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Bartleby the Scrivener.
Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf.net
Herman Melville. Bartleby the Scrivener.
Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf.net
About the author
Herman Melville was born in New York City on August 1, 1819, and received his early education in that city. He says he gained his first love of adventure listening to his father Allan, who was an extensive traveller for his time, telling tales of the monstrous waves at sea, mountain high, of the masts bending like twigs, and all about Le Havre and Liverpool. After the death of his father the family (eight brothers and sisters) moved to the village of Lansingburg, on the Hudson River. There Herman remained until 1835, when he attended the Albany Classical School for some months. Herman’s roving disposition, and a desire to support himself independently of family assistance, soon led him to ship as cabin boy in a New York vessel bound for Liverpool. He made the voyage, visited London, and returned in the same ship. ‘Redburn: His First Voyage,’ published in 1849, is partly founded on the experiences of this trip. A good part of the succeeding three years, from 1837 to 1840, was occupied with school-teaching. I fancy that it was the reading of Richard Henry Dana’s ‘Two Years Before the Mast’ which revived the spirit of adventure in Melville’s breast. That book was published in 1840, and was at once talked of everywhere. Melville must have read it at the time, mindful of his own experience as a sailor. At any rate, he once more signed a ship’s articles, and on January 1, 1841, sailed from New Bedford, Massachusetts harbour in the whaler Acushnet, bound for the Pacific Ocean and the sperm fishery. He has left very little direct information as to the
events of this eighteen months’ cruise, although his whaling romance, ‘Moby Dick; or, the Whale,’ probably gives many pictures of life on board the Acushnet. Melville decided to abandon the vessel on reaching the Marquesas Islands; and the narrative of ‘Typee’ and its sequel, ‘Omoo,’ tell this tale. After a sojourn at the Society Islands, Melville shipped for Honolulu. There he remained for four months, employed as a clerk. He joined the crew of the American frigate United States, which reached Boston, stopping on the way at one of the Peruvian ports, in October of 1844. Once more was a narrative of his experiences to be preserved in ‘White Jacket; or, the World in a Man-of-War.’ Thus, of Melville’s four most important books, three, ‘Typee,’ ‘Omoo,’ and ‘White-Jacket,’ are directly auto biographical, and ‘Moby Dick’ is partially so; while the less important ‘Redburn’ is between the two classes in this respect. Melville married Miss Elizabeth Shaw on August 4, 1847, in Boston, whereupon his nautical wanderings were brought to a conclusion. Mr. and Mrs. Melville resided in New York City until 1850, when they purchased a farmhouse at Pittsfield. Here Melville remained for thirteen years, occupied with his writing, and managing his farm. An article in Putnam’s Monthly entitled ‘I and My Chimney,’ another called ‘October Mountain,’ and the introduction to the ‘Piazza Tales,’ present faithful pictures of Arrow Head and its surroundings. While at Pittsfield, Mr. Melville was induced to enter the lecture field. From 1857 to 1860 he filled many engagements in the lyceums, chiefly speaking of his adventures in the South Seas. After an illness that lasted a number of months, Herman Melville died at his home in New York City early on the morning of September 28, 1891. He was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York.
Herman Melville. Bartleby the Scrivener.
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FOR COMPLETE DETAILS. What my own astonished eyes saw of Bartleby. that is all I know of him. I have known very many of them. of whom as yet nothing that I know of has ever been written:—I mean the law-copyists or scriveners. who was a scrivener of the strangest I ever saw or heard of. this pdf edition is a copyrighted publication. professionally and privately. 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. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. and in his case those are very small. Contents NOTICE Copyright © 2004 thewritedirection. It is an irreparable loss to literature. and sentimental souls might weep.net Please note that although the text of this ebook is in the public domain. While of other law-copyists I might write the complete life. at which good-natured gentlemen might smile. . A Story of Wall-Street. Bartleby was one of those beings of whom nothing is ascertainable.net 1 Bartleby. could relate divers histories. But I waive the biographies of all other scriveners for a few passages in the life of Bartleby. and if I pleased. I believe that no materials exist for a full and satisfactory biography of this man. of Bartleby nothing of that sort can be done. the Scrivener.Herman Melville.NET/COPYRIGHTS I am a rather elderly man. except from the original sources. SEE COLLEGEBOOKSHELF. Bartleby the Scrivener.
had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point to be prudence. at times. though I belong to a profession proverbially energetic and nervous. that I was not unemployed in my profession by the late John Jacob Astor. but very pleasantly remunerative. of a Master in Chancery. now extinct in the State of New York. whereas I only received those of a few short years. But this is by the way. but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat. yet nothing of that sort have I ever suffered to invade my peace. that I was not insensible to the late John Jacob Astor’s good opinion. but simply record the fact. or in any way draws down public applause. I seldom lose my temper. from his youth upwards. my business. at least. and rings like unto bullion. I do not speak it in vanity.” But if so. I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury. Some time prior to the period at which this little history begins. one vague report which will appear in the sequel. do a snug business among rich men’s bonds and mortgages and title-deeds. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. Owing to the great height of the surrounding buildings. black by age and everlasting shade. if nothing more. was pushed up to within ten feet of my window panes. it is fit I make some mention of myself. has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best. penetrating the building from top to bottom. Imprimis: I am a man who. the interval between this wall and mine not a little resembled a huge square cistern. indeed.2 Herman Melville. The late John Jacob Astor. At one end they looked upon the white wall of the interior of a spacious sky-light shaft. I love to repeat. Hence. but for the benefit of all near-sighted spectators. for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it. It was not a very arduous office. I will freely add. inasmuch as I had counted upon a life-lease of the profits. my employees. My chambers were up stairs at No. that I consider the sudden and violent abrogation of the office of Master in Chancery. my avocations had been largely increased. because some such description is indispensable to an adequate understanding of the chief character about to be presented. as he first appeared to me. as a—premature act. Ere introducing the scrivener. deficient in what landscape painters call “life. a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm. . Bartleby the Scrivener. and my chambers being on the second floor. and general surroundings.—Wall-street. method. All who know me. consider me an eminently safe man. my chambers. This view might have been considered rather tame than otherwise. a name which. In that direction my windows commanded an unobstructed view of a lofty brick wall. a contrast. much more seldom indulge in dangerous indignation at wrongs and outrages. even to turbulence. which wall required no spy-glass to bring out its lurking beauties. but I must be permitted to be rash here and declare. I admit. had been conferred upon me. my next. the view from the other end of my chambers offered. by the new Constitution. The good old office.net 3 Contents except.
Bartleby the Scrivener. I did this very gently. flighty reck- lessness of activity about him. his face flamed with augmented blazonry. very sad to behold in an elderly man like him. In truth they were nicknames. stood up and leaned over his table. impatiently split them all to pieces. and threw them on the floor in a sudden passion. third. accomplishing a great deal of work in a style not easy to be matched—for these reasons. and were deemed expressive of their respective persons or characters. to rise. boxing his papers about in a most indecorous manner. he was apt to be altogether too energetic. but after twelve o’clock. The difficulty was. began the daily period when I considered his business capacities as seriously disturbed for the remainder of the twenty-four hours. Ginger Nut. with the like regularity and undiminished glory. and continued blazing—but. inflamed. though the civilest. Indeed. not only would he be reckless and sadly given to making blots in the afternoon. culminate. and being a man of peace. which gaining its meridian with the sun. meridian. at the same time made uncomfortable by his inflamed ways after twelve o’clock. meridian. I remonstrated with him. In the morning. the blandest and most reverential of men in the morning.4 Herman Melville. Nevertheless. and decline the following day. though indeed. There was a strange. as it were. in fact. Nippers. flurried. pursy Englishman of about my own age. the like of which are not usually found in the Directory. There are many singular coincidences I have known in the course of my life. that exactly when Turkey displayed his fullest beams from his red and radiant countenance.net 5 Contents At the period just preceding the advent of Bartleby. or thereabouts. These may seem names. at that critical moment. seemed to set with it. too. spilled his sand-box. and resolved not to lose them. mutually conferred upon each other by my three clerks. meridian—his dinner hour—it blazed like a grate full of Christmas coals. somewhere not far from sixty. in mending his pens. and all the time before twelve o’clock. with a gradual wane—till 6 o’clock. Not that he was absolutely idle. I had two persons as copyists in my employment. one might say. and a promising lad as an office-boy. just then. but some days he went further. insolent. Turkey was a short. upon provocation. not the least among which was the fact. P. second. nay. however. too. far from it. and was rather noisy. At such times.M. were dropped there after twelve o’clock. or averse to business then. All his blots upon my documents. I was willing to overlook his eccentricities. occasionally. yet. his face was of a fine florid hue. as if cannel coal had been heaped on anthracite. because. yet in the afternoon he was disposed. He made an unpleasant racket with his chair. He would be incautious in dipping his pen into his inkstand. to be slightly rash with his tongue. unwilling by my admonitions to call forth unseemly . Turkey. First. after which I saw no more of the proprietor of the face. valuing his morning services as I did. as he was in many ways a most valuable person to me. steadiest creature too. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. that is. was the quickest. Now.
Nippers. He put chips under it. But no. such as the original drawing up of legal documents. The ambition was evinced by a certain impatience of the duties of a mere copyist. “True. His countenance became intolerably fervid.net 7 Contents retorts from him. then there was a sore aching in his back.—but. was a whiskered. to hint to him. one Saturday noon (he was always worse on Saturdays). I saw that go he would not. “But the blots. Old age—even if it blot the page—is honorable. The indigestion seemed betokened in an occasional nervous testiness and grinning irritability. Bartleby the Scrivener. he need not come to my chambers after twelve o’clock. that perhaps now that he was growing old. for the sake of easing his back. At all events. With submission. In the morning I but marshal and deploy my columns. I took upon me. sir. but. the second on my list. then. sallow.” This appeal to my fellow-feeling was hardly to be resisted. very kindly. with submission.6 Herman Melville. how indispensable. In short. dinner over. Turkey. we both are getting old.” said Turkey on his occasion.” intimated I. But no invention would answer. behold these hairs! I am getting old. hissed. “I consider myself your right-hand man. If. Nippers knew not what he wanted. to see to it. the truth of the matter was. and gallantly charge the foe. in the heat of business. I always deemed him the victim of two evil powers—ambition and indigestion. bits of pasteboard. sir. he insisted upon his afternoon devotions. and stooped over it in writing. sir. causing the teeth to audibly grind together over mistakes committed in copying. if he wanted any . Though of a very ingenious mechanical turn. he brought the table lid at a sharp angle well up towards his chin. Nippers could never get this table to suit him. but in the afternoon I put myself at their head. had best go home to his lodgings and rest himself till teatime. blocks of various sorts. and wrote there like a man using the steep roof of a Dutch house for his desk:—then he declared that it stopped the circulation in his arms. in short. an unwarrantable usurpation of strictly professional affairs. upon the whole. resolving. a blot or two of a warm afternoon is not to be severely urged against gray hairs. and especially by a continual discontent with the height of the table where he worked. and. Surely. that during the afternoon he had to do with my less important papers. sir. So I made up my mind to let him stay. rather than spoken. and at last went so far as to attempt an exquisite adjustment by final pieces of folded blotting paper. in the afternoon? “With submission. unnecessary maledictions. If now he lowered the table to his waistbands. 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. Or. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. thus!”— and he made a violent thrust with the ruler. it might be well to abridge his labors. nevertheless. rather piratical-looking young man of about five and twenty.
at times. was not deficient in a gentlemanly sort of deportment. incidentally. The truth was. and so. it was to be rid of a scrivener’s table altogether. grinding motion on the floor. he insisted was his client. I thought Turkey would appreciate the favor. In fact. with a grand air. Though concerning the self-indulgent habits of Turkey I had my own private surmises. seize the whole desk. One winter day I presented Turkey with a highly-respectable looking coat of my own. restive horse is said to feel his oats. Among the manifestations of his diseased ambition was a fondness he had for receiving visits from certain ambiguous-looking fellows in seedy coats. a padded gray coat. a bill. at least. and move it. whom he called his clients. swift hand. But while the hat was a thing of indifference to me. when he chose. could not afford to sport such a lustrous face and a lustrous coat at one and the same time. his hat not to be handled.net 9 Contents thing. with a grim. that one individual who called upon him at my chambers. of a most comfortable warmth.8 Herman Melville. as if the table were a perverse voluntary . I reasoned with him. nature herself seemed to have been his vintner. and who. As Nippers once observed. and at his birth charged him so thoroughly with an irritable. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. upon the same principle that too much oats are bad for horses. and was not unknown on the steps of the Tombs. But no. a temperate young man. however. Turkey’s money went chiefly for red ink. But with all his failings. Concerning his coats. always led him to doff it the moment he entered the room. I suppose. so Turkey felt his coat. I have good reason to believe. yet touching Nippers I was well persuaded that whatever might by his faults in other respects. was no other than a dun. like his compatriot Turkey. His coats were execrable. and the alleged title-deed. I verily believe that buttoning himself up in so downy and blanket-like a coat had a pernicious effect upon him. considerable of a wardpolitician. and jerk it. he was. Bartleby the Scrivener. and abate his rashness and obstreperousness of afternoons. that a man of so small an income. He wore his pantaloons very loose and baggy in summer. and. and stooping over his table. When I consider how. amid the stillness of my chambers. Nippers. but with no effect. and which buttoned straight up from the knee to the neck. brandylike disposition. Indeed I was aware that not only was he. wrote a neat. and the annoyances he caused me. inasmuch as his natural civility and deference. Added to this. I had much ado to keep him from being a reproach to me. was a very useful man to me. but he occasionally did a little business at the Justices’ courts. that all subsequent potations were needless. His clothes were apt to look oily and smell of eating-houses. he always dressed in a gentlemanly sort of way. But indeed. It made him insolent. spread his arms wide apart. Nippers would sometimes impatiently rise from his seat. precisely as a rash. Whereas with respect to Turkey. as a dependent Englishman. yet his coat was another matter. reflected credit upon my chambers. He was a man whom prosperity harmed.
Bartleby the Scrivener. brandy and water were altogether superfluous. as if they were mere wafers— indeed 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. while in the afternoon he was comparatively mild. at the rate of one dollar a week. There was now great work for scriveners.10 Herman Melville. Upon inspection. and very spicy—after which he had been named by them. Their fits relieved each other like guards.net 11 Contents agent. and cleaner and sweeper. but he did not use it much. my two scriveners were fain to moisten their mouths very often with Spitzenbergs to be had at the numerous stalls night the Custom House and Post Office. they sent Ginger Nut very frequently for that peculiar cake—small. flat. owing to its peculiar cause— indigestion—the irritability and consequent nervousness of Nippers. it was generous of me to find you in stationery on my own account. Of a cold morning when business was but dull. I never had to do with their eccentricities at one time. Turkey’s was off. Copying law papers being proverbially dry. Ginger Nut. for it was summer. Also. and vice versa. was his once moistening a ginger-cake between his lips. pitiably respectable. Of all the fiery afternoon blunders and flurried rashnesses of Turkey. the drawer exhibited a great array of the shells of various sorts of nuts. Not only must I push the clerks already with me. Not the least among the employments of Ginger Nut. When Nippers’ was on. was a lad some twelve years old. This was a good natural arrangement under the circumstances. But he mollified me by making an oriental bow. So that Turkey’s paroxysms only coming on about twelve o’clock. His father was a carman.” Now my original business—that of a conveyancer and title hunter. a motionless young man one morning. ambitious of seeing his son on the bench instead of a cart. to this quick-witted youth the whole noble science of the law was contained in a nut-shell. intent on thwarting and vexing him. I came within an ace of dismissing him then. but I must have additional help. In answer to my advertisement. and saying— ”With submission. It was fortunate for me that. Turkey would gobble up scores of these cakes. incurably forlorn! It was Bartleby. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. sir. and clapping it on to a mortgage for a seal. as well as one which he discharged with the most alacrity. errand boy. were mainly observable in the morning. husky sort of business. After a few words touching his qualifications. So he sent him to my office as student at law. the third on my list. the door being open. I plainly perceive that for Nippers. I engage . and drawer-up of recondite documents of all sorts— was considerably increased by receiving the master’s office. round. was his duty as cake and apple purveyor for Turkey and Nippers. stood upon my office threshold. I can see that figure now— pallidly neat. before he died. Indeed. He had a little desk to himself.
between two lofty buildings. as from a very small opening in a dome. In my haste and natural expectancy of instant compliance. palely. in a manner.12 Herman Melville. of course. the other by myself. though it gave some light. I placed his desk close up to a small side-window in that part of the room. say five hundred pages. and lethargic affair. had he been cheerfully industrious. I should have stated before that ground glass folding-doors divided my premises into two parts. but on my side of them. it had been my habit to assist in comparing some brief document myself. I resolved to assign Bartleby a corner by the folding-doors. Still further to a satisfactory arrangement. of his being with me. I sat with my head bent over the original on my desk. though not remove him from my voice. privacy and society were conjoined. was to avail myself of his services on such trivial occasions. or closed them. As if long famishing for something to copy. but which. I procured a high green folding screen. word by word. they assist each other in this examination. one of which was occupied by my scriveners. calling Turkey or Nippers for this purpose. It is. Bartleby the Scrivener. He ran a day and night line. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. and before any necessity had arisen for having his own writing examined. being much hurried to complete a small affair I had in hand. I can readily imagine that to some sanguine temperaments it would be altogether intolerable. And thus. I abruptly called to Bartleby. he seemed to gorge himself on my documents. I think. that. Within three feet of the panes was a wall. But he wrote on silently. which might entirely isolate Bartleby from my sight. glad to have among my corps of copyists a man of so singularly sedate an aspect. I cannot credit that the mettlesome poet Byron would have contentedly sat down with Bartleby to examine a law document of. in the haste of business. the other holding the original. owing to subsequent erections. an indispensable part of a scrivener’s business to verify the accuracy of his copy. There was no pause for digestion. Now and then. and the light came down from far above. and the fiery one of Nippers. It was on the third day. wearisome. commanded at present no view at all. and my right hand sideways. closely written in a crimpy hand. According to my humor I threw open these doors. I should have been quite delighted with his application. so that im- . At first Bartleby did an extraordinary quantity of writing.net 13 Contents him. It is a very dull. in case any trifling thing was to be done. which I thought might operate beneficially upon the flighty temper of Turkey. mechanically. one reading from the copy. For example. One object I had in placing Bartleby so handy to me behind the screen. so as to have this quiet man within easy call. a window which originally had afforded a lateral view of certain grimy back-yards and bricks. copying by sun-light and by candle-light. Where there are two or more scriveners in an office. and somewhat nervously extended with the copy.
In this very attitude did I sit when I called to him. I should have as soon thought of turning my pale plas- ter-of-paris bust of Cicero out of doors.” said he. It became necessary to examine them. Had there been the least uneasiness. in other words. But in quite as clear a one came the previous reply. firm voice. “The copies. the copies.net 15 Contents mediately upon emerging from his retreat. when without moving from his privacy.” “Prefer not to. It was an important suit. Having all things arranged I called Turkey. anger. Bartleby in a singularly mild. His face was leanly composed. Imagine my surprise. I concluded to forget the matter for the present. had there been any thing ordinarily human about him. Not a wrinkle of agitation rippled him. nay. Bartleby might snatch it and proceed to business without the least delay. and then reseated myself at my desk.” said I hurriedly. being quadruplicates of a week’s testimony taken before me in my High Court of Chancery. and great accuracy was imperative. Nippers and Ginger Nut had taken their seats in a row. So calling Nippers from the other room. “I would prefer not to. his gray eye dimly calm. replied. the paper was speedily examined. or Bartleby had entirely misunderstood my meaning. Bartleby the Scrivener. while I should read from the original. “Bartleby! quick. I am waiting. There”—and I held towards him the fourth quadruplicate. reserving it for my future leisure. I repeated my request in the clearest tone I could assume.” I sat awhile in perfect silence. “I would prefer not to. What had one best do? But my business hurried me. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. my consternation. A few days after this. Immediately it occurred to me that my ears had deceived me. Bartleby concluded four lengthy documents. when I called to Bartleby to join this interesting group. rapidly stating what it was I wanted him to do—namely. as he went on with his own writing.” and I thrust it towards him. This is very strange. “We are going to examine them. . to examine a small paper with me.” I heard a slow scrape of his chair legs on the uncarpeted floor. Accordingly Turkey. Nippers and Ginger Nut from the next room. and soon he appeared standing at the entrance of his hermitage. “I would prefer not to. each with his document in hand. “What is wanted?” said he mildly. But as it was. impatience or impertinence in his manner. I looked at him steadfastly. “What do you mean? Are you moon-struck? I want you to help me compare this sheet here—take it. rising in high excitement. I stood gazing at him awhile.” echoed I. and crossing the room with a stride. thought I. rallying my stunned faculties. meaning to place the four copies in the hands of my four clerks.14 Herman Melville. doubtless I should have violently dismissed him from the premises.
” said Turkey. it being morning. but. “These are your own copies we are about to examine. “what do you think of this? Am I not right?” “With submission. and gently disappeared behind the screen. It seemed to me that while I had been addressing him. “Turkey. Every copyist is bound to help examine his copy. sir. “what do you think of it?” “I think. For a few moments I was turned into a pillar of salt. and demanded the reason for such extraordinary conduct. scorned all further words. It is not seldom the case that when a man is browbeaten in some unprecedented and violently unreasonable way. willing to enlist the smallest suffrage in my behalf. he turns to them for some reinforcement for his own faltering mind. He begins.” said I. Turkey’s answer is couched in polite and tranquil terms. with his blandest tone.net 17 Contents “I would prefer not to. I advanced towards the screen.” he said. some paramount consideration prevailed with him to reply as he did.” he replied in a flute-like tone. as it were. “I think that you are.” said I.16 Herman Melville. Yes: his decision was irreversible. Nippers’ ugly mood was on duty and Turkey’s off. to repeat a previous sentence. But there was something about Bartleby that not only strangely disarmed me. . Recovering myself. Or. “what do you think of it?” “I think I should kick him out of the office. at the same time. but Nippers replies in ill-tempered ones. fully comprehended the meaning. Accordingly. standing at the head of my seated column of clerks. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. he carefully revolved every statement that I made. “Why do you refuse?” “I would prefer not to. and thrust him ignominiously from my presence. “You are decided. wonderful as it may be. if any disinterested persons are present. he’s a little luny. but in a wonderful manner touched and disconcerted me.” (The reader of nice perceptions will here perceive that. could not gainsay the irresistible conclusions. Is it not so? Will you not speak? Answer!” “I prefer not to.” With any other man I should have flown outright into a dreadful passion. all the justice and all the reason is on the other side. not to comply with my 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. sir.” replied Ginger Nut with a grin. Bartleby the Scrivener.” “Nippers. because one examination will answer for your four papers.” said I. I began to reason with him. It is common usage. he begins to stagger in his own plainest faith. then. vaguely to surmise that.) “Ginger Nut. It is labor saving to you.
The boy would then leave the office jingling a few pence. Was Bartleby hot and spicy? Not at all. then. Even so.18 Herman Melville.” said I. oblivious to every thing but his own peculiar business there. while Nippers. his aspect sufficiently evinces that his eccentricities are involuntary.” But he vouchsafed no reply. I determined again to postpone the consideration of this dilemma to my future leisure. he eats nothing but ginger-nuts. And for his (Nippers’) part. thought I. Bartleby the Scrivener. and reappear with a handful of ginger-nuts which he delivered in the hermitage. in the morning. he never eats even vegetables. spicy thing. twitching in his chair with a dyspeptic nervousness. I regarded Bartleby and his ways. Ginger. in the better moods of the former. this was the first and the last time he would do another man’s business without pay. properly speaking. indeed that he never went any where. “come forth and do your duty. on ginger-nuts. I observed that he never went to dinner. But once more business hurried me. As yet I had never of my personal knowledge known him to be outside of my office. I pondered a moment in sore perplexity. Poor fellow! thought I. and the resisting one perfectly harmless in his passivity. though at every page or two. At about eleven o’clock though. then. Probably he preferred it should have none. the chances are he will fall in with some less indulgent employer. With a little trouble we made out to examine the papers without Bartleby. but no. it is plain he intends no insolence. he will endeavor charitably to construe to his imagination what proves impossible to be solved by his judgment. then. Now what was ginger? A hot. If the individual so resisted be of a not inhumane temper. Ginger-nuts are so called because they contain ginger as one of their peculiar constituents. His late remarkable conduct led me to regard his ways narrowly.net 19 Contents “You hear what they say. and . I noticed that Ginger Nut would advance toward the opening in Bartleby’s screen. as if silently beckoned thither by a gesture invisible to me where I sat. he means no mischief. My mind then ran on in reveries concerning the probable effects upon the human constitution of living entirely on ginger-nuts. and then he will be rudely treated. had no effect upon Bartleby. turning towards the screen. Some days passed. Nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance. receiving two of the cakes for his trouble. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. for the most part. Meanwhile Bartleby sat in his hermitage. Turkey deferentially dropped his opinion that this proceeding was quite out of the common. He is useful to me. I can get along with him. He was a perpetual sentry in the corner. never eats a dinner. he must be a vegetarian then. He lives. the scrivener being employed upon another lengthy work. If I turn him away. ground out between his set teeth occasional hissing maledictions against the stubborn oaf behind the screen. and the final flavoring one.
his hands reeling among his blotted papers. “I think I’ll just step behind his screen.20 Herman Melville. “gentleness is effects of beer— Nippers and I dined together to-day. will cost me little or nothing. What do you think of it. I felt additional incentives tempting me to my fate. I burned to be rebelled against again. Turkey.) and see if there is any thing for me. just step round to the Post Office. I felt strangely goaded on to encounter him in new opposition.” “I would prefer not to. Here I can cheaply purchase a delicious self-approval.” said I. “you have strangely changed your mind then—you speak very gently of him now. No. But this mood was not invariable with me. to humor him in his strange willfulness.” cried Turkey. and black his eyes for him!” So saying. exclaimed in an excited manner— “He says. “pray. I think his conduct quite unusual.” . Turkey. that is for you to decide.” “Ah. Yes. be it remembered. Nippers? Would I not be justified in immediately dismissing Bartleby?” “Excuse me. put up your fists.” I closed the doors.” said I. “and hear what Nippers has to say. “Bartleby. not to-day.” “I would prefer not to. to elicit some angry spark form him answerable to my own. he won’t examine his papers. But one afternoon the evil impulse in me mastered me. Turkey sat glowing like a brass boiler. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf.” “How? Surely you do not mean to persist in that mulish vagary?” No answer. I remembered that Bartleby never left the office. Turkey?” It was afternoon. You see how gentle _I_ am. I suppose.” exclaimed I. sir. But it may only be a passing whim. “when those papers are all copied. his bald head steaming. and the following little scene ensued: “Bartleby. But indeed I might as well have essayed to strike fire with my knuckles against a bit of Windsor soap. The passiveness of Bartleby sometimes irritated me. “Sit down. as regards Turkey and myself. while I lay up in my soul what will eventually prove a sweet morsel for my conscience. He was hurrying away to make good his promise. Turkey rose to his feet and threw his arms into a pugilistic position. and turning upon Turkey and Nippers. a second time. and indeed unjust. sir. when I detained him.” I replied. Shall I go and black his eyes?” “You refer to Bartleby. What do you think of it.” “All beer. Bartleby the Scrivener. won’t you? (it was but a three minute walk. I will compare them with you. I threw open the folding-doors near by. “Think of it?” roared Turkey. and again advanced towards Bartleby. To befriend Bartleby. alarmed at the effect of incautiously rousing Turkey’s combativeness after dinner.net 21 Contents perhaps driven forth miserably to starve. “Ginger Nut is away.” said I.
His steadiness. I became considerably reconciled to Bartleby. For it was exceeding difficult to bear in mind all the time those strange peculiarities.” he respectfully and slowly said.” “I prefer not to. Shall I acknowledge it? The conclusion of this while business was. that he will be sure to refuse to do? “Bartleby!” No answer. I thought it best to put on my hat and walk home for the day. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. said Bartleby was never on any account to be dispatched on the most trivial errand of any sort. and sat there in a deep study. At the moment I half intended something of the kind. for the very soul of me.” said I. No answer. I felt my most precious papers perfectly safe in his hands. by the name of Bartleby. made him a valuable acquisition.—he was always there. that a pale young scrivener. “Very good. and a desk there. avoid falling into sudden spasmodic passions with him. suffering much from perplexity and distress of mind. that he would refuse pointblank. penniless wight?—my hired clerk? What added thing is there. it was generally understood that he would prefer not to—in other words. that it soon became a fixed fact of my chambers. As days passed on. intimating the unalterable purpose of some terrible retribution very close at hand. but he was permanently exempt from examining the work done by him. one of compliment doubtless to their superior acuteness. Sometimes to be sure I could not. and the last at night. privileges. “Bartleby. that duty being transferred to Turkey and Nippers. his unalterableness of demeanor under all circumstances.net 23 Contents “You will not?” “I prefer not.22 Herman Melville. in a quiet sort of serenely severe self-possessed tone. continually through the day. agreeably to the laws of magical invocation. “Go to the next room. his freedom from all dissipation. and that even if entreated to take upon him such a matter. he appeared at the entrance of his hermitage. and unheard of exemp- .—first in the morning. I had a singular confidence in his honesty. and mildly disappeared.” I staggered to my desk.” in a louder tone. Bartleby the Scrivener. moreover. at the third summons. Bartleby. stillness. perfectly reasonable. One prime thing was this. My blind inveteracy returned. as it was drawing towards my dinner-hour. But upon the whole. his incessant industry (except when he chose to throw himself into a standing revery behind his screen). “Bartleby. Like a very ghost. and tell Nippers to come to me. that he copied for me at the usual rate of four cents a folio (one hundred words). Was there any other thing in which I could procure myself to be ignominiously repulsed by this lean. his great.” I roared.
to put his finger. saying quietly that he was sorry. refrain from bitterly exclaiming upon such perverseness—such unreasonableness. Bartleby the Scrivener. there were several keys to my door. to hear a celebrated preacher. from behind the screen the usual answer. The fourth I knew not who had. say. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. rapid tone. Another was kept by Turkey for convenience sake. forming the tacit stipulations on Bartleby’s part under which he remained in my office. I called out. Quite surprised. in his shirt sleeves. But not without sundry twinges of impotent rebellion against the mild effrontery of this unaccountable scrivener. and did as desired. but he was deeply engaged just then. how could a human creature with the common infirmities of our nature.net 25 Contents tions. Furthermore. that was out of the question. is a sort of unmanned when he tranquilly permits his hired clerk to dictate to him. Now and then. that according to the custom of most legal gentlemen occupying chambers in densely-populated law buildings. Was any thing amiss going on? Nay. and—preferred not admitting me at present. and by that time he would probably have concluded his affairs. For I consider that one. and thrusting his lean visage at me. One was kept by a woman residing in the attic. However. on the incipient tie of a bit of red tape with which I was about compressing some papers. the apparition of Bartleby appeared. I found it resisted by something inserted from the inside. I thought I would walk around to my chambers for a while. as it were. which person weekly scrubbed and daily swept and dusted my apartments. and then.24 Herman Melville. and otherwise in a strangely tattered dishabille. Now. tenanting my law-chambers of a Sunday morning. the utterly unsurmised appearance of Bartleby. and order him away from his own premises. had such a strange effect upon me. But what . which not only disarmed me. in a short. he moreover added. In a brief word or two.” was sure to come. and in an otherwise dismantled condition of a Sunday morning. for the time. I would inadvertently summon Bartleby. and holding the door ajar. but upon applying it to the lock. “I prefer not to. It was not to be thought of for a moment that Bartleby was an immoral person. every added repulse of this sort which I received only tended to lessen the probability of my repeating the inadvertence. with his cadaverously gentlemanly nonchalance. it was his wonderful mildness chiefly. I was full of uneasiness as to what Bartleby could possibly be doing in my office in his shirt sleeves. Now. but unmanned me. Here it must be said. Indeed. Luckily I had my key with me. that perhaps I had better walk round the block two or three times. when to my consternation a key was turned from within. that incontinently I slunk away from my own door. one Sunday morning I happened to go to Trinity Church. and finding myself rather early on the ground. The third I sometimes carried in my own pocket. yet withal firm and selfpossessed. Of course. in the eagerness of dispatching pressing business.
but misery hides aloof. I surmised that for an indefinite period Bartleby must have ate. with soap and a ragged towel. on a chair. Besides. keeping bachelor’s hall all by himself. and slept in my office. Ah. under the empty grate. and entered. so we deem that misery there is none. I looked round anxiously. peeped behind his screen. but it was very plain that he was gone. how horrible! Think of it. mirror. He would be the last man to sit down to his desk in any state approaching to nudity. thought I. These sad fancyings—chimeras. and thought to myself. concerning the eccentricities of Bartleby. and full of a restless curiosity. sole spectator of a solitude which he has seen all populous—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. The scrivener’s pale form appeared to me laid out. the key in open sight left in the lock. which of week-days hums with industry and life. Immediately then the thought came sweeping across me. my mind was not pacified. at last I returned to the door. whatever might be his eccentricities. Presentiments of strange discoveries hovered round me. Bartleby was not to be seen. and every night of every day it is an emptiness. in its shivering winding sheet. Suddenly I was attracted by Bartleby’s closed desk. and I contrasted them with the pallid copyist. so we deem the world is gay. Of a Sunday. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. in a newspaper a few crumbs of ginger-nuts and a morsel of cheese. I had never experienced aught but a not-unpleasing sadness. a tin basin. in gala trim. This building too. and that too without plate. Without hindrance I inserted my key. Yes. at nightfall echoes with sheer vacancy. opened it. and all through Sunday is forlorn. dressed. reclining form. of a sick and silly brain—led on to other and more special thoughts. among uncaring strangers. doubtless. I remembered the bright silks and sparkling faces I had seen that day. or bed. but his solitude. Nevertheless. Bartleby the Scrivener. The cushioned seat of a rickety old sofa in one corner bore the faint impress of a lean. Bartleby was an eminently decorous person. Wall-street is deserted as Petra. swan-like sailing down the Mississippi of Broadway.net 27 Contents could he be doing there?—copying? Nay again. Before. Upon more closely examining the place. I mean no mischief. a blacking box and brush. it was Sunday. seek the gratification of no heartless . I found a blanket.26 Herman Melville. Rolled away under his desk. And here Bartleby makes his home. happiness courts the light. What miserable friendlessness and loneliness are here revealed! His poverty is great. The bond of a common humanity now drew me irresistibly to gloom. A fraternal melancholy! For both I and Bartleby were sons of Adam. and there was something about Bartleby that forbade the supposition that he would be any secular occupation violate the proprieties of the day. it is evident enough that Bartleby has been making his home here.
Presently I felt something there. I remembered that he never spoke but to answer. that for long periods he would stand looking out. And when at last it is perceived that such pity cannot lead to effectual succor. I opened it. revolving all these things. not even a newspaper. It rather proceeds from a certain hopelessness of remedying excessive and organic ill. but just in proportion as the forlornness of Bartleby grew and grew to my imagination. and its contents too. Revolving all these things. and so terrible too. upon the dead brick wall. or whether he had any relatives in the world. while his pale face clearly indicated that he never drank beer like Turkey. that pity into repulsion. that up to a certain point the thought or sight of misery enlists our best affections. from his long-continued motionlessness. I was quite sure he never visited any refectory or eating house. or rather an austere reserve about him. in certain special cases. and removing the files of documents. I remembered a certain unconscious air of pallid— how shall I call it?—of pallid haughtiness. I now recalled all the quiet mysteries which I had noted in the man.net 29 Contents curiosity. So true it is. but. And more than all. that behind his screen he must be standing in one of those dead-wall reveries of his. that he had declined telling who he was. yet I had never seen him reading—no. that though so thin and pale. I did not accomplish the purpose of going to Trinity . and coupling them with the recently discovered fact that he made my office his constant abiding place and home. but his body did not pain him. and his soul I could not reach. which had positively awed me into my tame compliance with his eccentricities. My first emotions had been those of pure melancholy and sincerest pity. the papers smoothly placed. beyond that point it does not. and not forgetful of his morbid moodiness. I groped into their recesses. and dragged it out. or whence he came. so I will make bold to look within. the desk is mine. The pigeon holes were deep. I might give alms to his body. even though I might know. heavy and knotted. Bartleby the Scrivener. pity is not seldom pain. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. say. a prudential feeling began to steal over me. like other men. when I had feared to ask him to do the slightest incidental thing for me. common sense bids the soul rid of it. To a sensitive being. They err who would assert that invariably this is owing to the inherent selfishness of the human heart. that he never went any where in particular that I could learn’ never went out for a walk. What I saw that morning persuaded me that the scrivener was the victim of innate and incurable disorder. or tea and coffee even. unless indeed that was the case at present. Every thing was methodically arranged. it was his soul that suffered. and saw it was a savings’ bank. thought I. that though at intervals he had considerable time to himself. at his pale window behind the screen. besides. did that same melancholy merge into fear. he never complained of ill health. It was an old bandanna handkerchief.28 Herman Melville.
—I would put certain calm questions to him the next morning. Not only did there seem to lurk in it a certain calm disdain. then to give him a twenty dollar bill over and above whatever I might owe him. where you were born?” “I would prefer not to.30 Herman Melville.” he said. “come here. At last. Again I sat ruminating what I should do. to comply as far as may be with the usages of this office.” said I.” “But what reasonable objection can you have to speak to me? I feel friendly towards you. It was rather weak in me I confess. but that if in any other way I could assist him. The next morning came. in a still gentler tone. nevertheless I strangely felt something superstitious knocking at my heart. etc. “Bartleby. Bartleby. if. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. “At present I prefer to give no answer. touching his history. Mortified as I was at his behavior. as a friend. the things I had seen disqualified me for the time from church-going. No reply. never mind then about revealing your history. “What is your answer. a letter from him would be sure of a reply. he found himself at any time in want of aid. considering the undeniable good usage and indulgence he had received from me. Bartleby the Scrivener. only there was the faintest conceivable tremor of the white attenuated mouth. and retired into his hermitage. I would willingly help to defray the expenses. I am not going to ask you to do any thing you would prefer not to do—I simply wish to speak to you. thinking what I would do with Bartleby. familiarly drawing my chair behind his screen. but let me entreat you. but his manner on this occasion nettled me. some six inches above my head. I resolved upon this. Somehow. which as I then sat. gently calling to him behind his screen. was directly behind me. “Bartleby. and resolved as I had been to dismiss him when I entered my offices. after reaching home. wherever that might be. I would be happy to do so. especially if he desired to return to his native place. Bartleby?” said I.. during which his countenance remained immovable. and tell him his services were no longer required.” said I. after waiting a considerable time for a reply.net 31 Contents Church that morning. but his perverseness seemed ungrateful. Say now you will help to examine papers to-morrow or next day: . Finally. I walked homeward. “Will you tell me. but kept his glance fixed upon my bust of Cicero. and denouncing me for a villain if I dared to breathe one bitter word against this forlornest of mankind. and forbidding me to carry out my purpose.” Upon this he noiselessly slid into view. and if he declined to answer them openly and unreservedly (and I supposed he would prefer not).” He did not look at me while I spoke.” “Will you tell me _any thing_ about yourself?” “I would prefer not to. I sat down and said: “Bartleby. Moreover.
“What word.” said I. Bartleby the Scrivener. I thought to myself. Turkey. sir. “With submission. “Prefer not. sir. pray. of late I had got into the way of involuntarily using this word “prefer” upon all sorts of not exactly suitable occasions. say now that in a day or two you will begin to be a little reasonable:—say so.” said he.” was his mildly cadaverous reply. And what further and deeper aberration might it not yet produce? This apprehension had not been without efficacy in determining me to summary means.net 33 Contents in short. “I’d prefer that you would withdraw for the present. and asked whether I would prefer to have a certain paper copied on blue paper or white. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. It was plain that it involuntarily rolled form his tongue.” “Oh certainly. eh?” gritted Nippers—”I’d prefer him. “With submission. the stubborn mule! What is it. if not the heads of myself and clerks.32 Herman Melville. and Nippers approached. He did not in the least roguishly accent the word prefer. He seemed suffering from an unusually bad night’s rest. as if offended at being mobbed in his privacy.” said Bartleby. if he would but prefer—” “Turkey. making me jostle the scrivener. what word. Just then the folding-doors opened. if you prefer that I should.” said I. Turkey blandly and deferentially approached. Nippers at his desk caught a glimpse of me. But. sir. surely I must get rid of a demented man.” “At present I would prefer not to be a little reasonable. prefer? oh yes—queer word. Upon asking . “Mr. Bartleby. As Nippers. who already has in some degree turned the tongues. “That’s the word. slightly excited. Nippers. respectfully crowding himself into the contracted space behind the screen. He overheard those final words of Bartleby. was departing. looking very sour and sulky.” interrupted I. “you will please withdraw. and by so doing. induced by severer indigestion then common. But I thought it prudent not to break the dismission at once.” asked Turkey. that he prefers not to do now?” Bartleby moved not a limb. sir?” “I would prefer to be left alone here. “yesterday I was thinking about Bartleby here. if I were you.” Somehow. sir.” “Oh.” As he opened the folding-door to retire. and I think that if he would but prefer to take a quart of good ale every day.” addressing me—”I’d prefer him. The next day I noticed that Bartleby did nothing but stand at his window in his dead-wall revery. sir. it would do much towards mending him. sir. as I was saying. I’d give him preferences. And I trembled to think that my contact with the scrivener had already and seriously affected me in a mental way. I never use it myself. and enabling him to assist in examining his papers.” “So you have got the word too.” said I—”that’s it.
” “And what is the reason?” “Do you not see the reason for yourself. he vouchsafed no answer. much to my inconvenience. Bartleby would surely be less inflexible than usual.net 35 Contents him why he did not write. 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. But he seemed alone.34 Herman Melville. So. for procuring some other abode. I said something in condolence with him. Decently as I could. my other clerks being absent. Whether Bartleby’s eyes improved or not. I would instantly have written. however. What was to be done? He would do nothing in the office: why should he stay there? In plain fact. he informed me that he had permanently given up copying.” added I. Yet I was sorry for him. I hinted that of course he did wisely in abstaining from writing for a while. in reply to my urgings. I looked steadfastly at him. But when I asked him if they did. Bartleby. I could not say. He remained as ever. Nay—if that were possible—he became still more of a fixture than before. I told Bartleby that in six days’ time he must unconditionally leave the office. he had now become a millstone to me. and slid aside. “Why. Still added days went by. a fixture in my chamber. if he himself would but take the first step towards a removal. I speak less than truth when I say that. This. and urged him to embrace that opportunity of taking wholesome exercise in the open air. and urged their taking the poor fellow away to some convenient retreat. To all appearance. But he blankly declined. he occasioned me uneasiness. A bit of wreck in the mid Atlantic. on his own account. Bartleby the Scrivener. I thought they did. I warned him to take measures. and perceived that his eyes looked dull and glazed. “suppose your eyes should get entirely well—better than ever before—would you not copy then?” “I have given up copying.” he answered.” he indifferently replied. At all events. “What!” exclaimed I. I offered to assist him in this endeavor. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. and carry these letters to the post-office. he did not do. not only useless as a necklace. absolutely alone in the universe. in the interval. I was touched. I went myself. how now? what next?” exclaimed I. necessities connected with my business tyrannized over all other considerations. he said that he had decided upon doing no more writing. he would do no copying. A few days after this. and being in a great hurry to dispatch certain letters by the mail. If he would but have named a single relative or friend. At last. “do no more writing?” “No more. I thought that. having nothing else earthly to do. At length. “I shall see that you go not away entirely . Instantly it occurred to me. “And when you finally quit me. but afflictive to bear.
net 37 Contents unprovided. you will of course lock the door—since every one is now gone for the day but you—and if you please. and upon that assumption built all I had to say. Bartleby the Scrivener.36 Herman Melville. the odd twenty are yours. Nothing of the kind. It was truly a beautiful thought . I shall not see you again. The beauty of my procedure seemed to consist in its perfect quietness. I am sorry for you. But he made no motion.” He remained silent. remember. How it would prove in practice—there was the rub. slip your key underneath the mat. touched his shoulder. balanced myself. Then taking my hat and cane and going to the door I tranquilly turned and added—”After you have removed your things from these offices. upon awakening. no choleric hectoring. jerking out vehement commands for Bartleby to bundle himself off with his beggarly traps.” “I would prefer not. “The time has come. so good-bye to you. “I owe you twelve dollars on account. and lo! Bartleby was there. Good-bye. with his back still towards me. and said.” he replied. my vanity got the better of my pity. the more I was charmed with it. you must quit this place.” said I. I buttoned up my coat. and striding to and fro across the apartment. for I am apt to be very reckless in such shirt-button affairs.—but only in theory. and such it must appear to any dispassionate thinker. There was no vulgar bullying. Six days from this hour. so that I may have it in the morning. like the last column of some ruined temple. do not fail to advise me by letter.” putting them under a weight on the table. Nevertheless.” At the expiration of that period.—Will you take it?” and I handed the bills towards him. next morning. Now I had an unbounded confidence in this man’s common honesty. One of the coolest and wisest hours a man has. he remained standing mute and solitary in the middle of the otherwise deserted room.” But he answered not a word. I peeped behind the screen. “I will leave them here then. Bartleby. The more I thought over my procedure. and fare you well. “You _must_. Bartleby.—I had somehow slept off the fumes of vanity. Masterly I call it. As I walked home in a pensive mood. advanced slowly towards him. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. He had frequently restored to me sixpences and shillings carelessly dropped upon the floor. “Bartleby. is just after he awakes in the morning. but you must go. Without loudly bidding Bartleby depart—as an inferior genius might have done—I _assumed_ the ground that depart he must. I had my doubts. My procedure seemed as sagacious as ever. here is money. If hereafter in your new place of abode I can be of any service to you. here are thirty-two. I could not but highly plume myself on my masterly management in getting rid of Bartleby. The proceeding then which followed will not be deemed extraordinary. no bravado of any sort.
Yes.—this too I could not think of. and Bartleby would be found all alive at my office as usual. “Not gone!” I murmured at last. when he fell. One moment I thought it would prove a miserable failure. imagined that all Broadway shared in my excitement. I am occupied. I saw quite an excited group of people standing in earnest conversation. Yet a certain melancholy mixed with this: I was almost sorry for my brilliant success. when accidentally my knee knocked against a panel. He must be gone. I walked down town. I slowly went down stairs and out into the street. But again obeying that wondrous ascendancy which the inscrutable scrivener had over me. and from which ascendancy. In my intent frame of mind. the next moment it seemed certain that I should see his chair empty. “Doesn’t go?—done!” said I. at his own warm open window he was killed. What was to be done? or. For an instant I stood like the man who. but. he indeed must be vanished.” It was Bartleby. I could not completely escape. and yet. arguing the probabilities pro and con. permit him to enjoy his cadaverous triumph over me. The words I had overheard bore no reference to Bartleby. I was earlier than usual at my office door. I was fumbling under the door mat for the key. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf.” said a voice as I passed. Turn the man out by an actual thrusting I could not. The great point was. calling in the police was an unpleasant idea. I had. and remained leaning out there upon the dreamy afternoon.38 Herman Melville. The door was locked. my procedure had worked to a charm. As I had intended. as . very thankful that the uproar of the street screened my momentary absent-mindedness. by a summer lightning. and in response a voice came to me from within—”Not yet. was killed one cloudless afternoon long ago in Virginia. that assumption was simply my own. producing a summoning sound. when I remembered that this was an election day. till some one touched him. and while walking round the block. and were debating the same question with me. which Bartleby was to have left there for me. Bartleby the Scrivener.” I was instinctively putting my hand in my pocket to produce my own. considered what I should next do in this unheard-of perplexity. He was more a man of preferences than assumptions. And so I kept veering about. but to the success or non-success of some candidate for the mayoralty. After breakfast. not whether I had assumed that he would quit me. but whether he would prefer so to do. after all. was there any thing further that I could assume in the matter? Yes. I was thunderstruck. I tried the knob. pipe in mouth. I passed on. “I’ll take odds he doesn’t. All was still. to drive him away by calling him hard names would not do.net 39 Contents to have assumed Bartleby’s departure. I stood listening for a moment. for all my chafling. as it were. if nothing could be done. At the corner of Broadway and Canal-street. and none of Bartleby’s. “put up your money.
net 41 Contents before I had prospectively assumed that Bartleby would depart. “I would prefer not to quit you. “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 postoffice? In a word.” said I. “you have not even touched that money yet. that had that altercation taken place in the public street.—this it must have been. quit me?” I now demanded in a sudden passion. with a quietly severe expression. and how poor Colt. I might enter my office in a great hurry. I resolved to argue the matter over with him again. I had thought better of you. haggard sort of appearance. I had imagined you of such a gentlemanly organization. or at a private residence. I was now in such a state of nervous resentment that I thought it but prudent to check myself at present from further demonstrations. will you do any thing at all.” pointing to it. But it appears I am deceived. that in any delicate dilemma a slight hint would have suffice—in short.” I added. But when this old Adam of resentment rose in me and . Bartleby and I were alone. gently emphasizing the not. it would not have terminated as it did. of a building entirely unhallowed by humanizing domestic associations—an uncarpeted office. walk straight against him as if he were air. “Will you. of a dusty. or will you not. “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.” he replied. Bartleby the Scrivener. which greatly helped to enhance the irritable desperation of the hapless Colt. an assumption. In the legitimate carrying out of this assumption. I am pained. It was the circumstance of being alone in a solitary office. so now I might retrospectively assume that departed he was. and pretending not to see Bartleby at all. It was hardly possible that Bartleby could withstand such an application of the doctrine of assumptions. to give a coloring to your refusal to depart the premises?” He silently retired into his hermitage. advancing close to him. He answered nothing. being dreadfully incensed by Adams.40 Herman Melville. Why. doubtless. “I am seriously displeased. Such a proceeding would in a singular degree have the appearance of a home-thrust. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. Often it had occurred to me in my ponderings upon the subject. unaffectedly starting. “Bartleby. I remembered the tragedy of the unfortunate Adams and the still more unfortunate Colt in the solitary office of the latter. entering the office. Bartleby. just where I had left it the evening previous. was at unawares hurried into his fatal act—an act which certainly no man could possibly deplore more than the actor himself. up stairs. and imprudently permitting himself to get wildly excited. But upon second thoughts the success of the plan seemed rather dubious.
that the constant friction of illiberal minds wears out at last the best resolves of the more generous. Others may have loftier parts to enact. if no better motive can be enlisted. But no. Turkey began to glow in the face. and take up some decided line of march in the direction of the door. and hatred’s sake. Aside from higher considerations. Ginger Nut munched his noon apple.42 Herman Melville. Half-past twelve o’clock came. at such time as might prove agreeable to him. then.” Yes. I never feel so private as when I know you are here. and selfishness’ sake. those books induced a salutary feeling. should. I believe that this wise and blessed frame of mind would have continued with me. and become generally obstreperous. I endeavored also immediately to occupy myself. he don’t mean any thing. Though to be sure. Mere self-interest. when .” and “Priestly on Necessity. had been all predestinated from eternity. you are harmless and noiseless as any of these old chairs. I shall persecute you no more. At least I see it. I penetrate to the predestinated purpose of my life. Yes. I grappled him and threw him. would emerge from his hermitage. ever committed a diabolical murder for sweet charity’s sake. stay there behind your screen. I am content. simply by recalling the divine injunction: “A new commandment give I unto you. How? Why. had it not been for the unsolicited and uncharitable remarks obtruded upon me by me professional friends who visited the rooms. Nippers abated down into quietude and courtesy. Bartleby the Scrivener. Men have committed murder for jealousy’s sake. of his own free accord. at leisure intervals I looked a little into “Edwards on the Will. overturn his inkstand. Gradually I slid into the persuasion that these troubles of mine touching the scrivener. I feel it. 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. and besides. that ye love one another. thought I. which it was not for a mere mortal like me to fathom. in short. but no man that ever I heard of.net 43 Contents tempted me concerning Bartleby. is to furnish you with office-room for such period as you may see fit to remain. Some days now passed. during which. Bartleby. and spiritual pride’s sake. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. Poor fellow. Bartleby. this it was that saved me. I tried to fancy that in the course of the morning. he has seen hard times. and anger’s sake. and Bartleby remained standing at his window in one of his profoundest dead-wall reveries. At any rate.” Under the circumstances. but my mission in this world. I strove to drown my exasperated feelings towards the scrivener by benevolently construing his conduct. Bartleby. and Bartleby was billeted upon me for some mysterious purpose of an all-wise Providence. poor fellow! thought I. prompt all beings to charity and philanthropy. But thus it often is. Will it be credited? Ought I to acknowledge it? That afternoon I left the office without saying one further word to him. upon the occasion in question. and ought to be indulged. especially with hightempered men.
Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. Also. and yet remain idle as before. This worried me very much. What then will you do? For all your coaxing. Then the lawyer would give a great stare. and turn to me. I will not. pale. Thereupon. some deeply occupied legal gentleman present. and the room full of lawyers and witnesses and business was driving fast. and in the end perhaps outlive me.—you will not thrust such a helpless creature out of your door? you will not dishonor yourself by such cruelty? No. and claim possession of my office by right of his perpetual occupancy: as all these dark anticipations crowded upon me more and more. no wiser than he came. go. and perplexing my visitors. seeing Bartleby wholly unemployed. he shall. adapted to this end.44 Herman Melville. What shall I do? I now said to myself. Bartleby would tranquilly decline. I resolved to gather all my faculties together. a great change was wrought in me. In a calm and serious tone. Bartleby would remain standing immovable in the middle of the room. and keep occupying my chambers. and so be tempted to throw out some sinister observations concerning him. and for ever rid me of this intolerable incubus. I must. But how? You will not thrust him. a whisper of wonder was running round. and calling at my office and finding no one but the scrivener there. Bartleby the Scrivener. or rather ghost. Rather would I let him live and die here. passive mortal. would undertake to obtain some sort of precise information from him touching my whereabouts. the poor. Bribes he leaves . And as the idea came upon me of his possibly turning out a long-lived man. I cannot do that. So after contemplating him in that position for a time. and denying my authority. and casting a general gloom over the premises. buttoning up my coat to the last button. but without heeding his idle talk. would request him to run round to his (the legal gentleman’s) office and fetch some papers for him. having reference to the strange creature I kept at my office. What shall I do? what ought I to do? what does conscience say I should do with this man. and then mason up his remains in the wall. But having taken three days to meditate upon it. and my friends continually intruded their relentless remarks upon the apparition in my room. And what could I say? At last I was made aware that all through the circle of my professional acquaintance. Rid myself of him. that he still preferred to abide with me. and scandalizing my professional reputation. when a Reference was going on. it was not strange that people entering my office should be struck by the peculiar aspect of the unaccountable Bartleby. the attorney would depart. he will not budge. he apprised me that his original determination remained the same in short. I commended the idea to his careful and mature consideration. Ere revolving any complicated project. however.net 45 Contents I reflected upon it. keeping soul and body together to the last upon his savings (for doubtless he spent but half a dime a day). I first simply suggested to Bartleby the propriety of his permanent departure. Sometimes an attorney having business with me.
a wanderer. something unusual must be done. and take that. “Then sir. Acting accordingly.” slipping something in his hand. I re-entered. and nothing more was said. “you are responsible for the man you left there. while something from within me upbraided me. Since he will not quit me. “Good-bye. Throughout. and he refuses to quit the premises. who proved a lawyer. That is too absurd.” said the stranger. and being folded up like a huge folio. When I returned to my rooms after any little absence. Wrong again: for indubitably he does support himself. But it dropped upon the floor. I propose to remove my offices next week. Bartleby. Full of forebodings. the scrivener re- mained standing behind the screen. with my hand in my pocket—and—and my heart in my mouth. for a day or two I kept the door locked. next day I thus addressed him: “I find these chambers too far from the City Hall. No visible means of support: there I have him. and then. No more then. I will move elsewhere. which I directed to be removed the last thing. Bartleby the Scrivener. and commit his innocent pallor to the common jail? And upon what ground could you procure such a thing to be done?—a vagrant. left him the motionless occupant of a naked room. then. I would pause at the threshold for an instant. he says he prefers not to. the air is unwholesome. it is quite plain that he prefers to cling to you. in order that you may seek another place. He refuses to do any copying.” . Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. and God some way bless you. in short. and give him fair notice. I replied that I was. and having but little furniture. inquiring whether I was the person who had recently occupied rooms at No. On the appointed day I engaged carts and men. I am going—good-bye. when a perturbed looking stranger visited me. proceeded to my chambers. every thing was removed in a few hours. Bartleby never came nigh me. and shall no longer require your services. ere applying my key.net 47 Contents under your own paperweight on your table. and started at every footfall in the passages. What! surely you will not have him collared by a constable. and that is the only unanswerable proof that any man can show of his possessing the means so to do.46 Herman Melville. that you seek to count him as a vagrant.—Wall-street. who refuses to budge? It is because he will not be a vagrant. In a word. and attentively listen.—strange to say—I tore myself from him whom I had so longed to be rid of. I thought all was going well. But these fears were needless.” He made no reply. is he? What! he a vagrant. I tell you this now. I must quit him. I will change my offices. I stood in the entry watching him a moment. he refuses to do any thing. It was withdrawn. Then something severe. Established in my new quarters. that if I find him on my new premises I will then proceed against him as a common trespasser.
and whom I knew to be the landlord of No.” Aghast at this torrent. “What are you doing here. Either you must do something. “These gentlemen. but an inward tremor. sir. with assumed tranquility. and that without delay. “That’s the man—here he comes.48 Herman Melville. something you must do. by this time. and he now persists in haunting the building generally. whom I recognized as the lawyer who had previously called upon me alone. “has turned him out of his room. sir. that if the lawyer would give me a confidential interview with the scrivener. sitting upon the banisters of the stairs by day.—good morning. who then left us. “Sitting upon the banister. “Now one of two things must take place. in his (the lawyer’s) own room.net 49 Contents “I am very sorry. by persisting in occupying the entry after being dismissed from the office?” No answer. I would that afternoon strive my best to rid them of the nuisance they complained of. advancing upon me. Every body is concerned. “are you aware that you are the cause of great tribulation to me. and they held me to the terrible account. some fears are entertained of a mob. and though I often felt a charitable prompting to call at the place and see poor Bartleby.” “In mercy’s name.” cried a portly person among them.” he mildly replied. that you should hold me responsible for him.” Several days passed. “You must take him away.” cried the foremost one. I know nothing about him. Going up stairs to my old haunt. In vain:—I was the last person known to have any thing to do with him. Mr. or something must be done to you. but he has done nothing for me now for some time past. cannot stand it any longer. Formerly I employed him as a copyist.” “I shall settle him then. clients are leaving the offices. thought I at last. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. the man you allude to is nothing to me—he is no relation or apprentice of mine. “but.” said I. and would fain have locked myself in my new quarters. at once. In vain I persisted that Bartleby was nothing to me—no more than to any one else. All is over with him. Now what . there was Bartleby silently sitting upon the banister at the landing. who is he?” “I certainly cannot inform you.” said I. and sleeping in the entry by night. when through another week no further intelligence reached me. I found several persons waiting at my door in a high state of nervous excitement. really. “Bartleby.—Wall-street. Bartleby the Scrivener. Fearful then of being exposed in the papers (as one person present obscurely threatened) I considered the matter. my tenants. yet a certain squeamishness of I know not what withheld me. But coming to my room the day after. sir. I fell back before it. B—” pointing to the lawyer. and I heard nothing more. Bartleby?” said I. and at length said. I motioned him into the lawyer’s room.
“Well then. both in respect to the demands of the landlord and his tenants. As soon as tranquility returned I distinctly perceived that I had now done all that I possibly could. but I am not particular.” “Stationary you shall be then. and jumping into the first omnibus was soon removed from pursuit. “why you keep yourself confined all the time!” “I would prefer not to take a clerkship. but effectually dodging every one by the suddenness and rapidity of my flight. knowing not with what possible threat to try to frighten his immobility into compliance Despairing of all further efforts. let us start now. “will you go home with me now—not to my office. “How would a bar-tender’s business suit you? There is no trying of the eyesight in that.” “I would not like it at all.— how would that suit you?” “Not at all.50 Herman Melville. But I am not particular. right away. I shall feel bound— indeed I _am_ bound—to—to—to quit the premises myself!” I rather absurdly concluded. to benefit Bartleby.” I answered nothing. as I said before. “If you do not go away from these premises before night. and for the first time in all my exasperating connection with him fairly flying into a passion. No. Bartleby the Scrivener. would you like to travel through the country collecting bills for the merchants? That would improve your health.net 51 Contents sort of business would you like to engage in? Would you like to re-engage in copying for some one?” “No. I would prefer to be doing something else.” “No: at present I would prefer not to make any change at all. and with regard to my own desire and sense of duty. but my dwelling—and remain there till we can conclude upon some convenient arrangement for you at our leisure? Come. I now strove to be entirely .” “How then would going as a companion to Europe.” “Would you like a clerkship in a dry-goods store?” “There is too much confinement about that. now losing all patience. when a final thought occurred to me—one which had not been wholly unindulged before. I am not particular. I like to be stationary. as if to settle that little item at once. It does not strike me that there is any thing definite about that.” I cried. and shield him from rude persecution. I was precipitately leaving him. in the kindest tone I could assume under such exciting circumstances. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. “Bartleby.” “No.” he rejoined. ran up Wall-street towards Broadway. rushed from the building.” I cried. to entertain some young gentleman with your conversation.” said I. though.” His unwonted wordiness inspirited me. I returned to the charge. I would prefer not to make any change.” “Too much confinement. I would not like a clerkship.
—”and I want nothing to say to you. and quite serene and harmless in all his ways. and yet as a last resort. summary disposition had led him to adopt a procedure which I do not think I would have decided upon myself. and heat. I narrated all I knew. offered not the slightest obstacle. however unaccountably eccentric. Some of the compassionate and curious bystanders joined the party. I then assured the functionary that Bartleby was a perfectly honest man. silently acquiesced.net 53 Contents care-free and quiescent. “Bartleby!” “I know you. since I knew more about him than any one else. the alms-house must receive him. Moreover. that. under such peculiar circumstances. the silent procession filed its way through all the noise. and had Bartleby removed to the Tombs as a vagrant. I thought I saw peering out upon him the eyes of murderers and thieves. and was informed that the individual I described was indeed within. And so I found him there. while all around. Being under no disgraceful charge. So fearful was I of being again hunted out by the incensed landlord and his exasperated tenants. As I afterwards learned. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. though indeed it was not so successful as I could have wished. It informed me that the writer had sent to the police. and greatly to be compassionated. At all events. or to speak more properly. and paid fugitive visits to Manhattanville and Astoria. and joy of the roaring thoroughfares at noon.52 Herman Melville. and make a suitable statement of the facts. I stated the purpose of my call. The same day I received the note I went to the Tombs. and closed by suggesting the idea of letting him remain in as indulgent confinement as possible till something less harsh might be done—though indeed I hardly knew what. These tidings had a conflicting effect upon me. and headed by one of the constables arm in arm with Bartleby.” he said. standing all alone in the quietest of the yards. a note from the landlord lay upon the desk. he wished me to appear at that place. but at last almost approved. for a few days I drove about the upper part of the town and through the suburbs. Seeking the right officer. and my conscience justified me in the attempt. in my rockaway. if nothing else could be decided upon. without looking round. it seemed the only plan. but in his pale unmoving way. When again I entered my office. the poor scrivener. lo. they had permitted him freely to wander about the prison. when told that he must be conducted to the Tombs. In fact I almost lived in my rockaway for the time. surrendering my business to Nippers. and especially in the inclosed grassplatted yard thereof. from the narrow slits of the jail windows. Bartleby the Scrivener. I opened it with trembling hands. crossed over to Jersey City and Hoboken. The landlord’s energetic.” . At first I was indignant. I then begged to have an interview. the Halls of Justice. his face towards a high wall.
May Mrs. “Well then. Did you know Monroe Edwards?” he added touchingly. sadly.” said I. I can’t pity’em— can’t help it. Thinking it would prove of benefit to the scrivener. that’s all. And you must be as polite to him as possible.—spacious grounds—cool apartments. laying his hand pityingly on my shoulder. keenly pained at his implied suspicion.” said the grub-man.” “Your sarvant. “Deranged? deranged is it? Well now. sighed. Cutlets’ private room?” “I prefer not to dine to-day.” he replied. So you weren’t acquainted with Monroe?” . in Mrs. them forgers. accosted me.” said Bartleby. this should not be so vile a place.” said I. upon my word. and so I left him. addressing me with a stare of astonishment. Nothing reproachful attaches to you by being here. hire me to provide them with something good to eat. Bartleby the Scrivener. Then. slipping some silver into the grubman’s hands (for so they called him). “He’s odd. your sarvant. this is Mr. As I entered the corridor again. sir.” “Is this so?” said I.net 55 Contents “It was not I that brought you here. “I want you to give particular attention to my friend there. I am unused to dinners. “I am the grub-man. He said it was. Look. and asking the grub-man his name. “And to you. and took up a position fronting the dead-wall. sir— hope you’ll stay with us some time—try to make it agreeable. sir.” So saying he slowly moved to the other side of the inclosure. and here is the grass. and jerking his thumb over his shoulder said—”Is that your friend?” “Yes. I thought that friend of yourn was a gentleman forger.” “Who are you?” asked I. let him live on the prison fare. they are always pale and genteel-like. Such gentlemen as have friends here. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. sir. sir. and paused. And see. turning away. looking at me with an expression which seem to say he was all impa- tience for an opportunity to give a specimen of his breeding. “Bartleby. Cutlets. you will find him very useful to you.” “Introduce me. in an apron.54 Herman Melville.” “Does he want to starve? If he does. but would say nothing more. Bartleby. went up with him to Bartleby. “he died of consumption at Sing-Sing. will you?” said the grub-man. turning to the turnkey. “Hope you find it pleasant here. not knowing what to make of such an unofficially speaking person in such a place.” said I. “How’s this?” said the grub-man. “It would disagree with me. aint he?” “I think he is a little deranged. there is the sky. it is not so sad a place as one might think.” “I know where I am. a broad meat-like man. making a low salutation behind his apron. let him have the best dinner you can get. Cutlets and I have the pleasure of your company to dinner. I acquiesced.
” So I went in that direction. * * * * * * * * There would seem little need for proceeding further in this history.” murmured I. Look to my friend yonder. But ere parting with the reader. I saw the wasted Bartleby.” said I. kept off all sounds behind them. I was never socially acquainted with any forgers. “Yonder he lies—sleeping in the yard there. either? Or does he live without dining?” “Lives without dining. and so I will briefly mention it. and went through the corridors in quest of Bartleby. “may be he’s gone to loiter in the yards. through the clefts. had sprung. grass-seed. his head touching the cold stones. by some strange magic. ’Tis not twenty minutes since I saw him lie down. I could never ascertain. of amazing thickness. dropped by birds. and saw that his dim eyes were open. but am wholly unable to gratify it. The Egyptian character of the masonry weighed upon me with its gloom. It was not accessible to the common prisoners. The round face of the grub-man peered upon me now. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. “Are you looking for the silent man?” said another turnkey passing me. I can only reply. But nothing stirred. I paused. when a tingling shiver ran up my arm and down my spine to my feet. The report was this: that Bartleby had been a subordinate clerk in the Dead Letter Office at Washington. then went close up to him. and hence. and lying on his side. Bartleby the Scrivener. The heart of the eternal pyramids. that if this little narrative has sufficiently interested him. “I saw him coming from his cell not long ago. and closed his eyes. it may prove the same with some others. The surrounding walls.” Some few days after this. let me say. it seemed. Yet here I hardly know whether I should divulge one little item of rumor. Upon what basis it rested. which came to my ear a few months after the scrivener’s decease.” said a turnkey. to awaken curiosity as to who Bartleby was. from which he had been suddenly removed by a change in the adminis- . But I cannot stop longer. But inasmuch as this vague report has not been without certain strange suggestive interest to me. how true it is I cannot now tell. his knees drawn up. Something prompted me to touch him. aint he?” “With kings and counselors. “His dinner is ready. wherein. You will not lose by it. and what manner of life he led prior to the present narrator’s making his acquaintance. I will see you again. Won’t he dine to-day. “Eh!—He’s asleep. I felt his hand.” The yard was entirely quiet. otherwise he seemed profoundly sleeping. But a soft imprisoned turf grew under food.56 Herman Melville. stooped over. Strangely huddled at the base of the wall. I again obtained admission to the Tombs. but without finding him.net 57 Contents “No. however sad. that in such curiosity I fully share. Imagination will readily supply the meager recital of poor Bartleby’s interment.
On errands of life.58 Herman Melville. perhaps. nor eats nor hungers any more.net 59 tration. hope for those who died unhoping. When I think over this rumor. good tidings for those who died stifled by unrelieved calamities. Sometimes from out the folded paper the pale clerk takes a ring:—the finger it was meant for. moulders in the grave. can any business seem more fitted to heighten it than that of continually handling these dead letters. pardon for those who died despairing. a banknote sent in swiftest charity:—he whom it would relieve. Purchase the entire Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf on CD at http://collegebookshelf. I cannot adequately express the emotions which seize me. Bartleby the Scrivener. these letters speed to death. and assorting them for the flames? For by the cart-load they are annually burned. Dead letters! does it not sound like dead men? Conceive a man by nature and misfortune prone to a pallid hopelessness. Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity! Contents .
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Herman Melville. Bartleby the Scrivener.
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