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Bartleby the Scrivener Quotes

20 of the best book quotes from Bartleby the Scrivener
  1. #1
    “After a few words touching (Bartleby’s) qualifications, I engaged him, glad to have among my corps of copyists a man of so singularly sedate an aspect, which I thought might operate beneficially upon the flighty temper of Turkey and the fiery one of Nippers.”
  2. #2
    “All who know me consider me an eminently safe man. The late John Jacob Astor, a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm, had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point to be prudence, my next, method.”
  3. #3
    “Nothing so aggravates an earnest person as a passive resistance.”
  4. #4
    “Bartleby: ‘I would not like it at all; though, as I said before, I am not particular.‘”
  5. #5
    “In short, the truth of the matter was Nippers knew not what he wanted.”
  6. #6
    ″‘I know you,’ he said, without looking round – ‘and I want nothing to say to you.‘”
  1. #7
    “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.”
  2. #8
    “Poor fellow! thought I, he means no mischief; it is plain he intends no insolence; his aspect sufficiently evinces that his eccentricities are involuntary… if I turn him away, the chances are he will fall in with some less indulgent employer, and then he will be rudely treated, and perhaps driven forth miserably to starve. Yes. Here I can cheaply purchase a delicious self-approval. To befriend Bartleby, to humor him in his strange willfulness, will cost me little or nothing, while I lay up in my soul what will eventually prove a sweet morsel for my conscience.”
  3. #9
    “Immediately then the thought came sweeping across me, what miserable friendlessness and loneliness are here revealed. His poverty is great, but his solitude, how horrible! Think of it. Of a Sunday, Wall Street is deserted as Petra, and every night of every day it is an emptiness. This building, too, which of weekdays hums with industry and life, at nightfall echoes with sheer vacancy, and all through Sunday is forlorn. And here Bartleby makes his home, sole spectator of a solitude which he has seen all populous – a sort of innocent and transformed Marius brooding among the ruins of Carthage!”
  4. #10
    “Aside from higher considerations, charity often operates as a vastly wise and prudent principle – a great safeguard to its possessor.”
  5. #11
    “I am a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best.”
  6. #12
    “Meanwhile Bartleby sat in his hermitage, oblivious to everything but his own particular business there.”

Books by Herman Melville

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  1. #13
    “Somehow, of late, I had got into the way of involuntarily using this word ‘prefer’ upon all sorts of not exactly suitable occasions. And I trembled to think that my contact with the scrivener had already and seriously affected me in a mental way. And what further and deeper aberration might it not yet produce?”
  2. #14
    “Nippers…was a whiskered, sallow, and upon the whole rather piratical-looking young man of about five and twenty. I always deemed him the victim of two evil powers – ambition and indigestion.”
  3. #15
    “I sat awhile in perfect silence, rallying my stunned faculties. Immediately it occurred to me that my ears had deceived me, or Bartleby had entirely misunderstood my meaning. I repeated my request in the clearest tone I could assume; but in quite as clear a one came the previous reply, ‘I would prefer not to.‘”
  4. #16
    ″‘Why, how now? What next?’ exclaimed I, ‘do no more writing?’
    ‘No more.’
    ‘And what is the reason?’
    ‘Do you not see the reason for yourself?’ he indifferently replied.”
  5. #17
    “Up to a certain point the thought or sight of misery enlists our best affections; but, in certain special cases, beyond that point it does not. 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 be rid of it.”
  6. #18
    “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.”
  7. #19
    “The bond of common humanity now drew me irresistibly to gloom. A fraternal melancholy! For both I and Bartleby were sons of Adam. I remembered the bright silks and sparkling faces I had seen that day, in gala trim, swanlike sailing down the Mississippi of Broadway; and I contrasted them with the pallid copyist, and thought to myself, Ah, happiness courts the light, so we deem the world is gay, but misery hides aloof, so we deem that misery there is none.”
  8. #20
    “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. He begins, as it were, vaguely to surmise that, wonderful as it may be, all the justice and all the reason is on the other side. Accordingly, if any disinterested persons are present, he turns to them for some reinforcement for his own faltering mind.”
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