Life, in his pages, is never too hard, too ugly, passions and perversities never too sharp, not to allow, on the part of his people, of such an exercise of friendly wit about each other as may well, when one considers it, minimize shocks and strains. So it muffles and softens, all round, the edges of 'The Story of a Play.'
This was also somewhat of a criticism; James wondered if there was any tragedy in the comic world of theater which Howells presented. "You know," Howells wrote to James in response, "my experience of the theatre was comic, rather than tragical, and I treated of it lightly because it was light." With that said, however, he revealed a strange dramatic tragedy he had just experienced. An actor suggested that he turn his novel The Rise of Silas Lapham into a play, which he did. With the project finished, however, that actor changed his mind and told Howells he "does not want it. What a race!" Nevertheless, Howells told James: "My heart warmed itself over in the glow of your praise."