On Fame and the Writer

Robert Craft once observed: “Next to Auden, the most abiding concern in the Journals is with what Spender sees as a lack of recognition.”* This remark surprised me a bit and if true, must show how demanding I am or how ungrateful, or both. But on reflection, Robert Craft’s remark seemed to provide me with a theme, which is that today—perhaps more than ever before in history—writers and artists may have two kinds of fame, one of which is as public figures whose names frequently appear in the press and on television, the other as the authors of works which are famous for their virtue as art.

It may happen that the first kind of fame—that of the man—may almost eclipse that of the work. And there are conditions in the present time—greater than previously—that tend to make this happen. Thus the writer or poet may feel recognized and unrecognized at the same time. Hence the sense of lack of recognition which Craft attributes to me, though I am not sure whether I myself recognize it.

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