Friday, May 5, 2017

Fame is fleeting; obscurity is forever.

That statement is supposed to have been uttered by Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 - 1821).

The picture of Mrs. RWP and me that I posted the other day elicited seven comments on my blogpost from readers (we few, we happy few, we band of brothers and sisters). It also garnered 83 "Likes" on my Facebook page, a pleasant and unexpected surprise. Wait a minute, aren't all surprises by definition unexpected? I do not know and I guess I do not care, another sign that I am really slipping really am slipping (see what I did there to avoid a split infinitive). There was a time when the question whether "unexpected surprise" is redundant would have sent me scurrying to the bookshelves, if not the Internet, for the answer. Now it is not worth the effort to find out, but the pedant in me tells me that it is redundant, so forgive me if I have assaulted your sensibilities today.

Where was I?

Oh, yes -- basking in my newfound fame, local-social-media-wise. Not that it will last. Everyone's "fifteen minutes of fame" (a phrase made, er, famous by Andy Warhol) has shrunk in our day to fifteen seconds. Hardly does the spotlight fall on you/me/whomever before it moves on to something else. The public (British, obsolete: publick) are a fickle lot. I will take comfort in the fact that my fame, however fleeting, was only newfound and not ill-gotten.

Here are some thoughts on fame from days gone by:

Gaius Sallustius Crispus (c. 86–35/34 B.C.), Roman historian, said (only in Latin, of course), "The fame which is based on wealth or beauty is a frail and fleeting thing; but virtue shines for ages with undiminished lustre."

Lord Byron (1788 - 1824) said, "Fame is the thirst of youth."

Horace Greeley (1811 - 1872), the man who famously said "Go west, young man!" said, "Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character."

Emily Dickinson (1830 - 1886) wrote two poems about it:

Fame is a bee
by Emily Dickinson

Fame is a bee.
It has a song --
It has a sting --
Ah, too, it has a wing.

Fame is a fickle food
by Emily Dickinson

Fame is a fickle food
Upon a shifting plate
Whose table once a
Guest but not
The second time is set.

Whose crumbs the crows inspect
And with ironic caw
Flap past it to the Farmer’s Corn --
Men eat of it and die.

Here, back in the present, I hope Caitlyn Jenner and the entire Kardashian family take note.


  1. An interesting, thought provoking post. I'm in no danger of becoming famous, but no doubt fame & pride are related, so we should all be aware.
    I had to google Udo Lindenberg (of course) but for the life of me, my brain cells could not connect him to this post. Enlighten me, please?

  2. Hi there, Mansion Over the Hilltop, thank you for commenting on this post. I was looking for some image to use with this post. I wanted to use the logo from the television series Fame but it was copyrighted. I saw a few stars on Walks of Fame and rejected them (Alfred Hitchcock, Bruce Lee) and then ran across Udo Lindenberg's star and said, "WHO?" (I had to google him also). I decided to put his star in my post for the very reason that I had never heard of him before and yet he was apparently famous enough to have received a star. Maybe it's a bit of a leap, but I thought if someone so obscure could be considered famous that neither word had much meaning. It was ironic. I also know full well that receiving a few "Likes" on a Facebook page doesn't make me a famous person!

  3. Obscurity is infinitely more comfortable. And probably safer. Or am I just saying this because I don't expect to become acquainted with fame any time soon.

  4. I think fame is for the young. As we get older we realize that fame is an illusion.

  5. As usual, another fascinating post created by a fabulous guy. In these days of reality TV and of people achieving fame with no apparent special qualities or talents, it is certainly worth reflecting on both the nature and the value of fame. I had been thinking about making a blogpost about fame myself but as usual you got there before me sir! Thank you for leading the way.