A pair of short stories about Fame from Lord Dunsany.

THE ASSIGNATION

Fame singing in the highways, and trifling as she sang, with sordid adventurers, passed the poet by.

And still the poet made for her little chaplets of song, to deck her forehead in the courts of Time: and still she wore instead the worthless garlands, that boisterous citizens flung to her in the ways, made out of perishable things.

And after a while whenever these garlands died the poet came to her with his chaplets of song; and still she laughed at him and wore the worthless wreaths, though they always died at evening.

And one day in his bitterness the poet rebuked her, and said to her: “Lovely Fame, even in the highways and the byways you have not foreborne to laugh and shout and jest with worthless men, and I have toiled for you and dreamed of you and you mock me and pass me by.”

And Fame turned her back on him and walked away, but in departing she looked over her shoulder and smiled at him as she had not smiled before, and, almost speaking in a whisper, said:

“I will meet you in the graveyard at the back of the Workhouse in a hundred years.”

Fame, in this story, seems like a most patient vampire. She marks people, and eventually feeds on their story, but only after they have passed away. The thing I find interesting is that her victims seem to volunteer. Initially I thought she was an embodiment of what we now call the James Dean Effect. This is the psychological bias that a life which ends abruptly at or just after the peak of self-defined success is preferable to a life which dwindles away in age. The thing is, though, her victim’s fame comes after death, so I can’t design Fame, here, as a vampire that eats young artists, a sort of living embodiment of the thing that ate Keats and Shelley and so on.

A MISTAKEN IDENTITY

Fame as she walked at evening in a city saw the painted face of Notoriety flaunting beneath a gas-lamp, and many kneeled unto her in the dirt of the road.

“Who are you?” Fame said to her.

“I am Fame,” said Notoriety.

Then Fame stole softly away so that no one knew she had gone.

And Notoriety presently went forth and all her worshippers rose and followed after, and she led them, as was most meet, to her native Pit.

I love this: this is a Demon of Pride stealing a faerie’s role. Since there’s no vitality left, the faerie herself vanishes, or changes to a different role.

Photo credit: Foter.com
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