Radclyffe Hall | Literary Ladies Guide | 14209
“The Well of Loneliness” was a novel by Radclyffe Hall which was published in 1928. The novel is the story of a lesbian relationship. At the time it was published lesbian relationships were not against the law. James Douglas, the editor of the Sunday Express, ran a campaign to have the novel banned. “I would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid than this novel,” he wrote.
The novel only had a single sexual reference, “and that night, they were not divided”, but that was enough for the court, which judged it obscene because it defended “unnatural practices between women”.
The novel went on to become successful with publication, without bans, in the USA and other countries.
The ban in Britain was meant to hide lesbianism and keep it hidden but had the opposite effect. The fuss and the law cases raised awareness of lesbianism and feminism. For decades it was the best-known lesbian novel in the English language, and often the first book about lesbianism that young lesbians read.