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Henry Blake Fuller

January 9, 1857 – July 28, 1929

Inducted in 2017

The Chevalier of Pensieri–Vani (1890: pseudonym Stanton Page)

The Châtelaine of La Trinité (1892)

The Cliff-Dwellers (1893)

With the Procession (1895)

The Puppet-Booth: Twelve Plays (1896)

From the Other Side (1898)

The Last Refuge (1900)

Under the Skylights (1901)

Waldo Trench and Others: Stories of Americans in Italy (1908)

Lines Long and Short: Biographical Sketches in Various Rhythms (1917)

On the Stairs (1918)

Bertram Cope's Year (1919)

Gardens of this World (1929)

With the Procession (1965)

There are a good many ways to skin a cat, and the realistic way, I dare say, is as good a way as any.

Henry Blake Fuller was a third generation Chicagoan born in a house that sat on the lot that is now LaSalle Street Station. He wrote a score of novels and stories set in the city, The Cliff-Dwellers (1893), With the Procession (1895), Under the Skylights (1901), and On the Stairs (1918). His play At St. Judas’s (1896) is considered the first published literary work exploring homosexual themes, and his novel Bertram Cope’s Year (1919), set at a fictionalized Northwestern University, was the first mainstream novel depicting a homosexual relationship. Fuller had failed to find a commercial publisher and eventually a friend published the novel at his tiny Chicago-based Alderbrink Press.

Fuller was one of the earliest and best Chicago writers; in fact, upon the publication of his first book, East Coast reviewers, enamored with the story, expressed surprise that something so good had come out of Chicago. Fuller’s first Chicago novel, coming after two successful novels based on his European travels, came out the year of the Columbian Exposition, 1893, and was critical of the city’s crass commercialism. The Cliff-Dwellers is probably the first realistic Chicago novel, in that it explored the social and economic trends changing the face of Chicago; in it, Fuller applied the term “cliff-dwellers” to the people occupying the fictitious Clifton Building, modeled after the Monadnock Building. H.L. Mencken, in reference to the work, claimed that Fuller had “launched realism in America.”

Adam Morgan, editor of the Chicago Review of Books, quotes Dr. Joseph Dimuro of UCLA as calling The Cliff-Dwellers “arguably the first important novel of the American city.”

In fact, during and just after his life, Fuller was widely praised by critics and peers, including Theodore Dreiser, Thornton Wilder, Booth Tarkington, and Carl Van Vechten. William Dean Howells called The Cliff-Dwellers “a work of very great power.”

Fuller was one of the founding members of the Eagle’s Nest Art Colony (Oregon, Illinois), sat on an advisory board for Harriet Monroe’s upstart Poetry magazine, and was a preeminent member of the literary club called The Little Room. Hamlin Garland took from his friend Fuller’s novel the name for the new club, The Cliff Dwellers, he helped form.

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