Bartleby the Scrivener



Though no great success at the time of publication, "Bartleby the Scrivener" is now among the most noted of American short stories. It has been considered a precursor of absurdist literature, touching on several of Franz Kafka's themes in such works as "A Hunger Artist" and The Trial. There is nothing to indicate that the Bohemian writer was at all acquainted with the work of Melville, who remained largely forgotten until some time after Kafka's death.

Albert Camus, in a personal letter to Liselotte Dieckmann published in The French Review in 1998, cites Melville as a key influence.[13]


  • It was adapted for the radio anthology series Favorite Story in 1948 under the name "The Strange Mister Bartleby". William Conrad plays the Narrator and Hans Conried plays Bartleby.
  • The York Playhouse produced a one-act opera, Bartleby, composed by William Flanagan and James J. Hinton, Jr., on a libretto by Edward Albee, from January 1, 1961 to February 28, 1961.[14]
  • The first filmed adaptation was by the Encyclopædia Britannica Educational Corporation in 1969; adapted, produced & directed by Larry Yust and starring James Westerfield, Patrick Campbell, and Barry Williams of The Brady Bunch fame in a small role.[15]
  • The story has been adapted for film four other times: in 1972, starring Paul Scofield; in France, in 1976, by Maurice Ronet, starring Michel Lonsdale; in 1977, starring Nicholas Kepros, by Israel Horovitz and Michael B Styer for Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting, which was an entry in the 1978 Peabody Awards competition for television; and in 2001, Bartleby starring Crispin Glover.
  • The story has been adapted and reinterpreted by Peter Straub in his 1997 story "Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff". It was also used as thematic inspiration for the Stephen King novel Bag of Bones.
  • "Bartleby the Scrivener" was adapted for the stage in March 2007 by Alexander Gelman and the Organic Theater Company of Chicago.
  • In 2009, French author Daniel Pennac read "Bartleby the Scrivener" on the stage of La Pépinière-Théâtre in Paris.

In popular culture

  • There is an angel named Bartleby in Kevin Smith's 1999 film, Dogma. He shares some resemblance to Melville's Bartleby.
  • Spanish writer Enrique Vila-Matas wrote in 2001 "Bartleby & Co.", a book which deals with "the endemic disease of contemporary letters, the negative pulsion or attraction towards nothingness."
  • The 2006 movie Accepted features Bartleby Gaines played by Justin Long. The characters share similar traits and the movie uses some themes found in the work.
  • functions as an electronic text archive that publishes the classics of literature, nonfiction, and reference free of charge. Bartleby's welcome statement describes its correlation with the short story, "after the humble character of its namesake scrivener, or copyist."[16]
  • In 2011, French director Jérémie Carboni made a documentary, Bartleby en coulisses, around Daniel Pennac's reading of Bartleby the Scrivener.[17]

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