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THE SCARLET LETTER

moment in my regard. I cared not, at this period, for books;
they were apart from me. Nature,–except it were human
nature,–the nature that is developed in earth and sky, was,
in one sense, hidden from me; and all the imaginative delight,
wherewith it had been spiritualized, passed away out of my
mind. A gift, a faculty, if it had not departed, was suspended
and inanimate within me. There would have been something
sad, unutterably dreary, in all this, had I not been conscious
that it lay at my own option to recall whatever was valuable
in the past. It might be true, indeed, that this was a life which
could not, with impunity, be lived too long; else, it might
make me permanently other than I had been, without trans-
forming me into any shape which it would be worth my
while to take. But I never considered it as other than a tran-
sitory life. There was always a prophetic instinct, a low
whisper in my ear, that, within no long period, and whenever
a new change of custom should be essential to my good, a
change would come.

Meanwhile, there I was, a Surveyor of the Revenue, and,
so far as I have been able to understand, as good a Surveyor
as need be. A man of thought, fancy, and sensibility, (bad he
ten times the Surveyor's proportion of those qualities,) may, at
any time, be a man of affairs, if he will only choose to give
himself the trouble. My fellow-officers, and the merchants
and sea-captains with whom my official duties brought me
into any manner of connection, viewed me in no other light,
and probably knew me in no other character. None of them,
I presume, had ever read a page of my inditing, or would have
cared a fig the more for me, if they had read them all; nor
would it have mended the matter, in the least, had those
same unprofitable pages been written with a pen like that of
Burns or of Chaucer , each of whom was a Custom-House
officer in his day, as well as I. It is a good lesson–though it
may often be a hard one–for a man who has dreamed of
literary fame, and of making for himself a rank among the

The Scarlet Letter > Page
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