Some writers strive to separate personal life from private. When Poe or Dickinson are taught in English classes, details of their character and personal life creep into discussion of their work. Sam Schulman examines whether we can and should separate writers’ moral character from their work.

Still the question remains.  What does it matter that Larkin sneered in his letters and conversation (fearfully and fretfully, it seems to me) about foreigners and women, that Naipaul made selfish use of people from the beginning of his life, and no doubt continues to do so now?  What does it matter that Dickens knew what it was like to be dependent and abandoned as a boy, but made sure that his wife would suffer the same fate?  It is this.  The weakness of character of Dickens, Larkin and Naipaul comes from the same source that drives their art.