In Dreams Begin Responsibilities and Other Stories


"In Dreams Begin Responsibilities" is a short story by Delmore Schwartz. Schwartz's biographer, James Atlas, wrote a thorough account of the story's genesis:

Schwartz wrote "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities" over a July weekend in 1935, when he was only twenty-one. A day later, his friend William Barrett appeared at the boarding house off Washington Square where Schwartz was living that summer and found the author ecstatic; he knew he had written a masterpiece, a verdict later confirmed by Vladimir Nabokov, who singled [the story] out as one of his "half a dozen favorites" in contemporary American literature.[1]

The story was first published in 1937 in the first issue of Partisan Review.[1] A year later it was published in Schwartz's first book of poems and stories which was also entitled In Dreams Begin Responsibilities. The title came from the Irish poet W. B. Yeats' 1914 volume of poems Responsibilities, which has an epigraph "In dreams begins responsibility," attributed to an "Old play."

"In Dreams Begin Responsibilities" is widely regarded as one of Schwartz's finest stories and is frequently anthologized. Of all of Schwartz's stories, it is probably his most well-known and influential.

The story is currently available in print in two posthumously published collections of Schwartz's work, In Dreams Begin Responsibilities and Other Stories (1978) and Screeno: Stories and Poems (2004). In a 2003 review of In Dreams Begin Responsibilities and Other Stories that appeared in The Observer, Jason Cowley wrote, "[Schwartz] never wrote a finer story than 'Dreams'." [2]

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