Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Bachelor

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BACHELOR, a word of various meaning, and of exceedingly obscure origin. In modern times the most common significations of it are (1), an unmarried person; (2), one who has taken the lowest degree in any of the faculties at a university. At various times, however, it has signified either a young man in general, from which the first of the modern meanings was easily developed ; or a knight who was unable to lead a body of retainers into the field, i.e., to use the technical phrase, was not able lever bannwre ; or, finally, an ecclesiastic at the lowest stage of his course of training. It has also been pointed out that bacheleria, which meant the body of aspirants to knighthood, came to be used as synonymous with gentry. Etymology gives little help in arranging these meanings so as to discover the unity underlying them. In mediaeval Latin the word baccalaria (connected by Ducange with vasseleria, by Stubbs with bacca, i.e., vacca, a cow), which, according to Diez, is peculiar to the south of France and the north of Spain, signified a certain portion of land, the size and tenure of which imposed on the possessor certain feudal duties. The possessor was called baccalarius, and the name readily acquired the signification of one who, from poverty or other cause, as youth, was not able to take rank as a knight. As a third stage in the use of the word, Diez marks out the application of it to denote the lowest degree in a university. But though these transitions from the primitive meaning may perhaps appear natural, thera is no historic evidence of their having taken place. The same applies to the five meanings given in Ducange.

We look with more prospect of success to the old French words bacelle, bacdote, bachelette, bachelerie, bachelage, which have all the meaning of youth, apprenticeship. They may possibly be connected with the Celtic or Welsh words, bach, little, bachgen, a boy. (See Wedgwood, s.v., who is of opinion that the baccalarius of the north of Spain is not in any way connected with our word bachelor.) It is very probable that this is truly the root of the word. It has, however, been frequently connected with baculus, a stick, from which is supposed to have come baculari.us, as the word used often to be spelled. (See Prompton um Par- vulorum, s.v.) Whether the relation in this case is that of shooting forth or budding (cf. the Portuguese bacharel, a twig of vine, and Barbazan s derivation from baccalia), or the more obvious one suggested by the functions of the bacidarius, who appears to have acted as the monitor or praepostor at schools (see H. T. Eiley, Chronica Monasterii St Albani), is very doubtful.

Bachelors, or unmarried persona, have in many countries been subjected to penal laws. The best-known examples of such legislation are those of Sparta and Rome. At Sparta, citizens who remained unmarried after a certain age were subjected to a species of drt/xta. They were not allowed to witness the gymnastic exercises of the maidens ; and during winter they were compelled to march naked round the market-place, singing a song composed against themselves, and expressing the justice of their punishment. The usual respect of the young to the old was not paid to bachelors (Pint, Lye., 15). At Athens there was no definite legislation on this matter; but certain minor laws are evidently dictated by a spirit akin to the Spartan doctrine (see Schomann, Gr. Alterth., i. 548). At Rome, though there appear traces of some earlier legislation in the matter, the first clearly known law is that called the Lex Julia, passed about 18 B.C. It does not appear to have ever come into full operation ; and in 9 A.D. it was incor porated with the Lex Papia et Poppsea, the two laws being frequently cited as one, Lex Julia et Papia Poppcea. This law, while restricting marriages between the several classes cf the people, laid heavy penalties on unmarried persons, gave certain privileges to those citizens who had several children, and finally imposed lighter penalties on married per sons who were childless. In Britain there has been no direct legislation bearing on bachelors ; but, occasionally, taxes have been made to bear more heavily on them than on others. Instances of this are the Act (6 and 7 Will. III.) passed in 1695; the tax on servants, 1785; and the income tax, 1798.