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.”


“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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