“We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” Henry James quote

“The Middle Years” is a short story by Henry James, first published in Scribner’s Magazine in 1893. It may be the most affecting and profound of James’s stories about writers. The novelist in the tale speculates that he has spent his whole life learning how to write, so a second life would make sense, “to apply the lesson.” Second lives aren’t usually available, so the novelist says of himself and his fellow artists: “We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”

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