Sunday, November 20, 2016

Allan Melville advertises for a law copyist

Now my original business—that of a conveyancer and title hunter, and drawer-up of recondite documents of all sorts —was considerably increased by receiving the master’s office. There was now great work for scriveners. Not only must I push the clerks already with me, but I must have additional help. In answer to my advertisement, a motionless young man one morning, stood upon my office threshold, the door being open, for it was summer. I can see that figure now—pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn! It was Bartleby.  --Bartleby, the Scrivener
Like the lawyer-narrator of "Bartleby," the author's lawyer-brother Allan Melville once advertised for a scrivener. Allan Melville's want ad for "An experienced copyist" appeared in the New York Daily Tribune on October 12, 1847:

New York Daily Tribune - October 12, 1847
WANTED—An experienced copyist. Apply to ALLAN MELVILLE, 12 Wall-st.
You can see the whole page three of the Tribune with Allan Melville's advertisement amidst similar notices in the online file of Historic American Newspapers at Chronicling America:
Allan was a newlywed when he placed the ad for a law copyist--just married September 22, 1847 to Sophia Thurston. As Warren Broderick reports in his June 2011 Leviathan article on "Bartleby," Allan Melville, and the Court of Chancery," Allan had been appointed "Examiner" in the New York State Court of Chancery in May 1844, after older brother Gansevoort resigned. Court records show that Allan Melville was formally approved as "Solicitor" in the New York State Court of Chancery, First Circuit, on May 23, 1844. The timing of Allan Melville's Tribune ad for a law copyist backs up Warren Broderick's argument for the influence of Allan's professional experience on Melville's Wall Street story, and to the 1847 feel of its setting, "during the final months of the Court of Chancery's existence."
“If not during 1844, the subject of Allan’s legal career would have surely come up in the autumn of 1847 when the newlyweds Herman and Lizzie secured a residence at 103 Fourth Avenue in New York City, thanks largely to Allan’s assistance…. Herman, Allan, and their new families resided together at the very time Allan would have lost his position in Chancery." --Warren Broderick on Bartleby, Allan Melville and Chancery

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