an exemplar of feeling. The bachelor in his
reveries is de¬ned by the intensity of his inner life, an inner life which
imaginatively crosses the divides between fantasy and reality, and be-
tween self and other. The bachelor imaginary does not dispense with the
proper regulations associated with normative bourgeois manhood, but
it does reconceive the nature of proper regulation; the bachelor imagin-
ary shifts the boundaries of identity by reimagining the extent of their
allowable permeability. The susceptibility to the spheres of others, as
well as the tendency toward vicarious consumption and imaginative
production, that characterize the subjectivity of Mitchell™s bachelor
narrator links this ¬gure to the mid-century invalid bachelor narrators
of Emily Bronte and Nathaniel Hawthorne that I will discuss in the next
¨
chapter. The alternative style of masculinity enacted by Mitchell™s

Bachelors and bourgeois domesticity
bachelor in the realms of aesthetic production and consumption, more-
over, stands as a model for the cultural and gendered hierarchies
asserted by the male, high-cultural novelists I will discuss in the re-
mainder of this book. In the chapters which follow, I aim to elucidate
the ways in which those ¬ctional narratives represented as issuing forth
from the not-so-separate sphere of bachelorhood are themselves telling
stories.
° 

Susceptibility and the single man: the constitution of
the bachelor invalid




The author of an ±·± essay, published in the popular British periodical
Once a Week and entitled ˜˜Bachelor Invalids and Male Nurses,™™ sum-
marizes his three-fold purpose in writing:
This point I shall endeavour to prove “ in the ¬rst place, to mitigate the real
anxiety which women naturally feel when they know that their bachelor friends
or relations are ill, and left to the tender mercies of hirelings and the rougher
sex; in the next place, to divert the freely bestowed compassion of susceptible
and impulsive natures from useless channels; and lastly, in the hope that some
reminiscences of bachelor sick-rooms may be found entertaining, and not
altogether uninstructive.¹

The set of aims he describes “ to mitigate anxiety, to divert compassion
from useless channels, and to entertain “ might well describe the charge
of the nineteenth-century sick-nurse. The male writer of this essay
claims that he does not believe that men make better nurses than
women: ˜˜Far be it from me to underrate the merits of female nurses, or
to depreciate the fortitude, patience, and devotion with which thou-
sands upon thousands of them are continually sacri¬cing time, rest, and
health in tending su¬erers. My aim is to show that men can, at a humble
distance, follow their example™™ (p. ±). Particularly in cases of ˜˜danger-
ous or protracted illness out of which it is, in my opinion, impossible to
extract any kind of amusement™™ or in cases of ˜˜unhinging of the nervous
system,™™ he emphasizes the prudence of deferring to ˜˜feminine aid™™
(p. ±). Yet, this writer inevitably downplays the e¬ectiveness, and
thereby undercuts the authority, of female nurses. He does so, not
surprisingly, in terms that reveal the gendered implications of both
illness and the care of invalids in this period.²
According to this writer, female nursing of bachelor patients is dan-
gerous to both parties. Even though ˜˜every woman is at heart a nurse™™

µ
The constitution of the bachelor invalid
(p. °), a play on Pope™s animadversion which suggests the erotic
nimbus of the sickbed, female nurses are doubly at risk. While the
˜˜marked isolation of bed-rooms in family dwelling houses™™ endangers
women attending bachelor convalescents, a still greater danger resides
in insu¬cient rather than excessive distance: ˜˜they love a sick-room;
and the more marked its distinctive characteristics are, the more do they
feel in their element.™™ The ˜˜unconscious grati¬cation™™ (p. °) of the
female nurse in her power over the bachelor invalid may prevent him
from getting better, may even make him worse, and may also do her
harm in the process.
Male nurses are not as susceptible as female ones to the ˜˜conservative
proclivities of the domestic state [which] encourage the exaggeration of
invalidism™™ (p. °). Just as men are less likely to partake of what we
might call the nurse™s ˜˜powers of the strong,™™ they are also less likely to
indulge in the invalid™s ˜˜powers of the weak™™ since ˜˜before their own sex
they try to bear up; and the e¬ort is highly bene¬cial if nothing is
seriously amiss™™ (p. °). In one anecdote in which the author himself
helps to nurse a convalescent bachelor, male nurses and male patients
all seem to bene¬t from ˜˜the masculine system of therapeutics™™ (p. ±):
˜˜We certainly did not ¬nd the nursing irksome or fatiguing, nor did we
acquit ourselves any the worse for being thoroughly comfortable and
cheerful over it. Neither had our charge any reason to accuse himself of
˜˜vampirism,™™ as Mr. Lowell calls it, as none of us exhibit any of the
physical symptoms of incipient angelhood™™ (p. ±). If the bachelor
patient is innocent of ˜˜vampirism,™™ then so are his male nurses; far from
sapping the life from their patient, their good humor serves a salutary
function. The absence of ˜˜physical symptoms™™ in the male nurses
suggests the security of the boundaries between the identities of nurse
and patient, as well as between body and spirit, between one individual
and another, between illness and health, and between life and death.
The boundaries so con¬dently asserted by the author of this ±·±
essay are less secure in three nineteenth-century novels that also imagine
bachelors as invalids: Wuthering Heights (±·), The Blithedale Romance
(±µ), and The Portrait of a Lady (±°). These novels do not feature their
bachelor invalids among the starring players in their dramas, but rather
use these ¬gures in more of a framing capacity, as sidelined onlookers
who witness the multiple, overlapping erotic triangles and marriage
plots that animate these ¬ctions. The bachelor invalids in all three
novels sustain important di¬erences in the severity of their illnesses as
well as in the functions of their illnesses. Whereas Portrait™s Ralph
 Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
Touchett dies of what ails him, Lockwood in Wuthering Heights and
Coverdale in Blithedale are only temporarily indisposed. And while
Ralph serves as a privileged ˜˜focalizer™™ in James™s third-person narrated
(or heterodiegetic) novel, Lockwood and Coverdale are ¬rst-person (or
homodiegetic) narrators.
What these bachelors have in common is a permeability of identity
associated with their illnesses, which confounds the divisions which
normally separate one individual from another, and also separate body
from spirit and life from death. Such boundary-crossing is not the
exclusive domain of bachelor invalids; such crossings are also evident in
the gendered relations of marriage and marital alternatives featured in
the novels™ plots. But the movement of the bachelor invalids across the
borders of domestic selfhood and domestic life discloses the stakes of the
proper regulation of boundaries within and between individuals. To the
extent that these bachelor ¬gures diverge in their crossings from the
patterns of gendered identity and relation that they witness, they enact a
style of masculine identity that is, potentially at least, more reciprocal
and unhierarchical than that of the main male protagonists.
It is nonetheless vital for us to recognize the homophobic potential of
¬ctional portrayals of bachelor as invalids. Such portrayals set in¬‚uen-
tial precedents for ˜˜our culture™s inclination to regard gay men as
marked men™™ in the age of AIDS, as deathbed victims who emanate an
aura of doom from deep within themselves.³ Late twentieth-century
Western culture™s ways of looking at counternormative styles of man-
hood have had devastating e¬ects. One way to resist the death sentence,
I would maintain, is to recuperate the nineteenth-century ¬gure of the
bachelor invalid.
We can begin this critical act of recuperation by recognizing the
tensions within these texts between form and content, tensions that
render unstable conventional moralizing and thereby infuse new life
into plotted dead ends. These novels link the invalid status of their
bachelors to these ¬gures™ narratorial function, forging connections
among illnesses, convalescence, and the acts of seeing, hearing, and/or
telling. The perspectives of these bachelor invalids reveal their constant
negotiations between sympathy and detachment, between proximity
and distance, and also between specular vicariousness and spectacular
self-display. Ultimately, these negotiations of identity and relation bear
as heavily on the gendered authorship of these novels as they do on the
gendered relations of sickroom and deathbed in their plots. The bach-
elor invalid narrators or re¬‚ectors of these novels do not simply stand in
·
The constitution of the bachelor invalid
for the novels™ authors; they also stand between the world of the text and
the world beyond it, at once within and without the plots that they
repeat and revise. The mediative function of the bachelor invalid
narrator or re¬‚ector is thus metonymically associated with the liminal
status of the bachelor in relation to domestic life and of the convalescent
invalid in relation to health. The bachelor invalid and the unreliable
narrative with which he is associated ¬nally constitute discursive supple-
ments which destabilize the texts™ dominant ¬ctions of bourgeois man-
hood.

µ® ¬ ©  © ¬ ©  , © ® ¬ © § © © ¬ ©  , © ®   ¬ © ¤ ©   : W UT H ER IN G H EIG H TS
 ®¤ T H E BLIT H ED A LE R OM A NC E
One would be hard put to mistake the author of The Blithedale Romance
for the author of Wuthering Heights. Longevity (of life, not authorial
reputation), nationality, gender, and marital status are only the most
conspicuous among the many di¬erences that distinguish Nathaniel

<<

. 11
( 47 .)



>>