Quotes by Radclyffe Hall, Author of The Well of Loneliness

Radclyffe Hall

Radclyffe Hall (1880 – 1943) was born in Hampshire, England and self-identified as a “congenital invert.” She wrote about elements that were present in her life; for example, wealthy upper-class lifestyle, English culture and her attraction to women. Hall frequently dressed masculine and called herself John.

Hall’s most famous work, The Well of Loneliness  (1928) draws on her own life, as it features a lesbian from an upper class family in England. The main character, Stephen Gordon, lives with her partner, Mary Llewellyn.

The couple  journeys through a same-sex relationship in an era that rejected this expression of sexuality poses the setting and plot of the novel. The novel was widely banned upon publication and even went to trial for obscenity..
Here are some thoughtful quotes by Radclyffe Hall from her most famous (and controversial) novel, The Well of Loneliness:

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

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

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“What a terrible thing could be freedom. Trees were free when they were uprooted by the wind; ships were free when they were torn from their moorings; men were free when they were cast out of their homes—free to starve, free to perish of cold and hunger.” 

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“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.”

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The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall 1928 - cover

Radclyffe Hall’s best known work is The Well of Loneliness

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

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

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

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“To her it seemed an inevitable thing as much a part of herself as her breathing; and yet it appeared transcendent of self, and she looked up and onwards towards her love — for the eyes of the young are drawn to the stars and the spirit of youth is seldom earth-bound.” 

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“Clothes, after all, are a form of self-expression.”

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“What could she do, bound as she was by the tyranny of silence? She dared not explain the girl to herself … that willfully selfish tyranny of silence evolved by a crafty old ostrich of a world for its own well-being and comfort. The world hid its head in the sands of convention, so that seeing nothing it might avoid Truth…if silence is golden it is also in this case, very expedient.” 

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“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.”

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“Writing, it was like a heavenly balm, it was like the flowing out of deep waters, it was like the lifting of a load from the spirit; it brought with it a sense of relief, of assuagement. One could say things in writing without feeling self-conscious, without feeling shy and ashamed and foolish …”

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

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Radclyffe Hall in a suit

Learn more about Radclyffe Hall

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“Give us also the right to our existence!” 

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“Too late, too late, your love gave me life. Here am I the creature you made through your loving; by your passion you created the thing that I am. Who are you to deny me the right to love? But for you I need never have known existence.” 

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“My dear, don’t be foolish, there’s nothing strange about you, someday you may meet a man you can love. And supposing you don’t, well, what of it, Stephen? Marriage isn’t the only career for a woman.” 

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“Love is the sweetest monotony that was ever conceived of by the Creator.”

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“There is something mankind can never destroy in spite of an unreasoning will to destruction, and this is its own idealism, that integral part of its very being.” 

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“Love is the sweetest monotony that was ever conceived of by the Creator.” 

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“‘You will see unfaithfulness, lies and deceit among those whom the world views with approbation. You will find that many have grown hard of heart, have grown greedy, selfish, cruel and lustful; and then you will turn to me and will say: ‘You and I are more worthy of respect than these people. Why does the world persecute us, Stephen?’

And I shall answer: ‘Because in this world there is only toleration for the so-called normal.’ And when you come to me for protection, I shall say: “I cannot protect you, Mary, the world has deprived me of my right to protect; I am utterly helpless, I can only love you.’ ‘

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The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall

Radclyffe Hall page on Amazon

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