Radclyffe Hall

Radclyffe Hall

Radclyffe Hall (August 12, 1880 – October 7 1943) was born Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall in Bournemouth, Hampshire to a wealthy English father and an American mother. As a lesbian poet and author residing in England, Hall described herself as a “congenital introvert” which refers to the innate characteristic from birth. She spent her twenties pursuing a variety of women, soon finding herself lonely as her counterparts began to marry.

After falling in love with a married woman she met at a German spa, Hall converted to Christianity. Mabel Batten was twice Hall’s age the two committed to each other once Batten’s husband passed away. In 1915, she fell in love with Batten’s cousin, Una Troubridge.  Within a year, Batten had passed away and Hall moved in with the sculptor, Troubridge until her death from colon cancer at the age of 63.

Hall’s most famous work, The Well of Loneliness (1928), features a lesbian from an upper class family in England. The main character, Stephen Gordon lives in isolation with her partner Mary Llewellyn. They journey through a homosexual relationship during an era that rejected this expression of sexuality poses the setting and plot of the novel.

Radclyffe Hall in a tuxReceiving pushback from critics for her “sexually deviant” novel, Hall was swept into legal battles. Though at first widely banned, its notoriety helped bring the visibility of lesbians in Western literature to the forefront. Hall made it clear to her publisher that she wanted the original copy published declaring: “I have put my pen at the service of some of the most persecuted and misunderstood people in the world … So far as I know nothing of the kind has ever been attempted before in fiction.”

Though Radclyffe Hall has long been described as a lesbian, it’s possible that she would have identified a trans man had the idea of doing so were possible in her time. She called herself “John,” often dressed as a man, and used masculine notions to self-describe.

Hall died of colon cancer in England at the age of 63. She is interred at Highgate Cemetery in North London.

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Radclyffe Hall Quotes

Radclyffe Hall

“Language is surely too small a vessel to contain these emotions of mind and body that have somehow awakened a response in the spirit.”

“Our love may be faithful even unto death and beyond – yet the world will call it unclean.”

“I have put my pen at the service of some of the most persecuted and misunderstood people in the world. So far as I know nothing of the kind has ever been attempted before in fiction.”

“A great many women can feel and behave like men. Very few of them can behave like gentlemen.”

“It is bad for the soul to know itself a coward, it is apt to take refuge in mere wordy violence.”

The realization of great mutual love can at times be so overwhelming a thing, that even the bravest of hearts may grow fearful.”

Radclyffe Hall lived here“Clothes, after all, are a form of self-expression.”

“Wars come and wars go but the world does not change: it will always forget an indebtedness which it thinks it expedient not to remember.”

“Man could not live by darkness alone, one point of light he must have for salvation — one point of light. ”


Radclyffe Hall in a suit



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