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manhood, it has been questioned by others.⁴² Gail Bederman skillfully
adjudicates between the contributions of both ˜˜crisis-thesis™™ and ˜˜anti-
crisis-thesis™™ historians, agreeing with the former that ˜˜[m]iddle-class
men were unusually obsessed with manhood at the turn of the century,™™
 Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
while concurring with the latter that ˜˜despite virile, chest-thumping
rhetoric, most middle-class men did not ¬‚ee to the Western frontier, but
remained devoted to hearth and home.™™ Bederman persuasively argues
against describing this obsession with manhood as a crisis because ˜˜to
imply that masculinity was in crisis suggests that manhood is a transhis-
torical category or ¬xed essence . . . rather than an ideological construct
which is constantly being remade.™™ Many late nineteenth-century men
may well have been anxious about their own or others™ manhood, but the
notion of an actual, discrete masculinity crisis obscures the ways that
manhood is always multiple, con¬‚icted, and changing. As a corrective to
the insu¬cient theorization of gender as ˜˜a collection of traits, attributes
or sex roles,™™ Bederman describes gender as an ˜˜historical, ideological
process™™ which may serve a range of overlapping and not always
consistent cultural functions.⁴³ While the process of gender may well have
been particularly active at the ¬n de siecle, it is clear that the nineteenth and
`
twentieth centuries were roiled throughout with con¬‚icting expectations
of and by men. These con¬‚icting expectations were generated within
domestic ideologies, and also by tensions between these ideologies and
rival ideologies of manhood.
If married men had di¬culties in coordinating these con¬‚icting
demands, how did the bachelor fare in the morass of proscriptions and
prescriptions enjoined upon him by normative bourgeois de¬nitions of
manhood? Not surprisingly, nineteenth-century writers usually por-
trayed bachelors, both con¬rmed and temporary ones, as diverging from
the admittedly con¬‚icting norms of bourgeois manhood. The polymor-
phic variety of negative bachelor stereotypes reveals no single trajectory
of aberrance, but any number of ways in which bachelors, especially those
˜˜old bachelors™™ who seemed to have run permanently o¬ the rails of the
marriage track, were seen as veering away from an acceptable perform-
ance of manhood. The binaries by which bachelors were stereotyped are
most notable for their contrariness: superannuated and boyish; worldly
and callow; gregarious and reclusive; overre¬ned and coarse; sophisti-
catedly decadent and atavistically primitive; clingy and remote; self-
indulgent and miserly; unfeeling and oversensitive; fastidious and sloven-
ly; errant and unbudging; inconsistent and rigid.
Popular representations also posed, and attempted to answer, a host of
questions about the nature and meaning of bachelorhood: Was the
bachelor born or did he acquire his bachelor traits? Was bachelorhood
chosen as an act of conviction or imposed by an accident of fate? Was the
bachelor™s behavior volitional or nonvolitional, an issue of will or defect,

Bachelors and bourgeois domesticity
badness or weakness? Was he like or unlike other men? Was he normal or
abnormal? Indeed, was there such a thing as a ˜˜normal bachelor™™? Was
bachelorhood a justi¬able or an illegitimate condition? Were bachelors
useful and if so how? Was there an intrinsic connection between bachelor-
hood and high achievement in political, intellectual, aesthetic, or spiritual
arenas? Did society bene¬t from the existence of bachelors? What were
their uses or contributions? And did these uses or contributions justify
their bachelorhood? Could anything justify bachelorhood? Clearly, these
questions are all over the map, and the answers given to them are equally
multiform and often incoherent. But the list of questions does give a sense
of how and also why popular writers were troubled by bachelors.
Some contemporary trouble-shooters created their own typologies of
bachelorhood as a way of managing the trouble with bachelors. There is
little or no consistency in the ways these popular typologies were
organized. For example, an ±µ Southern Literary Messenger article, ˜˜On
Old Bachelors,™™ presents us with four types of bachelors: Involuntary,
Sentimental, Misogynistic, and Stingy; an ± article, ˜˜Famous Bach-
elors,™™ which appeared in the British journal The Woman at Home,
surveys ¬ve kinds: the misogynist, the sentimental, the irresolute, the
timid, and the hopeful; and a ±± Good Housekeeping article, entitled
simply ˜˜Bachelors,™™ makes a tripartite division of bachelordom into
˜˜men who are born bachelors,™™ ˜˜men who achieve bachelorhood,™™ and
others who ˜˜have bachelorhood thrust upon them.™™⁴⁴ These three
˜˜non¬ction™™ pieces make their taxonomizing particularly explicit, al-
though similar and disparate taxonomies implicitly obtain in other
examples and other genres. While certain motifs appear throughout the
period, there is no clear pattern, no clear sense of continuity or develop-
ment across time. This lack of clarity results in part from the same
taxonomic labels, such as ˜˜misogynist™™ or ˜˜sentimental,™™ being used to
describe di¬erent traits; to indicate cause or e¬ect; to defend bachelor-
hood or to mark it as indefensible. The very incoherence of these
troubled taxonomies registers the di¬culties that bourgeois writers and
readers experienced in attempting to account for a group that they
described as a class, a race, a tribe, and even a species.
Within and beyond these troubled taxonomies, economic explana-
tions were frequently o¬ered as a way of accounting for bachelorhood:

Therefore, if marriage be a man™s object, let him not forget that a su¬cient
income “ not pleasant badinage, nor ¬‚uent speaking, nor a good seat “ is the
¬rst essential condition.
° Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
˜˜Cupid has de¬nitely located his arch enemy: he is the High Cost of Living,™™
observes a Boston investigator of the allied subjects of economics and ro-
mance.⁴µ
As often, economic considerations were seen as rationalizations for the
bad characters of bachelors:
In coming to this important decision [i.e., marriage], the bachelor is often
in¬‚uenced by sel¬sh or pecuniary decisions.

Is the hesitation of so many bachelors before the problem of matrimony owing
wholly, or mainly, to the high cost of living?⁴⁶
To this rhetorical question, the answer was invariably ˜˜No.™™
[Bachelors are] unsocial beings who would sel¬shly live for their pleasure alone.

To read of themselves would be in¬nite pleasure/ As they loved their dear
selves they knew beyond measure/ And themselves, their own selves, were their
heart™s greatest treasure.

[S]ome of the most artistic, luxurious and beautiful rooms in New York are the
bachelor quarters where members of my sel¬sh class lead their not always
useless and sel¬sh lives.

A bachelor must be, to a certain extent, sel¬sh; he cannot help it; he thinks of
himself in some shape or another from morning till night; and sel¬shness begets
self-indulgence and hard-heartedness.⁴·
This sampling of pronouncements, which span the long nineteenth
century and which I have selected primarily for their brevity, demon-
strates the tight conceptual ¬t between bachelors and home economics.
Far from being insulated from market relations, the marital home was
the marketplace™s sine qua non. Hence, ˜˜sel¬shness™™ was seen as the
principal defect of bachelors. Self-centeredness, the wish for luxury, the
desire to evade responsibility, stinginess, the love of comfort, the longing
for glory “ all these and more are considered under the rubric of
bachelor sel¬shness. One might say that in the Victorian era, ˜˜sel¬sh
bachelor™™ was a redundancy.
Even apologias for bachelorhood conceded the inevitable sel¬shness of
bachelors. Consider this defense of bachelorhood o¬ered in an ±°s
Temple Bar piece, ˜˜Why We Men Do Not Marry, By One of Us™™:
Each year I have some money to save or to spend. Shall I spend it on a wife and
children; on millinery bills and boot bills; on doctor™s bills and schoolmasters™
bills[?] I prefer to dispose of it otherwise. I prefer to keep a horse; I prefer a
±
Bachelors and bourgeois domesticity
comfortable annual trip on the continent, or to America; I prefer pictures and
china, shilling cigars and ¬rst-rate hock. Very sel¬sh, no doubt. Yet not so
altogether. I am a professional man, my work makes heavy demands on my
nervous system. A glass of generous wine or the subtle enjoyment of a good
Havana may save me from an opiate or a doctor™s visit. So it is with my annual
holiday. I am exhausted by a year™s labour; my holiday is absolutely necess-
ary . . . In the stress and strain of this tense civilisation, luxury has been drawn
close to necessity. I might, it is true, dispense with these solaces, but I should
break down the sooner.⁴⁸

While many contemporary writers condemned the craving for luxury as
a sign of bachelors™ defection from the values of thrift and self-restraint,
the psychological necessity of luxury is o¬ered here as a moral justi¬ca-
tion for bachelorhood. ˜˜Very sel¬sh no doubt. Yet not so altogether™™:
given ˜˜the stress and strain of this tense civilization,™™ this writer counts
luxury as a necessity so basic that marriage itself comes to seem an
imprudent, even dangerous, extravagance.
Pro¬‚igacy and stinginess are ¬‚ipsides of the same coin which bach-
elors were seen as reserving for their own sel¬sh use. Bachelors were as
often accused of miserliness as of extravagance: ˜˜John Bachelor Stin-
gybones, Esq . . . is excessively close and saving “ and take my word for
it, that is the reason why he has never married.™™⁴⁹ Thus, the bachelor
was popularly imagined as a ¬gure of improper expenditure, as one who
either spends too much “ ˜˜A bachelor who has been accustomed to
spend all his income or wages upon himself will not have much to spare
for a family™™ “ or spends too little, hoarding his money in a miserly,
antisocial fashion, as an ± poem describes ˜˜The Old Bachelor™™ who
leaves behind nothing after his death ˜˜But wealth, and ill health, and his
pelf and his self.™™µ°
Improper expenditure is not merely a matter of too much or too little,
but of the particular uses to which spending is put. While the improper
objects of bachelor spending include anything that is not within the
purview of the familial or the marital, the most commonly conceived
improper object of spending is the bachelor himself. Indeed, the sel¬sh-
ness ascribed to bachelors has primary connotations of both self-cen-
teredness and dissipation. We see this double register in an ± Temple
Bar poem, ˜˜The Bachelor: A Modern Idyll,™™ in which a married man
insists to a doubting bachelor that the ˜˜sel¬sh joys™™ of bachelor self-
indulgence pale beside the pleasure of seeing ˜˜contentment beam in
six-and-twenty eyes,™™ even though ˜˜we have to live without some things
we™d like.™™µ¹ The double register of bachelor egocentricism and degen-
 Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
eracy also appears in the ±µ Harper™s piece cited above, which claims
that ˜˜Too many old bachelors abandon love and take to their bank-
book and bill of fare “ not to name baser indulgences “ for their solace.™™
Here indulgence at the dinner table goes hand-in-hand with miserliness,
since eating and saving are both forms of acquisitiveness.µ² Signi¬cantly,
the underspending of the bank-book and the overspending of the bill of
fare are linked to unnamed ˜˜baser indulgences,™™ a rhetorical indirection
that nonetheless clearly alludes to nonprocreative and extramarital
sexual activity.
These representations of bachelor economics can be understood as
¬gures for bachelor sexuality. Speci¬cally sexual bachelor ˜˜energies™™ or
˜˜resources™™ and those that were not speci¬cally sexual were used as
metaphors for each other.µ³ Just as bachelors were imagined as spending
their money on the wrong objects or for the wrong reasons, they were
also imagined as channelling, or dissipating, their sexual energy in a
variety of nonmarital ˜˜dead ends.™™ Particularly in the ¬rst half of the
century, bachelors were thought to be especially susceptible to mastur-
bation.µ⁴ The nonproductive, pleasure-driven, and self-oriented quali-
ties of masturbation were thought to constitute a serious danger, a
material and moral drain on a ¬nite, bodily ˜˜spermatic economy™™ as
well as a drain on the domestic economies of the nation, race, and class.
Worse still, masturbation was regarded as a major cause of spermato-
rrhea or ˜˜bachelor™s disease.™™ This imaginary malady “ the involuntary
loss of seminal ¬‚uid in nocturnal emissions or through the urine “ was,
with the possible exception of masturbation, ˜˜the single most discussed
problem in instructional books for boys and young men.™™µµ First diag-
nosed in ±, spermatorrhea came in the later nineteenth century to be
associated with neurasthenia and other forms of nervous exhaustion
that seemed to plague the urban business classes. Thought to deplete the
male body of its limited supply of vital forces, spermatorrhea was
represented by many legitimate physicians as well as quacks as a scourge
that would result in consumption, epilepsy, insanity, feeble-mindedness,
or death, unless nipped in the bud. With the rise of social purity and
social hygiene movements during the second half of the nineteenth
century, male continence was increasingly prescribed as a treatment for
spermatorrhea, especially for single men. But throughout this period
and particularly with the turn into the twentieth century, there was a
countervailing emphasis, especially in medical and psychiatric dis-
course, on the normal need for men to express their ˜˜pent-up™™ sexual
energies.µ⁶ Sexual intercourse within the bounds of marriage was con-

Bachelors and bourgeois domesticity
sidered the last stage in the treatment of spermatorrhea as well as the
ultimate goal of the treatment.
The notion that male sexual release was conducive to good health did
not, of course, mean that any form of sexual activity was permissible.
Indeed, the idea of healthy or therapeutic release made bachelors newly
suspect since they had no sanctioned sexual outlet. While there had
been a tacit recognition of the inevitability of male commerce with
prostitutes, this form of sexual activity was increasingly associated with
sexual deviance. In fact, one form of deviance linked to consorting with
prostitutes, both female and male, was the paradigmatic turn-of-the-
century perversion, which Christopher Craft has evocatively called ˜˜the
perversion with a future™™: homosexuality.µ· This linkage resulted in part
from the nineteenth-century prosecution under prostitution statutes of
men who engaged in same-sex activities.µ⁸ By the turn of the century, all
forms of nonprocreative sexual activity including masturbation, bestial-
ity, and pederasty, even the absence of sexual activity within or beyond
the bonds of marriage, were coming increasingly to be seen as possible
signs of homosexuality.
Not all bachelors were considered homosexuals, although ˜˜bachelor™™
came to be used often as an slurring insinuation against gay men or as an
insider™s codeword by them. But the epistemological indeterminacy of
bachelorhood both preceded and postdated what Sedgwick describes as
a ˜˜sudden, radical condensation of sexual categories™™ by which the
gender of object choice emerged at the turn of the century as ˜˜the
dimension denoted by the now ubiquitous categories of ˜sexual orienta-
tion.™™™µ⁹ Whether as a speci¬c type of sexual deviant or as a more
generalized locus of trouble, the bachelor disrupted the proper regula-
tion that de¬ned home economics throughout the nineteenth century
and into the twentieth. The disorderly potential of the bachelor may
well indicate the susceptibility of this home economy to elements that
many would have wanted to consider extrinsic to it. The insistent
representation of bachelors in relation to conventional domesticity
served partly to regulate, and thus to control, their disruptiveness, yet
the very prevalence of such representations suggests a lack of control, or
failure to contain, the trouble with bachelors. Representations of bach-
elors at home, living in or visiting other people™s houses, or residing in
homes of their own, did multiple and sometimes contradictory cultural
tasks. While often deployed in order to contain the volatile manhood of
bachelors, the discourse of bachelor domesticity itself provided oppor-
tunities for bachelors to go out of bounds.
 Bachelors, manhood, and the novel

  © ® § ©  :   µ  © ® §  ® ¤    ± µ   ©  ®  ¦
     ¬   ¤     ©  ©  
Of all possible connotations that a verb derived from the noun ˜˜bach-
elor™™ might have, it is no accident that the primary one has to do with
housing and home-making. The locution ˜˜baching it,™™ like its close but
now obsolete cousin ˜˜bachelorizing,™™ arose in the context of early
nineteenth-century emigration to frontier areas of British colonies and
American territories; it referred speci¬cally to the residences and living
styles of single men who were making new homes in these new worlds.⁶°
The prevalence of stories, poems, and essays with titles such as ˜˜Bach-
elor™s Bedroom,™™ ˜˜Bachelor™s Wing,™™ ˜˜Bachelor™s Den,™™ ˜˜Bachelor™s
Hall,™™ throughout the period attests to the fascination that ˜˜baching it™™
held for its observers and participants.⁶¹ These popular texts, as well as

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