erable sinners like the rest of humanity, then it is a neeessaryrnstep to take and a small price to pay. Such admission andrndemonstration may result in public benefit.rnAfter all, many of the virtues that sustain a writer’s work arernpublic virtues as well as private ones. I speak of honesty, steadfastness,rnperseverance, thoughtfulness, charity, understanding,rnlove of justice and of beauty, patience, intelligence, forgiveness,rnand good cheer. Any literary work will more clearlyrnapproach excellence the more it can encompass these qualities.rnIf the writer expects that these qualities will substantiate andrnadorn his phrases, why should they not substantiate and adornrnhis or her life? If the writer knows that criticism will scrutinizernthe literary work for these qualities and judge it by their presencernor absence, why shouldn’t he expect that his life shall bernexamined and judged in the same way?rnProbably it is because the writer also knows that the methodsrnand instruments that are brought to bear upon a literaryrntext or a work of art are inadequate when it comes to judgingrnhuman lives and personalities. These are unstable, alwaysrnchanging, always influenced by circumstance. The third baseman’srnerror in the second inning makes him a goat, his homernrun in the ninth makes him a hero; a besotted melancholic mayrnbecome a great military leader and then a less-than-great Presidentrnof the United States.rnThe work of art, however, is a finished product; it does notrnchange. True, critical judgments of it shall change, and oftenrnquite radically, over a period of time, but the work itself in itsrnessential nature shall not change. It is what it is, now and forever,rnand its critics necessarily stand apart from it. But thosernwho know you and me well enough to judge our lives are sornclosely involved with us, so directly affected by us, that no objectivity-rncan be gained; they arc biased for us or against us; theyrncontribute to community consensus about us.rnWhat might we gain by putting a writer’s life on trial alongrnwith his or her work? “Use each of us as he deserves,” inquiresrnShakespeare, “and who shall ‘scape whipping?” Well, wc knowrnthe answer to that question. The writer in particular comesrnaway with deep purple welts. But that is the point, after all. Ifrnwe can place, for example, the uncanny prescience of Edgar AllanrnPoe’s fiction alongside his broken and unhappy life, we shallrnthe more readily appreciate what he accomplished. The life wernmay fairly judge as a dark and melancholy ruin, but against itrnthe fitful lightning strokes of his genius only shine the morernelectrically. I know I need not rehearse for you the personalrnfailings of Thomas Wolfe or Ernest Hemingway or WilliamrnFaulkner—or of Tolstoy, lurgenev, Jonathan Swift, Shelley, Byron,rnDickens, Ben Jonson, and Samuel Johnson. And I don’trnneed to remark that their books escape or overcome these failingsrn—and shine the more brightly for doing so.rnLet us keep in mind, though, that their books are still part ofrntheir personal lives. Writers produce their paragraphs in thernprivacy of their studies and take from the more secret resourcesrnof their personalities the materials that go into the making ofrntheir books. And maybe it is there that a certain public balancernis struck. Perhaps the courage that his contemporaries sometimesrnfound lacking in Turgenev’s personal life went into therncomposition of his novel Fathers and Sons. Perhaps much ofrnthe bully-boy bluster that was part of Hemingway’s makeup isrnquietened by the laconic stoicism of his best pages.rnMaybe the writer sets down, knowingly or unknowingly, asrnpersonal goals what he or she envisions as honorable possibilitiesrnof action and thought in a world that generally seems designedrnpurposely to maim and sully honor, to delimit and defeatrnthe highest of human aspirations, and to darken to midnightrnour most luminous hopes. What can make the writerrnimportant in a wodd that looks like a channel wasteland is thernfact that he inhabits this hell along with the rest of us and yetrnmust still be capable of attaining to a vision of a better mannerrnof existence and of articulating this vision. The serious writerrnsoon discovers what his or her duties are in circumstancesrnwide or narrow: to produce the very best work that it is possiblernto produce and to lead the most upright life that can be led.rnBut then he soon discovers that both these duties are impossiblernof fulfillment, and that the second of them, the steadilyrnvirtuous private life, is the more impossible. That fact makesrnit all the more urgent, so he fancies, for him to bring the qualityrnof his work up to the highest standard. If in his or her privaternlife the writer is fated to suffer the ordinary failings of hisrnbrother and sister humans, perhaps the production of a morernperfect work of art—one with broader and more subtle implicationsrnthan its rivals promise, with more acute perceptions andrna glossier polish—will help to balance out the accounts.rnIt must be one of the silliest of notions, this idea that onernmight make up for personal moral deficiencies by means ofrnartistic performance. It is as if someone said, “Well, I can’trnseem to make myself stop embezzling money, but my rose gardenrnis the most colorful on the block.” Yet I believe thatrnmany artists indulge in this sort of account-juggling. In fact, Irnthink that many of us do, that we often say to ourselves, “I’mrnaware that I have not been the best mother to my children thatrnI might have been—or the best son to my parents—or the bestrnservitor of my religious principles, but I have alwa’s turned inrnan honest day’s work at the office; I am very good at my job.”rnThis is a common hypocrisy; W.B. Yeats remarked it deftly inrna dark little poem called “The Choice”:rnThe intellect of man is forced to choosernPerfection of the life or of the work,rnAnd if it choose the latter must refusernA heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.rnI don’t quite agree with the great poet’s statement; I think thatrnhe puts the case too dogmatically and that the alternatives arernnot quite so stark as he makes out. An artist who dedicatesrnhimself to his work at the expense of his moral life does notrnnecessarily lose his hope of heaven. But when he uses his art asrnan excuse for his shortcomings he plunges into the mire ofrnhypocrisy—just as the rest of us do when we blame our personalrnfailures on the pressures of our professions. On this point I canrnspeak—sorrowfully—from my own experience.rnBut the difficulties only begin there. Even if the artist is willingrnto take a dangerous chance, to throw his most strenuous effortsrninto art and not into his personal life, further impossibilitiesrnawait. When I spoke before of the artist’s ability, and duty,rnto attain to vision in the midst of debilitating daily circumstances,rnI simplified the case. An artist actually is required tornhold in mind two visions; they should be identical, but usuallyrnthey are only complementary. In practice they may even seemrnopposed at times.rnThe artist must possess first and last a vision of moral victory.rnIt need not be a completely detailed vision of a Utopian societyrnor a picture of a perfect individual life, but it must be a vision,rnexplicit or implicit, of how things would be, in the speciftern22/CHRONICLESrnrnrn