[PDF] Bartleby the Scrivener PDF (Herman Melville)

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Bartleby the Scrivener PDF
Bartleby the Scrivener PDF
No. Of Pages: 59
PDF Size: 386 KB
Language: English
Category: Ebooks and Novels
Author: Herman Melville

Bartleby the Scrivener Summary

I am a senior citizen. For the last thirty years, the nature of my avocations has brought me into more than average touch with what appears to be a fascinating and rather peculiar group of individuals, about whom I am aware that nothing has been written: I am referring to the law-copyists or scriveners. I’ve known many of them professionally and personally, and if I wanted to, I could tell you stories that would make good-natured gentlemen grin and emotional hearts weep. But I will forego the histories of all other scriveners for a few passages in the life of Bartleby, who was the oddest scrivener I’ve ever seen or heard of. While I could chronicle the entire lives of other law-copyists, I can’t do the same for Bartleby. I feel there are no resources available for a complete and adequate biography of this individual. Literature has suffered an irreversible loss as a result. Bartleby was one of those beings about whom nothing is known save from the original sources, which in his case were few and far between. With the exception of one hazy report that will be revealed in the sequel, all I know about Bartleby is what my own shocked eyes witnessed of him.

Before describing the scrivener as he first appeared to me, it is proper that I myself, my staff, my business, my chambers, and general surroundings, because such a description is necessary for an accurate understanding of the main figure about to be given.

Bartleby the Scrivener PDF
Bartleby the Scrivener PDF

I am a man who has been imbued with a strong sense that the simplest way of living is the greatest since his adolescence. As a result, despite the fact that I work in a field that is notoriously lively and tense, even to the point of turbulence at times, nothing of the type has ever intruded on my tranquilly. I am one of those unambitious attorneys who never addresses a jury or earns public praise; instead, I conduct a snug business amid rich men’s bonds, mortgages, and title-deeds in the cool tranquillity of a comfortable hideaway. Everyone who knows me thinks I’m a really safe guy. The late John Jacob Astor, a man not known for his artistic zeal, declared my first major point to be caution, and my second, procedure. I don’t say it to brag, but to record the fact that I was not jobless in my trade by the late John Jacob Astor, a name that, I admit, I enjoy repeating, since it has a rounded and orbicular tone to it and rings like silver. I will gladly admit that I was not blind to the late John Jacob Astor’s goodwill.

My avocations had been greatly expanded some time before the period in which this brief narrative begins. The noble old position of Master in Chancery, now extinct in the State of New York, had been bestowed on me. It wasn’t a difficult job, but it was well compensated. I rarely lose my temper, and even less frequently indulge in dangerous indignation at wrongs and outrages; but I must be allowed to be rash here and declare that I regard the sudden and violent abrogation of the office of Master in Chancery by the new Constitution as a premature act, inasmuch as I had counted on a life-lease of the profits, whereas I only received those for a few short years. But that’s just a side note.

No.—Wall Street had my quarters upstairs. At one end, they could see the white wall of the inside of a large skylight shaft that ran from top to bottom through the structure. This vista may have been deemed fairly tame, lacking in what landscape painters refer to as “life.” But, if such was the case, the view from the opposite end of my apartment provided, at the very least, a contrast. My windows had an uninterrupted view of a high brick wall, blackened by age and endless shade, which required no spy-glass to bring out its concealing charms, but was pushed up to within ten feet of my window panes for the advantage of all near-sighted viewers. Because of the tremendous height of the neighbouring buildings and the fact that my quarters were on the second level, the space between this wall and mine resembled a massive square cistern.

I had two copyists and a promising office boy working for me right before the arrival of Bartleby. Turkey came in first, followed by Nippers, and Ginger Nut came in third. These may appear to be names that are not commonly encountered in the directory. In reality, they were nicknames bestowed upon each other by my three clerks and were thought to be reflective of their distinct personalities or traits. Turkey was a short, pursy Englishman around my age, that is, perhaps around sixty. His face was of a fine florid hue in the morning, but after twelve o’clock, meridian—his dinner hour—it blazed like a grate full of Christmas coals; and continued blazing—but, as it were, with a gradual wane—till six o’clock, P.M. or thereabouts, after which I saw no more of the proprietor of the face, which gained its meridian with the sun, seemed to set with it There have been many strange coincidences in my life, not the least of which was the fact that precisely when Turkey displayed his fullest beams from his red and radiant countenance, just then, at that critical moment, began the daily period when I considered his business capacities seriously disrupted for the remainder of the twenty-four hours. He wasn’t lazy or uninterested in business at the time; far from it. The problem was that he was prone to being far too enthusiastic. He had a peculiar, heated, flurried, flighty recklessness about him. He’d be rash in dipping his pen into his inkstand. All of his smudges on my paperwork were left there after twelve o’clock, meridian. Indeed, not only was he irresponsible and tragically prone to generating blots in the afternoon, but on certain days he went even farther and was rather boisterous. His visage flamed with enhanced blazonry at such times, as if cannel coal had been heaped atop anthracite. He made an unpleasant racket with his chair; spilled his sand-box; while mending his pens, he impatiently split them all to pieces and threw them on the floor in a fit of rage; stood up and leaned over his table, boxing his papers about in a most indecorous manner, which was very sad to see in an elderly man like him.

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