What is a man's best age? Peter Ibbetson, entering dreamland with complete freedom to choose, chose twenty-eight, and kept there. But twenty-eight, for our present purpose, has a drawback: a man of that age, if endowed with ordinary gifts and responsive to ordinary opportunities, is undeniably – a man; whereas what we require here is something just a little short of that. Wanted, in fact, a young male who shall seem fully adult to those who are younger still, and who may even appear the accomplished flower of virility to an idealizing maid or so, yet who shall elicit from the middle-aged the kindly indulgence due a boy. Perhaps you will say that even a man of twenty-eight may seem only a boy to a man of seventy. However, no septuagenarian is to figure in these pages. Our elders will be but in the middle forties and the earlier fifties; and we must find for them an age which may evoke their friendly interest, and yet be likely to call forth, besides that, their sympathy and their longing admiration, and later their tolerance, their patience, and even their forgiveness
After New York publishing houses rejected the manuscript, probably on the grounds of its homosexual subtext, Fuller self-published this novel in 1919 to a devastating silence broken mainly by negative reviews. Although Edmund Wilson would later call it one of the best novels of its time, it has not been republished until now. The bittersweet core of the narrative, discreetly implied, is the homosexuality of its hero, Edmund Cope, a young professor who arrives at the Evanston, Ill.-based town of Churchton and is taken in by a society of genteel Midwestern eccentrics, including a widowed socialite, an aging bachelor who dreams of surrounding himself with entertaining young men and three young women who scheme for Cope's attention. Meanwhile, the self-centered, oblivious Cope writes letters to his absent friend, Arthur Lemoyne, and finally encourages Lemoyne to join him in Churchton. With a prose style as correct and detached as his protagonist, Fuller describes a series of seriocomic misunderstandings, including Cope's accidental marriage engagement, and flamboyant Lemoyne's banishment from the university after making a public romantic gesture toward a male cast member in a college drama. An amusing entertainment in its own right, this novel is also an important discovery for the gay literary canon, particularly (as essayist Andrew Solomon points out in his afterword) for its rare portrayal of day-to-day gay domestic life.