Has modern man (I do mean Man) become tamed and emasculated? Consider, as but one example, his bedroom, that of a single man, I emphasise, uncluttered and unsullied – indeed unaffected by – any suggestion of female influence. Consider, as a particularly fine example, the Bachelor Bedroom described in an essay of that title by Wilkie Collins:
“The Bachelor Bedroom is familiar to everybody who owns a country house, and to everybody who has stayed in a country house. It is the one especial sleeping apartment, in all civilised residences used for the reception of company, which preserves a character of its own. Married people and young ladies may be shifted about from bedroom to bedroom as their own caprice or the domestic convenience of the host may suggest. But the bachelor guest, when he has once had his room set apart for him, contrives to dedicate it to the perpetual occupation of single men from that moment.
“Who else is to have the room afterwards, when the very atmosphere of it is altered by tobacco-smoke? Who can venture to throw it open to nervous spinsters, or respectable married couples, when the footman is certain, from mere force of habit, to make his appearance at the door, with contraband bottles and glasses, after the rest of the family have retired for the night? Where, even if these difficulties could be got over, is any second sleeping apartment to be found, in any house of ordinary construction, isolated enough to secure the soberly reposing portion of the guests from being disturbed by the regular midnight party which the bachelor persists in giving in his bedroom?”
As Collins explains: “The Bachelor Bedroom remains immovably in its own place; sticks immutably to its own bad character; stands out victoriously whether the house is full, or whether the house is empty, the one hospitable institution that no repentant after-thoughts of host or hostess can ever hope to suppress. . . Here is a new subject for worn-out readers of the nineteenth century, whose fountain of literary novelty has become exhausted at the source.”
Collins remembers when “It was three o’clock in the morning; two tumblers were broken; half a lemon was in the soap-dish, and the soap itself was on the chimney-piece; restless married rakes, who were desperately afraid of waking up their wives when they left us, were walking to and fro absently, and crunching knobs of loaf-sugar under foot at every step.” He remembers evenings of “bachelor company and whiskey-and-water” and recalls the man whose “moral sentiments melted like the sugar in his grog; his grammar disappeared with his white cravat. Wild and lavish generosity suddenly became the leading characteristic.”
Those were the days, my friend. Will we ever see their like again?
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