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The Scarlet Letter PDF
The Scarlet Letter PDF
No. Of Pages: 287
PDF Size: 1.32 MB
Language: English
Category: Ebooks and Novels
Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne

It seems a bit odd that, despite my disinclination to speak too much about myself and my troubles around the fireside and to my intimate acquaintances, an autobiographical urge should have taken hold of me twice in my life while addressing the public. The first occasion was three or four years ago, when I pleased the reader—inexcusably, and for no reason that either the indulgent reader or the intrusive author could imagine—with a description of my manner of life in the profound quietude of an old manse. And so, since, beyond my deserts, I was pleased to find a listener or two on the last time, I grasped the audience by the button once again, and told them of my three years’ experience at a custom-house. The renowned “P. P., Clerk of this Parish” precedent was never more rigorously followed. The fact seems to be that, when he tosses his leaves into the wind, the author addresses not the many who will toss his book away or never pick it up, but the few who will understand him better than most of his schoolmates or lifemates. Some authors, in fact, go far beyond this, and indulge in such private depths of revelation that could only and exclusively be addressed to the one heart and mind of perfect sympathy; as if the printed book, thrown out into the wide world, were certain to discover the divided segment of the writer’s own nature, and complete his circle of existence by bringing him into communion with it. It is, nonetheless, impolite to say everything, even if we do it impersonally. However, because thoughts are frozen and utterance is benumbed, unless the speaker stands in some true relation with his audience, it may be pardonable to imagine that a friend, a kind and apprehensive friend, is listening to our talk; and then, a native reserve being thawed by this genial consciousness, we may speak of the circumstances that lie around us, and even of ourselves, while keeping the inmost me behind its veil. To this degree and within these bounds, I believe an author may be autobiographical without infringing on either the reader’s or his own rights.

It will also be observed that this custom-house drawing has a certain appropriateness, of the kind constantly recognised in literature, as explaining how a substantial chunk of the following pages got into my hands, and as providing evidence of the validity of a tale included within. This, in reality, is my genuine motivation for adopting a personal relationship with the public: a wish to place myself in my true position as editor, or little more, of the [3] most prolix of the stories that comprise my book. In completing the primary objective, it seemed permissible, with a few additional touches, to offer a faint portrayal of a never-before-described manner of existence, together with some of the people who move in it, among whom the author happened to create one.

In my hometown of Salem, at the head of what, half a century ago, in the days of old King Derby, was a bustling wharf, now burdened with decayed wooden warehouses, and exhibits few or no symptoms of commercial life; except, perhaps, a bark or brig, half-way down its melancholy length, discharging hides; or, closer at hand, a Nova Scotia schooner, pitching out her cargo The banner of the republic floats or droops from the highest point of its roof, in breeze or calm, during precisely three and a half hours of each forenoon, but with the thirteen stripes turned vertically, rather than horizontally, indicating that a civil, rather than a military, post of Uncle Sam’s government is established here. Its front is adorned with a portico of six wooden pillars supporting a balcony under which a flight of large granite steps descends to the street. A massive American eagle flies over the entrance, her wings spread, a shield [4] before her breast, and, if I recall correctly, a swarm of intertwined thunderbolts and barbed arrows in each claw.She appears to threaten mischief to the inoffensive community by the fierceness of her beak and eye, and the general truculence of her attitude; and especially to warn all citizens, wary of their safety, against intruding on the premises which she overshadows with her wings and the customary infirmity of temper that characterises this unhappy fowl.Nonetheless, as vixenly as she seems, many individuals are now taking refuge beneath the wing of the federal eagle, assuming, I imagine, that her breast has all the softness and snugness of an eider-down pillow. But, even in her finest moods, she has no great tenderness and, sooner or later—often sooner than later—is liable to toss off her nestlings with a scratch of her claw, a dab of her beak, or a rankling wound from her barbed arrows.

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