The Scarlet Letter (Introductory: The Custom House, page 1 of 33)

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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 favoured 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 quietude of an Old

And now--because, beyond my deserts, 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 or lifemates.
Some authors, indeed, do far more than this, and indulge
themselves in such confidential depths of revelation as could
fittingly be addressed 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 of the writer's own nature, and complete his circle of
existence by bringing him into communion with it.

It is scarcely decorous, however, to speak all, even where we speak
impersonally. But, as thoughts are frozen and utterance
benumbed, unless the speaker stand in some true relation with
his audience, it may be pardonable to imagine that a friend, a
kind and apprehensive, though not the closest friend, is
listening to our talk; and then, a native reserve being thawed
by this genial consciousness, we may prate of the circumstances
that lie around us, and even of ourself, but still keep the
inmost Me behind its veil. To this extent, and within these
limits, an author, methinks, may be autobiographical, without
violating either the reader's rights or his own.

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