21 NOVEMBER 1835, Page 19


WE have a faint remembrance of a book about "Old Maids," the getting-up of which was most unexceptionable ; and as one naturally turns to beauties rather than defects, the criticism was chiefly limited to the binding. If the Old Maids in the titlepage of the book before us is the same work, the author may be com- plimented on biaimprovement. He has more closely studied the subject of Old Bachelors, and thought more over his studies. He has also to a certain extent investigated the moral and physi- cal philosophies of the question ; although, like divines and maiden ladies, he talks somewhat sensually about chastity. The conclusion to which his labours lead him is, that there ought to be no single persons in the world save valetudinarians. A nar- row income is nothing—bachelor tastes are dearer than a wife; caution is a vice—it leads a man to trifle with a woman's feelings ; and it seems (though our author does not say so) that a man who ponders long over the subject of matrimony, and reasons upon it, will rarely take the plunge. In short, all should marry, in de- spite of MAI:1.11n5 and their own misgivings, except people whose blood may possibly be tainted with family disorders. "These men," quoth our instructor, "are the only justifiable bachelors, and as such should be regarded with due respect." A member of this class would be an "honourable and virtuous" Benedick, whose self-denial should raise him to the dignity of a stoic or a martyr. "The moral heroism of the man would elevate him above his fellows, and he would calmly look forward to the extinction of his name and race, and glory in the thought that at least it would end in a generous self-sacrifice, and not run on poisoning more and more widely the stream of existence. We cannot con- ceive any thing more magnificent than such a character, any thing that gives us a higher and more solemn idea of the grandeur of human nature."

The form of Old Bachelors is a mixture of argument, portraiture, and scenes. Its materials are very various. Frequently the au- thor reasons upon his subject; and with considerable shrewdness and truth, though with too much of the one-sided air of an advo- cate. Occasionally he attempts to exhibit the abstract character of the genus Bachelor, in the quaint manner of the old divines or the Characters of' BUTLER. His most usual mode, however, is to present the sketch of a generalized individual, who is made to represent a class; and in a few instances he shows his characters in action, by means of scenes at "Bachelor's Hall." The manner of the writer is lively, though sometimes forced ; he deals in odd contrasts, which have almost the effect of wit ; he has a kind of humour that is often provocative of laughter; and the whole is light and agreeable reading, from its variety. Altogether, Old Bachelors is a singular but not an unpleasant medley of specula- tion, observation, thinking, and reasoning.