RADCLYFFE HALL, British author born (d. 1943) British poet and author of eight novels, including the seminal Lesbian novel, The Well of Loneliness. Published in 1928, The Well of Loneliness deals with the life of Stephen Gordon, a masculine Lesbian (possibly loosely based on Standard Oil heiress Joe Carstairs) who, like Hall herself, identifies as an invert. It is badly written, dated, and God knows it has perpetuated the myth that a Lesbian is a man in a woman’s body, but it still the book about Lesbians that everyone knows, largely because it was the first undisguised Lesbian novel.
Although Gordon’s attitude toward her own sexuality is anguished, the novel presents Lesbianism as natural and makes a plea for greater tolerance. While The Well of Loneliness is not sexually explicit, it was nevertheless the subject of an obscenity trial in the UK, which resulted in all copies of the novel being ordered destroyed.
The United States allowed its publication only after a long court battle. It is currently published in the UK by Virago and by Anchor Press in the United States. Hall was listed at number sixteen in the Top 500 Lesbian and Gay Heroes in The Pink Paper, September 26, 1997 edition, issue 500. The Well of Loneliness was number seven on a list of the top 100 Lesbian and Gay novels compiled by The Publishing Triangle in 1999.
What very few people know is why The Well of Loneliness, as well as all of Radclyffe Hall’s other books are dedicated “To the three of us.” Radclyffe’s first lover was Veronica Batten, a woman more than twenty years her senior. Known to her friends as “John,” Radclyffe Hall, throughout her life, in fact, was remarkably promiscuous (Editor’s Note: the definition of “promiscuous”: anyone who has more sex than you.)
Enormously wealthy, she had the means to pursue whatever she wanted, whether fast cars or beautiful women. Although Veronica Batten knew of her lover’s adventures, she was undisturbed as long as none of these affairs developed into meaningful friendships. Her worst fears were realized when Hall met Lady Una Troubridge. Their friendship, it seemed, was going beyond mere sexual pleasure, and Veronica Batten determined that Una Troubridge would have to go. She quarreled with her lover and then dropped dead from a heart attack.
To assuage her guilt, Radclyffe Hall took up spiritualism in a vain attempt to contact Veronica and beg forgiveness. Failing this, she forever dedicated all her books “To the three of us.”