Marguerite Radclyffe Hall was born at 'Sunny Lawn', Durley Road, in Bournemouth, Hampshire (now Dorset) in 1880, to a wealthy philandering father and quarrelsome mother. Lonely while growing up (her parents separated when she was a baby and she was virtually ignored by her mother and stepfather), she was educated at King's College London, and then in Germany.
Hall was a lesbian and described herself as a "congenital invert", a term taken from the writings of Havelock Ellis and other turn-of-the-century sexologists. Having reached adulthood without a vocation, she spent much of her twenties pursuing women she eventually lost to marriage. (Picture: Mabel Batten sang to John Singer Sargent as he painted this portrait of her, around 1897)
In 1907 at the Homburg spa in Germany, Hall met Mabel Batten, a well-known amateur singer of lieder. Batten (nicknamed "Ladye") was 51 to Hall's 27, and was married with an adult daughter and grandchildren. They fell in love, and after Batten's husband died they set up residence together. Batten gave Hall the nickname John, which she used the rest of her life.
Lady Una Troubridge and Miss Radclyffe Hall with their dachshunds. Press Agency, Ltd., London. Manuscripts
Radclyffe Hall and Una Troubridge met in 1915 as Troubridge was the cousin of singer Mabel Batten (aka Ladye) who was Hall's lover at the time. Mabel died in 1916, and Hall and Troubridge moved in together the following year. In the last nine years of Hall's life she had become obsessed with a White Russian nurse, Evgenia Souline. This made Troubridge very unhappy, but she tolerated their relationship. Despite all their troubles, Troubridge stayed with Hall and nursed her until she died in 1943.
Radclyffe-Hall & Mabel Batten are buried together at Highgate Cemetery (West), Highgate, Greater London, England.
In 1915 Hall fell in love with Mabel Batten's cousin Una Troubridge (1887–1963), a sculptor who was the wife of Vice-Admiral Ernest Troubridge, and the mother of a young daughter. Mabel Batten died the following year, and in 1917 Radclyffe Hall and Una Troubridge began living 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, which Troubridge painfully tolerated. Hall became involved in affairs with other women throughout the years, possibly including blues singer Ethel Waters.
Hall lived with Troubridge in London and, during the 1930s, in the tiny town of Rye, East Sussex, noted for its many writers, including her contemporary the novelist E.F. Benson. She died at age 63 of colon cancer, and is interred at Highgate Cemetery in North London. The vault containing her remains is in the Circle of Lebanon, half way round from the Egyptian Avenue entrance.
In 1930 Radclyffe Hall received the Gold Medal of the Eichelbergher Humane Award. She was a member of the PEN club, the Council of the Society for Psychical Research and a fellow of the Zoological Society.
Radclyffe Hall was listed at number sixteen in the top 500 lesbian and gay heroes in The Pink Paper.
Hall's first novel was The Unlit Lamp, the story of Joan Ogden, a young girl who dreams of setting up a flat in London with her friend Elizabeth (a so-called Boston marriage) and studying to become a doctor, but feels trapped by her manipulative mother's emotional dependence on her. Its length and grimness made it a difficult book to sell, so she deliberately chose a lighter theme for her next novel, a social comedy entitled The Forge. While she had used her full name for her early poetry collections, she shortened it to M. Radclyffe Hall for The Forge. The book was a modest success, making the bestseller list of John O'London's Weekly. The Unlit Lamp, which followed it into print, was the first of her books to give the author's name simply as Radclyffe Hall.
There followed another comic novel, A Saturday Life (1925), and then Adam's Breed (1926), a novel about an Italian headwaiter who, becoming disgusted with his job and even with food itself, gives away his belongings and lives as a hermit in the forest. The book's mystical themes have been compared to Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha. It sold very well, was critically acclaimed, and won both the Prix Femina and the James Tait Black Prize, a feat previously achieved only by E. M. Forster's A Passage to India.
Hall is best known for The Well of Loneliness, the only one of her eight novels to have overt lesbian themes. Published in 1928, The Well of Loneliness deals with the life of Stephen Gordon, a masculine lesbian who, like Hall herself, identifies as an invert. Although Gordon's attitude toward her own sexuality is anguished, the novel presents lesbianism as natural and makes a plea for greater tolerance.
Although 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.
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.
An anonymous verse lampoon entitled The Sink of Solitude appeared during the controversy over The Well. Although its primary targets were James Douglas, who had called for The Well's suppression, and the Home Secretary William Joynson-Hicks, who had started legal proceedings, it also mocked Hall and her book. One of the illustrations, which depicted Hall nailed to a cross, so horrified her that she could barely speak of it for years afterward. Her sense of guilt at being depicted in a drawing that she saw as blasphemous led to her choice of a religious subject for her next novel, The Master of the House.
At Hall's insistence, The Master of the House was published with no cover blurb, which may have misled some purchasers into thinking it was another novel about inversion. Advance sales were strong, and the book made #1 on the Observer's bestseller list, but it received poor reviews in several key periodicals, and sales soon dropped off. In the United States reviewers treated the book more kindly, but shortly after the book's publication, all copies were seized—not by the police, but by creditors. Hall's American publisher had gone bankrupt. Houghton Mifflin took over the rights, but by the time the book could be republished, its sales momentum was lost.
The British composer and bon-vivant Gerald Berners, the 14th Lord Berners, wrote a roman à clef girls' school story entitled The Girls of Radcliff Hall, in which he depicts himself and his circle of friends, including Cecil Beaton and Oliver Messel, as lesbian schoolgirls at a school named "Radcliff Hall". The novel was written under the pseudonym "Adela Quebec" and published and distributed privately; the indiscretions to which it alluded created an uproar among Berners's intimates and acquaintances, making the whole affair highly discussed in the 1930s. Cecil Beaton attempted to have all the copies destroyed. The novel subsequently disappeared from circulation, making it extremely rare. The story is, however, included in the Berners anthology Collected Tales and Fantasies.
Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge (born Margot Elena Gertrude Taylor; 8 March 1887 – 24 September 1963) was a British sculptor and translator. She is best known as the long-time partner (28 years) of Marguerite "John" Radclyffe-Hall, the author of The Well of Loneliness. (Picture: Una Vincenzo Troubridge by Romaine Brooks)
Troubridge was an educated woman who had many achievements in her own right. Most notably she was a successful translator and introduced the French writer Colette to English readers. Her talent as a sculptor prompted Nijinsky to sit for her several times.
Troubridge was brought up in Montpelier Square, Kensington, London, in an upper middle-class family. According to Lovat Dickson, an early biographer of Radclyffe Hall, "the family life was built on beauty, wit and style". Born Margot Elena Gertrude Taylor, she was nicknamed Una by her family as a child and chose the middle name Vincenzo herself, after her Florentine relatives.
Troubridge was a pupil at the Royal College of Art, and after she graduated set up a sculpture studio. Troubridge's father died in 1907, leaving her with limited financial support and her best option was to get married.
She married Captain Ernest Troubridge in October 1908; they had one daughter, Andrea. Troubridge rose to the rank of admiral during and immediately after the First World War, and Una gained her title when Admiral Troubridge was knighted in June 1919, though they were already legally separated at the time.
She was a devoted admirer of the Italian-Russian operatic bass Nicola Rossi Lemeni [1920-1991], and followed his career all over the world. She later became a close friend of both Rossi Lemeni and his wife, the soprano Virginia Zeani, and was godmother to their young son.
Vaslav Nijinsky in L'Apres Midi d'un Faune. Plaster. France, 1912. Location: Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Great Britain
Hall and Troubridge met in 1915 as Troubridge was the cousin of singer Mabel Batten (aka Ladye) who was Hall's lover at the time. Mabel died in 1916, and Hall and Troubridge moved in together the following year.
In the early 1920s, 10 Stirling Street in London was the home of Troubridge and Hall and was extensively renovated by them. Troubridge had lived out her early life nearby in Montpelier Square.
Troubridge wrote about the intensity of their relationship in her diary: "I could not, having come to know her, imagine life without her."
In an effort to ease the great sense of guilt about Mabel's death Hall and Troubridge became interested in Spiritualism. They regularly held seances with the use of a medium and believed that they received advice from Mabel, from beyond the grave.
Both Troubridge and Hall identified as 'inverts', a term used by sexologists such as Krafft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis usually to connote what we now think of as homosexuality.
Hall and Troubridge raised and showed dachshunds and griffons. The dachshunds shown in the Romaine Brooks portrait of Troubridge were a prize winning pair given to her by Hall.
In the last nine years of Hall's life she had become obsessed with a White Russian nurse, Evgenia Souline. This made Troubridge very unhappy, but she tolerated their relationship. Initially the women had decided to move to Italy and live in Florence, but were forced to return at the outbreak of the Second World War. The three women then chose to live in Devon.
Despite all their troubles, Troubridge stayed with Hall and nursed her until she died in 1943.
In the early 1920s Troubridge adopted a tailored style similar to Hall's own masculine look, as a way of making her sexual identity and their partnership visible. Later she came to prefer more feminine dress that complemented Hall's. After Hall died of bowel cancer in 1943, Troubridge had Hall's suits altered to fit her and wore them habitually.
On her deathbed, Hall revoked a previous will that had provided Souline with an income, and instead left everything to Troubridge, including the copyrights to her works. In her new will she asked Troubridge to "make such provision for our friend Eugenie Souline as in her absolute discretion she may consider right"; Troubridge provided Souline with only a small allowance. She also burned Souline's letters, and in her 1945 biography, The Life and Death of Radclyffe Hall, she minimized Souline's role in Hall's life. Souline died in 1958.
Troubridge died in Rome in 1963; she had left written instructions that her coffin be placed in the vault in Highgate Cemetery where Hall and Batten had been buried, but the instructions were discovered too late. She is buried in the English Cemetery in Rome, and on her coffin is inscribed "Una Vincenzo Troubridge, the friend of Radclyffe Hall".
Nancy Garden's essay on The Well of Loneliness for this livejournal: (Although I first read Well in the 50s, probably in paperback, the hardcover edition I own is I think one of the earliest U.S. editions. The book was first published in England by Jonathan Cape in 1928 and the first US edition was published almost simutaneously by Knopf, so although the only date on the copyright page of the edition I own is the 1928 copyright date, I'm not sure quite when the Blue Ribbon Books edition appeared. In any case, there have been a great many editions of this famous and infamous book, both in English and in other languages; as far as I know, it's never been out of print.)
I suppose I'm cheating by including The Well of Loneliness on my list, for it's definitely not a YA, and I doubt very much that its author had any thought of writing it for kids, although I suspect she'd be glad to know that kids have read it. I devoured it at 15 or 16, and more than any other book, it made me vow, as I've said many times, "to write a book for my people that would end happily." The Well of Lobneliness is the seminal lesbian novel in the history of lesbian literature in English, and as such is the foundation on which all the others have been built.
Radclyffe Hall was born in 1880, and given the name Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall. She eventually dropped the Marguerite and the hyphen and was known publically as Radclyffe Hall, and as John to her lovers and friends. She was a very masculine woman who I suspect today would be considered transgender--and the main character in Well, Stephen Gordon, is very like her.
Well was Hall's fifth novel, and has always been her best known. It's by no means great literature, for it's didactic, melodramatic, and written in a florid, extravagantly emotional style, one which seems to spring from its author's deepest feelings and convictions; Hall in effect made of her story a much-needed call to arms.
Well was instantly a sensation when it came out, and was tried for obscenity in both England and the US. In the US it was eventually ruled not obscene, but in England it was banned; Hall, who died in 1943, did not see her most famous and, to her, probably her most important novel openly sold in her native country.
Well was published with a brief, enthusiastic and sympathetic "Commentary" by Havelock Ellis, a noted psychologist who often studied and wrote about sex, including homosexuality, or "inversion," as it was then called.
The novel opens with Stephen Gordon's birth, and documents her development--much like her creator's--as a strong, athletic girl who disdains feminine clothes and pursuits. As Stephen grows up, she becomes increasingly masculine, falls in love with at least one woman who of course is straight, becomes a writer, visits and then moves to Paris with her faithful old governess and mentor, and meets others like herself (one of whom is modeled on the famous American lesbian Natalie Barney, who ran a literary salon there that included many other well-known lesbians of the time. During World War I Stephen serves for England as an ambulance driver and meets her true love, Mary, also an ambulance driver. After the war she lives with her in Paris and renews her acquaintance with the lesbians she knew ealier and meets more "inverts," visits a gay bar (which, as of course usually must have been the case then, is both horrible and pathetic). Through that experience, and through the stories and experiences of some of Stephen and Mary's lesbian friends, Hall shows her readers some of the terrible injustices visited on the gays and lesbians of nearly a century ago.
Eventually, Mary finds it increasingly difficult to live in a world that doesn't accept her and her lover. When she meets a man who is attracted to her and finds herself attracted to him as well, Stephen drives her, despite her protests, into his arms in a painfully sacrificial gesture. Yes, that, and the final scene that follows it, are both terribly melodramatic, but nevertheless when I read them in my teens, they moved me as no scene in any other book ever had.
In that final scene when Mary is gone, we see the depth of Stephen's grief. She cries out to Mary when she's out of sight and hearing, then thinks of the suffering she has seen among her gay sisters and brothers. Then she cries out to God, and Well ends with her words: "Acknowledge us, oh God, before the whole world. Give us also the right to our existence!" --Nancy Garden
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
This journal is friends only. This entry was originally posted at http://reviews-and-ramblings.dreamwidth.org/2956010.html. If you are not friends on this journal, Please comment there using OpenID.