Book//mark - Bartleby, the Scrivener | Herman Melville, 1853

The Piazza Tales, 1856                                                                                 Herman Melville, 1819 - 91


“One of the coolest and wisest hours a man has, is just after he awakes in the morning.”

“My first emotions had been those of pure melancholy and sincerest pity; but just in proportion as the forlornness of Bartleby grew and grew to my imagination, did that same melancholy merge into fear, that pity into repulsion.”

“To a sensitive being, pity is not seldom pain.”

“Ah, happiness courts the light so we deem the world is gay. But misery hides aloof so we deem that misery there is none.”

“Nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance.”

“But thus it often is, that the constant friction of illiberal minds wears out at last the best resolves of the more generous.”

“The truth was, I suppose, that a man of so small an income, could not afford to sport such a lustrous face and a lustrous coat at one and the same time.”

“But indeed, nature herself seemed to have been his vintner, and at his birth charged him so thoroughly with an irritable, brandy-like disposition, that all subsequent potations were needless.”

“His dinner is ready. Won't he dine to-day, either? Or does he live without dining?"
"Lives without dining," said I, and closed his eyes.
"Eh!—He's asleep, aint he?"
"With kings and counselors," murmured I.”

“They err who would assert that invariably this is owing to the inherent selfishness of the human heart. It rather proceeds from a certain hopelessness of remedying excessive and organic ill. To a sensitive being, pity is not seldom pain. And when at last it is perceived that such pity cannot lead to effectual succor, common sense bids the soul rid of it. What I saw that morning persuaded me that the scrivener was the victim of innate and incurable disorder. I
might give alms to his body; but his body did not pain him; it was his soul that suffered, and his soul I could not reach.”

“I would prefer not to.”

“At last I see it, I feel it; I penetrate to the predestinated purpose of my life. I am content. Others may have loftier parts to enact; but my mission in this world, Bartleby, is to furnish you with office-room for such period as you may see fit to remain.”

“It is not seldom the case that when a man is browbeaten in some unprecedented and violently unreasonable way, he begins to stagger in his own plainest faith.”

“I can see that figure now -- pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn! It was Bartleby.”

“Conceive a man by nature and misfortune prone to a pallid hopelessness, can any business seem more fitted to heighten it than that of continually handling these dead letters, and assorting them for the flames?.”

“I procured a high green folding screen, which might entirely isolate Bartleby from my sight, though not remove him from my voice.”

“Ah, happiness courts the light, so we deem the world is gay, but misery hides aloof, so we deem that misery there is none.”

“Aside from higher considerations, charity often operates as a vastly wise and prudent principle -- a great safeguard to its possessor. Men have committed murder for jealousy's sake, and anger's sake, and hatred's sake, and selfishness' sake, and spiritual pride's sake; but no man that ever I heard of ever committed a diabolical murder for sweet charity's sake.”


Herman Melville, Bartleby, the Scrivener 1853


a short story first serialized anonymously in two parts in the November and December 1853
issues of Putnam's Magazine, and reprinted with minor textual alterations in his The Piazza Tales in 1856.


Wall Street, 1867


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