“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. So true it is, and so terrible too, that 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 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.” -Melville, "Bartleby, the Scrivener"
Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener" assumes its proper place alongside Gogol's "The Mantle" and Dostoevsky's "An Unpleasant Predicament" in our Wiseblood Classics collection Keys to the Bureau, available for purchase via Amazon.com here.