- Bartleby, the Scrivener
- GeoZurich: Street-side dataset of the city of Zurich
- Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener”: An interactive, annotated text.
This, however, he did not do. A few days after this, my other clerks being absent, and being in a great hurry to dispatch certain letters by the mail, I thought that, having nothing else earthly to do, Bartleby would surely be less inflexible than usual, and carry these letters to the post-office. But he blankly declined. So, much to my inconvenience, I went myself. Still added days went by. To all appearance, I thought they did.
But when I asked him if they did, he vouchsafed no answer. At all events, he would do no copying. At last, in reply to my urgings, he informed me that he had permanently given up copying. He remained as ever, a fixture in my chamber. Nay—if that were possible—he became still more of a fixture than before. What was to be done? He would do nothing in the office: why should he stay there? In plain fact, he had now become a millstone to me, not only useless as a necklace, but afflictive to bear. Yet I was sorry for him.
I speak less than truth when I say that, on his own account, he occasioned me uneasiness. If he would but have named a single relative or friend, I would instantly have written, and urged their taking the poor fellow away to some convenient retreat. But he seemed alone, absolutely alone in the universe. A bit of wreck in the mid Atlantic. At length, necessities connected with my business tyrannized over all other considerations. I warned him to take measures, in the interval, for procuring some other abode. I offered to assist him in this endeavor, if he himself would but take the first step towards a removal.
Six days from this hour, remember. He had frequently restored to me sixpences and shillings carelessly dropped upon the floor, for I am apt to be very reckless in such shirt-button affairs. The proceeding then which followed will not be deemed extraordinary. I shall not see you again; so good-bye to you. If hereafter in your new place of abode I can be of any service to you, do not fail to advise me by letter. Good-bye, Bartleby, and fare you well.
But he answered not a word; like the last column of some ruined temple, he remained standing mute and solitary in the middle of the otherwise deserted room.
As I walked home in a pensive mood, my vanity got the better of my pity. I could not but highly plume myself on my masterly management in getting rid of Bartleby. Masterly I call it, and such it must appear to any dispassionate thinker. The beauty of my procedure seemed to consist in its perfect quietness. There was no vulgar bullying, no bravado of any sort, no choleric hectoring, and striding to and fro across the apartment, jerking out vehement commands for Bartleby to bundle himself off with his beggarly traps. Nothing of the kind. The more I thought over my procedure, the more I was charmed with it.
Nevertheless, next morning, upon awakening, I had my doubts,—I had somehow slept off the fumes of vanity. One of the coolest and wisest hours a man has, is just after he awakes in the morning. My procedure seemed as sagacious as ever. How it would prove in practice—there was the rub. The great point was, not whether I had assumed that he would quit me, but whether he would prefer so to do. He was more a man of preferences than assumptions. One moment I thought it would prove a miserable failure, and Bartleby would be found all alive at my office as usual; the next moment it seemed certain that I should see his chair empty.
And so I kept veering about. At the corner of Broadway and Canal-street, I saw quite an excited group of people standing in earnest conversation. I was instinctively putting my hand in my pocket to produce my own, when I remembered that this was an election day. The words I had overheard bore no reference to Bartleby, but to the success or non-success of some candidate for the mayoralty. In my intent frame of mind, I had, as it were, imagined that all Broadway shared in my excitement, and were debating the same question with me. I passed on, very thankful that the uproar of the street screened my momentary absent-mindedness.
As I had intended, I was earlier than usual at my office door. I stood listening for a moment. All was still. He must be gone. I tried the knob. The door was locked. Yes, my procedure had worked to a charm; he indeed must be vanished. Yet a certain melancholy mixed with this: I was almost sorry for my brilliant success. I was thunderstruck. For an instant I stood like the man who, pipe in mouth, was killed one cloudless afternoon long ago in Virginia, by a summer lightning; at his own warm open window he was killed, and remained leaning out there upon the dreamy afternoon, till some one touched him, when he fell.
But again obeying that wondrous ascendancy which the inscrutable scrivener had over me, and from which ascendancy, for all my chafing, I could not completely escape, I slowly went down stairs and out into the street, and while walking round the block, considered what I should next do in this unheard-of perplexity. Turn the man out by an actual thrusting I could not; to drive him away by calling him hard names would not do; calling in the police was an unpleasant idea; and yet, permit him to enjoy his cadaverous triumph over me,—this too I could not think of. Yes, as before I had prospectively assumed that Bartleby would depart, so now I might retrospectively assume that departed he was.
In the legitimate carrying out of this assumption, I might enter my office in a great hurry, and pretending not to see Bartleby at all, walk straight against him as if he were air. Such a proceeding would in a singular degree have the appearance of a home-thrust.
Bartleby, the Scrivener
It was hardly possible that Bartleby could withstand such an application of the doctrine of assumptions. But upon second thoughts the success of the plan seemed rather dubious. I resolved to argue the matter over with him again. I am pained, Bartleby. I had thought better of you. I had imagined you of such a gentlemanly organization, that in any delicate dilemma a slight hint would have suffice—in short, an assumption.
But it appears I am deceived. Do you pay any rent? Do you pay my taxes? Or is this property yours? Are your eyes recovered? Could you copy a small paper for me this morning? In a word, will you do any thing at all, to give a coloring to your refusal to depart the premises? I was now in such a state of nervous resentment that I thought it but prudent to check myself at present from further demonstrations. Bartleby and I were alone. I remembered the tragedy of the unfortunate Adams and the still more unfortunate Colt in the solitary office of the latter; and how poor Colt, being dreadfully incensed by Adams, and imprudently permitting himself to get wildly excited, was at unawares hurried into his fatal act—an act which certainly no man could possibly deplore more than the actor himself.
Often it had occurred to me in my ponderings upon the subject, that had that altercation taken place in the public street, or at a private residence, it would not have terminated as it did. It was the circumstance of being alone in a solitary office, up stairs, of a building entirely unhallowed by humanizing domestic associations—an uncarpeted office, doubtless, of a dusty, haggard sort of appearance;—this it must have been, which greatly helped to enhance the irritable desperation of the hapless Colt.
But when this old Adam of resentment rose in me and tempted me concerning Bartleby, I grappled him and threw him. Aside from higher considerations, charity often operates as a vastly wise and prudent principle—a great safeguard to its possessor. Mere self-interest, then, if no better motive can be enlisted, should, especially with high-tempered men, prompt all beings to charity and philanthropy.
At any rate, upon the occasion in question, I strove to drown my exasperated feelings towards the scrivener by benevolently construing his conduct. Poor fellow, poor fellow! I endeavored also immediately to occupy myself, and at the same time to comfort my despondency. I tried to fancy that in the course of the morning, at such time as might prove agreeable to him, Bartleby, of his own free accord, would emerge from his hermitage, and take up some decided line of march in the direction of the door.
Will it be credited? Ought I to acknowledge it? That afternoon I left the office without saying one further word to him. Gradually I slid into the persuasion that these troubles of mine touching the scrivener, had been all predestinated from eternity, and Bartleby was billeted upon me for some mysterious purpose of an all-wise Providence, which it was not for a mere mortal like me to fathom. Yes, Bartleby, stay there behind your screen, thought I; I shall persecute you no more; you are harmless and noiseless as any of these old chairs; in short, I never feel so private as when I know you are here.
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. I believe that this wise and blessed frame of mind would have continued with me, had it not been for the unsolicited and uncharitable remarks obtruded upon me by my professional friends who visited the rooms.
But thus it often is, that the constant friction of illiberal minds wears out at last the best resolves of the more generous. Though to be sure, when I reflected upon it, it was not strange that people entering my office should be struck by the peculiar aspect of the unaccountable Bartleby, and so be tempted to throw out some sinister observations concerning him. Sometimes an attorney having business with me, and calling at my office and finding no one but the scrivener there, would undertake to obtain some sort of precise information from him touching my whereabouts; but without heeding his idle talk, Bartleby would remain standing immovable in the middle of the room.
So after contemplating him in that position for a time, the attorney would depart, no wiser than he came.
Thereupon, Bartleby would tranquilly decline, and yet remain idle as before. Then the lawyer would give a great stare, and turn to me. And what could I say? At last I was made aware that all through the circle of my professional acquaintance, a whisper of wonder was running round, having reference to the strange creature I kept at my office.
This worried me very much. And as the idea came upon me of his possibly turning out a long-lived man, and keep occupying my chambers, and denying my authority; and perplexing my visitors; and scandalizing my professional reputation; and casting a general gloom over the premises; keeping soul and body together to the last upon his savings for doubtless he spent but half a dime a day , and in the end perhaps outlive me, and claim possession of my office by right of his perpetual occupancy: as all these dark anticipations crowded upon me more and more, and my friends continually intruded their relentless remarks upon the apparition in my room; a great change was wrought in me.
I resolved to gather all my faculties together, and for ever rid me of this intolerable incubus. Ere revolving any complicated project, however, adapted to this end, I first simply suggested to Bartleby the propriety of his permanent departure. In a calm and serious tone, I commended the idea to his careful and mature consideration.
But having taken three days to meditate upon it, he apprised me that his original determination remained the same; in short, that he still preferred to abide with me. What shall I do? I now said to myself, buttoning up my coat to the last button. Rid myself of him, I must; go, he shall. But how? You will not thrust him, the poor, pale, passive mortal,—you will not thrust such a helpless creature out of your door?
GeoZurich: Street-side dataset of the city of Zurich
No, I will not, I cannot do that. Rather would I let him live and die here, and then mason up his remains in the wall. What then will you do? For all your coaxing, he will not budge. Bribes he leaves under your own paperweight on your table; in short, it is quite plain that he prefers to cling to you. Then something severe, something unusual must be done. And upon what ground could you procure such a thing to be done? That is too absurd.
Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener”: An interactive, annotated text.
No visible means of support: there I have him. No more then. Since he will not quit me, I must quit him. I will change my offices; I will move elsewhere; and give him fair notice, that if I find him on my new premises I will then proceed against him as a common trespasser.
In a word, I propose to remove my offices next week, and shall no longer require your services. I tell you this now, in order that you may seek another place. On the appointed day I engaged carts and men, proceeded to my chambers, and having but little furniture, every thing was removed in a few hours. Throughout, the scrivener remained standing behind the screen, which I directed to be removed the last thing. It was withdrawn; and being folded up like a huge folio, left him the motionless occupant of a naked room.
I stood in the entry watching him a moment, while something from within me upbraided me. But it dropped upon the floor , and then,—strange to say—I tore myself from him whom I had so longed to be rid of. Established in my new quarters, for a day or two I kept the door locked, and started at every footfall in the passages. When I returned to my rooms after any little absence, I would pause at the threshold for an instant, and attentively listen, ere applying my key.
But these fears were needless. Bartleby never came nigh me. I thought all was going well, when a perturbed looking stranger visited me, inquiring whether I was the person who had recently occupied rooms at No. He refuses to do any copying; he refuses to do any thing; he says he prefers not to; and he refuses to quit the premises. I know nothing about him. Formerly I employed him as a copyist; but he has done nothing for me now for some time past. Several days passed, and I heard nothing more; and though I often felt a charitable prompting to call at the place and see poor Bartleby, yet a certain squeamishness of I know not what withheld me.
All is over with him, by this time, thought I at last, when through another week no further intelligence reached me. But coming to my room the day after, I found several persons waiting at my door in a high state of nervous excitement. Every body is concerned; clients are leaving the offices; some fears are entertained of a mob ; something you must do, and that without delay. Aghast at this torrent, I fell back before it, and would fain have locked myself in my new quarters. In vain I persisted that Bartleby was nothing to me—no more than to any one else.
In vain:—I was the last person known to have any thing to do with him, and they held me to the terrible account. Going up stairs to my old haunt, there was Bartleby silently sitting upon the banister at the landing. Either you must do something, or something must be done to you.
Now what sort of business would you like to engage in? Would you like to re-engage in copying for some one? No, I would not like a clerkship; but I am not particular. There is no trying of the eyesight in that. That would improve your health. It does not strike me that there is any thing definite about that. I like to be stationary.
https://dekukirefiqy.tk But I am not particular. Despairing of all further efforts, I was precipitately leaving him, when a final thought occurred to me—one which had not been wholly unindulged before. Come, let us start now, right away. I answered nothing; but effectually dodging every one by the suddenness and rapidity of my flight, rushed from the building, ran up Wall-street towards Broadway, and jumping into the first omnibus was soon removed from pursuit.
As soon as tranquility returned I distinctly perceived that I had now done all that I possibly could, both in respect to the demands of the landlord and his tenants, and with regard to my own desire and sense of duty, to benefit Bartleby, and shield him from rude persecution. I now strove to be entirely care-free and quiescent; and my conscience justified me in the attempt; though indeed it was not so successful as I could have wished.
So fearful was I of being again hunted out by the incensed landlord and his exasperated tenants, that, surrendering my business to Nippers, for a few days I drove about the upper part of the town and through the suburbs, in my rockaway; crossed over to Jersey City and Hoboken, and paid fugitive visits to Manhattanville and Astoria. In fact I almost lived in my rockaway for the time.
When again I entered my office, lo, a note from the landlord lay upon the desk. I opened it with trembling hands. It informed me that the writer had sent to the police, and had Bartleby removed to the Tombs as a vagrant. Moreover, since I knew more about him than any one else, he wished me to appear at that place, and make a suitable statement of the facts.
These tidings had a conflicting effect upon me. At first I was indignant; but at last almost approved. As I afterwards learned, the poor scrivener, when told that he must be conducted to the Tombs, offered not the slightest obstacle, but in his pale unmoving way, silently acquiesced.
Some of the compassionate and curious bystanders joined the party; and headed by one of the constables arm in arm with Bartleby, the silent procession filed its way through all the noise, and heat, and joy of the roaring thoroughfares at noon. The same day I received the note I went to the Tombs, or to speak more properly, the Halls of Justice. Seeking the right officer, I stated the purpose of my call, and was informed that the individual I described was indeed within.
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I then assured the functionary that Bartleby was a perfectly honest man, and greatly to be compassionated, however unaccountably eccentric. I narrated all I knew, 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. At all events, if nothing else could be decided upon, the alms-house must receive him. I then begged to have an interview. Being under no disgraceful charge, and quite serene and harmless in all his ways, they had permitted him freely to wander about the prison, and especially in the inclosed grass-platted yard thereof.
And so I found him there, standing all alone in the quietest of the yards, his face towards a high wall, while all around, from the narrow slits of the jail windows, I thought I saw peering out upon him the eyes of murderers and thieves. Nothing reproachful attaches to you by being here. And see, it is not so sad a place as one might think. Look, there is the sky, and here is the grass.
Such gentlemen as have friends here, hire me to provide them with something good to eat. And you must be as polite to him as possible. Actually, Emerson wrote something in his journal that was much less euphonious. Anthologists after his death revised the words, and they have been honed by a kind of literary game of telephone into the version King noted. Read a bit more about the quote's history. Ralph Waldo Emerson said on one occasion that if a man can write a better book, or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, even if he builds his house in the woods the world will make a beaten path to his door.
Many of our parents have been so scarred by years of denial and neglect that they cannot face the same challenges that we face. But I say to you that you have the opportunity to assert certain things and get ready to compete with people. For another use of the streetsweeper allusion, read a story about King's speech in Jamaica. Set out to do a good job and do that job so well that nobody can do it any better. If it falls your lot to be a streetsweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures.
Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets like Beethoven composed music. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say here lived a great streetsweeper who swept his job well. Research suggests Malloch's version was an adaptation of a long-existing poem. Read more about this and other uses of poetry in King's speeches online. This is what Douglas Malloch meant when he said, "If you can't be a pine on the top of the hill, be a scrub in the valley -- but be the best little scrub on the side of the rill. Be a bush, if you can't be a tree.
If you can't be a highway, just be a trail. If you can't be the sun, be a star. It isn't by size that you win or you fail. Be the best of whatever you are! The philosophy of nonviolent action for social change was central to King's work. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Let nobody fool you about this. Freedom is never voluntarily given to the oppressed by the oppressor. It must be demanded. And I say to you this morning that this will be necessary all over the United States of America. But as I say this let me give a warning signal that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for first-class citizenship but we must never use second-class methods to gain it.
Our power does not lie in Molotov cocktails. Our power does not lie in bricks and stones. Our power does not lie in bottles. Our power lies in our ability to unite around concrete programs. You see the chief problem with a riot is that it can always be halted by a superior force. He was known for unleashing snarling, snapping dogs on protesters and forcing them off the streets with powerful streams from fire hoses. There's a minute documentary with clips of Connor "You've got to keep the black and the white separate" on YouTube.
It was a fire within. And I say that we can have that same kind of fire all over the United States of America. And we can transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows through this method. And so I come to you today and urge you to work in the civil rights movement, to join the civil rights organizations, to give of your time and your activity, when you have spare time, in community action.
One of the things that we need in every city is political power. Each of you should serve as a committee of one to work with your parents if they have not registered to vote and other people in the community. Cleveland voters did elect Carl Stokes as mayor later in Cleveland, Ohio, is a city that can be the first city of major size in the United States to have a black mayor and you should participate in making that a possibility.
This is an opportunity for you. And so there are things that all of us can do and I urge you to do it with zeal and with vigor. Thoreau treats the act of walking as a vehicle that transports us to the sacred space that is nature. The wildness of nature becomes a retreat from the noise of contemporary society and civilization-a place to rest our thoughts and regain balance between these two worlds.
This J. Missouri edition contains nearly 40 new historical and biographical footnotes. Product Details About the Author. Pages: 48 Sales rank: , Product dimensions: 5. About the Author. Date of Birth: July 12, Date of Death: May 6, Place of Birth: Concord, Massachusetts. Place of Death: Concord, Massachusetts.