texts

The better sort / by Henry James. – London : Methuen, 1903. – 312 p. ; 20 cm.pages 228–312

The better sort / by Henry James. – New York : Scribner, 1903. – viii, 432 p. ; 20 cm.pages 312–429

contents: Broken wings; The Beldonald Holbein; The two faces; The tone of time; The special type; Mrs Medwin; Flickerbridge; The story in it; The beast in the jungle; The birthplace; The papers

containing the only publication of this tale in James’s lifetime; issued simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic on 1903-02-26 – 3500 copies for UK and colonies (priced at 6/‒) and, probably, a similar number in America (at $1·50)


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 selected 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


‘Foreword’ by Eleanor M. Tilton
in : The marriages ; and other stories / Henry James. – New York : New American Library, 1961. – 364 p. ; 18 cm. (Signet classics ; CD87)

[see my tales in collections index for details of contents]

discusses Maud Blandy as James’s portrait of the new woman in this ‘somewhat bulky tour de force of raillery and ridicule’; doesn’t however mention the Saturday/Sunday problem in the text, which Tilton has presumably been responsible for resolving


The papers : James’ satire on the modern publicity system’ by Adela Styczyńska
in : Kwartalnik neofilologiczny, vol. 22 (1975), pages 419–436 [in English]

examines the contrasts and parallels in the tale and notes Beadel-Muffet as the missing centre (which we now recognize as characteristically Jamesian); the second half of the article draws comparisons with two later satires on journalism: the Montagu Parkinson episodes in Graham Greene’s A burnt-out case (1961) and a one-act play by Eugène Ionesco, Le maître (first performed 1953)


‘Introduction’ by S. Gorley Putt
in : The Aspern papers ; and other stories / Henry James, introduced and selected by S. Gorley Putt. – Harmondsworth : Penguin, 1976. – 231 p. ; 19 cm. (Penguin modern classics). – ISBN 0-14-004101-X

[see my tales in collections index for details of the contents]

includes a paragraph highlighting James’s attack on newspapers and publicity and his close social observation


The papers : Henry James rewrites As you like itby Adeline R. Tintner
in : Studies in short fiction, vol. 17 (1980), pages 165–170

an illuminating discussion of the links between the tale and As you like it, seeing The papers as a reworking of Shakespeare which has Jaques ‘saved’ by a love for Rosalind, leading them to retreat from the world to their Forest of Arden; a revised version appears in Tintner’s The book world of Henry James


‘“The last cab” in James’s The papers and in The secret agent : Conrad’s cues from the master’ by Daniel Mark Fogel
in : Modern fiction studies, vol. 29 no. 2 (1983), pages 227–233

concentrating rather more on Joseph Conrad’s work, this extended note does make interesting points about the social reality of the tale, relating it to The Princess Casamassima and to Conrad’s earlier work, which James certainly knew; about James’s ironic tone and about the presentation of Maud and Howard’s love compared with Kate and Merton’s in The wings of the dove


‘Henry James and The papersby David Howard
in : Henry James : fiction as history / edited by Ian F. A. Bell. – London : Vision, 1984. – 188 p. ; 23 cm. ISBN 0-85478-016-5pages 49–64
and in : Henry James : fiction as history / edited by Ian F. A. Bell. – Totowa, NJ : Barnes & Noble, 1985. – ISBN 0-389-20515-Xpages 49–64?

seeks to rescue the tale from obscurity, making out a case for it as a fine example of the late James long tale. Howard [appropriate name!] touches on the sexual and literary exuberance of the writing, on points of reference to other tales published in The better sort, on the religious overtones of death and resurrection and on the careful balancing of satiric and pathetic elements


The papers : James rewrites As you like it
in : The book world of Henry James : appropriating the classics / by Adeline R. Tintner. – Ann Arbor, MI ; London : U.M.I. Research Press, 1987. – xxiv, 412 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. (Studies in modern literature ; no. 82). – ISBN 0-8357-1829-8pages 28–34

a reworking of her article discussing many links between the tale and Shakespeare’s As you like it


Henry James and the culture of publicity / Richard Salmon. – Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1997. – viii, 233 p. ; 24 cm.. – ISBN 0-521-56249-X

this book traces James’s engagement with ‘publicity’, in its various forms, from his early book reviews onwards, exploring both the nature of James’s contribution to the critique of mass culture and the extent of his immersion within it.

The main discussion of The papers (pages 139–148) focusses on the parallel which James makes between publicity and existence (what one might call the ‘ontological’ reading); the presentation of both journalists as slaves of the impersonal publicity machine; and the paradoxical situation of the tale itself as ‘public’. In a separate comment (page 191) Salmon also highlights an interesting reference to the tale in a contemporary interview with James conducted by Florence Brooks on the occasion of James’s visit to the United States and published in the magazine supplement to the New York Herald on 1904-10-02


Henry James and sexuality / Hugh Stevens. – Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1998. – xiii, 217 p. ; 24 cm. ISBN 0-521-62259-Xpages 148–151

in his chapter ‘Suicide and blackmail : James’s “poor sensitive gentlemen” ’ Stevens reads the tale in the wake of the Oscar Wilde scandal of eight years earlier, finding interesting parallels with those events and with Wilde’s works – for example, Beadel-Muffet flees to the continent as does Sir Henry Ashton in The portrait of Dorian Gray; as Rawlings points out, Stevens misreads the journalists as seeking publicity for themselves rather than for the jobs it provides them


‘Gender and publicity in Henry James’s The papersby Peter Rawlings
in : Gengo Bunka Ronkyu : Kyushu Daigaku Gengo Bunkabu = Studies in languages and cultures, Kyushu University   vol. 11 (2000), pages 97–108

[not available to me, but probably forming the substance of the next entry]


Death in Henry James / Andrew Cutting. – Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. – ix, 198 p. ; 23 cm. ISBN-13 978-1-4039-9336-6. – ISBN 1-4039-9336-Xpages 134–137

deals with the ‘ideas of death and afterlife defined in relation to the publicity culture’ (page 134), seeing the tale as ‘rewrit[ing] concerns central to The wings of the dove’ (page 134)


 “Unabashed duplicity” : The papers and The private life
in : Henry James and the abuse of the past / Peter Rawlings. – Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. – xviii, 226 p. ; 23 cm. ISBN 1-4039-4652-3pages 98–116

the majority of this third section of Rawlings’s chapter on Shakespeare is about The papers; it analyses the evidence for Beadel-Muffet’s scandal being a homosexual one, perhaps involving Bight himself, and meditates on the negative aspects of a cult of publicity, leading to the concluding discussion of the earlier tale


‘Unspoken intimacy in Henry James’s The papersby Matthew Rubery
in : Nineteenth-century literature, vol. 61 no. 3 (December 2006), pages 343–367

analysing the interview society, ‘[t]his essay begins by considering James’s The papers within the print culture at the turn of the century, and then it examines how the conversational format of the interview became the focal point for James’s critique of newspaper publicity’ (page 347); it also shows how the newspaper interview acts as a model for the supposedly intimate conversation of the two journalists