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were understandably considered to have an inevitable impact, either
immediate or delayed, on domestic ideologies and practices.
During the second half of the nineteenth century in England and
America, there was a decline, probably real and certainly perceived, in
the ˜˜popularity™™ of marriage. In America, the marriage rate declined
until the turn of the century.⁸ Moreover, between ±° and ±°, the
proportion of American men over age ¬fty-¬ve who had never married
was actually increasing, even while the overall marriage rate was begin-
ning to climb again. There was no overall decline in the marriage rate in
England, but the unequal numbers and uneven distribution of men and
women there and elsewhere contributed to concerns about the future of
domestic life. The ±µ± census showed °µ,°°° more women than men
in England, an imbalance famously addressed in W. R. Greg™s now
notorious ± essay, ˜˜Why Are Women Redundant?™™ By ±·±, there
were µ,°°° more women than men in England, and by ±°±, there
were over a million more.⁹ By contrast with the increasingly skewed
sexual proportions in England, the sex ratio in the United States
remained essentially even, at µ± men per  women, throughout the
second half of the nineteenth century.¹°
While bachelors were in short supply in England, there was a ˜˜sur-
plus™™ of them in Canada, Australia, and the United States. The e¬ects
of these imbalances were exacerbated by uneven local and regional
distributions of single men everywhere. ˜˜Bachelor subcultures,™™ which
often included married men, a problem of nomenclature that I will
 Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
discuss later, were found in cities and frontier areas, on land and at sea.
Proposed solutions to the so-called redundancy problem included fe-
male emigration and bachelor taxes, solutions meant to boost the
marriage rate, not to provide alternatives to traditional marital domes-
ticity.¹¹ A ±°· editorial in The North American Review, ˜˜Why Bachelors
Should Not Be Taxed,™™ comments:
From time to time, special taxes have been imposed upon single men in Great
Britain and Ireland, but only, it was always carefully stated, for the purpose of
increasing revenues. In France, on the other hand, fear of depopulation is said
to be at the root of the present movement, unsuccessful thus far, to exact toll for
celibacy. It will be seen, then, that the actuating causes have varied widely; but,
generally speaking, the discrimination has rested upon the Spartan principle
that it is the duty to the state of every citizen to rear up legitimate children,
although there is room for suspicion that, in some instances, the hen-pecked
married men who made the laws felt that bachelors should pay well for
happiness that seemed to them exceptional.
This anti-tax writer appears to question the ˜˜Spartan principle™™ itself,
but he concludes that there is no real ˜˜danger of matrimony itself falling
into disfavor as an avocation,™™ and hence no need for a bachelor tax.¹²
By contrast, a ±° bachelor-tax advocate argues in The Westminster
Review that the bachelor does indeed shirk his civic duty since ˜˜[o]wing
to his not being a householder the single man escapes another burden “
the Inhabited House duty, levied upon all houses rate at £° and
upwards.™™ Noting the practical di¬culty of redressing the bachelor™s
unfair economic advantage through income taxes and other indirect
taxation, this writer argues that a special tax ˜˜levied at age µ or °™™ on
bachelors ˜˜possessed of a certain income™™ would make these unmarried
men ˜˜bear their fair share of . . . the national and local burdens.™™¹³
Anxieties about what this ±° writer solemnly referred to as ˜˜the
strength and security of the State™™ were also provoked by a late-century
rise in marriage age.¹⁴ Like so-called old maids, ˜˜old bachelors™™ were
not necessarily elderly, just older than the normative marriage age. In
the late nineteenth century, a man merely in his early thirties might be
labeled an old bachelor. The average British and American marriage
age is estimated to have been lowest at mid century. Sometime between
the ±µ°s and the turn of the century, people began to marry later than
previous generations had or than later generations would.¹µ This gray-
ing trend peaked slightly earlier, sometime between ±° and the ±°°s,
in the United States than in England, where the turning point came
around ±±°.¹⁶ The anxieties elicited by the rise in marriage age were

Bachelors and bourgeois domesticity
compounded by the dramatic decline in fertility rates which began early
in the century.¹· The later marrying age alone did not account for the
nineteenth-century decline in fertility; Banks, among others, has persua-
sively demonstrated that the use of contraception and other methods of
family planning made signi¬cant contributions to this decline. Both
smaller families and families started later in life augmented anxieties
about the future of domesticity.
These demographic shifts and their attendant anxieties were particu-
larly great for the middle and upper classes. Since there is some evidence
that many working-class demographic trends ran in the opposite direc-
tion, the situation in the higher socio-economic reaches may have been
more pronounced than the statistical record shows.¹⁸ In both countries,
middle-class men married later on average than working-class men,
remaining at home longer or living in lodgings often until their late
twenties or even early thirties.¹⁹ Moreover, new educational opportuni-
ties in the second half of the nineteenth-century had a particularly
pronounced impact on the lives of middle- and upper-class women; the
marriage rate of female college graduates was strikingly lower than that
of the general population of women, a trend that contributed to fears
about the future of bourgeois marriage.²° Also fanning the ¬‚ames of fear,
changes in the legal and economic condition of married and single
women of all classes heightened awareness of the multiple and some-
times con¬‚icting de¬nitions of marriage as a religious sacrament, a legal
contract, and a private union. While not everyone took the situation so
seriously, a distinct sense of urgency is evident in the words of one ±°s
commentator: ˜˜our present marriage customs set at de¬ance all the
rules which ought to be followed in order to secure that the race shall not
deteriorate.™™²¹ The double threat of extinction and degeneracy, that is,
the risk of ruining both population quantity and ˜˜quality,™™ are suggested
by this image of racial deterioration, a variation on the class- and
nation-centered specter of ˜˜race suicide.™™²²
The high cost of living, especially of married living, was commonly
believed to be the chief cause of the feared deterioration of the bourgeois
family. The middle-class standard of living rose rapidly in the second
half of the nineteenth century, as did expectations that newly married
couples would live in the same comfort or luxury they had enjoyed in
their parental homes.²³ Bachelors often delayed marriage in order to
develop their careers and to accumulate the capital necessary not
merely to support their wives, but to keep them in comfort. Indeed, the
emergence in the ±°s of the idea of the ˜˜proper time to marry™™ signals
 Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
an acceptance of and even a desire for prudent delay. As this trend
intensi¬ed, it gave rise to new worries.²⁴ Young women often were
criticized for their materialistic expectations and the marriage-postpon-
ing or marriage-eliminating e¬ects thereof. They were chastised, for
example, in pieces as diverse as a ±±° survey of µ°° bachelors published
in Good Housekeeping and plaintively entitled ˜˜Bachelors “ Why?™™; an
±·· Temple Bar essay ˜˜On the Excessive In¬‚uence of Women, by an Old
Fogey™™; and an ±µ Harper™s piece, ˜˜Single Life Among Us,™™ which
argued that
so far as our women are concerned, the standard of average expectation rises
far beyond the standard of wealth, and society is full of young ladies whose
tastes are wholly out of keeping with their domestic condition and prospects.
Their evident desire for a delicate way of life at once alarms the unpretending
class of suitors, and discourages the very habits of thrift and self-reliance that
might make them helpers of worthy young husbands through years of modest
frugality to years of peaceful independence . . . We must set down a false
feminine fastidiousness as a very prominent cause of celibacy.²µ
Just as often, the unreasonable desire of bachelors for luxury before or
instead of marriage bore the brunt of popular criticism. Thus an ±
article claims that ˜˜To marry . . . means a terrible falling-o¬ in the
standard of comfort, and the one luxury which these pleasant fellows
religiously deny themselves is that of a wife.™™²⁶
The in¬‚uence of the high cost of living on both the marriage rate and
marriage age was magni¬ed by the rise of the professions. Certain
occupations were linked to prolonged bachelorhood, particularly those
professions which required years of training and then a protracted
period for establishing a practice. Thus, in the popular ¬ction of the era,
bachelor medical and law students appear with predictable frequency,
as do bachelor doctors and lawyers.²· Doctors seemed to their contem-
poraries to be in special need of the respectability of marriage since their
work, like that of clergymen, brought them into the female-coded space
of the home and sexually charged space of the bedroom. Yet some
writers argued that there were valid reasons for doctors and other
professionals to avoid married life. An ±± letter published in the British
Medical Journal put the situation in these terms:
It has often occurred to us, that most medical men would be the better if they
remain single . . . [I]n the present state of society, in which expensive luxury
forms a constant element, it is next to impossible for a general practitioner to
support a proper appearance in the world from nothing more than the pro-
ceeds of his professional exertions . . . [I]t is owing to the cares of matrimony
µ
Bachelors and bourgeois domesticity
that many, who would otherwise have been philosophers, devoted to their
profession, end by becoming nothing better than routineers or professional
tradesmen. In moments of real illness and danger the public do not ask whether
the doctor rides or walks, is married or unmarried. All they require is that he
should be at hand when he is wanted, and should be capable of performing all
that is required of him.²⁸

Both the health of the doctor and the well-being of his patients are
endangered by his marrying. While the author of this last piece is willing
to excuse some medical men from the obligation to wed, his self-
consciously extreme position, braced against the current of popular
opinion, suggests that the ideological web that bound marriage to
bourgeois manhood, and especially to professional manhood, was tight-
ly woven indeed.
Middle-class manhood was not an uncontested ideal, a static back-
drop against which the ¬gure of the bachelor stood out as an aberration.
There was no single ideal of normative manhood, but multiple models
that were continually changing over time, and also overlapping and
competing with other models at any given time. For example, historians
of British culture describe a shift from an early nineteenth-century
intellectually and emotionally earnest ˜˜Christian manliness™™ to ˜˜a more
spartan, athletic, and conformist ˜muscular manliness™ at the close of the
century™™; they link this shift to such national conditions as imperialist
and industrial expansion.²⁹ American historians describe a comparable
shift from mid-century ˜˜civilized manliness™™ to turn-of-the-century
˜˜primitive masculinity,™™ a new style of bourgeois manhood modelled on
ideals of independence, physical roughness, and sexual expressiveness
previously associated with non-white and working-class men.³°
However useful such descriptions of broad shifts in dominant styles of
manhood are, they tend to obscure the presence of competing ideologies
and practices within and between styles of manhood throughout the
period. For example, Timothy Gilfoyle and others demonstrate that a
˜˜sporting male subculture™™ with its attendant ideology existed in New
York and elsewhere in America as early as the ±°s. This male
subculture
displaced older rules and traditions governing sexual behavior for young,
married, and ˜˜respectable™™ men. By the age of the Civil War, the writer
George Ellington could conclude that many ˜˜fashionable bloods and old fogies,
known rakes and presumedly pious people, wealthy bachelors and respectable
married men, fast sons and moral husbands™™ consorted with prostitutes. If this
became widely known, Ellington feared, it would ˜˜convulse society.™™
 Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
Gilfoyle describes how sporting male culture, ˜˜resting on an ethic of
sensual pleasure,™™ cut across class boundaries and thereby ˜˜promoted a
certain gender solidarity among nineteenth-century urban males.™™³¹
Like Gilfoyle, Elliott Gorn in The Manly Art and George Chauncey in
Gay New York emphasize that American bachelors who were sporting
men were, or at least were perceived to be, anti-domestic. Chauncey, for
example, argues that ˜˜many of the men of the bachelor subculture . . .
forged an alternative de¬nition of manliness that was predicated on a
rejection of family obligations . . . [e]mbodying a rejection of domesticity
and of bourgeois acquisitivism alike.™™³²
This bachelor subculture, which ˜˜broadly equated sexual promiscu-
ity and erotic indulgence with individual autonomy and personal free-
dom,™™ o¬ered men an alternative or complement to domestic culture.³³
˜˜Bachelor subculture™™ is a misleading label, however, since both married
and unmarried men actively participated in them.³⁴ While bachelor
subcultures does seem apt in relation to American cities with their
˜˜surplus™™ of migrant and immigrant single men, ˜˜homosocial male
subcultures™™ or even ˜˜sporting male subcultures™™ make even more
suitable terms, given the homosocial climate of British and American
cities and of nineteenth-century British and American culture more
generally. The prevalence of men™s clubs, associations, and secret socie-
ties in the last third of the nineteenth century is just one register of the
continuing salience of homosociality during this period. Homosociality
was both a social norm for all-male activities and the basis for culture-
structuring bonds more generally, a larger continuum of gendered
power relations in which, as Eve Sedgwick has so persuasively theorized,
both male“female and male“male bonds ultimately serve the exchange
and consolidation of power among men.³µ But the key point here is that
middle-class men, unlike middle-class women, could with relative im-
punity shuttle between the world of the street and the world of the
home.³⁶ W. R. Greg censoriously acknowledges that
[A]mong the middle and higher ranks [men are not] compelled to lead a life of
stainless abstinence . . . Unhappily, as matters are managed now, thousands of
men ¬nd it perfectly feasible to combine all the freedom, luxury, and self-
indulgence of a bachelor™s career with the pleasures of female society and the
enjoyments they seek for there.³·

In Oscar Wilde™s ±± The Picture of Dorian Gray, Lord Henry essentially
concurs with Greg™s observation, though in a tone more amusedly blase ´
than aggrieved: ˜˜Nowadays all the married men live like bachelors and
·
Bachelors and bourgeois domesticity
all the bachelors live like married men.™™³⁸ English men, both married
and single, like their American counterparts, could participate actively
in homosocial or sporting male subcultures whose values departed from
those of hegemonic domestic ideology, and still be considered respect-
able.
Although they were the bene¬ciaries of a sexual double standard,
middle-class men were nevertheless subject to con¬‚icting expectations
under domestic and other, overlapping and separate, subcultural re-
gimes. While home and work, private and public life, were supposed to
be natural and mutually sustaining complements, their values frequent-
ly clashed. Stephanie Coontz observes that while secular vocation
increasingly came to replace the old notion of a man™s spiritual calling,
the means of achieving success in the marketplace often ran counter to
prevailing notions of virtue.³⁹ The marketplace asset of autonomy con-
¬‚icted with the home virtue of uxoriousness. Similarly, the public values
of independence, competitiveness, and aggressiveness ran counter to the
private requirements of mutuality, reciprocity, and even deference to
the moral authority of wives and mothers.⁴° While fathers were the
nominal heads of the household, and their homes supposedly their
castles, the domestic empire was in many ways subject to a di¬erent
sovereign.⁴¹ Moreover, as the ideology of marriage late in the century
shifted from a more communal ethos to a more individualist one, from
social duty to romantic self-ful¬llment, these con¬‚icts surely intensi¬ed
for many individual men and for middle-class culture more generally.
There was increased pressure on men to spend their leisure time with
their wives, as a more a¬ectional, companionate style of marriage came
to replace the more hierarchical, patriarchal model. Yet the fear that
˜˜too much™™ contact with women would feminize men, a fear exacer-
bated by the demands of the new style of primitive masculinity, put new
pressures on men to ¬nd their identities and pleasures outside of mar-
riage. Torn between competing ideals of marriage, between the com-
peting demands of home and work, and between competing models of
normative masculinity, it is no wonder that middle-class men sometimes
felt that their lives were in crisis.
While the paradigm of a crisis in masculinity has been used by some
historians to describe the impact of competing and shifting models of

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