<<

. 7
( 47 .)



>>

many others that dwell on the living arrangements of bachelors, com-
bine an eroticized ¬xation on the private lives of single men with anxiety
about the future of domesticity in a rapidly modernizing, urbanizing
and industrializing age. The question of whether true domesticity could
be found in the modern era and especially in the modern city overlap-
ped with the question of whether bachelors could or should make ˜˜real
homes.™™
Both the image of the bachelor and the meaning of domesticity
changed signi¬cantly during this era, in ways that are almost certainly
correlated. While bachelorhood came to appear more compatible with
domesticity during the course of the nineteenth century, domesticity
itself came to look more like the bachelor version of it. Although still
rooted in a notion of the home as the center of woman™s life and
feminine virtue, domesticity was changing to encompass a more self-
expressive, pleasure-centered, consumer-oriented, even luxurious ideal
by the beginning of the twentieth century, a shift associated with the
larger cultural transition from a producer-based economy to a con-
sumer-based one.⁶² Although a home continued to depend, according to
hegemonic domestic ideologies, on the presence of a woman, the ap-
pearance and behavior of this woman was changing. At mid century,
the ideal domestic woman was the wife-as-mother; by the turn of the
century, the wife-as-mother had been partially supplanted by the wife-
as-companion. If a new companionate style of married ˜˜masculine
domesticity™™ accompanied the expansion of the suburbs in the last third
of the nineteenth century, then the rise of urban bachelor apartment
buildings and the proliferation of men™s clubs during this period also
µ
Bachelors and bourgeois domesticity
created new opportunities for domesticity and quasi-domesticity prac-
ticed by single men alone, in pairs, or in groups.⁶³
While bachelor domesticity may have increased in practice and
accrued new ideological meanings toward the turn of the century,
counter-discourses and alternative styles of bachelor domesticity existed
throughout the century. Even in the early nineteenth century, as, for
example, in an ± Blackwood™s Magazine feature entitled ˜˜The Bach-
elor™s Beat,™™ bachelors were sometimes imagined as exemplars of do-
mestic life. In one installment of this four-part series, bearing the highly
conventional title ˜˜The Bachelor™s Christmas,™™ the old bachelor saves
his nephew, and the nephew™s marriage, from the dangerous in¬‚uence
of a party of ˜˜sportsmen™™ and ˜˜dashers™™:
˜˜Uncle,™™ said Philip, in a tone of manly ¬rmness, ˜˜you will assist me to get
civilly rid of yonder host of idlers, and the false friend who hoped, by their
means, to disgust me with my country, and estrange me from my bride. You
shall make me an Englishman after your own heart.™™
˜˜Uncle,™™ whispered Lady Jane, with the most insinuating softness™ ˜˜you will
invite us to your cottage, won™t you, till a few more comforts are added to our
home, to make it all that an English home should be?™™
Earlier in the story, this bachelor uncle laments the ˜˜cheerless meal and
silent vigil of my own bachelor home.™™ Yet his description of his
bachelor home, especially in combination with the happy outcome of
the nephew™s marriage plot, de¬es any simple sense of domestic lack:
And yet it is a beloved home, “ hallowed by fond recollections, and rich in
present enjoyments; endeared by the shelter it a¬orded to the green loveliness
of a mother™s old age, which had nothing of age save its sanctity; hallowed, as
the scene of a transition which had nothing of death but the name; adorned by
her own exquisite taste, and my solicitude for her comfort, with a thousand little
re¬nements which few bachelor homes can boast.⁶⁴
The assertion that these ˜˜thousand little re¬nements™™ are anomalous in
a bachelor home is a stock gesture of nineteenth-century bachelor
discourse, as is the implication that a ˜˜bachelor home™™ itself is a kind of
oxymoron. When there are so many exceptions to the rule of the
non-domesticity or even anti-domesticity of bachelors, the rule itself
becomes questionable. Throughout the century, bachelors in their resi-
dences were imagined as embracing but also rejecting, adapting to but
also transforming, conventional domestic ideologies and practices,
which were themselves undergoing uneven developments.
For the vast majority of nineteenth-century middle-class British and
American citizens, marriage and family meant home, and home meant
 Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
a single-family house. Although some bachelors resided in and/or
owned such houses, they were not customarily associated with them. In
English cities, ˜˜chambers™™ were the type of housing most often asso-
ciated with bachelors, probably ˜˜because the best-known sets of cham-
bers in London were those provided for the exclusively male entrants
into the legal profession at Temple and Lincoln™s Inns.™™⁶µ Chambers
designated a range of accommodations that varied widely in cost,
comfort, services, and space. The modest end of the spectrum may be
represented by Dick Swiveller™s ˜˜bachelor establishment™™ in The Old
Curiosity Shop:

By a . . . pleasant ¬ction his single chamber was always mentioned in the plural
number. In its disengaged times, the tobacconist had announced it in his
window as ˜˜apartments™™ for a single gentleman, and Mr Swiveller, following
up the hint, never failed to speak of it as his rooms, his lodgings, or his
chambers, conveying to his hearers a notion of inde¬nite space, and leaving
their imaginations to wander through long suites of lofty halls, at pleasure.⁶⁶

Whereas Dick Swiveller orders his meals from a nearby eating house,
the mysterious ˜˜single gentleman™™ lodger in this Dickens novel cooks his
meals on a remarkable, self-contained ˜˜cooking apparatus.™™⁶· By con-
trast, well-established chambers o¬ered dining in commons or in private
dining rooms. This other end of the chambers spectrum is well represen-
ted by the ˜˜very perfection of quiet absorption of good living, good
drinking, good feeling and good talk™™ enjoyed at one of the Inns of
Court by the narrator of Melville™s ±µµ ˜˜The Paradise of Bachelors.™™⁶⁸
A mid-century London Landlord™s and Tenant™s Guide emphasizes the
˜˜independence™™ a¬orded by chambers to ˜˜young bachelors not yet
wishing to be troubled with housekeeping, and old bachelors who have
renounced all thoughts of it™™; an ±· letter to the editor of The Builder,
England™s foremost architectural journal, stresses their comfort and
convenience: ˜˜There are few men who have lived in good suites of
chambers who do not contrast unfavourably with them the houses they
are compelled to occupy when they get married and settled.™™⁶⁹
While The Builder correspondent looks to certain aspects of chamber
life as a model for married domesticity, there was no thought that such
accommodations should actually be inhabited by bourgeois English
families. Flats were accepted as housing for the working classes and the
unmarried, but for the middle classes they ˜˜continued to be associated
with ˜bachelor chambers,™ such as those in The Albany.™™·° Similar preju-
dices against multi-unit and multi-family dwelling existed in the United
·
Bachelors and bourgeois domesticity
States, although Americans ultimately proved more accepting of such
housing. This acceptance was not, however, without reservation. De-
lores Hayden observes that while workers in the United States lived in
crowded tenements with several families to a ¬‚oor, before ±° ˜˜it
would have been unthinkable for a family of even modest social aspir-
ations to live in anything but a private dwelling, however humble such a
house might be.™™·¹
Since home-ownership was a bourgeois ideal, if largely an unful¬lled
one, one minor objection to families lodging in chambers and, later, in
¬‚ats in purpose-built apartment houses was that these residences were
rented.·² But the principal objection to chambers and ¬‚ats was that they
crossed lines, often imaginary but nevertheless highly charged, which
separated middle-class from working-class residential styles, residential
spaces from commercial ones, and di¬erent families from each other.
Privacy within the family was not generally at issue in the ¬rst half of the
century, although it became increasingly so later on.·³ But when individ-
uals of di¬erent families or households shared exterior spaces including
sidewalks and building entrances, and interior spaces such as lobbies
and hallways, and sometimes even sitting-rooms and dining-rooms, the
supposedly inviolable privacy of the family, a central tenet of bourgeois
domesticity, seemed to be jeopardized. Just as working-class tenements
required di¬erent families to share facilities for bathing and laundry,
living arrangements that were shocking to middle-class sensibilities,
chambers and ¬‚ats also occasioned the unacceptable crossing of estab-
lished social and spatial divides.·⁴ Elizabeth Cromley suggests that the
gradual acceptance of boarding as a residential option for middle-class
and married Americans made boundary-crossings of certain kinds even
more likely:

[By mid century], a broad cross-section of occupations and varied ˜˜family
status™™ (married and single) could occupy a single house. Indeed, this ˜˜mix™™
was sometimes seen as volatile, not solely because of cross-class con¬‚icts but
also because of di¬erences in marital status; for example, Junius Browne™s ±
guidebook Great Metropolis represents single men as threatening to married
couples in boardinghouse settings through their double position as an example
to the husbands of ˜˜freedom™™ and as potential seducers of the wives.·µ

The promiscuous mingling of individuals of di¬erent walks of life, sexes,
and marital statuses, was particularly threatening because it took place
across the boundaries of the family, supposedly the dwelling place of
one™s truest, most private, inner self.
 Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
Bachelors were thus represented as a danger against which other
multi-unit dwellers, single and married, male and female, had to gird
themselves. The dangers of sharing a residence with bachelors are
illustrated in the ±µ Wilkie Collins sketch, ˜˜The Bachelor Bedroom,™™
mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. This bachelor bedroom
provides only temporary quarters for the bachelors who serially occupy
it, and hence it di¬ers from the full-time and closer proximity of the
boarding house. Yet the permanent assignment of a bedroom to bach-
elors in this upper-class English countryhouse suggests that, as in the
boarding house, bachelors are a regular feature of this world, not
excluded from it.·⁶ Like the bachelors who abide there, the bachelor
bedroom is at once integral to this ˜˜civilised residence™™ and yet funda-
mentally at odds with it: ˜˜It started in life, under Sir John™s careful
auspices, the perfection of neatness and tidiness. But the bachelors have
corrupted it long since . . . He is a rigid man and resolute in the matter of
order, and has his way all over the rest of the house “ but the Bachelor
Bedroom is too much for him™™ (pp. µµ“). Just as the respectable house
contains a ˜˜slovenly and unpresentable™™ (p. µµ) bachelor bedroom, so
too does each outwardly respectable bachelor reveal his true, inner
nature within its con¬nes. The hypochondriacal ˜˜Mr. Jollins,™™ for
example, betrays ˜˜a horrible triumph and interest in the maladies of
others, of which nobody would suspect in the general society of the
house™™ (p. µ·). And when the door of the bachelor bedroom closes
behind the ultra-re¬ned ˜˜Mr. Smart,™™ ˜˜the jolliest, broadest and richest
Irish brogue™™ replaces this bachelor™s ˜˜highly-bred English with the
imperturbably gentle drawl,™™ and ˜˜wild and lavish generosity suddenly
bec[omes] the leading characteristic of this once reticent man™™ (pp. µ·“
).
Similarly, the bachelor ˜˜Mr. Bigg,™™ who seems ˜˜altogether an irre-
proachable character,™™ undergoes a transformation inside the bedroom:

But what is Mr. Bigg, when he has courteously wished the ladies good night,
when he has secretly summoned the footman with the surreptitious tray, and
when he has deluded the unprincipled married men of the party into having an
hour™s cozy chat with them before they go upstairs? Another being “ a being
unknown to the ladies, and unsuspected by the respectable guests. Inside the
Bedroom, the outward aspect of Mr. Bigg changes as if by magic; and a kind of
gorgeous slovenliness pervades him from top to toe. Buttons which have rigidly
restrained him within distinct physical boundaries slip exhausted out of their
button-holes; and the ¬gure of Mr. Bigg suddenly expands and asserts itself for
the ¬rst time as a protuberant fact. His neckcloth ¬‚ies on to the nearest chair,

Bachelors and bourgeois domesticity
his rigid shirt-collar yawns open, his wiry under-whiskers ooze multitudinously
into view, his coat, waistcoat, and braces drop o¬ his shoulders. If the two
young ladies who sleep in the room above, and who most unreasonably
complain of the ceaseless nocturnal croaking and growling of voices in the
Bachelor Bedroom, could look down through the ceiling now, they would not
know Mr. Bigg again, and would suspect that a dissipated artisan had intruded
himself into Sir John™s house. (p. µ)

I quote this marvelously rich passage in its entirety to show the range of
threats, real and imaginary, posed by this bachelor in his bedroom. He
seduces the married men into nocturnal excesses; he annoys, and
possibly endangers, the young ladies by his audible proximity, the
improper absence or permeability of boundaries between male and
female spaces evoked here by the fantasy of a see-through ceiling; his
resemblance to a ˜˜dissipated artisan™™ suggests an improper transgress-
ion of class boundaries; the ˜˜nocturnal croaking and growling™™ even
suggests a transgression of the boundary between animal and human.
These transgressions are abetted by the boundary-crossing that charac-
terizes Mr. Bigg™s body: his ˜˜wiry underwhiskers ooze™™ out and his
¬gure, released by his buttons from ˜˜distinct physical boundaries,™™
˜˜expands and asserts itself . . . as a protuberant fact.™™ His body breaches
the bounds of a sexualized propriety, much as this bachelor intruder
breaches the security of proper domesticity, adding to the profusion of
ways in which a bachelor may be in, yet not fully of, the home.
Bachelors in other people™s homes are not only a threat to others; they
sometimes present a threat to themselves. The threatening social and
physical expansiveness demonstrated by Mr. Bigg within the con¬nes of
the Bachelor Bedroom has a counterpart, though an inverse one, in the
threatening constriction of a bachelor who cannot make himself fully at
home in his London lodgings. The titular bachelor of this ±µ°s Harper™s
story, yet another ˜˜A Bachelor™s Christmas,™™ moves out of the Inner
Temple in search of quieter surroundings more conducive to studying
for the bar.·· He is initially well pleased with the ˜˜solitude of lodgings™™
where he relieves himself from the rigors of Blackstone with Montaigne,
Congreve, Pope, Shakespeare, and Milton. With only the companion-
ship of his books, ˜˜my dearest, my only associates,™™ and his landlady,
whom he tolerates despite her prying and petty thievery, he describes
himself as becoming ˜˜egotistic and lazy™™: ˜˜There was a sel¬sh pleasure
in the conviction that my case was so much better than that of thousands
of the toilers and strugglers of the earth™™ (p. ). His satisfaction,
however, is transformed into misery when he must endure such minor
° Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
inconveniences as late meals and noise as his landlady prepares a
Christmas holiday celebration for her friends and relations. Far from his
own home in Scotland, he is overcome by loneliness, ˜˜sick at heart “
stupidly and profoundly dejected™™ (p. °°), maddened by ˜˜envy at the
exuberant mirth,™™ and ˜˜furious at the sympathy which my loneliness
created.™™ This increasingly ˜˜nervous and irritable™™ (p. °±) bachelor
seems to be on the verge of a breakdown.
The moral of the story is not, as one might expect, that the bachelor
should have accepted the o¬ers of hospitality from downstairs. In fact,
the narrator never explains his unwillingness to join the party, although
class prejudice coupled with studiously respectable reserve is the most
likely explanation. Rather, he recalls ˜˜vow[ing] solemnly that I would
not pass another Christmas day in solitude, and in lodgings “ and I
didn™t™™ (p. °±). In the coda to the story, he tells how he and his bride
manage to move from their temporary lodgings in furnished apartments
to their new home in a suburban villa in time for Christmas. The
likelihood that this home of their own is rented does not seem to mitigate
their domestic bliss. What seems crucial to the attainment of domesticity
is, rather, the privacy enabled by the single family residence, as well as
the presence within that dwelling of a woman of his own, the former
bachelor™s wife.
The dangerous isolation of this solitary bachelor in his lodgings might
be also considered the ¬‚ipside of the dangerous companionship enjoyed
by a group of bachelor tenants in a Harper™s piece of the same decade, an
±µ cartoon entitled ˜˜Scenes in Bachelor Life.™™ Here, reckless dissi-
pation rather than maddening loneliness constitutes the primary threat
to bachelor well-being. The ¬rst panel shows three ¬gures standing near
a ¬replace in a room devoid of furnishings, with a caption reading
˜˜Messrs. Briggs, Brown and Bangs admire their apartments and antici-
pate ˜Great Times™.™™ By turn, they engage in fencing, boxing, and
wrestling until the landlady knocks at the door, requesting the ˜˜Gentle-

<<

. 7
( 47 .)



>>