Posted by: HAT | September 4, 2009

Bartleby and St. Paul

The final paragraphs of the story “Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street,” by Herman Melville, refer to Bartleby’s possible previous employment in the Dead Letter Office, consider the sad effects this may have had on him personally, and end with the tragic epithet “On errands of life, these letters speed to death.”

“Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!”

Melville’s text here probably needs to be read, as it was no doubt written, with an awareness of 2 Corinthians 3:2-3:

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

It might not be an entire coincidence that two chapters of 2 Corinthians deal with taking up a collection for the needy [Christians in Jerusalem].


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