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frame.™ This intersection between the narrators™ spheres has a correla-
tive in the spatial and social boundary-crossing that each one commits.
Lockwood™s violent breaking of the casement window and his brutal, if
terri¬ed, e¬orts to keep out the child ghost “ events that also emblem-
atize the uncertain boundary between dreams and waking, and between
life and death in this novel “ are only the most vivid of his transgressions.
If he is ˜˜unmistakably out of place in that pleasant family circle™™ (WH,
p. µ) into which he forces himself at Wuthering Heights, then he also
has a distinctly ambiguous status in his role as gentleman tenant “ ˜˜I™m
Mr Lockwood, the master™™ (WH, p. ·), he announces to the ¬‚ustered
servants upon his unexpected return to Thrushcross Grange, although
he most clearly does not ˜˜belong™™ there. Nelly transgresses as much as
Lockwood in her role as housekeeper of Wuthering Heights, a role that
requires her to be both family insider and hired outsider, both foster
sister/mother and servant, both heimlich and unheimlich. Given her am-
biguous status in the family, as well as the competing demands of her
di¬erent masters and the con¬‚icts between her own needs and those of
others, it is no wonder that Heathcli¬ describes Nelly™s modus operandi as
˜˜double dealing™™ (WH, p. ).
Nelly™s double dealing sometimes takes the form of outright lies and
partial truths, but more often it reveals itself in Nelly™s oscillation
between sympathy for and detachment from those placed in her care, a
movement reminiscent of the ¬‚uctuation between distance and proxim-
ity exhibited by the novel™s invalid bachelor narrator. This ambivalence
is particularly evident in her attendance ¬rst at Catherine™s sickbed and
then at her deathbed, revealing Nelly™s ambivalence toward the woman
to whom she is surrogate mother, sister, servant, and also a sometime
rival for the a¬ections of Heathcli¬ and Linton. Nelly initially fails or
refuses to recognize the onset of Catherine™s delirium, a lack of sym-
±
The constitution of the bachelor invalid
pathy in her role as nurse that is only partly explained by her knowledge
that Catherine is, at least at ¬rst, only playing sick. Later, when Nelly
realizes that Edgar is about to discover Heathcliªs presence at
Catherine™s bedside, another potentially life-threatening situation for
which Nelly herself will bear some part of the blame, she clearly
expresses her resentment:

I wrung my hands, and cried out; and Mr Linton hastened his step at the
noise. In the midst of my agitation, I was sincerely glad to observe that
Catherine™s arms had fallen relaxed, and her head hung down.
˜˜She™s fainted or dead,™™ I thought; ˜˜so much the better. Far better that she
should be dead, than lingering a burden and a misery-maker to all about her.™™
(WH, p. ±)

Weary of the ˜˜burden™™ of nursing her, and perhaps also resentful of the
˜˜misery™™ she has in¬‚icted on Linton and Heathcli¬, Nelly frankly wishes
Catherine dead. The violence of Nelly™s death-wish gives way, at the
opening of the next chapter, to her tersely a¬ectless, even deper-
sonalized, announcement of Catherine™s death: ˜˜the mother died™™
(WH, p. °±). This drastically understated notice of death, in turn, cedes
almost immediately to Nelly™s ostentatiously overstated evocation of the
spectacle of Catherine™s beautiful dead body and of Nelly herself
keeping watch by the deathbed, an intricately elaborated, narrative-
halting, verbal and visual caressing of the corpse.²µ Nelly decries the
˜˜sel¬shness™™ of those, like Edgar Linton, who regret their loved ones™
˜˜blessed release,™™ yet one can™t help but thinking that she seems a little
too ˜˜happy while watching in the chamber of death™™ (WH, pp. °±“),
especially because she pronounces herself less than fully con¬dent that
Catherine has, in fact, gone to a better place.
Nelly attempts to represent the di¬erence between her own and
Edgar™s response to Catherine™s death as the di¬erence between mascu-
line self-indulgence and feminine self-renunciation, but her own rhet-
oric confounds this e¬ect to segregate gendered styles of emotion and
relation within correspondingly gendered individuals. The rapid move-
ment from Nelly™s passionate death-wish to her a¬ectless announcement
of Catherine™s death, then from the rapture with which she ˜˜gaze[s] on
that untroubled image of Divine rest™™ to the ˜˜cold re¬‚ection™™ with
which she describes herself later speculating on the unlikelihood of
eternal peace for Catherine™s soul, reveals her oscillation between ex-
tremes of attachment and detachment, of emotional involvement and
dispassionate distance. Nelly™s coldness does not reveal true distance
 Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
but, rather, a self-distancing attempt to compensate for, or at least to
veil, a range of emotions which are even more transgressively un-
feminine: envy, jealousy, resentment, even hatred. Just as they are
unbecoming in a Victorian ˜˜true woman,™™ the improperly regulated
emotions that Nelly displays, often in the very act of covering them up,
are equally inappropriate in a sickbed nurse and deathbed watcher.
Nelly™s ambivalent feelings toward her charges, and especially to-
wards Catherine, generate a doubling within of her own narrative voice,
as well as a doubling of the novel™s narrative voice in the dialogism of
this female nurse who speaks to, and through, a male invalid narrator.
Both kinds of narrative doubling, moreover, correlate with Emily
Bronte™s own projection of her authorial voice through the assumed
¨
identity of ˜˜Ellis Bell.™™ Lockwood, we might say, serves as a male
medium for Nelly, just as Ellis Bell provides a male medium for Bronte.¨
To the extent that spiritualist mediumship and invalidism were aligned
with bourgeois femininity in nineteenth-century culture, both Nelly™s
and Bronte™s projections of self involve a doubled inversion of gender: a
¨
woman speaking as a man speaking as a woman.²⁶ In her Biographical
Notice to the ±µ° edition of Wuthering Heights, written after Emily™s
death, Charlotte Bronte claims that she and her sisters chose their
¨
pseudonyms for their gender-neutrality:

Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer,
Ellis, and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of
conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, while
we did not like to declare ourselves women, because “ without at that time
suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called
˜˜feminine™™ “ we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked
on with prejudice: we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastise-
ment the weapon of personality, and for their reward, a ¬‚attery, which is not
true praise. (WH, p. ±)

The advantage of the ˜˜ambiguous choice™™ is that it avoids the outright
lie of claiming to be men while it also avoids the harsher criticism and
the patronizing praise meted out to women writers. By assuming an
authorial persona neither decisively masculine nor decisively feminine,
Emily Bronte attempted to enjoy the advantages of both: to enjoy the
¨
expressive and ¬nancial bene¬ts of ˜˜writ[ing] as a son™™ while enjoying
the social sanction given to a proper, a private or ˜˜veiled,™™ Victorian
woman.²·
Whereas Bronte employed a bachelor narrator as well as an ˜˜am-
¨

The constitution of the bachelor invalid
biguous™™ pseudonym to write ˜˜as a son,™™ thereby to obtain the so-called
˜˜unprejudiced™™ critical attention that male writers enjoyed on the
English literary scene, Hawthorne tried to use a bachelor narrator to
get, or at least to hold onto, a piece of the action that women writers
were enjoying in the mid-century American literary market. Hawthorne
famously portrayed himself as a casualty of the ˜˜damned mob of
scribbling women,™™ a ˜˜melodrama of beset manhood™™ that reveals this
bourgeois man™s habituation to male privilege as much as it reveals the
male author™s perception of a threat in the literary marketplace, in the
masses and mass culture, and in women and femininity.²⁸ Not all
mid-century American male ¬ction writers felt so threatened: witness
the spectacular ±µ° success of Ik Marvel™s unabashedly sentimental
Reveries of a Bachelor, a success upon which Hawthorne tried to capitalize
with his own ±µ bachelor-narrated romance. If his use of the bachelor
narrator Coverdale was a device which allowed Hawthorne to ˜˜write
like an American™™ and to ˜˜write like a man,™™ the twin imperatives that
Herman Melville urged in his anti-sentimentalist ±µ° review, ˜˜Haw-
thorne and his Mosses,™™ then the feminization of this ¬gure also reveals
the dangers of competing with women writers. For Hawthorne, beating
women writers also meant joining them. And if the threat of public
exposure encouraged Emily Bronte to use a male pseudonym and a
¨
bachelor narrator, these male impersonations were also immodest in
their own way, like wearing a man™s breeches in public. For both of
these mid-century novelists, the bachelor narrator was, as Charlotte
Bronte suggests, an ˜˜ambiguous choice.™™
¨
The boundary-defying performances of the bachelor as narrator, and
especially of the bachelor invalid as narrator, provided a viable solution
to the di¬erent challenges of gendered authorship faced by Bronte and¨
Hawthorne. The ¬gure of the bachelor invalid narrator also stands as a
solution, though a more vexed one, to the problems of hegemonic
masculinity and conventional gender relations. It is possible to read the
invalid bachelor narrators of Blithedale and Wuthering Heights as radically
revisionary models of bourgeois manhood, as male ¬gures whose sus-
ceptibility to the spheres of others enables them not simply to speak for
those others, but also to speak in a doubled voice, one which is collab-
orative rather than preemptive. In this reading, the di¬erent voice of the
bachelor narrator allows for di¬erences of gender within and between
individuals, and even for di¬erences in the ways that individuality itself
is constructed. Such a reading highlights the framing of these texts™
critiques “ of conventional marriage plotting, gender relations, and
 Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
bourgeois individuality “ from the ˜˜ex-centric™ point of view of the
bachelor narrator.
If it were to stop there, however, such a reading would miss the
simultaneous critique of marital alternatives in these novels™ plots.
Blithedale exposes spiritualist mediumship as an exploitive fraud and
utopian communalism as a dilettantish fad; Wuthering Heights under-
scores the inevitable violence associated with otherworldly merger of
individualities upon this earth. Just as these plotted alternatives prove to
be of limited viability, the alternative masculinity of the bachelor invalid
is also limited both in scope and e¬ect. It is crucial to recognize the ways
in which these bachelor invalids reiterate, or perhaps rechannel, the
hierarchical and possessive patterns of relationship and identity from
which they only partially quarantine themselves. Equally problematic is
these texts™ reliance upon, the hence their reinforcement of, what is an
explicitly pathologized alternative to normative masculinity. The fact
that Coverdale and Lockwood are only temporarily indisposed does not
immunize them or their narratives against the ill e¬ects of pathologized
images of ˜˜ex-centric™™ manhood.
Yet the very gratuitousness of these bachelors™ invalidism “ they don™t
have to get sick for the novels™ plots to function, and they maintain their
characteristic permeability despite the fact that they recover “ is also
salutary to our attempts to recuperate these masculine ¬gures. Just as the
quadrangulating function of the bachelor narrator is super¬‚uous to the
demands of mediated desire, the invalidism of the bachelor character is
decidedly in excess of the demands of the novels™ plots. We might say that
the characterization of these ¬gures is visibly in excess of their invalidism.
While the boundary-crossings of these ¬gures are sometimes regulated in
ways that rea¬rm the status quo of proper identity, the surplus value
associated with their invalidism o¬ers a challenge to the strict economies
of bourgeois manhood, the domestic household, and novelistic ¬ction.
The narratorial negotiations of these bachelor invalids thereby provide
readers with a di¬erent window onto the domestic worlds of these novels.
Their ways of looking and telling provide an opening, however small, for
revisionary gender relations in the house of ¬ction.

 ©®§  © «®  ,  ® µ©®§ ®  ©µ ®  :
TH E POR T R AI T O F A L AD Y

Just as Hawthorne and Bronte use their vicariously constituted invalid
¨
bachelor narrators to provide a window onto the worlds of their respect-
µ
The constitution of the bachelor invalid
ive novels, James uses the ¬gure of the vicarious bachelor invalid to
frame his Portrait of a Lady. Ralph Touchett is not a ¬rst-person narrator,
of course, but rather a ˜˜re¬‚ector,™™ a term that James used synonymously
in his critical writings with ˜˜register,™™ ˜˜mirror,™™ and ˜˜center of con-
sciousness.™™ James uses all these terms in two di¬erent, though overlap-
ping, senses. They refer primarily to James™s method of representing the
story by analyzing the inward thoughts and feelings of one or more of
the characters involved in the story™s action. Used in this sense, ˜˜re¬‚ec-
tor™™ suggests that the character provides the author and reader with
indirect access to the world of the story, ˜˜indirect™™ because the author
approximates the character™s perspective, but does not ventriloquize his
˜˜voice™™ or even his or her ˜˜point of view.™™²⁹ But James also uses these
terms, and particularly the term ˜˜re¬‚ector,™™ to describe characters who
re¬‚ect upon, both by thinking about and responding to, the novel™s
main characters. Such characters provide an o¬-center perspective on
the novel™s main characters and action. They also vicariously center
themselves in another character or characters. They are, one might say,
˜˜o¬-centers of consciousness.™™
In the Preface to Roderick Hudson, James describes one of his earliest
attempts to use an o¬-center or, rather, his accidental discovery of this
device™s utility:
My subject, all blissfully, in face of di¬culties, had de¬ned itself “ and this in
spite of the title of the book “ as not directly, in the least, my young sculptor™s
adventure. This it had been but indirectly, being all the while in essence and in
¬nal e¬ect another man™s, his friend™s and patron™s, view and experience of
him. One™s luck was to have felt one™s subject right . . . The centre of interest
throughout ˜˜Roderick™™ is in Rowland Mallet™s consciousness, and the drama is
the very drama of that consciousness . . .³°

If Rowland Mallet™s consciousness is the center of the novel, his own
consciousness is centered elsewhere, in his ˜˜view and experience™™ of
Roderick Hudson. Here, as in ˜˜Daisy Miller,™™ the reputation-making
nouvelle that intervened between Roderick Hudson and The Portrait of a Lady,
James puts the text™s center of consciousness in the ¬gure of a bachelor
onlooker who fails to understand fully and ultimately loses the uncon-
ventional object of his desire to early, unnatural death. Just as Portrait
incorporates yet also revises these plot elements, it also draws on the
narrative con¬guration of these earlier, eponymously titled, bachelor-
re¬‚ector ¬ctions, though with a di¬erence. Portrait locates its main center
of consciousness within the unconventional artist ¬gure herself, rather
 Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
than in her bachelor onlooker. Nevertheless, the novel retains the
bachelor onlooker as a crucial o¬-center of consciousness, a conscious-
ness that resembles but is not identical to that of the authorial narrator
who provides his own responses to the lady of his portrait.
Ralph™s engagement with Isabel also resembles but is not identical to
that of her other suitors in the novel. Ralph™s tubercular consumption
requires certain renunciations; as he himself explains, ˜˜I haven™t many
convictions; but I have three or four that I hold strongly. One is that
people, on the whole, had better not marry their cousins. Another is that
people in an advanced stage of pulmonary disorder had better not
marry at all.™™³¹ While his illness may foreclose on certain privileges and
pleasures of normative masculinity, it opens up others. Ralph™s con-
sumptive subjectivity challenges the integrity of selfhood, lending itself
to alternative modes of connection within and between selves. The
transgression of boundaries and the merger of identities e¬ected by the
bachelor invalid in this novel, as in Blithedale and Wuthering Heights,
evokes an o¬-center, or ˜˜ex-centric,™™ model of manhood and gender
relations.
Ralph™s function as an o¬-center also registers the status of Portrait as a
major step toward the full articulation of James™s centers of conscious-
ness technique, the technique which enabled him to avoid the aesthetic
compromises that he associated with both ¬rst-person narration and

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