Henry James

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Minimal Difference

In Henry James's "The Real Thing," the painter-narrator agrees to hire the impoverished "true" aristocrats Major and Mrs. Monarch as models for his illustrations of a de luxe book. However, although they are the "real thing," their drawings appear a fake, so the painter has to rely more and more on a vulgar couple of the cheap Cockney model Miss Churm and the lithe Italian Oronte, whose imitation of the high-class poses works much better... is this not the unfathomable "minimal difference" at its purest?[1]