Essays and Appreciations in Honor of Michael J. Colacurcio’s 50 Years of Teaching
Edited By Carol M. Bensick
Melville’s Bachelors: Templars No More
ALLAN M. EMERY
Like “Temple Second” and “Rich Man’s Crumbs,” “The Paradise of Bachelors” (Harper’s, April 1855), which describes the memorable dining experience of an unnamed narrator among nine bachelors at Elm Court, Temple, in London, is clearly based on Melville’s trip to England and the Continent in 1849–50. On December 19, 1849, the author dined with Robert Francis Cooke in London, afterward describing the event in his journal: “Last night dined in Elm Court, Temple, and had a glorious time till noon of night. A set of fine fellows indeed. It recalled poor Lamb’s ‘Old Benchers.’ Cunningham the author of Murray’s London Guide was there & was very friendly. A comical Mr. Rainbow also, & a grandson of Woodfall the printer of Junius, and a brother in law of Leslie the painter … Up in the 5th story we dined. The Paradise of Batchelors.”1 On December 20, Melville dined again, this time with nine individuals at London’s Erechtheum Club. The company, Melville wrote, was “exceedingly agreeable”; also agreeable was the mull of snuff he enjoyed after dinner. And two nights later he dined once more at the Erechtheum; the eight guests included “Ford the Spanish Traveller” and “Cunningham the London Antiquarian.” “We had a glorious time,” he observed, “& parted about midnight.”2 In creating “The Paradise of Bachelors,” Melville seems to have combined all three dinners into a single affair, setting his dinner at Elm Court, inviting nine bachelor guests (including both the...
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