texts

The soft side / by Henry James. – London : Methuen, 1900. – 391 p. ; 20 cm.pages 179–205

The soft side / by Henry James. – New York : Macmillan, 1900. – v, 326 p. ; 20 cm.pages 150–171

contents: The great good place; ‘Europe’; Paste; The real right thing; The great condition; The tree of knowledge; The abasement of the Northmores; The given case; John Delavoy; The third person; Maud-Evelyn; Miss Gunton of Poughkeepsie

containing the first publication of the tale, which did not appear in a magazine, this volume was published in Britain on 1900-08-30 (3000 copies, retailing at 6/‒), and in America towards the end of September (2800 copies at $1·50)


The author of Beltraffio ; The middle years ; Greville Fane ; and other tales / by Henry James. – New York : Scribner ; London : Macmillan, 1908. – xi, 425 p. ; 22 cm. (The novels and tales of Henry James : New York edition ; v. 16) — pages 193–222

contents: The author of Beltraffio; The middle years; Greville Fane; Broken wings; The tree of knowledge; The abasement of the Northmores; The great good place; Four meetings; Paste; ‘Europe’; Miss Gunton of Poughkeepsie; Fordham Castle

James made some revisions for his definitive collected edition, which was sold on subscription only: in America an initial 1000 copies of each volume were available at $2, $4 or $8 per volume (depending on the binding chosen); one hundred sets of the same sheets were bound in Britain for Macmillan’s first, 8/6 per volume issue; this volume appeared early in 1909 and an unknown quantity of additional copies, in both territories, were produced later


for subsequent reprints of this tale see the relevant page
of my index to Henry James’s tales in collections.


commentaries and discussions

in addition to the criticism listed below, this tale is discussed (in greater or lesser detail) in the general works on James’s tales and fiction, which I have listed on a separate page; those works are annotated here only when I’ve tracked them down and they offer significant insights


‘Preface’ by Henry James
in: The author of Beltraffio ; The middle years ; Greville Fane and other tales (New York edition), — see above;
reprinted in : The art of the novel : critical prefaces / by Henry James, with an introduction by Richard P. Blackmur. – New York ; London : Scribner, 1934. – xli, 348 p. ; 22 cm.pages 234–235

relevant text available on this website


‘The abasement of Mrs Warren Hope’ by Robert L. Gale
in: PMLA : publications of the Modern Language Association of America, vol. 78 (1963), pages 98–102

Gale finds the central consciousness of the tale, Mrs Hope, to be one of James’s unreliable narrators (even though this is not a first person narrative) and decides that Lord Northmore really was a great man and that Warren Hope was the ‘unexceptional, long-suffering’ (= hope-less!?) husband of a ‘demented wife’ (p. 102, col. ‘b’)


A reader’s guide to Henry James / by S. Gorley Putt. – London : Thames & Hudson, 1966. – 432 p. ; 22 cm.pages 234–235

(yes, those page numbers are correct, it’s merely coincidence that they are the same as the preface’s pages in Blackmur’s edition!) now I revisit it, I find that my comments on this tale parallel those of Putt, who also describes it as a ‘fable’ and raises the question of whether James started to consider destruction of his papers before his death at about the time of writing it


Henry James’s portrait of the writer as hero / Sara S. Chapman. – London : Macmillan, 1990. – vii, 151 p. ; 23 cm. ISBN 0-333-51549-8pages 97–104

in a section which also discusses the contemporary Broken wings and The tree of knowledge, Chapman finds that ‘[e]ach is about individuals who experience a broadening consciousness of suffering in the lives of people around them. In each, the principal characters exercise compassionate but necessarily discriminating judgement in a context of powerful emotion.’ (p. 98); she relates The abasement of the Northmores to James’s review of Life and letters of Frederick Waller (1897), and contrasts the restricted point of view here with the other two tales


‘A tribute to James’s The abasement of the Northmores and Sir Dominick Ferrand : Thomas Hardy’s The unconquerable
subsection of chapter 5 ‘James and his contemporaries’ in :
Henry James’s legacy : the afterlife of his figure and fiction / Adeline R. Tintner. – Baton Rouge, LA : Louisiana State University Press, 1998. – xxxii, 468 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. – ISBN 0-8071-2157-6pages 154–158

reviews Hardy’s response to James and in particular a short story written with Florence Dugdale around 1912 that reworks themes of two James tales, themes which Tintner analyses


well, that’s it… I can’t find any other indexed work