The pairing of Mark Twain and Nathaniel Hawthorne may seem unlikely: the former, a Western humorist, onetime bohemian and perennial extrovert with a taste for cigars and a “call to literature of a low order”; the latter, a Romantic by disposition and by choice, who preferred the shadows to the spotlight. Yet in many respects, these oppositions point toward a deeper connection between the two. Both Hawthorne and Twain are inextricably linked to their childhood homes, Salem and Hannibal, places that formed their imaginative lives, while also inspiring their occasional contempt. This ambivalent response to the myth of American origins is the theme of “The Custom House.” As the redheaded stepchild of Hawthorne's imagination, Mark Twain takes up the satire of “The Custom House.” Like a post-Romantic Surveyor Pue, Twain inherits Hawthorne's memoir and in The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson adapts its critique to the failures of Reconstruction.

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