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Marguerite Radclyffe Hall
M. Radclyffe Hall
Marguerite Radclyffe Hall (1880–1943) was a British poet and author born in Hampshire, England. Hall was able to gain independence from her divorced mother and her flamboyant demands, when she inherited a large sum of money at the age of 21.
Hall was a lesbian and described herself as a 'congenital invert', a term taken from several turn-of-the-century sexologists. Sexual inversion was a term used by primarily in the late 19th and early 20th century, to refer to homosexuality. Sexual inversion was believed to be an inborn reversal of gender traits.
Having reached adulthood without a vocation, Hall spent much of her twenties pursuing women she would eventually lose to marriage. In 1907 she met Mabel Batten, a well-known amateur singer of lieder at the Homburg spa in Germany. Batten was 51 to Hall's 27, she was married and had an adult daughter and grandchildren. They fell in love nonetheless, and after Batten's husband died they set up residence together. Batten gave Hall the nickname John, which she would use for the rest of her life. In 1915 Hall fell in love with Mabel Batten's cousin Una Troubridge (1887–1963), a sculptor and the wife of Vice-Admiral Ernest Troubridge, and mother of a young daughter. Batten died the following year, and in 1917 Radclyffe Hall and Una Troubridge moved in together. The relationship would last until Hall's death. In 1934 Hall fell in love with Russian émigré Evguenia Souline and embarked upon a long-term affair with her. An affair Troubridge painfully tolerated. Hall became involved in affairs with other women throughout the years.
She wrote seven novels, five volumes of poetry and a collection of short stories, however Hall is still best known for her 1928 novel 'The Well of Loneliness', a lesbian classic which has never been out of print and has been translated into over a dozen languages. The novel was banned in England in 1928 after being declared obscene by a magistrate, Sir Chartres Biron, whose own name would have vanished into total obscurity if Virginia Woolf had not satirised him, as an eavesdropper hiding behind a curtain, in her feminist essay 'A Room of One's Own', published the following year. The editor of the 'Sunday Express' wrote that he would 'rather give a healthy girl or boy a phial of Prussic acid than Hall's novel’.
Many English writers and critics, including E.M. Forster, Desmond MacCarthy, Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf - though not specially impressed with 'The Well of Loneliness's' artistic merits - were prepared to defend it against the charge of obscenity for its depiction of same-sex love; but no witnesses were permitted to testify at the trail.
'The Well of Loneliness' tells the story of Stephen Gordon, an upper-class English woman draw to other women and 'masculine' pursuits and dress. Stephen enlists in the woman's ambulance unit when World War I erupts. She meets a woman named Mary Llewelyn, falls in love with her, and the two return to the Gordon family estate and become lovers; but, fearing that Mary will come to resent her 'social isolation', Stephen eventually gives up Mary to her childhood friend Martin, who can provide her lover with the social acceptance Stephen cannot.
Hall published her early poetry collections under her full name, and shortened it to M. Radclyffe Hall for her second novel 'The Forge'. The next novel to follow it in print, 'The Unlit Lamp', was the first of her books to state the author's name simply as Radclyffe Hall.
See also Romaine Brooks.
‘Radclyffe Hall’, Wikipedia, retrieved 6 October 2014
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