First and Second Best Things

“The difference between the first- and second-best things in art absolutely seem to escape verbal definition—it is a matter of a hair, a shade, an inward quiver of some kind—yet what miles away in point of preciousness! Absolutely the same verbal formula applies to the supreme success and to the thing that just misses it, and yet verbal formulas are all that your aesthetics will give.” William James, Letter to Henry Rutgers Marshall, Feb. 7, 1899. 

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