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The Grand Chorus of ComplaintAuthors and the Business Ethics of American Publishing$
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Michael J. Everton

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199751785

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199751785.001.0001

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Melville in the Antebellum Publishing Maelstrom

Melville in the Antebellum Publishing Maelstrom

(p.115) 5 Melville in the Antebellum Publishing Maelstrom
The Grand Chorus of Complaint

Michael J. Everton

Oxford University Press

Chapter 5 illuminates implicit and explicit correlations between trade morality and Christian ethics and particularly the penultimate sociocultural morality of the golden rule. This Christian-cum-economic morality was really a function of the broader evolution of labor relations as the market attempted to balance capitalism and morality. Yet owing to their prominent roles in the burgeoning nationalism of American literary culture and national economy, publishers figured more prominently than most businessmen in debates over business ethics in the nineteenth century. This chapter argues that the golden rule provided a culturally valuable asset to the early American publishing industry even as it did little to actually regulate the trade, a fact that Herman Melville tried to represent in Pierre; or, The Ambiguities (1852) and “Bartleby, the Scrivener” (1853), both of which present authors debating the morality of a vocational sphere based on moral fraud.

Keywords:   Herman Melville, Harper and Brothers, publishing, authorship, Pierre; or, The Ambiguities, Bartleby, the Scrivener, ethics

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