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a cheerful log burning on my old ¬re-irons, make up an establishment not so
unhomelike as might be, and when, of an evening, the ˜˜blond young man™™ drops
in and we draw our chairs before the ¬re and enjoy that tete-a-tete of intimates,
ˆ `ˆ
which needs no e¬ort of entertaining, pu¬ng great fragrant clouds of smoke,
gazing into the ¬re and indulging in the always delightful reveries of a bachelor,
the whole thing is, as our friends across the briny would say, ˜˜not half bad.™™ . . .
Fancy a man reverizing with a wife beside him, arguing the desirability of a
new kind of weather strip or urging the merits of a patent clothes wringer.¹°°
Luxuriating in the comfort of ˜˜an establishment not so unhomelike,™™ he
alludes to an American bachelor past famously envisioned in Donald
Grant Mitchell™s Reveries of a Bachelor. Cha¬ee™s bachelor rhetorically
places the quasi-domestic ¬reside communion enjoyed with his ˜˜blond
young man,™™ a type identi¬able as homosexual to those who could read
the code, within longer-standing traditions of bachelor quasi-domestic-
ity, both ˜˜across the briny™™ and in the United States. While Cha¬ee™s
bachelor ¬nds it ludicrous to imagine ˜˜a man reverizing with a wife
beside him,™™ it is worth noting that Mitchell™s bachelor would have
found it equally inconceivable to ˜˜reverize™™ with another man beside
him since mid-century reverie was primarily conceived as a solitary vice,
not a dyadic one. But whether practiced singly, in same-sex or cross-sex
pairs, or in groups, bachelor domesticity enabled bachelors to cross
certain boundaries while staying safely at home. This paradoxical com-
bination of being at once an errant wanderer and a devoted homebody
is particularly pronounced for the narrator of Mitchell™s Reveries. This
bachelor is most at home when lost in his dreams.

  ¬ ¬© ® § ¤     : ¤ ®¬ ¤ §  ®  © ¬ ¬ ™ 
R EV E R IES O F A B ACH EL OR

While the popular success of Reveries of a Bachelor, or a Book of the Heart
came nowhere near the sensational sales of such mid-century bestsellers
 Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
as Stowe™s Uncle Tom™s Cabin (±µ±“) which sold °°,°°° copies in the
year of its publication, or even Dickens™s Bleak House (±µ“) which sold
µ,°°° copies in each of its monthly installments, Reveries did cause a
mild sensation. In its ¬rst year, the book sold ±,°°° copies and con-
tinued to sell throughout the century, ultimately appearing in over µ°
editions apart from those issued by its authorized publisher, as well as in
a variety of foreign language editions.¹°¹ One of its many admirers was
the young Emily Dickinson, who counted Reveries among her favorite
books. ˜˜Ik Marvel,™™ a pseudonym assumed by the author who was
himself a bachelor at the time of publication, received a ¬‚ood of fan mail
from readers in America and abroad: letters praising the book, asking
for advice on love a¬airs, proposing marriage. Poems and even a French
polka were dedicated to Ik Marvel.¹°²
Reveries, moreover, spawned a host of imitations by authors attempt-
ing to capitalize on the popularity of the bachelor as a narrative persona
and as a subject of literary representation more generally. Among those
mid-century writers who took a leaf from Mitchell™s Book of the Heart were
Oliver Bell Bunce, author of the ±± Bachelor Blu¬, who also published A
Bachelor™s Story in ±µ, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose Coverdale of
the ±µ The Blithedale Romance displays a distinct family resemblance to
Mitchell™s bachelor persona.¹°³ We can also see the in¬‚uence of Reveries
of a Bachelor on the many short pieces published during the ±µ°s in
Harper™s New Monthly Magazine, where the ¬rst reverie of Mitchell™s book
had been reprinted after ¬rst appearing in the Southern Literary Messenger
in ±. Mitchell was an editor at Harper™s where he founded the
long-running ˜˜Editor™s Easy Chair™™ feature; he occupied this comfort-
able seat from ±µ± until replaced in ±µµ by George W. Curtis, the
second most popular male sentimental author of the ±µ°s. The many
Reveries-in¬‚uenced pieces that appeared in Harper™s during this era in-
clude ones cited earlier in this chapter: the ±µ essay ˜˜Single Life
Among Us™™; Melville™s ±µµ diptych, ˜˜The Paradise of Bachelors™™ and
˜˜The Tartarus of Maids™™; the ±µ cartoon ˜˜Scenes in Bachelor Life™™;
and the ±µ± story ˜˜A Bachelor™s Christmas.™™
The bachelors depicted in all of these pieces have certain traits in
common with Mitchell™s bachelor. The depressing isolation of the
studious bachelor in his London lodgings in the ±µ± ˜˜A Bachelor™s
Christmas™™ can be seen, for example, as a dysphoric version of the
dreamy solitariness of Mitchell™s bachelor. The house-proud satisfaction
that this bachelor, once married, takes in his refurbished suburban villa,
also resembles the pride and joy that Mitchell™s bachelor derives from

Bachelors and bourgeois domesticity
his own ˜˜quiet farm-house in the country,™™ which he visits each winter
to review his tenant™s farm accounts.¹°⁴ Although he takes great pleasure
in the comforts of this country home, replete with its ˜˜cosy-looking
¬replace “ a heavy oak ¬‚oor “ a couple of arm-chairs, and a brown table
with carved lion™s feet . . . [and] a broad bachelor bedstead™™ (p. ±µ), the
bachelor of Reveries exhibits a negligence toward his house which recalls
the behavior of the roughhousing cartoon bachelors in lodgings in the
±µ ˜˜Scenes from Bachelor Life.™™ This bachelor does not burn his
house down, as the incendiary cartoon bachelors do, but he does
manage to do considerable damage:
It happens to be the only house in the world, of which I am bona-¬de owner;
and I take a vast deal of comfort in treating it just as I choose. I manage to break
some article of furniture, almost every time I pay it a visit; and if I cannot open
the window readily of a morning, to breathe the fresh air, I knock out a pane or
two of glass with my boot. I lean against the walls in a very old armchair there is
on the premises, and scarce ever fail to worry such a hole in the plastering, as
would set me down for a round charge for damages in town, or make a prim
housewife fret herself into a raging fever. I laugh out loud with myself, in my big
arm-chair, when I think that I am neither afraid of one, nor the other. (p. ±)
In subordinating prudent delay to immediate grati¬cation and privileg-
ing aggressive self-assertion over circumspect decorum, Mitchell™s bach-
elor tarnishes his image as a ˜˜bona-¬de owner™™: not as an owner per se, but
an owner in good faith, one who maintains both in word and deed a
proper bourgeois respect for private property. For Mitchell™s bachelor,
having a home of his own means having the right to trash it.
In the passage cited above, the bachelor tellingly lumps together the
owner of a rented-out town residence with the ˜˜prim housewife™™ as
representatives of proper behavior and attitudes toward property. He
arms himself against their power of in¬‚uence with the knowledge of his
own right of ownership. But the lumping together of landowner and
housewife reveals the di¬culty of determining to whom the house
properly belongs. Under most state laws at mid-century, a house was
considered the legal property of the man of the house, but ˜˜belonging™™ is
not simply a matter of legal ownership. The housewife is not the legal
owner, yet she is the one who ˜˜frets herself into a raging fever™™ when the
plastering has a hole ˜˜worried™™ into it. The house thus ˜˜belongs™™ to the
housewife under hegemonic domestic ideology; her practical responsibil-
ity for such domestic spaces signi¬es her moral authority over them and
those who inhabit them.¹°µ The house may belong to Mitchell™s bachelor,
yet he does not seem fully to belong to the world of domesticity.
µ° Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
The meaning of home ownership for Mitchell™s bachelor is further
complicated by his announcement, at the beginning of his fourth and
¬nal reverie, that he will never be able to return home again:
It is a spring day under the oaks “ the loved oaks of a once cherished home, “
now alas, mine no longer!
I had sold the old farm-house, and the groves, and the cool springs, where I
had bathed my head in the heats of summer; and with the ¬rst warm days of
May, they were to pass from me forever. Seventy years they had been in the
possession of my mother™s family; for seventy years, they had borne the same
name of proprietorship; for seventy years, the Lares of our country home, often
neglected, almost forgotten, “ yet brightened from time to time, by gleams of
heart-worship, had held their place in the sweet valley of Elmgrove.
And in this changeful, bustling American life of ours, seventy years is no
child™s holiday. (pp. ±“µ°)

While no precise explanation for the sale is ever given, one gathers from
the contrast between ˜˜changeful, bustling American life™™ and the tradi-
tional and retired quality of this old Elmgrove home that an earlier
familial and a¬ective economy, an economy linked in this text to the
mother™s family, is no longer viable. The old homeplace cannot com-
pete in, or against, a modern world that puts a premium on mobility,
acquisition, and competition. Complete with gloomy gestures toward
architectural rack and ruin “ ˜˜the cornice is straggling . . . the porch has
fallen . . . the stone chimney is yawning with wide gaps . . . all is going to
decay™™ (pp. ±µ“) “ this nostalgic backward glance is a standard of
sentimental discourse.¹°⁶
The sentimental nostalgia engendered by the decay and fall of the
ancestral house of this bachelor does not necessarily con¬‚ict with his
destructive behavior within this dwelling. His melancholy can be read,
for instance, as a cover-up for his emphatic rejection of the responsibili-
ties of home ownership. One might well interpret the bachelor™s sale of
his family home, like his window-smashing and plaster-gouging, as a
repudiation of the duties of the bourgeois householder. Likewise, the
morbid speculations of the book™s ¬rst reverie can easily be seen as thinly
veiled expressions of hostility toward the imaginary wife and children
whose deaths the bachelor mournfully “ or is it zestfully? “ conjures up.
He begins his reverie by re¬‚ecting on the annoyances and discomforts of
married life, maintaining that any real wife or children must pale beside
the imaginary ones ˜˜which a brilliant working imagination has invested
time and again with brightness, and delight™™ (p. °). At one point, the
bachelor allows himself to wonder whether the connection he asserts
µ±
Bachelors and bourgeois domesticity
between single life and the ˜˜gorgeous realm making™™ of his dream-like
reveries is, in fact, inevitable: ˜˜My fancy would surely quicken, thought
I, if such [a wife] were in attendance. Surely, imagination would be
stronger, and purer, if it could have the playful fancies of dawning
womanhood to delight it™™ (p. ). But this train of thought inexorably
leads him to re¬‚ect that a wife could comfort you if your friend, sister, or
mother were to die. The death toll rises: if you were to die, she would
attend you; worse still, the children and even she herself might die ¬rst.
The bachelor™s conclusion: ˜˜Blessed, thought I again, is the man who
escapes such trials as will measure the limit of patience and the limit of
courage!™™ (pp. “). In other words, better to partake of pleasurably
melancholy sentiments in one™s imagination than to experience actual,
painful loss.
Yet to argue that Mitchell™s bachelor is ¬‚atly anti-domestic, anti-
marriage, and anti-wife requires one to overlook, or to ¬‚atten, a good
deal of evidence. For one thing, the bachelor himself distinguishes
clearly between the house as a material object and the home as a source
of spiritual and a¬ective meaning:

A home! “ it is the bright, blessed, adorable, phantom which sits highest on
the sunny horizon that girdeth Life! . . . It is not the house, though that may
have its charms; nor the ¬eld carefully tilled, and streaked with your own
foot-paths; “ nor the trees, though their shadow be to you like that of a great
rock in a weary land; “ nor yet is it the ¬reside, with its sweet blaze-play; “ nor
the pictures which tell of loved ones, nor the cherished books, “ but more far
than all these “ it is the Presence. The Lares of your worship are there; the altar
of your con¬dence there; the end of your worldly faith is there; and adorning it
all, and sending your blood in passionate ¬‚ow, is the ecstasy of the conviction,
that there at least you are beloved; that there you are understood; that there your
errors will meet ever with gentlest forgiveness; that there your troubles will be
smiled away; that there you may unburden your soul, fearless of harsh,
unsympathizing ears; and that there you may be entirely and joyfully “ yourself!
(pp. °“±)

The catalogue of the material accoutrements of domestic pleasure at the
beginning of this passage inarguably bestows a certain preeminence
upon these physical comforts. One might compare this loving itemiz-
ation of household objects, for example, to the book™s second paragraph
which e¬ectively maps the interior space and furnishings of the bach-
elor™s house, leading up to, then into, his bedroom with its ˜˜saucy
colored lithographic print of some fancy ˜Bessie™™™ (p. ±µ). But both
passages ultimately subordinate such tangible assets, both human and
µ Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
inanimate, to what they signify spiritually and emotionally. The empha-
sis on the immaterial in this ecstatic paeon locates the essence of
selfhood in the spiritual heaven on earth which is home. Home is
imagined here as an originary spiritual center that radiates its life force
into and through the self, but also rings round the self as ˜˜the sunny
horizon that girdeth Life!™™ (p. °), enclosing it and yet connecting it to
the in¬nite. In this vision, being ˜˜entirely and joyfully yourself™™ (p. ±) is
not a dutiful means to a virtuous end, but the joyful end itself. The
performance of domestic selfhood is its own reward.
The bachelor champions the home and the wife as prime movers of
domestic selfhood, but his emphasis on their immateriality cuts both
ways. Despite his yearning gesture toward the millennial heaven of
making oneself at home, he seems to prefer, in fact to need, the home
with the wife within it to remain ˜˜a bright, blessed, adorable, phantom™™
(p. °). Thus the correct, indeed the necessary, answer to his rhetorical
questions “ ˜˜When shall [home] be reached? When shall it cease to be a
glittering day-dream, and become fully and fairly yours?™™ (p. °) “ must
be ˜˜Never.™™ The marital and familial home retains its preeminence as
the source of life™s meaning, but for the bachelor of Reveries it is the
source of life™s meaning by virtue of its imaginary rather than actual
status. The bachelor™s real estate in Mitchell™s Reveries is not the house
that he literally inhabits, but the dreamy state of mind, the reveries that
preoccupy him. The bachelor™s real life is a ˜˜Dream Life,™™ also the title
of the sequel Mitchell wrote in the immediate wake of Reveries™s success.
Dream life is not precisely an alternative to domestic life for the
bachelor narrator of Reveries, but rather a crucial form of vicarious access
to it. In his original Preface, Mitchell wryly notes his inclination ˜˜to
think bachelors are the only safe and secure observers of all the phases of
married life™™ (p. vi), suggesting that bachelorhood is a position for
looking and that married life is the primary object of the bachelor™s
gaze. In this text, however, the bachelor™s onlooking takes place entirely
within his mind™s eye, within the apparently self-enclosed world of his
reveries. Mitchell™s bachelor ˜˜makes an opera glass of [his] imagin-
ation,™™ as Blithedale™s Zenobia describes the characteristic habit of mind
of that novel™s bachelor narrator, but Reveries™s bachelor does so without
the bene¬t of visual aids.¹°· In many of the ¬ctions I will discuss in the
following chapters, bachelors play onlooking and sometimes facilitating
roles in the marital and familial plots they narrate, sustaining a dis-
tanced intimacy with or an intimate distance from the denizens of
conventional domestic life. In contrast to these bachelor narrators,
µ
Bachelors and bourgeois domesticity
Mitchell™s bachelor seems to be located more de¬nitively beyond the
gravitational pull of that ˜˜Presence™™ (p. ±) which is home.
Yet the bachelor of Reveries, too, stands on the domestic threshold.
The liminality of reverie, a condition that hovers somewhere between
sleeping and waking, aptly evokes the bachelor™s liminal relation to
domestic life, and also to the public, marketplace world that is the
private realm™s supposed antithesis and complement. Indeed, the pres-
ence of this bachelor at the domestic threshold indicates the very
ambiguity that confounds the status of the private within bourgeois
domestic ideology, especially for bourgeois men whose inner selves were
contradictorily de¬ned as both intrinsic and extraneous to this sphere.
The bachelor™s vexed positioning with respect to bourgeois domesticity,
and ultimately with respect to normative bourgeois manhood, is sugges-
ted by another passage that links the bachelor™s reverie-making habit of
mind to his tendency towards spectatorship:

Shall he who has been hitherto a mere observer of other men™s cares, and
business “ moving o¬ where they made him sick of heart, approaching when-
ever and wherever they made him gleeful “ shall he now undertake administra-
tion of just such cares and business, without qualms? . . . Shall this brain of
mine, careless-working, never tired with idleness, feeding on long vagaries, and
high, gigantic castles, dreaming out beatitudes hour by hour “ turn itself at
length to such dull task-work, as thinking out a livelihood for wife and children?
(p. °)

Bachelorhood is initially de¬ned in opposition to the responsible, wage-

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