Quotation by Herman Melville

Imagine my surprise, nay, my consternation, when without moving from his privacy, Bartleby in a singularly mild, firm voice, replied, "I would prefer not to."
Herman Melville (1819–1891), U.S. author. "Bartleby" (1853), The Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces 1839-1860, The Writings of Herman Melville, vol. 9, eds. Harrison Hayford, Alma A. MacDougall, and G. Thomas Tanselle (1987).

One of many instances in which Bartleby uses this phrase to refuse to work.
Surprise me with a
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