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Written in 1918, this is the story of Bertram Cope, a young college student, who is befriended by Medora Philips, a wealthy older woman who tries to match him with several eligible young women. However, Bertram is emotionally attached only to his friend, Arthur Lemoyne. The novel's portrayal of their friendship is subtle but has clear overtones of sexual attraction. Largely dismissed by contemporary critics, the novel is now considered a pioneering work of both American realism and gay literature.
When old Mr. Marshall finally took to his bed, the household viewed this action with more surprise than sympathy, and with more impatience than surprise. It seemed like the breaking down of a machine whose trustworthiness had been hitherto infallible; his family were almost forced to the acknowledgement that he was but a mere human being after all. They had enjoyed a certain intimacy with him, in lengths varying with their respective ages, but they had never made a full avowal that his being rested on any tangible physical basis. Rather had they fallen into the way of considering him as a disembodied intelligence, whose sole function was to direct the transmutation of values and credits and resources and opportunities into the creature comforts demanded by the state of life unto which it had please Providence to call them; and their dismay was now such as might occur at the Mint if the great stamp were suddenly and of its own accord to cease its coinage of double-eagles and to sink into a silence of supine idleness
With the publication of his first book, This Weary World, Abner Joyce immediately took a place in literature. Or rather, he made it; the book was not like other books, and readers felt the field of fiction to be the richer by one very vital and authentic personality. This Weary World was grim and it was rugged, but it was sincere and it was significant. Abner's intense earnestness had left but little room for the graces; - while he was bent upon being recognised as a writer, yet to be a mere writer and nothing more would not have satisfied him at all. Here was the world with its many wrongs, with its numberless crying needs; and the thing for the strong young man to do was to help set matters right. This was a simple enough task, were it but approached with courage, zeal, determination. A few brief years, if lived strenuously and intensely, would suffice. Man individually is all right enough, said Abner; it is only collectively that he is wrong. What was at fault was the social scheme, - the general understanding, or lack of understanding
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