Marguerite Radclyffe Hall is a lesbian British author who lived from 1880 to 1943.
Hall went to King’s College in London and then moved to school in Germany. Her writing career began with poems and then moved onto novels.
Hall was a lesbian, and as such these themes carry through her personal life and her writing. She said she had never been attracted to men, and her romantic attachments to women began early when she began to develop feelings for multiple women in her youth and young adult life. Most of the women she fancied were artists like herself, and her first long-term relationship was with Mabel Batten, a married amateur singer. The two formed a home together after Batten’s husband died, and Hall’s poetry continued to develop with newfound lesbian themes, such as her poem Ode to Sappho.
She also began an affair with another married woman in 1915, Una Troubridge, and this relationship lasted the rest of Hall’s life. She carried on the affair with Troubridge and Batten until Batten’s death, and then she and Troubridge moved in together after Troubridge separated from her husband legally.
Hall’s most famous and controversial literary work was The Well of Loneliness, about a lesbian attachment between two women. It spoke of the troubles of being a lesbian in society, and Hall did intensive research for the book. Shortly after publication, it was damned as immoral.
“I would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid than this novel. Poison kills the body, but moral poison kills the soul.”
– Sunday Express, August 19th, 1928
Publication and distribution of the book was made to cease in Britain and in the US, and was declared obscene in court. It continued to sell well in France, however.
She continued writing despite this failure, focussing more on Catholic themes. She also picked up another affair with a russian woman, Evgenia Souline. This affair lasted until just before Hall’s death, and she remained with Troubridge throughout.
Hall died in 1943 due to colon cancer and left behind a legacy of groundbreaking lesbian literature and poetry, and remains a staple in LGBTQ+ reading even today.
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