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Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville is a publication of the Pennsylvania State University. This Portable Document file is furnished free and without any charge of any kind. Any person using this document file, for any purpose, and in any way does so at his or her own risk. Neither the Pennsylvania State University nor Jim Manis, Faculty Editor, nor anyone associated with the Pennsylvania State University assumes any responsibility for the material contained within the document or for the file as an electronic transmission, in any way. Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville, the Pennsylvania State University, Electronic Classics Series, Jim Manis, Faculty Editor, Hazleton, PA 18201-1291 is a Portable Document File produced as part of an ongoing student publication project to bring classical works of literature, in English, to free and easy access of those wishing to make use of them. Cover Design: Jim Manis Copyright © 2002 The Pennsylvania State University
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Bartleby the Scrivener
I AM A RATHER ELDERLY MAN. The nature of my avocations for the last thirty years has brought me into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom, as yet, nothing that I know of has ever been written — I mean the law-copyists, or scriveners. I have known very many of them, professionally and privately, and, if I pleased, could relate divers histories at which good-natured gentlemen might smile and sentimental souls might weep. But I waive the biographies of all other scriveners for a few passages in the life of Bartleby, who was a scrivener, the strangest I ever saw or heard of. While of other law-copy3
ists I might write the complete life, of Bartleby nothing of that sort can be done. I believe that no materials exist for a full and satisfactory biography of this man. It is an irreparable loss to literature. Bartleby was one of those beings of whom nothing is ascertainable except from the original sources, and, in his case, those are very small. What my own astonished eyes saw of Bartleby, that is all I know of him, except, indeed, one vague report, which will appear in the sequel. Ere introducing the scrivener as he first appeared to me, it is fit I make some mention of myself, my employees, my business, my chambers and general surroundings, because some such description is indispensable to an adequate understanding of the chief character about to be presented. Imprimis: I am a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best. Hence, though I belong to a profession proverbially energetic and nervous even to turbulence at times, yet nothing of that sort have I ever
Bartleby the Scrivener suffered to invade my peace. I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury or in any way draws down public applause, but, in the cool tranquillity of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men’s bonds, and mortgages, and title deeds. All who know me consider me an eminently safe man. The late John Jacob Astor, a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm, had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point to be prudence, my next, method. I do not speak it in vanity, but simply record the fact that I was not unemployed in my profession by the late John Jacob Astor, a name which, I admit, I love to repeat, for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it, and rings like unto bullion. I will freely add that I was not insensible to the late John Jacob Astor’s good opinion. Some time prior to the period at which this little history begins my avocations had been largely increased. The good old office, now extinct in the State of New York, of a Master in Chancery, had been conferred upon me. It was not a very arduous office, but 4 very pleasantly remunerative. I seldom lose my temper, much more seldom indulge in dangerous indignation at wrongs and outrages, but I must be permitted to be rash here and declare that I consider the sudden and violent abrogation of the office of Master in Chancery, by the new Constitution, as a premature act, inasmuch as I had counted upon a life lease of the profits, whereas I only received those of a few short years. But this is by the way. My chambers were upstairs at No.___ Wall Street. At one end they looked upon the white wall of the interior of a spacious skylight shaft, penetrating the building from top to bottom. This view might have been considered rather tame than otherwise, deficient in what landscape painters call “life.” But, if so, the view from the other end of my chambers offered at least a contrast, if nothing more. In that direction, my windows commanded an unobstructed view of a lofty brick wall, black by age and everlasting shade, which wall required no spyglass to bring out its lurking beauties,
they were nicknames. somewhere not far from sixty. just then. to rise. which. Owing to the great height of the surrounding buildings. Indeed. but after twelve o’clock. Nippers. not only would he be reckless and sadly given to making blots . or thereabouts. He would be incautious in dipping his pen into his inkstand. began the daily period when I considered his business capacities as seriously disturbed for the remainder of the twenty-four hours. of about my own age — that is. In the morning. and were deemed expressive of their respective persons or characters. meridian — his dinner hour — it blazed like a grate full of Christmas coals. and continued blazing — but. third Ginger Nut. one might say.Melville but. I had two persons as copyists in my employment. at that critical moment. his face was of a fine florid hue. gaining its meridian with the sun. not the least among which was the fact. Not that he was absolutely idle or averse to business then. These may seem names the like of which are not usually found in the Directory. First. with the like regularity and undiminished glory. that. P. There was a strange. There are many singular coincidences I have known in the course of my life. seemed to set with it. pursy Englishman. exactly when Turkey displayed his fullest beams from his red and radiant countenance. Turkey. flighty recklessness of activity about him. and a promising lad as an office boy. for the benefit of all nearsighted spectators. flurried. At the period just preceding the advent of Bartleby. meridian. after which I saw no more of the proprietor of the face. Turkey was a short. as it were. was pushed up to within ten feet of my windowpanes. too.M. inflamed. he was apt to be altogether too energetic. and my chambers’ being on the second floor. In truth. All his blots upon my documents were dropped there after twelve o’clock. and decline the following day. with a gradual wane — 5 till six o’clock. The difficulty was. culminate. far from it. second.. mutually conferred upon each other by my three clerks. the interval between this wall and mine not a little resembled a huge square cistern.
Nevertheless. 6 insolent. he need not come to my chambers after twelve o’clock. at the same time. the blandest and most reverential of men in the morning. then. “I consider myself your right-hand man. He made an unpleasant racket with his chair. in the afternoon? “With submission. . and all the time before twelve o’clock. and resolved not to lose them — yet. as if cannel coal had been heaped on anthracite. Now. In the morning I but marshal and deploy my columns. too. but some days he went further and was rather noisy. made uncomfortable by his inflamed ways after twelve o’clock and being a man of peace. though indeed. At such times. dinner over. as he was in many ways a most valuable person to me. I took upon me one Saturday noon (he was always worse on Saturdays) to hint to him.” said Turkey. But no. how indispensable. now that he was growing old. impatiently split them all to pieces and threw them on the floor in a sudden passion. very kindly. that perhaps. very sad to behold in an elderly man like him. his face flamed with augmented blazonry. however. had best go home to his lodgings and rest himself till teatime. spilled his sandbox. on this occasion. stood up and leaned over his table. though the civilest. to be slightly rash with his tongue — in fact. because. sir. His countenance became intolerably fervid. yet. valuing his morning services as I did. occasionally. but. too. he insisted upon his afternoon devotions. it might be well to abridge his labors. was the quickest. nay. in the afternoon he was disposed. in mending his pens. boxing his papers about in a most indecorous manner. upon provocation.Bartleby the Scrivener in the afternoon. steadiest creature. accomplishing a great deal of work in a style not easily to be matched — for these reasons I was willing to overlook his eccentricities. meridian. unwilling by my admonitions to call forth unseemly retorts from him. as he oratorically assured me — gesticulating with a long ruler at the other end of the room that if his services in the morning were useful. I remonstrated with him. in short. I did this very gently.
If. I saw that go he would not. an unwarrantable usurpation of strictly professional 7 affairs. The indigestion seemed betokened in an occasional nervous testiness and grinning irritability. with submission. Nippers could never get this table to suit him. blocks of various sorts. “But the blots. At all events. such as the original drawing up of legal documents.Melville but in the afternoon I put myself at their head. unnecessary maledictions. we both are getting old. resolving. Though of a very ingenious mechanical turn. Nippers. If now he lowered the table to his waistbands and stooped over it in writing. Surely. sir. for the sake of easing his back. sallow. In . a blot or two of a warm afternoon is not to be severely urged against gray hairs. then he declared that it stopped the circulation in his arms.” intimated I. was a whiskered. in the heat of business. and wrote there like a man using the steep roof of a Dutch house for his desk. thus” — and he made a violent thrust with the ruler. behold these hairs! I am getting old. he brought the table lid at a sharp angle well up towards his chin. and at last went so far as to attempt an exquisite adjustment by final pieces of folded blotting paper. Old age even if it blot the page — is honorable. sir. then there was a sore aching in his back. He put chips under it. sir. the second on my list. The ambition was evinced by a certain impatience of the duties of a mere copyist. “True. bits of pasteboard. but. causing the teeth to audibly grind together over mistakes committed in copying. and gallantly charge the foe. I always deemed him the victim of two evil powers — ambition and indigestion. So I made up my mind to let him stay. he had to do with my less important papers. during the afternoon. With submission. and especially by a continual discontent with the height of the table where he worked. hissed rather than spoken. to see to it that. nevertheless.” This appeal to my fellow feeling was hardly to be resisted. But no invention would answer. Turkey. and upon the whole rather piratical-looking young man of about five and twenty.
Or. and which buttoned straight up from the knee to the neck. and so. if he wanted anything. that one individual who called upon him at my chambers. and who. reflected credit upon 8 my chambers. with respect to Turkey. it was to be rid of a scrivener’s table altogether. with all his failings. But while the hat was a thing of indifference to me. and was not unknown on the steps of the Tombs. but with no effect. I suppose. a bill. incidentally. and smell of eating houses. whom he called his clients. wrote a neat. was no other than a dun. always led him to doff it the moment he entered the room. I thought Turkey would appreciate the favor and abate his rashness and obstreper- . His clothes were apt to look oily. yet his coat was another matter. swift hand. Added to this. Nippers. he insisted was his client. that a man with so small an income could not afford to sport such a lustrous face and a lustrous coat at one and the same time. the truth of the matter was Nippers knew not what he wanted. He wore his pantaloons very loose and baggy in summer. Among the manifestations of his diseased ambition was a fondness he had for receiving visits from certain ambiguous-looking fellows in seedy coats. however. when he chose. The truth was. with a grand air. I was aware that not only was he. As Nippers once observed. His coats were execrable. Whereas. inasmuch as his natural civility and deference. considerable of a ward politician. like his compatriot Turkey. as a dependent Englishman. was not deficient in a gentlemanly sort of deportment. Turkey’s money went chiefly for red ink. Concerning his coats. and the annoyances he caused me. One winter day. he always dressed in a gentlemanly sort of way. at times. and the alleged title deed. I presented Turkey with a highly respectable-looking coat of my own — a padded gray coat of a most comfortable warmth. I reasoned with him.Bartleby the Scrivener short. I have good reason to believe. But. Indeed. was a very useful man to me. I had much ado to keep him from being a reproach to me. his hat not to be handled. but he occasionally did a little business at the Justices’ courts. and.
brandyand-water were altogether superfluous. In fact precisely as a rash. stooping over his table. Turkey’s paroxysms only coming on about twelve o’clock. I was well persuaded that. It made him insolent. yet. and jerk it. seize the whole desk. spread his arms wide apart. Though. I never had to do with their eccentricities at one time. I verily believe that buttoning himself up in so downy and blanket-like a coat had a pernicious effect upon him — upon the same principle that too much oats are bad for horses. ambitious of seeing his son on the bench instead of a cart before he died. as if the table were a perverse voluntary agent. errand boy. intent on thwarting and vexing him. like guards. was a lad some twelve years old. So he sent him to my office. under the circumstances. as student at law. charged him so thoroughly with an irritable. and. I had my own private surmises. owing to its peculiar cause — indigestion — the irritability and consequent nervousness of Nippers were mainly observable in the morning. grinding 9 motion on the floor. a temperate young man. but he did not use it much. restive horse is said to feel his oats. I plainly perceive that. Upon inspec- . Their fits relieved each other. So that. This was a good natural arrangement. concerning the self-indulgent habits of Turkey. It was fortunate for me that. at the rate of one dollar a week. But indeed.Melville ousness of afternoons. brandylike disposition that all subsequent potations were needless. nature herself seemed to have been his vintner. he was. Nippers would sometimes impatiently rise from his seat. at his birth. while in the afternoon he was comparatively mild. When I consider how. for Nippers. amid the stillness of my chambers. cleaner and sweeper. at least. so Turkey felt his coat. His father was a carman. and. and move it. with a grim. touching Nippers. He had a little desk to himself. whatever might be his faults in other respects. But no. Turkey’s was off and vice versa. the third on my list. Ginger Nut. When Nippers’s was on. He was a man whom prosperity harmed.
to be had at the numerous stalls nigh the Custom House and Post Office. husky sort of business. glad to have among my corps of copyists a man of so singularly sedate an aspect. the whole noble science of the law was contained in a nutshell. In answer to my advertisement. flat. to this quick-witted youth. Of a cold morning. they sent Ginger Nut very frequently for that peculiar cake — small. I engaged him. and very spicy — after which he had been named by them. the drawer exhibited a great array of the shells of various sorts of nuts. Turkey would gobble up scores of these cakes. and saying: “With submission. sir. Indeed. Not only must I push the clerks already with me. but I must have additional help. it was generous of me to find you in stationery on my own account. Copying law papers being proverbially a dry. I came within an ace of dismissing him then. But he mollified me by making an Oriental bow. There was now great work for scriveners. which I . for it was summer.Bartleby the Scrivener tion. Not the least among the employments of Ginger Nut. my two scriveners were fain to moisten their mouths very often with Spitzenbergs. they sell them at the rate of six or eight for a penny — the scrape of his pen blending with the crunching of the crisp particles in his mouth. round. was his duty as cake and apple purveyor for Turkey and Nippers. Also. the door being open. Of all the fiery afternoon blunders and flurried rashnesses of Tur10 key was his once moistening a ginger cake between his lips and clapping it on to a mortgage for a seal. incurably forlorn! It was Bartleby. I can see that figure now — pallidly neat pitiably respectable. a motionless young man one morning stood upon my office threshold. as well as one which he discharged with the most alacrity. After a few words touching his qualifications.” Now my original business — that of a conveyancer and title hunter. when business was but dull. and drawer-up of recondite documents of all sorts — was considerably increased by receiving the Master’s office. as if they were mere wafers — indeed.
I should have stated before that ground-glass folding doors divided my premises into two parts. palely. I placed his desk close up to a small side window in that part of the room. I can readily imagine that. word by word. though not remove him from my voice. Within three feet of the panes was a wall. the other holding the original. they assist each other in this examination. but on my side of them so as to have this quiet man within easy call. between two lofty buildings. Byron. he seemed to gorge himself on my documents. He ran a day and night line. wearisome. in a manner. There was no pause for digestion. copying by sunlight and by candlelight. one of which was occupied by my scriveners.Melville thought might operate beneficially upon the flighty temper of Turkey and the fiery one of Nippers. I cannot credit that the mettlesome poet. would have contentedly . It is. I resolved to assign Bartleby a corner by the folding doors. Still further to a satisfactory arrangement. a window which originally had afforded a lateral view of certain grimy back yards and bricks. But he wrote on silently. As if long famishing for something to copy. Where there are two or more scriveners in an office. For example. At first. I procured a high green folding screen. privacy and society were conjoined. and lethargic affair. And thus. commanded at present no view at all. had he been cheerfully industrious. mechanically. one reading from the copy. I threw open these doors or closed them. which might entirely isolate Bartleby from 11 my sight. owing to subsequent erections. it would be altogether intolerable. According to my humor. of course. in case any trifling thing was to be done. It is a very dull. the other by myself. as from a very small opening in a dome. but which. though it gave some light. an indispensable part of a scrivener’s business to verify the accuracy of his copy. I should have been quite delighted with his application. Bartleby did an extraordinary quantity of writing. and the light came down from far above. to some sanguine temperaments.
Imagine my surprise. rising in high excitement. that.Bartleby the Scrivener sat down with Bartleby to examine a law document of. I sat with my head bent over the original on my desk. without moving from his privacy. being much hurried to complete a small affair I had in hand. “I would prefer not to.” echoed I. I repeated my request in the clearest tone I could assume. in the haste of business.” and I thrust it towards him. closely written in a crimpy hand. but in quite as clear a one came the previous reply. or Bartleby had entirely misunderstood my meaning. rallying my stunned faculties. calling Turkey or Nippers for this purpose. 12 rapidly stating what it was I wanted him to do — namely. I looked at him steadfastly. Not a wrinkle of agitation rippled him. One object I had in placing Bartleby so handy to me behind the screen was to avail myself of his services on such trivial occasions.” “Prefer not to. so that. In this very attitude did I sit when I called to him. and my right hand sideways. it had been my habit to assist in comparing some brief document myself. nay. of his being with me. my consternation. his gray eyes dimly calm. In my haste and natural expectancy of instant compliance. replied. and crossing the room with a stride. firm voice. His face was leanly composed. “I would prefer not to. Now and then. “I would prefer not to. say five hundred pages. It was on the third day. Bartleby might snatch it and proceed to business without the least delay. Immediately it occurred to me that my ears had deceived me. when.” I sat awhile in perfect silence. Had there been the least . to examine a small paper with me. I abruptly called to Bartleby. Bartleby. and before any necessity had arisen for having his own writing examined. immediately upon emerging from his retreat. “What do you mean? Are you moon-struck? I want you to help me compare this sheet here — take it. in a singularly mild. and somewhat nervously extended with the copy. I think.” said he.
doubtless I should have violently dismissed him from the premises. while I should read from the original. So calling Nippers from the other room. the paper was speedily examined. A few days after this. “Why do you refuse?” . and soon he appeared standing at the entrance of his hermitage. and great accuracy was imperative. “The copies. and gently disappeared behind the screen. “We are going to examine them. each with his document in his hand.” he said. It became necessary to examine them.Melville uneasiness. I stood gazing at him awhile. There” — and I held towards him the fourth quadruplicate. thought I. This is very strange. and Ginger Nut had taken their seats in a row. I am waiting. hurriedly. What had one best do? But my business hurried me. I advanced towards the screen and demanded the reason for such extraordinary conduct.” I heard a slow scrape of his chair legs on the uncarpeted floor. Having all things arranged. Turkey. I called Turkey Nippers and Ginger Nut. I concluded to forget the matter for the present. had there been anything ordinarily human about him. being quadruplicates of a week’s testimony taken before me in my High Court of Chancery. reserving it for my future leisure. “Bartleby! quick. Nippers. impatience or impertinence in his manner. the copies. For a few moments I was turned into a pillar of salt. from the next room. and then reseated myself at my desk. mildly. when I called to Bartleby to join this interesting group. Accordingly. standing at the head of my seated column of clerks. But as it was I should have as soon thought of turning my pale plaster-of-Paris bust of Cicero out of doors. anger. It was an important suit. in other words.” said I. “I would prefer not to. “What is wanted?” said he. Bartleby concluded four lengthy documents. meaning to place the four copies in the hands of 13 my four clerks. as he went on with his own writing. Recovering myself.
“what do you think of it?” “I think I should kick him out of the office. “You are decided. but. “I think that you are. “These are your own copies we are about to examine. Every copyist is bound to help examine his copy.” he replied in a flutelike tone.” said I. Yes: his decision was irreversible. it being morning. to. he begins to stagger in his own plainest faith.” “Nippers. He begins. when a man is browbeaten in some unprecedented and violently unreasonable way. scorned all further words.” said I. It is common usage. but. Is it not so? Will you not speak? Answer!” “I prefer not.” With any other man I should have flown outright into a dreadful passion. fully comprehended the meaning. at the same time. he carefully revolved every statement that I made. sir. It is labor saving to you. in his blandest tone. Turkey’s answer is couched . Accordingly. because one examination will answer for your four papers.Bartleby the Scrivener “I would prefer not to. touched and disconcerted me. some paramount consideration prevailed with him to reply as he did. if any disinterested persons are present. and thrust him ignominiously from my presence. I began to reason with him. “Turkey. all the justice and all the reason is on the other side. he turns to them for some reinforcement for his own faltering mind. while I had been addressing him. not to comply with my 14 request — a request made according to common usage and common sense?” He briefly gave me to understand that on that point my judgment was sound. But there was something about Bartleby that not only strangely disarmed me. It seemed to me that. vaguely to surmise that. wonderful as it may be. will here perceive that. could not gainsay the irresistible conclusion.” said Turkey.” (The reader of nice perceptions. then. “what do you think of this? Am I not right?” “With submission. as it were. in a wonderful manner. It is seldom the case that.
and reappear with a handful of gingernuts.” said I. And for his (Nippers’s) part. on gingernuts. receiving two of the cakes for his trouble.) “Ginger Nut.” said I. thought I. sir. with a grin. I determined again to postpone the consideration of this dilemma to my future leisure. but Nippers replies in ill-tempered ones. known him to be outside of my office. “come forth and do your duty. of my personal knowledge. He lives. Or.” replied Ginger Nut. He was a perpetual sentry in the corner. I observed that he never went to dinner. turning towards the screen. His late remarkable conduct led me to regard his ways narrowly.Melville in polite and tranquil terms. indeed. and Turkey’s off. twitching in his chair with a dyspeptic nervousness. which he delivered in the hermitage. Nippers’s ugly mood was on duty. “You hear what they say. At about eleven o’clock. “what do you think of it?” “I think. though. that he never went anywhere. never eats . then. oblivious to everything but his own peculiar business there. to repeat a previous sentence. willing to enlist the smallest suffrage in my behalf.” But he vouchsafed no reply. I noticed that Ginger Nut would advance towards the opening in Bartleby’s screen as if silently beckoned thither by a gesture invisible to me where I sat. Some days passed. ground out between his set teeth occasional hissing maledictions against the stubborn oaf behind the screen. the scrivener being employed upon another lengthy work. in the morning. while Nippers. With a little trouble we made out to examine the papers without Bartleby. though at every page or two Turkey deferentially dropped his opinion that this proceeding was quite out of the common. he’s a little luny. Meanwhile Bartleby sat in his hermitage. I pondered a moment in sore perplexity. The boy would then leave the office jingling a few pence. As yet I had never. But once more business hurried me. this 15 was the first and the last time he would do another man’s business without pay.
his aspect sufficiently evinces that his eccentricities are involuntary. what was ginger? A hot. Yes. but no. Was Bartleby hot and spicy? Not at all. Here I can cheaply purchase a delicious self-approval. To befriend Bartleby. Poor fellow! thought I. I can get along with him. Chapter T wo Two NOTHING so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance. then had no effect upon Bartleby. Ginger. then. and then he will be rudely treated. properly speaking. and perhaps driven forth miserably to starve. to humor him in his strange willfulness. will cost me little or nothing. he will endeavor charitably to construe to his imagination what proves impossible to be solved by his judgment. he must be a vegetarian. Now. he eats nothing but gingernuts. it is plain he intends no insolence. He is useful to me. for the most part. he means no mischief. If I turn him away. Even so. spicy thing.Bartleby the Scrivener a dinner. If the individual so resisted be of a not inhumane temper. in the better moods of the former. Probably he preferred it should have none. the chances are he will fall in with some less indulgent employer. My mind then ran on in reveries concerning the probable effects upon the human constitution of living entirely on gingernuts. then. Gingernuts are so called because they contain ginger as one of their peculiar constituents and the normal flavoring one. while I lay up in my soul what will eventually prove a sweet 16 . I regarded Bartleby and his ways. he never eats even vegetables. and the resisting one perfectly harmless in his passivity.
But. But this mood was not invariable with me. alarmed at the effect of incautiously rousing Turkey’s combativeness after dinner. I might as well have essayed to strike fire with my knuckles against a bit of Windsor soap. Nippers? Would I not be justified in immediately dismissing Bartleby?” “Excuse me.” exclaimed I. You see . I threw open the folding doors near by. sir.Melville morsel for my conscience. “and hear what Nippers has to say. I felt strangely goaded on to encounter him in new opposition to elicit some angry spark from him answerable to my own. then — you speak very gently of him now. “when those papers are all copied. “Think of it?” roared Turkey. unjust. I think his conduct quite unusual. Turkey rose to his feet and threw his arms into a pugilistic position.” “How? Surely you do not mean to persist in that mulish vagary?” No answer. and the following little scene ensued: “Bartleby. as regards Turkey and myself. I will compare them with you. his bald head steaming. indeed. “gentleness is effects of beer — Nippers and I dined together today.” “Ah. be it remembered. But one afternoon the evil impulse in me mastered me. 17 his hands reeling among his blotted papers. The passiveness of Bartleby sometimes irritated me. But it may only be a passing whim. Turkey?” It was afternoon. He was hurrying away to make good his promise when I detained him.” said I. What do you think of it. Turkey.” “All beer.” “I would prefer not to. and.” cried Turkey.” said I. What do you think of it. Turkey sat glowing like a brass boiler. turning upon Turkey and Nippers. “you have strangely changed your mind. and indeed. exclaimed: “Bartleby a second time says he won’t examine his papers. “I think I’ll just step behind his screen and black his eyes for him!” So saying. “Sit down. that is for you to decide.
At the moment I half intended something of the kind. “Go to the next room.” I staggered to my desk and sat there in a deep study. not today. intimating the unalterable purpose of some terrible retribution very close at hand. Shall I acknowledge it? The conclusion of this whole business was that it soon became a fixed fact . at the third summons he appeared at the entrance of his hermitage. But upon the whole. I felt additional incentives tempting me to my fate.” in a louder tone. “Bartleby.” he respectfully and slowly said. No. Like a very ghost. penniless wight? — my hired clerk? What added thing is there.” said I.possessed tone. I remembered that Bartleby never left the office.” “I prefer not to. Shall I go and black his eyes?” “You refer to Bartleby.” said I. I burned to be rebelled against again. “pray. and see if there is anything for me. “Bartleby. I suppose. and tell Nippers to come to me.” I replied.” “You will not?” “I prefer not. agreeably to the laws of magical invocation. as it was drawing towards my dinner hour. suffering much from perplexity and distress of mind.” I closed the doors and again advanced towards Bartleby. “Ginger Nut is away. “Very good. won’t you? (it was but a three minutes’ walk). sir. No answer. just step around to the Post Office. perfectly reasonable.” “I would prefer not to. in a quiet sort of serenely severe self. that he will be sure to refuse to do? “Bartleby!” 18 No answer. My blind inveteracy returned.Bartleby the Scrivener how gentle I am. and mildly disappeared. I thought it best to put on my hat and walk home for the day. Turkey. Was there any other thing in which I could procure myself to be ignominiously repulsed by this lean. “Bartleby. put up your fists. Bartleby.” I roared.
in the eagerness of dispatching pressing business. but he was permanently exempt from examining the work done by him. 19 continually through the day. made him a valuable acquisition. how could a human creature. with the common infirmities of our nature. I could not. on any account. and the last at night. to their superior acuteness. on the incipient tie of a bit of red tape with which I was about compressing some papers. refrain from bitterly exclaiming upon such perverseness — such unreasonableness. “I prefer not to. I became considerably reconciled to Bartleby. doubtless. that he would refuse point-blank. Of course. that a pale young scrivener by the name of Bartleby had a desk there. His steadiness. his unalterableness of demeanor under all circumstances. his great stillness. As days passed on. that duty being transferred to Turkey and Nippers. for the very soul of me. his incessant industry (except when he chose to throw himself into a standing reverie behind his screen). I had a singular confidence in his honesty. and unheard-of exemptions. it was generally understood that he would “prefer not to” — in other words. privileges.Melville of my chambers. forming the tacit stipulations on Bartleby’s part under which he remained in my office. rapid tone. every added repulse of this sort which I received only tended to lessen the probability of . and that even if entreated to take upon him such a matter. One prime thing was this — he was always there — first in the morning. avoid falling into sudden spasmodic passions with him. I would inadvertently summon Bartleby. Now and then. For it was exceeding difficult to bear in mind all the time those strange peculiarities. said Bartleby was never. that he copied for me at the usual rate of four cents a folio (one hundred words). I felt my most precious papers perfectly safe in his hands.” was sure to come. and then. in a short. from behind the screen the usual answer. to be dispatched on the most trivial errand of any sort. to be sure. However. moreover. out of compliment. Sometimes. to put his finger. his freedom from all dissipation. say.
Quite surprised. I called out. and finding myself rather early on the ground I thought I would walk round to my chambers for a while. . there were several keys to my door. Furthermore. the utterly unsurmised appearance of Bartleby tenanting my law chambers of a Sunday morning. — as it were. but upon applying it to the lock. had such a strange effect upon me that incontinently I slunk away from my own door and did as desired. the apparition of Bartleby appeared. But not without sundry twinges of impotent rebellion against the mild effrontery of this unaccountable scrivener. The fourth I knew not who had. with his cadaverously gentlemanly nonchalance. one Sunday morning I happened to go to Trinity Church. in his shirt sleeves. Another was kept by Turkey for convenience’ sake. when to my consternation a key was turned from within. The third I sometimes carried in my own pocket. it was his wonderful mildness. and otherwise in a strangely tat20 tered de’shabille’. chiefly. which person weekly scrubbed and daily swept and dusted my apartments. saying quietly that he was sorry but he was deeply engaged just then. and by that time he would probably have concluded his affairs. for the time. Now.Bartleby the Scrivener my repeating the inadvertence. which not only disarmed me but unmanned me. and holding the door ajar. and. thrusting his lean visage at me. that perhaps I had better walk about the block two or three times. In a brief word or two. is sort of unmanned when he tranquilly permits his hired clerk to dictate to him and order him away from his own premises. Now. Here it must be said that. to hear a celebrated preacher. Indeed. Luckily I had my key with me. he moreover added. One was kept by a woman residing in the attic. I found it resisted by something inserted from the inside. according to the custom of most legal gentlemen occupying chambers in densely populated law buildings. yet withal firm and self-possessed. For I consider that one. and — preferred not admitting me at present.
Without hindrance I inserted my key. This building. on a chair. of a Sunday morning. and that. sole spectator of a solitude which he has seen all popu- . and there was something about Bartleby that forbade the supposition that he would by any secular occupation violate the proprieties of the day. too. it was Sunday. The cushioned seat of a rickety old sofa in one corner bore that faint impress of a lean. without plate. a blacking box and brush. my mind was not pacified. Nevertheless. reclining form. whatever might be his eccentricities. which of weekdays hums with industry and life. He would be the last man to sit down to his desk in any state approaching to nudity. And here Bartleby makes his home. dressed. and every night of every day it IS an emptiness. mirror. that was out of the question. peeped behind his screen but it was very plain that he was gone. and all through Sunday is forlorn. Of a Sunday. or bed. Besides. Was anything amiss going on? Nay. a tin basin. I looked round anxiously. at last I returned to the door. Immediately then the thought came sweeping across me. Wall Street is deserted as Petra. how horrible! Think of it. too. Upon more closely examining the place. with soap and a ragged towel. and. in a newspaper a few crumbs of gingernuts and a morsel of cheese. It was not to be thought of for a moment that Bartleby was an immoral person. His poverty is great. and in an otherwise dismantled condition. but his solitude. at nightfall echoes with sheer vacancy. I surmised that for an indefi21 nite period Bartleby must have ate. Bartleby was not to be seen. Rolled away under his desk I found a blanket. Bartleby was an eminently decorous person.Melville I was full of uneasiness as to what Bartleby could possibly be doing in my office in his shirt sleeves. But what could he be doing there? — copying? Nay again. what miserable friendliness and loneliness are here revealed. it is evident enough that Bartleby has been making his home here. full of a restless curiosity. Yes thought I. and entered. under the empty grate. and slept in my office. opened it. keeping bachelor’s hall all by himself.
of a sick and silly brain — led on to other and more special thoughts. These sad fancyings — chimeras. I had never experienced aught but a not unpleasing sadness. the key in open sight left in the lock. thought I. Ah. I mean no mischief. I groped into their recesses. not even a newspaper. though at intervals he had considerable time to himself. I remembered that he never spoke but to answer. I opened it. and its contents too. in gala trim. I was quite sure he never visited any refectory or eating house. It was an old bandanna handkerchief. besides. the desk is mine. Presentiments of strange discoveries hovered round me. and dragged it out. that. the papers smoothly placed. while his pale face clearly indicated that . and thought to myself.Bartleby the Scrivener lous — a sort of innocent and transformed Marius brooding among the ruins of Carthage! For the first time in my life a feeling of overpowering stinging melancholy seized me. I remembered the bright silks and sparkling faces I had seen that day. Before. Everything was methodically arranged. and saw it was a savings bank. removing the files of documents. The scrivener’s pale form appeared to me laid out. but misery hides aloof. doubtless. Presently I felt something there. seek the gratification of no heartless curiosity. swanlike sailing down the Mississippi of Broadway. that for long periods he would stand looking out. among uncaring strangers in its shivering winding sheet. I now recalled all the quiet mysteries which I had noted in the man. so I will make bold to look within. so we deem the world is gay. A fraternal melancholy! For both I and Bartleby were sons of Adam. 22 Suddenly I was attracted by Bartleby’s closed desk. happiness courts the light. at his pale window behind the screen. and I contrasted them with the pallid copyist. yet I had never seen him reading — no. and. The bond of a common humanity now drew me irresistibly to gloom. concerning the eccentricities of Bartleby. heavy and knotted. so we deem that misery there is none. The pigeonholes were deep. upon the dead brick wall.
did that same melancholy merge into fear. but just in proportion as the forlornness of Bartleby grew and grew to my imagination. say. pity is not seldom pain.Melville he never drank beer like Turkey. What I saw that morning persuaded me that the scrivener was the victim of innate and incurable disorder. My first emotions had been those of pure melancholy and sincerest pity. when I had feared to ask him to do the slightest incidental thing for me. a prudential feeling began to steal over me. that pity into repulsion. that was the case at present — that he had declined telling who he was. he never complained of ill health. but his body did not pain him — it was his soul that suffered and his soul I could not reach. beyond that point it does not. that behind his screen he must be standing in one of those dead-wall reveries of his. from his long-continued motionlessness. like other men. which had positively awed me into my tame compliance with his eccentricities. and coupling them with the recently discovered fact that he made my office his constant abiding place and home. that he never went anywhere in particular that I could learn. even though I might know. So true it is. To a sensitive being. . but. and so terrible too. And more than all I remembered a certain unconscious air of pallid — how shall I call it? — of pallid haughtiness. or whence he came. unless. or tea and coffee even. Revolving all these things. It rather proceeds from a certain hopelessness of remedying excessive and organic ill. that though so thin and pale. indeed. or rather an austere reserve about him. They err who would assert that invariably this is owing to the inherent selfishness of the human heart. I might give alms to his body. that up to a certain point the thought or sight of misery enlists our best affections. or whether he had any relatives in the world. in certain special cases. and not forgetful of his morbid moodiness revolving all these 23 things. And when at last it is perceived that such pity cannot lead to effectual succor common sense bids the soul be rid of it. never went out for a walk.
but kept his glance fixed upon my bust of Cicero. some six inches above my head. The next morning came. the things I had seen disqualified me for the time from churchgoing. he found himself at any time in want of aid. was directly behind me. especially if he desired to return to his native place. and retired into his hermitage.” said I. after reaching home. . “Bartleby. in a still gentler tone. which. “Bartleby. Somehow.” “Will you tell me anything about yourself?” “I would prefer not to. if. Moreover. as I then sat. during which his countenance remained immovable. thinking what I would do with Bartleby. I walked homeward.” he said. Bartleby. Bartleby. I resolved upon this — I would put certain calm questions to him the next morning touching his history. wherever that might be. “Will you tell me. where you were born?” “I would prefer not to. after waiting a considerable time for a reply.” said I. No reply. etc. a letter from him would be sure of a reply. I would be happy to do so.. and tell him his services were no longer required. gently calling to him behind his screen.” “But what reasonable objection can you have to speak to me? I feel friendly towards you.” He did not look at me while I spoke. Finally. but that if in any other way I could assist him. and if he declined to answer them openly and unreservedly (and I supposed he would prefer not) then to give him a twenty-dollar bill over and above whatever I might owe him. “What is your answer.” said I.Bartleby the Scrivener I did not accomplish the purpose of going to Trinity Church that morning.” Upon this he noiselessly slid into view. “At present I prefer to give no answer. only there was the faintest conceivable tremor of the white attenuated mouth. “come 24 here — I am not going to ask you to do anything you would prefer not to do — I simply wish to speak to you. I would willingly help to defray the expenses.
but his manner. sir. that in a day or two you will begin to be a little reasonable: — say so. but let me entreat you.” said I. and forbidding me to carry out my purpose.Melville It was rather weak in me I confess. induced by severer indigestion than common. I’d give him preferences. Say now. “Prefer not. to comply as far as may be with the usages of this office. I sat down and said: “Bartleby. Bartleby. Again I sat ruminating what I should do. considering the undeniable good usage and indulgence he had received from me. “Mr. and resolved as I had been to dismiss him when I entered my office. I had got into the way of involuntarily using this word “prefer” upon all sorts of not exactly suitable occasions. then. nettled me. He overheard those final words of Bartleby. Just then the folding doors opened and Nippers approached. of late. as a friend. you will help to examine papers tomorrow or next day: in short. pray. and denouncing me for a villain if I dared to breathe one bitter word against this forlornest of mankind. sir. At last. never mind. And I trembled to think that my contact with the scrivener had already and seriously affected me in a mental way. familiarly drawing my chair behind his screen.” was his mildly cadaverous reply. eh?” gritted Nippers — “I’d prefer him. say now. the stubborn mule! What is it. “I’d prefer that you would withdraw for the present. nevertheless I strangely felt something superstitious knocking at my heart. but his perverseness seemed ungrateful.” Somehow.” 25 “At present I would prefer not to be a little reasonable. Nippers. He seemed suffering from an unusually bad night’s rest. Mortified as I was at his behavior. And what further and deeper aberration might it not yet produce? This apprehension had not been . that he prefers not to do now?” Bartleby moved not a limb. on this occasion. Not only did there seem to lurk in it a certain calm disdain.” addressing me — “I’d prefer him. if I were you. about revealing your history.
“What word. Nippers at his desk caught a glimpse of me. It was plain — that it involuntarily rolled from his tongue.” said he. and I think that if he would but prefer to take a quart of good ale every day. He did not in the least roguishly accent the word prefer. who already has in some degree turned the tongues.” said I. and by so doing making me jostle the scrivener. “you will please withdraw. respectfully crowding himself into the contracted space behind the screen. as if offended at being mobbed in his privacy. sir.” said Bartleby. But I thought it prudent not to break the dismission at once. “do no more writing?” “No more. sir. Turkey blandly and deferentially approached. As Nippers.” “And what is the reason?” . as I was saying. “That’s the word. surely I must get rid of a demented man. prefer? oh yes — queer word.” “Oh. sir?” asked Turkey. of myself and clerks.Bartleby the Scrivener without efficacy in determining me to summary measures.” “So you have got the word. I never use it myself. But. too. and enabling him to assist in examining his papers. was departing. sir.” As he opened the folding door to retire.” said I — “that’s it. slightly excited. I thought to myself. “Why. The next day I noticed that Bartleby did nothing but stand at his window in his dead-wall reverie.” interrupted I. he said that he had decided upon doing no more writing. Turkey. Upon asking him why he did not write.” “Oh certainly. sir?” “I would prefer to be left alone here. it would do much towards mending him. if he would but 26 prefer —” “Turkey. how now? what next?” exclaimed I. and asked whether I would prefer to have a certain paper copied on blue paper or white. “With submission. “With submission. the word. if you prefer that I should. looking very sour and sulky. if not the heads. “yesterday I was thinking about Bartleby here.
he informed me that he had permanently given up copying. in reply to my urgings. Still added days went by. Nay — if that were possible . At last. So. If he would but have named a single relative or friend. and slid aside. To all appearance.he became still more of a fixture than before. he would do no copying. I speak less than truth when I say that. why should he stay there? In plain fact. Yet I was sorry for him.. and perceived that his eyes looked dull and glazed. not only useless as a necklace. having nothing else earthly to do. I looked steadfastly at him. and being in a great hurry to dispatch certain letters by the mail. on his own account. Instantly it occurred to me that his unexampled diligence in copying by his dim window for the first few weeks of his stay with me might have temporarily impaired his vision. I hinted that of course he did wisely in abstaining from writing for a while. and carry these letters to the Post Office. But when I asked him if they did. But he blankly declined. 27 I thought they did. I was touched. he occasioned me uneasiness. and urged him to embrace that opportunity of taking wholesome exercise in the open air. I went myself. At all events. What was to be done? He would do nothing in the office. “What!” exclaimed I. I said something in condolence with him. A few days after this. I could not say. I thought that. he had now become a millstone to me. he did not do. I would instantly have written and urged their taking the poor fellow away to some . he vouchsafed no answer. my other clerks being absent. much to my inconvenience. This. He remained as ever. “suppose your eyes should get entirely well — better than ever before — would you not copy then?” “I have given up copying. but afflictive to bear. Bartleby would surely be less inflexible than usual. a fixture in my chamber. Whether Bartleby’s eyes improved or not.” he answered. however.Melville “Do you not see the reason for yourself?” he indifferently replied.
“Bartleby. balanced myself. But he seemed alone. But he made no motion. “I shall see that you go not away entirely unprovided. I am sorry for you.two. slip your key underneath the mat. “I owe you twelve dollars on account. for I am apt to be very reckless in such shirtbutton affairs. you must quit this place. I tranquilly turned and added — “After you have removed your things from these offices. A bit of wreck in the midAtlantic.” He remained silent. you will of course lock the door — since everyone is now gone for the day but you — and if you please. I warned him to take measures. Six days from this hour. Now I had an unbounded confidence in this man’s common honesty. He had frequently restored to me sixpences and shillings carelessly dropped upon the floor. 28 “You must. absolutely alone in the universe.” said I. I offered to assist him in this endeavor. here is money. which followed will not be deemed extraordinary. with his back still towards me. for procuring some other abode. Then taking my hat and cane and going to the door. touched his shoulder. I told Bartleby that in six days’ time he must unconditionally leave the office. and said. necessities connected with my business tyrannized over all other considerations. Bartleby. if he himself would take the first step towards a removal. and lo! Bartleby was there. then. I buttoned up my coat.” “I would prefer not. I peeped behind the screen. in the interval. “The time has come. so that I may have it in the morning. Bartleby.” he replied.” putting them under a weight on the table.” added I. remember. I . advanced slowly towards him. The proceeding. Decently as I could. here are thirty. And when you finally quit me.” At the expiration of that period. At length. then.Bartleby the Scrivener convenient retreat. the odd twenty are yours — Will you take it?” and I handed the bills towards him. “I will leave them here. but you must go.
The more I thought over my procedure. There was no vulgar bullying. like the last column of some ruined temple. the more I was charmed with it. I could not but highly plume myself on my masterly management in getting rid of Bartleby. If.Melville shall not see you again. I had my doubts — I had somehow slept off the fumes of vanity. and such it must appear to any dispassionate thinker. in your new place of abode. hereafter. he remained standing mute and solitary in the middle of the otherwise deserted room. Without loudly bidding Bartleby depart — as an inferior genius might have done — I assumed the ground that depart he must. my vanity got the better of my pity. Chapter 3 AS I WALKED HOME in a pensive mood. and fare you well. no choleric hectoring and striding to and fro across the apartment. Bartleby.” But he answered not a word. next morning. and upon that assumption built all I had to say. One of the coolest and wisest hours a man has is just after 29 . no bravado of any sort. Good-bye. I can be of any service to you. The beauty of my procedure seemed to consist in its perfect quietness. upon awakening. so good-bye to you. do not fail to advise me by letter. jerking out vehement commands for Bartleby to bundle himself off with his beggarly traps. Nothing of the kind. Nevertheless. Masterly I call it.
I had. and in response a voice came to me from within — “Not . It was truly a beautiful thought to have assumed Bartleby’s departure. I tried the knob. I stood listening for a moment. “I’ll take odds he doesn’t. Yet a certain melancholy mixed with this: I was almost sorry for my brilliant success. but whether he would prefer so to do. I passed on. producing a summoning sound. “put up your money. My procedure seemed as sagacious as ever — but only in theory. when I remembered that this was an election day. my procedure had worked to a charm. In my intent frame of mind. not whether I had assumed that he would quit me.Bartleby the Scrivener he awakes in the morning. and Bartleby would be found all alive at my office as usual. he indeed must be vanished. the next moment it seemed certain that I should find his chair empty. and none of Bartleby’s. I saw quite an excited group of people standing in earnest conversation. imagined that all Broadway shared in my excitement. and were debating the same question with me. As I had intended. And so I kept veering about.” said a voice as I passed. At the corner of Broadway and Canal Street. I was earlier than usual at my office door. The great point was. but. as it were. The door was locked. I walked downtown. very thankful that the uproar of the street screened my momentary absent-mindedness. All was still. One moment I thought it would prove a miserable failure. that assumption was simply my own. when accidentally my knee knocked against a panel. I was fumbling under the door mat for the key. after all. How it would prove in practice — there was the rub. arguing the probabilities pro and con. After breakfast. He must be gone. Yes. The words I had overheard bore no reference to Bartleby but to the success or nonsuccess of some candidate for the mayoralty. “Doesn’t go? — done!” said I. which Bartleby was to have left there for me.” 30 I was instinctively putting my hand in my pocket to produce my own. He was more a man of preferences than assumptions.
“I am seriously displeased.” It was Bartleby. permit him to enjoy his cadaverous triumph over me — this. Bartleby. with a quietly severe expression. so now I might retrospectively assume that departed he was. I could not think of. But again obeying that wondrous ascendancy which the inscrutable scrivener had over me. entering the office. “Bartleby. Such a proceeding would in a singular degree have the appearance of a home thrust. For an instant I stood like the man who. I had thought better of you. Turn the man out by an actual thrusting I could not. too. In the legitimate carrying out of this assumption I might enter my office in a great hurry. I am occupied. I slowly went downstairs and out into the street. at his own warm open window he was killed. unaffectedly starting. and while walking round the block considered what I should next do in this unheard-of perplexity. and from which ascendancy. calling in the police was an unpleasant idea. when he fell. What was to be done? or.” I added. as before I had prospectively assumed that Bartleby would depart. if nothing could be done. But it appears I am deceived. an assumption.” said I. till someone touched him. I was thunderstruck. was there 31 anything further that I could assume in the matter? Yes. was killed one cloudless afternoon long ago in Virginia by summer lightning. and yet. I resolved to argue the matter over with him again. I had imagined you of such a gentlemanly organization that in any delicate dilemma a slight hint would suffice — in short. walk straight against him as if he were air.Melville yet. Why. pretending not to see Bartleby at all. I am pained. to drive him away by calling him hard names would not do. for all my chafing. . pipe in mouth. and. and remained leaning out there upon the dreamy afternoon. “Not gone!” I murmured at last. But upon second thoughts the success of the plan seemed rather dubious. It was hardly possible that Bartleby could withstand such an application of the doctrine of assumptions. I could not completely escape.
or at a private residence. or will you not. being dreadfully incensed by Adams. Bartleby and 32 I were alone. and how poor Colt. upstairs. it would not have terminated as it did. was at unawares hurried into his fatal act — an act which certainly no man could possibly deplore more than the actor himself. I grappled him and threw him. I remembered the tragedy of the unfortunate Adams and the still more unfortunate Colt in the solitary office of the latter. How? Why. It was the circumstance of being alone in a solitary office. doubtless. haggard sort of appearance — this it must have been which greatly helped to enhance the irritable desperation of the hapless Colt. gently emphasizing the not. advancing close to him. Often it had occurred to me in my ponderings upon the subject that had that altercation taken place in the public street.Bartleby the Scrivener “you have not even touched that money yet. “I would prefer not to quit you. quit me?” I now demanded in a sudden passion. “Are you ready to go on and write now? Are your eyes recovered? Could you copy a small paper for me this morning? or help examine a few lines? or step round to the Post Office? In a word.” pointing to it. and imprudently permitting himself to get wildly excited. “What earthly right have you to stay here? Do you pay any rent? Do you pay my taxes? Or is this property yours?” He answered nothing. just where I had left it the evening previous. of a building entirely unhallowed by humanizing domestic associations — an uncarpeted office.” he replied. “Will you. of a dusty. simply by recalling the . He answered nothing. will you do anything at all to give a coloring to your refusal to depart the premises?” He silently retired into his hermitage. But when this old Adam of resentment rose in me and tempted me concerning Bartleby. I was now in such a state of nervous resentment that I thought it but prudent to check myself at present from further demonstrations.
charity often operates as a vastly wise and prudent principle — a great safeguard to its possessor. and at the same time to comfort my despondency. that ye love one another. Aside from higher considerations. and besides. Men have committed murder for jealousy’s sake. and anger’s sake. Halfpast twelve o’clock came.Melville divine injunction: “A new commandment give I unto you. those books induced a salutary feeling. I endeavored. poor fellow! thought I. Mere self-interest. and become generally obstreperous.” Under the circumstances. prompt all beings to charity and philanthropy. overturn his inkstand. But no. at such time as might prove agreeable to him.” and “Priestley on Necessity. should. would emerge from his hermitage and take up some decided line of march in the direction of the door. if no better motive can be enlisted. at leisure intervals I looked a little into “Edwards on the Will. At any rate. I tried to fancy that in the course of the 33 morning. and spiritual pride’s sake. and Bartleby was billeted upon me for some mysterious purpose of . I strove to drown my exasperated feelings towards the scrivener by benevolently construing his conduct. upon the occasion in question. and hatred’s sake. and ought to be indulged. of his own free accord. immediately to occupy myself. but no man that ever I heard of ever committed a diabolical murder for sweet charity’s sake. and selfishness’ sake. Bartleby. then. he don’t mean anything. also. Ginger Nut munched his noon apple. especially with hightempered men. and Bartleby remained standing at his window in one of his profoundest dead-wall reveries. Nippers abated down into quietude and courtesy. Poor fellow. Will it be credited? Ought I to acknowledge it? That afternoon I left the office without saying one further word to him. Turkey began to glow in the face. he has seen hard times. Gradually I slid into the persuasion that these troubles of mine touching the scrivener had been all predestinated from eternity. Some days now passed during which.” Yes. this it was that saved me.
but without heeding his idle talk. stay there behind your screen. Bartleby. thought I. I am content. and the room full of lawyers and witnesses. Sometimes an attorney having business with me. At last I see it. Then the lawyer would give a great stare. seeing Bartleby wholly unemployed. you are harmless and noiseless as any of these old chairs. Yes. Bartleby would remain standing immovable in the middle of the room. would undertake to obtain some sort of precise information from him touching my whereabouts. some deeply — occupied legal gentleman present. Thereupon Bartleby would tranquilly decline. Also. when a reference was going on. is to furnish you with office room for such period as you may see fit to remain. to be sure. Others may have loftier parts to enact. But thus it often is that the constant friction of illiberal minds wears out at last the best resolves of the more generous. after comtemplating him in that position for a time. I shall persecute you no more. and business driving fast. and yet remain idle as before. and calling at my office. would request him to run round to his (the legal gentleman’s) office and fetch some papers for him. but my mission in this world. I feel it. I believe that this wise and blessed frame of mind would have continued with me had it not been for the unsolicited and uncharitable remarks obtruded upon me by my professional friends who visited the rooms. Bartleby. I never feel so private as when I know you are here. when I reflected upon it it was not strange that people entering my office should be struck by the peculiar aspect of the unaccountable Bartleby. And what could I say? At last I was made aware that all through the circle of my professional acquaintance a whisper of . So. I penetrate to the predestinated purpose of my life. and finding no one but the scrivener there.Bartleby the Scrivener an all-wise Providence. which it was not for a mere mortal like me to fathom. and 34 so be tempted to throw out some sinister observations concerning him. in short. Though. the attorney would depart no wiser than he came. and turn to me.
he apprised me that his original determination remained the same. and casting a general gloom over the premises. ghost. What. go. and denying my authority. the poor. But. and my friends continually intruded their relentless remarks upon the apparition in my room.you will not thrust such a helpless creature out of your door? you will not dishonor yourself by such cruelty? No. having taken three days to meditate upon it. and perplexing my visitors. will you do? For all your coaxing. pale. 35 In a calm and serious tone. This worried me very much. rather. and then mason up his remains in the wall. keeping soul and body together to the last upon his savings (for doubtless he spent but half a dime a day). and claim possession of my office by right of his perpetual occupancy — as all these dark anticipations crowded upon me more and more. in short. buttoning up my coat to the last button. or. I commended the idea to his careful and mature consideration. What shall I do? what ought I to do? what does conscience say I should do with this man. passive mortal . in short. Ere revolving any complicated project. then. What shall I do? I now said to myself. and scandalizing my professional reputation. adapted to this end. Rid myself of him.Melville wonder was running round. a great change was wrought in me. and in the end perhaps outlive me. I will not. Bribes he leaves under your own paperweight on your table. I must. that he still preferred to abide with me. Rather would I let him live and die here. he shall. . having reference to the strange creature I kept at my office. I cannot do that. it is quite plain that he prefers to cling to you. and keep occupying my chambers. And as the idea came upon me of his possibly turning out a long-lived man. he will not budge. I resolved to gather all my faculties together and forever rid me of this intolerable incubus. however. But how? You will not thrust him. I first simply suggested to Bartleby the propriety of his permanent departure.
and take that. something unusual. and then — strange to say — I tore myself from him whom I had so longed to be rid of. a wanderer. for a day or two I . and. I am going — good-bye. In a word. But it dropped upon the floor. which I directed to be removed the last thing. Wrong again: for indubitably he does support himself. Acting accordingly. left him the motionless occupant of a naked room. No visible means of support: there I have him. I must quit him. next day I thus addressed him: “I find these chambers too far from the City Hall. and God some way bless you.” He made no reply. Established in my new quarters. I propose to remove my offices next week. I will change my offices. Bartleby. is he? What! he a vagrant. “Good-bye. and nothing more was said. I will move elsewhere. then.” slipping something in his hand. in order that you may seek another place. that you seek to count him as a vagrant. the scrivener remained standing behind the screen. I tell you this now. having but little furniture. the air is unwholesome. must be done. and commit his innocent pallor to the common jail? And upon what ground could you procure such a thing to be done? — a vagrant. That is too absurd.Bartleby the Scrivener Then something severe. and give him fair notice that if I find him on my new premises I will then proceed against him as a common trespasser. while something from within me upbraided me. No more. and shall no longer re36 quire your services. What! surely you will not have him collared by a constable. Since he will not quit me. I re-entered. then. who refuses to budge? It is because he will not be a vagrant. On the appointed day I engaged carts and men. with my hand in my pocket and my heart in my mouth. proceeded to my chambers. and that is the only unanswerable proof that any man can show of his possessing the means so to do. I stood in the entry watching him a moment. and. everything was removed in a few hours. It was withdrawn. being folded up like a huge folio. Throughout.
I would pause at the threshold for an instant and attentively listen ere applying my key. but he has done nothing for me now for some time past. he refuses to do anything.” “I am very sorry. he says he prefers not to. of I know not what. by this time. “Then. sir. “but. When I returned to my rooms after any little absence.” 37 “In mercy’s name. though I often felt a charitable prompting to call at the place and see poor Bartleby. yet a certain squeamishness. whom I recognized as the lawyer who had previously called upon me alone. But. and started at every footfall in the passages. who proved a lawyer. I found several persons waiting at my door in a high state of nervous excitement. “You must take him away. I thought all was going well. and he refuses to quit the premises. “That’s the man — here he comes. He refuses to do any copying. really. who is he?” “I certainly cannot inform you.___ Wall .Melville kept the door locked. But these fears were needless. and I heard nothing more. when.” said I. through another week. Full of forebodings. and. when a perturbedlooking stranger visited me. coming to my room the day after. All is over with him. that you should hold me responsible for him. thought I at last. sir. at once. the man you allude to is nothing to me — he is no relation or apprentice of mine. I know nothing about him. Formerly I employed him as a copyist. inquiring whether I was the person who had recently occupied rooms at No. no further intelligence reached me.” cried a portly person among them. Bartleby never came nigh me. withheld me. I replied that I was. sir. and whom I knew to be the landlord of No. “you are responsible for the man you left there. with assumed tranquillity.” “I shall settle him. sir.” Several days passed.___ Wall Street.” cried the foremost one. advancing upon me.” said the stranger. then — good morning. but an inward tremor.
“These gentlemen. my tenants. that afternoon. something you must do. I motioned him into the lawyer’s room. and at length said that if the lawyer would give me a confidential interview with the scrivener. Either you must do something. clients are leaving the offices. I would not like a clerkship. and he now persists in haunting the building generally.” said I. Now what sort of business would you like to engage in? Would you like to re-engage in copying for someone?” “No. strive my best to rid them of the nuisance 38 they complained of. by persisting in occupying the entry after being dismissed from the office?” No answer. then of being exposed in the papers (as one person present obscurely threatened). I considered the matter. and would fain have locked myself in my new quarters. In vain I persisted that Bartleby was nothing to me — no more than to anyone else. but I am not particu- .” pointing to the lawyer. in his (the lawyer’s) own room. or something must be done to you. Fearful. Mr. Everybody is concerned. there was Bartleby silently sitting upon the banister at the landing.Bartleby the Scrivener Street. some fears are entertained of a mob. “are you aware that you are the cause of great tribulation to me. Bartleby?” said I. I would prefer not to make any change. “What are you doing here. “has turned him out of his room. sitting upon the banisters of the stairs by day.” “Would you like a clerkship in a dry-goods store?” “There is too much confinement about that. “Sitting upon the banister.” he mildly replied. I fell back before it. In vain — I was the last person known to have anything to do with him. and sleeping in the entry by night. No. Going upstairs to my old haunt. who then left us. B___. cannot stand it any longer. “Bartleby. “Now one of two things must take place. and they held me to the terrible account.” Aghast at this torrent. I would. and that without delay.
” “No.” he rejoined.” 39 “Stationary you shall be. “If you do not go away from these premises before night. then.” I cried.” His unwonted wordiness inspirited me. at present I would prefer not to make any change at all “ I answered nothing.” “How. effectually dodging ev- . let us start now. “Bartleby. for the first time in all my exasperating connection with him. I like to be stationary. right away. I am not particular. knowing not with what possible threat to try to frighten his immobility into compliance. Despairing of all further efforts. would you like to travel through the country collecting bills for the merchants? That would improve your health. and. I returned to the charge. when a final thought occurred to me — one which had not been wholly unindulged before. as I said before. then. “How would a bartender’s business suit you? There is no trying of the eyesight in that. “why you keep yourself confined all the time!” “I would prefer not to take a clerkship. “will you go home with me now — not to my office. now losing all pa-tience.” “No. I would prefer to be doing something else. then. But I am not particular.Melville lar. fairly flying into a passion. as if to settle that little item at once. I am bound — to — to — to quit the premises myself!” I rather absurdly concluded. “Well. in the kindest tone I could assume under such exciting circumstances. I was precipitately leaving him.” “I would not like it at all. though.” “Too much confinement. but. would going as a companion to Europe to entertain some young gentleman with your conversation — how would that suit you?” “Not at all.” said I.” I cried. It does not strike me that there is anything definite about that. but my dwelling — and remain there till we can conclude upon some convenient arrangement for you at our leisure? Come. I shall feel bound — indeed.
though. under such peculiar circumstances. I opened it with trembling hands. lo. and. it was not so successful as I could have wished. silently acquiesced. he wished me to appear at that place and make a suitable statement of the facts. I drove about the upper part of the town and through the suburbs in my rockaway. to benefit Bartleby. So fearful was I of being again hunted out by the incensed landlord and his exasperated tenants that. and paid fugitive visits to Manhattanville and Astoria. the poor scrivener. but at last almost approved. indeed. These tidings had a conflicting effect upon me. At first I was indignant. The landlord’s energetic. and shield him from rude persecution. both in respect to the demands of the landlord and his tenants. I distinctly perceived that I had now done all that I possibly could. surrendering my business to Nippers for a few days. headed by one of the constables arm in arm with Bartleby. It informed me that the writer had sent to the police. 40 When again I entered my office. when told that he must be conducted to the Tombs. and with regard to my own desire and sense of duty. the silent proces- . unmoving way. offered not the slightest obstacle. and my conscience justified me in the attempt. I almost lived in my rockaway for the time. and. and had Bartleby removed to the Tombs as a vagrant. rushed from the building. as a last resort. Moreover. in his pale. In fact. jumping into the first omnibus. As soon as tranquillity returned.Bartleby the Scrivener eryone by the suddenness and rapidity of my flight. As I afterwards learned. but. crossed over to Jersey City and Hoboken. I now strove to be entirely carefree and quiescent. Some of the compassionate and curious bystanders joined the party. summary disposition had led him to adopt a procedure which I do not think I would have decided upon myself. and yet. ran up Wall Street towards Broadway. since I knew more about him than anyone else. a note from the landlord lay upon the desk. it seemed the only plan. was soon removed from pursuit.
As I entered the corridor again. from the narrow slits of the jail windows I thought I saw peering out upon him the eyes of murderers and thieves. or to speak more properly. and. I hardly knew what. that’s all.” said I. I went to the Tombs. to you.” “Does he want to starve? If he does. Seeking the right officer. And so I found him there. his face towards a high wall. indeed. the Halls of Justice. and joy of the roaring thoroughfares at noon. I stated the purpose of my call. standing all alone in the 41 quietest of the yards. however unaccountably eccentric. keenly pained at his implied suspicion. this should not be so vile a place. I narrated all I knew.Melville sion filed its way through all the noise. they had permitted him freely to wander about the prison. Nothing reproachful attaches to you by being here.” he replied. At all events. And see. while all around. and. The same day I received the note.” “It was not I that brought you here. Being under no disgraceful charge. the almshouse must receive him. if nothing else could be decided upon. a broad meatlike man in an apron accosted me. and was informed that the individual I described was indeed within. and so I left him. there is the sky. Bartleby. it is not so sad a place as one might think. let him live on the prison fare.” “I know where I am.” . “And. without looking round — “and I want nothing to say to you. I then begged to have an interview. but would say nothing more. and closed by suggesting the idea of letting him remain in as indulgent confinement as possible till something less harsh might be done — though. I then assured the functionary that Bartleby was a perfectly honest man. especially. in the inclosed grass-platted yards thereof. and here is the grass. and heat. Look. and quite serene and harmless in all his ways. jerking his thumb over his shoulder said — “Is that your friend?” “Yes. and greatly to be compassionated. “Bartleby!” “I know you.” he said.
sir.Bartleby the Scrivener “Who are you?” asked I. went up with him to Bartleby.” said I. and paused. turning to the turnkey. slipping some silver into the grubman’s hands (for so they called him). I am unused to dinners. laying his hand pite- . they are always pale and genteel-like.” “Is this so?” said I.” said Bartleby. then. Such gentlemen as have friends here hire me to provide them with something good to eat. let him have the best dinner you can get. I thought that friend of yourn was a gentleman forger. “He’s odd. ain’t he?” “I think he is a little deranged. “How’s this?” said the grubman. What will you have for dinner today?” “I prefer not to dine today. Then. sir. upon my word. sir.” said I. He said it was. you will find him very 42 useful to you. “It would disagree with me. I acquiesced. turning away. nice grounds — cool apartments — hope you’ll stay with us some time — try to make it agreeable.” “Introduce me. looking at me with an expression which seemed to say he was all impatience for an opportunity to give a specimen of his breeding. your sarvant. he slowly moved to the other side of the inclosure and took up a position fronting the dead-wall. now. “I want you to give particular attention to my friend there. them forgers. “Well. I can’t help pity ‘em — can’t help it. And you must be as polite to him as possible.” So saying. Thinking it would prove of benefit to the scrivener. not knowing what to make of such an unofficially speaking person in such a place. sadly. this is a friend. “I am the grubman. addressing me with a stare of astonishment.” “Your sarvant. asking the grubman his name.” said the grubman. “Bartleby. and. Did you know Monroe Edwards?” he added. touchingly. “Deranged? deranged is it? Well. “Hope you find it pleasant here. will you?” said the grubman. making a low salutation behind his apron.
either? Or does he live without dining?” “Lives without dining. and saw that his dim eyes were open. I saw the wasted Bartleby. But a soft imprisoned turf grew underfoot. I paused. Won’t he dine today. “maybe he’s gone to loiter in the yards. and went through the corridors in quest of Bartleby. ’Tis not twenty minutes since I saw him lie down. Something prompted me to touch him. kept off all sounds behind them. I felt his hand.” said a turnkey.” murmured I. his knees drawn up and lying on his side. “he died of consumption at Sing-Sing.” said I. grass-seed. But nothing stirred.” Some few days after this. There would seem little need for proceeding fur- . But I cannot stop longer. Strangely huddled at the base of the wall. then went close up to him.” The yard was entirely quiet. The surrounding walls. passing me. It was not accessible to the common prisoners. of amazing thickness. when a tingling shiver ran up my arm and down my spine to my feet. it seemed. dropped by birds. I again obtained admission to the Tombs. otherwise he seemed profoundly sleeping. Look to my friend yonder. The heart of the eternal pyramids. “Eh! — He’s asleep. You will not lose by it. “Are you looking for the silent man?” said another turnkey. stooped over. The Egyptian character of the masonry 43 weighed upon me with its gloom. “His dinner is ready. sighed. but without finding him. The round face of the grubman peered upon me now. ain’t he?” “With kings and counselors. his head touching the cold stones. wherein.Melville ously on my shoulder. I was never socially acquainted with any forgers. and closed the eyes. So you weren’t acquainted with Monroe?” “No. had sprung. “Yonder he lies — sleeping in the yard there. “I saw him coming from his cell not long ago. through the clefts. by some strange magic. I will see you again.” So I went in that direction.
perhaps. inasmuch as this vague report has not been without a certain suggestive interest to me. Ah. Bartleby! Ah. Upon what basis it rested. from which he had been suddenly removed by a change in the administration. however sad. good tidings for those who died stifled by unrelieved calamities. and assorting them for the flames? For by the cartload they are annually burned. humanity! The End . and so I will briefly mention it. pardon for those who died despairing. molders in the grave. When I think over this rumor. these letters speed to death. The report was this: that Bartleby had been a subordinate clerk in the Dead Letter Office at Washington. ere parting with the reader. but am wholly unable to gratify it. let me say that if this little narrative has sufficiently interested him to awaken curiosity as to who Bartleby was. a bank note sent in swiftest charity — he whom it would relieve nor eats nor hungers any more. can any business seem more fitted to heighten it than that of continually handling these dead letters. it may prove the same with some others.Bartleby the Scrivener ther in this history. But. Yet here I hardly know whether I should divulge one little item of rumor which came to my ear a few months after the scrivener’s decease. Sometimes from out the folded paper the pale clerk takes a ring — the finger it was meant for. hope for those who died unhoping. But. and hence how true it is I cannot now tell. On errands of life. I can only reply that in such curiosity I fully share. and what manner of life he led prior to the present narrator’s making his acquaintance. Dead letters! does it not sound like dead men? Conceive a man by nature and misfortune prone to a pallid hopelessness. I could never ascertain. hardly can I express 44 the emotions which seize me. Imagination will readily supply the meager recital of poor Bartleby’s interment.
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