Bertram Cope's Year

Bertram Cope's Year

by Henry Blake Fuller

In 1918, when Henry Blake Fuller was 62 years old, he completed Bertram Cope's Year.

Bertram Cope, a young college teaching assistant, is befriended by Medora Phillips, a rich society type who tries to match him with three eligible young women.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.69
  • Pages: 320
  • Publish Date: April 1st 2000 by Turtle Point Press
  • Isbn10: 1885983263
  • Isbn13: 9781885983268

What People Think about "Bertram Cope's Year"

"You shall tell me about yourself," she commands Bertram at her salon. Nearby, turning gray with paunch, aesthete Basil Randolph sighs hopefully, "If these lads only knew what a friendly hand might do for their future." Bertram soon tells his special pal, Arthur Lemoyne, "I must cultivate a few of the little arts myself...they seem necessary." To his befuddlement, Bertram finds himself engaged to a young woman who misreads his consideration. The wit is consistent as Medora and Basil ponder Bertram's future. Having met Bertram's parents, Medora says dismissively, "They add nothing to him." Basil reminds her, "Charm, like guilt, is personal." --- --- Lamenting "the many literary reputations buried in America," Carl Van Vechten once asked Fuller, who'd written several books, about further efforts.

Im ever-so-gently inching back from my string of 5 star reviews in a feeble attempt to attain some sort of legitimacy knowing, full well, thats its often your fault that Im reading as many good books as I am. Well, the novel doesnt ask, and it doesnt tell. Meet Bertam Cope, a handsome, (I was going to say comelybut I know how some of you arethis is not that kind of review or novel) 25-year-old, though boyish, instructor at Churchton whos been taken under the protective wing of Mrs. Medora Phillips, a widowed socialite who organizes parties, dinners, outings, etc. Through a series of mishaps, Cope somehow becomes engaged, somehow attracts the amorous attentions of both Medoras niece and her secretary, and gains the special privilege and favor of Randolph, before all wander off-stage to their respective fates/lives/loves/whatevers.

Copes plump friend Arthur says a dumpy forty-five. Wont you do something for me and my friend Arthur? I cant stomach dinner party right thing to say as a way of life and each step away from Medora was a relief. Medora says Cope is charming twenty-three times. I wish that at least one of Medoras menagerie of meek university girls didnt fancy climbing into the matrimonial noose with Cope. Like this is really what Randolph, Joe and the rest think all girls are. The girls art is only about watered down devotion to Medoras money and Copes profile. When I was Copes age of twenty-four I was friends with a much older woman and it annoyed the ever loving piss out of me when she made constant mentions of the age gap. It didnt occur to Cope that Medora and her brother Randolph wanted to bathe in his aura of youth at all. Arthur is young too and they don't like him.

It presents lighthearted social commentary along the lines of Jane Austens work, as young Copes continuous mishaps and social blunders only serve to make him more fascinating to everyone he encounters, including a wealthy widow, the three eligible young ladies renting rooms in her stately home and a middle-aged confirmed bachelor professor. While the homosexuality of Bertram, Arthur and Basil Randolph (the admiring professor) is never stated outright and is presented extremely coyly by modern standards, there is no doubt what these characters are all about. Theres something quite refreshing in reading a story about a gay man without tragedy or sermonizing.

His novel of Chicago, The Cliff Dwellers, is probably his best known, but late in his life in 1919 at the age of sixty-two he published Bertram Cope's Year about a young (twenty-seven year old) English instructor at a Middle Western university (admittedly modeled after Northwestern University). The natural way that Bertram and Arthur live a life that mimics a young married couple is just one of the surprising aspects of this stylish novel of manners. Cope himself, who is at the center of the novel's social wheel, is pleasant enough, but lacks a spine with which to stand up to those characters (too numerous to mention) who try to direct his life.

The subtlety with which the novel is written is what really makes the book so exceptional.

These include George Washington Cable, Zitkala-Sa, or, alas, the subject of this review, Henry Flake Fuller and his novel Bertram Copes Year. My Triangle Classics edition has a very generous introduction full of biographical and literary material written by Edmund Wilson and originally published in the New Yorker in 1970, which hails him as an important American writer of the early twentieth century. Eventually, Arthur discusses moving to live with Bertram in order to see if he can get a role in the local musical productions at the university. The novel ends with Bertram graduating with his degree and going back home without Arthur, who made an overt pass at one of the male members of the musical cast. The American Library Associations publication Booklist described it a story of superficial social university life in a suburb of Chicago, with live enough people and a sense of humor hovering near the surface." New Outlook said that the study of this weak but agreeable man is subtle but far from exciting." The cluelessness of these reactions and their lack of ability to interpret social situations is a credit to Flakes subtlety, even a century later when what we sometimes identify as gay fiction is anything but subtle or stylized.

This book is one of my favorites.