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The writer behind the book: Radclyffe Hall

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Radclyffe Hall

The writer behind the book: Radclyffe Hall

Any lesbian worth her salt would know that the writer Radclyffe Hall wrote the iconic novel, The Well of Loneliness.

Radclyffe Hall’s best known work

Published in 1928, the book was the first novel to deal with the subject of same-sex relationship among women head-on. It’s no surprise it received a lot of hate for its subject matter, and calls to ban the book were rife.

“In order to prevent contamination and corruption of the English fiction it is the duty of the critic to make it impossible for any novelist to repeat this outrage,” The Sunday Express cried. It was banned in Britain until 1948.

Written in a very traditional style, it was praised for its psychological and sociological impact.

“So far as I know, it is the first English novel which presents, in a completely faithful and uncompromising form, one particular aspect of sexual life as it exists among us today,” described writer Havelock Ellis.

But that was the book; who was the author?

Radclyffe Hall. the ignored child

Born Marguerite Antonia Radclyffe-Hall on August 12, 1880, Radclyffe Hall was only three when her parents divorced.

Barely seeing her father, she was unloved by her mother. It was said she was a victim of physical abuse by her mother and sexual advances by her stepfather.

Moreover, Hall believed herself to be a man trapped in a woman’s body.

“She liked to be called John, assumed a male pseudonym, and cultivated a strikingly masculine appearance, sporting cropped hair, monocles, bow ties, smoking jacket, and pipes,” according to one biography of her.

By the age of 21, she received a huge inheritance from her grandfather, Charles Radclyffe-Hall. She also became famous in Edwardian society as a poet and librettist.

Radclyffe Hall’s many loves

Hall lived with the singer Mabel Batten, who was 25 years older than her. Just before Batten died, she got together with Una Elena Troubridge, who was a sculptor and had translated for the French novelist Colette.

The latter, known as Lady Troubridge, gave these up to become a housewife for Hall for 28 years.

In 1934, Hall fell for a Russian nurse, Eugenie Souline, who lived with the couple against the will of Troubridge. All three fled to Italy when the Second World War broke out.

Hall died of bowel cancer on October 7, 1943. She left everything, including copyrights of her works, to Troubridge.

Sadly, though Radclyffe Hall’s novel is more well-regarded than Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt, it has yet to be made into faithful movie like the critically-acclaimed Carol.

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