Henry James

The abasement of the Northmores

(written 1899 or 1900, text of 1900)


by Adrian Dover

A short fable, one might almost call it, The abasement of the Northmores has in abundance that autumnal note which is often present in Henry James’s work after his fiftieth birthday (1893). It also demonstrates the beginnings of the obsession with ‘literary remains’ and what might become of them, which was to lead him to destroy much of his hoard of personal papers during severe illnesses in 1909 and 1915.

The narrative moves quietly, but swiftly, for James, to an almost inevitable conclusion – although one which is not completely prefigured in the notebook entry made shortly before the actual writing of the tale (see my note on the text for fuller details of the composition). ‘Revenge is a dish best tasted cold’ according to the proverb, but perhaps not as cold as chosen by Warren and Mrs Hope in this tale!

You may like to know about the exact source of the text presented here, and any errors I encountered while making the edition: these can be found in the note on the text. If you need full details of publications of this tale in James’s lifetime or of a selection of recent critical discussion about it see the bibliography, otherwise I’ll invite you just to start reading.

this menu and introduction © 2003–2009
part of an edition of The abasement of the Northmores
on the Ladder : a Henry James website