CHAPTER 9I WOULD PREFER NOT TOAvoiding

Before we invented carbon paper and photocopiers, important documents had to be copied by hand. In the nineteenth century, the people who did this laborious and meticulous work were called scriveners, and in one of Herman Melville’s classic short stories, we meet an odd and difficult character named Bartleby the Scrivener. The story is narrated by the elderly lawyer who has employed Bartleby:

At first Bartleby did an extraordinary quantity of writing. As if long famishing for something to copy, he seemed to gorge himself on my documents. There was no pause for digestion. He ran a day and night line, copying by sun-light and by candle-light. I should have been quite delighted with his application, had he ...

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