The Scrivener Essay

1659 Words 7 Pages
I think the events preceding the writing of “Bartleby, The Scrivener” are just as important to understanding the story as the events transpiring within the tale itself. Melville, when he wrote the short story, was coming off of two failures, Moby-Dick and Pierre, that he thought would cement his place in the literary cannon; “Bartleby” is his way of addressing this chaotic time in his life. In the tale, Melville is being brutally honest with himself and his work: addressing the concerns of his critics through the narrator, while using Bartleby to admit his own faults in failing to gain the recognition he thought he deserved. When Moby-Dick was published in late 1851, it was met with mixed reviews. “A reviewer for the London Britannia …show more content…
And if Moby-Dick was a failure, Pierre was a disaster of epic proportions. Pierre, published in 1852, was met with horrific reviews. Hershel Parker, in his biography on Melville, quotes a passage from a review by the New York Albion, citing the novel as “‘a dead failure, seeing that neither in design or execution does it merit praise’” (Parker 128). Parker quotes other critical taglines associated with the book: “this ‘crazy rigmarole’ and ‘incoherent hodge-podge’ was imperiling Melville’s ‘literary standing’” (128). Evert Augustus Duyckinck, a mentor/contemporary/friend of Melville’s, wrote in the Literary World that the book was blatantly immoral; that Melville should redeem himself by telling a “‘traveler’s tale, in which he has few equals in power and felicity’” (129). It goes on: “Old acquaintances … admirers of his ‘lofty capacity’ and ‘his acknowledged genius’ were now ‘compelled to withhold their commendation from honest doubts as to the tendency of his writing’” (129). A review from the Springfield Republican “played with Melville’s stylistic excesses in its lament: ‘Genteel hifalutin, painful, though ingenious involution of language, and high-flown incidental detail, characterize the work, to the uprooting of our affection for the graceful and simple writer … Melville has changed his style entirely, and is to be judged as a new author.—We regret the change’” (129). The bashing goes on and

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