Isn’t this a heart-breaking and exquisite conclusion to Melville’s wonderful short story, Bartleby the Scrivener.
“The report was this: that Bartleby had been a subordinate clerk in the Dead Letter Office at Washington, from which he had been suddenly removed by a change in the administration.
When I think over this rumor, I cannot adequately express the emotions which seize me.
Dead letters! does it not sound like dead men?
Conceive a man by nature and misfortune prone to a pallid hopelessness, can any business seem more fitted to heighten it than that of continually handling these dead letters and assorting them for the flames?
For by the cart-load they are annually burned.
Sometimes from out the folded paper the pale clerk takes a ring:
–the bank-note sent in swiftest charity:–
he whom it would relieve, nor eats nor hungers any more;
pardon for those who died despairing;
hope for those who died unhoping;
good tidings for those who died stifled by unrelieved calamities.
On errands of life, these letters speed to death.
Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!”