The Well of Loneliness

The Well of Loneliness

by Radclyffe Hall
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Curator’s note

When this novel was published in 1928, a British court judged it obscene and banned it for 20 years. The novel was vilified as “the bible of lesbianism” and quickly became one of the most famous lesbian novels in the world. 

The novel, however, is still a product of its day. Its portrayal of characters can be interpreted to shine a negative light on femme-presenting lesbians, and its presentation of sexuality as binary can bring out biphobic undertones. 

This novel was donated by a lovely supporter of our library!


Stephen is an ideal child of aristocratic parents—a fencer, a horse rider and a keen scholar. Stephen grows to be a war hero, a bestselling writer and a loyal, protective lover. But Stephen is a woman, and her lovers are women. As her ambitions drive her, and society confines her, Stephen is forced into desperate actions.

The Well of Loneliness was banned for obscenity when published in 1928. It became an international bestseller, and for decades was the single most famous lesbian novel. It has influenced how love between women is understood, for the twentieth century and beyond.

About the author 

Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall was born on the south coast of England. Her mother may have battered her, while her father, a playboy known as 'Rat', ignored her. In the drawing rooms of Edwardian society, Marguerite made a small name for herself as a poet and librettist. 

As Radclyffe Hall (no hyphen; prefixed neither by 'John' nor 'Marguerite'), she published a volume of stories, Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself (1934), which describes how British society utilised 'masculine' women during the First World War and then dropped them afterwards, and a total of seven novels. However, the novel on which Radclyffe Hall's reputation rests primarily is The Well of Loneliness (1928).

About The Unicorn Library

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