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THE CUSTOM-HOUSE

INTRODUCTORY TO "THE SCARLET LETTER"

IT IS a little remarkable, that–though disinclined to talk
overmuch of myself and my affairs at the fireside, and to
my personal friends–an autobiographical impulse should
twice in my life have taken possession of me, in addressing the
public. The first time was three or four years since, when I
favored the reader–inexcusably, and for no earthly reason,
that either the indulgent reader or the intrusive author could
imagine–with a description of my way of life in the deep qui-
etude of an Old Manse. And now–because, beyond my de-
serts, I was happy enough to find a listener or two on the
former occasion–I again seize the public by the button, and
talk of my three years' experience in a Custom-House. The
example of the famous "P. P., Clerk of this Parish," was never
more faithfully followed. The truth seems to be, however,
that, when he casts his leaves forth upon the wind, the author
addresses, not the many who will fling aside his volume, or
never take it up, but the few who will understand him, better
than most of his schoolmates and lifemates. Some authors, in-
deed, do far more than this, and indulge themselves in such
confidential depths of revelation as could fittingly be ad-
dressed, only and exclusively, to the one heart and mind of
perfect sympathy; as if the printed book, thrown at large on
the wide world, were certain to find out the divided segment

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