‘Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street’ by Herman Melville

conceive a man by nature and misfortune prone to a pallid hopelessness… Ah, Bartleby. Ah, humanity.

This is a bad choice for this anthology. It’s not exactly an unheard-of hidden gem. It’s not even a short story. It’s right on the edge of what you could read aloud to A-Level students, most of whom would fall asleep halfway through. And yet it is irresistible.

A lawyer hires a third member of staff for his small office. While Bartleby impresses at first, it quickly becomes apparent that he has a unique approach to work and a healthy disregard for authority. The narrator grows increasingly unable to manage or understand his new scrivener, whose catchphrase is sure to come in handy for any teacher in a modern school.

First published 1853. Available online here