the Tombs (New York City)

valerie

Senior Member
France, French & Spanish
I do not understand this phrase and would be grateful if you could provide me with a translation or an explanation. It comes from "Bartleby the Scrivener" (Herman Melville, 1853), describing a character named Nipper:

I was aware that not only was he, at times, considerable of a ward-politician, but he occasionally did a little business at the Justices' courts, and was not unknown on the steps of the Tombs.

Thank you
 
  • fetchezlavache

    Senior Member
    france
    quant aux tombs, ça je suis sûre, c'est le surnom d'une des plus grandes prisons de new york.

    je n'ai plus qu'à espérer que ton bouquin se passe à new york !!!!!!!!! ;)
     

    valerie

    Senior Member
    France, French & Spanish
    Thanks to you,

    Fetch,
    Yes this is New-York, end of 18st century. <clap, clap, clap>
    But then 'he was not unknown on the steps of the Tombs' would mean:
    - He had been in jail before? (this one does not really fit with the overall meaning) or rather
    - He may do business or give legal advice to the prisoners?
    - or something else?
     

    fetchezlavache

    Senior Member
    france
    non je pense qu'il était connu dans the tombs, mais c'est difficile de te donner la raison, elle doit figurer quelque part dans le livre. je ne pense pas que cela signifie qu'il ait été emprisonné.

    la description est celle d'un politicien qui a des connections un peu partout. dans les quartiers, au palais de justice, et à la prison.
     

    RobInAustin

    Senior Member
    US English, French
    Valerie,
    This describes someone who was politically active in local New York City politics and civic affairs. Deals would be made on the steps of the tombs, about civic matters, and between lawyers and officials.
     

    DelaChón

    Senior Member
    Aragonese Spanish
    J'arrive peut-être un peu tard, mais The Norton Anthology of American Literature adds this footnote: "I.e. Nippers is suspected of arranging bail for prisoners or other such activities which strike the narrator as unseemly if not nefarious."

    I hope this helps clarify the meaning of the passage.

    Au revoir !
     
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