Monthly Archives: September 2013

Some scholars’ views of The Well of Loneliness

Interesting quotes about The Well of Loneliness:

1.  “It isn’t a great literary work, but it is a book of importance in the history of the unending struggle with censorship.  It was the stone that loosened the avalanche.  No one would say that Uncle Tom’s Cabin awoke the world to the horrors of slavery, but its wide circulation did much to hasten the American Civil War, and the outcome of this was to bring about the end of slavery in America.” –Lovat Dickinson, Radclyffe Hall at the Well of Loneliness: A Sapphic Chronicle, 1975, p. 21.

2.  Radclyffe Hall in a letter to her friend Newman Flower of Cassells, a publisher: “In a word, I have written a long and very serious novel entirely upon the subject of sexual inversion.  So far as I know, nothing of the kind has ever been attempted before in fiction.  Hitherto the subject has either been treated as pornography, or introduced as an episode, as in Dusty Answer, or veiled as in A Regiment of Women.  I have treated it as a fact in nature—a simple, though at present tragic, fact.  I have written the life of a woman who is a born invert, and have done so with what I believe to be sincerity and truth; and while I have refused to camouflage in any way, I think I have avoided all unnecessary coarseness.” –Quoted in Lovat, p. 140.

3.  Three weeks after the book’s publication, the editor of the Sunday Express, Hames Douglas, condemned the book and went on a public campaign against it, calling for its withdrawal: “I am well aware that sexual inversion and perversion are horrors which exist among us today.  They flaunt themselves in public places with increasing effrontery and more insolently provocative bravado.  The decadent apostles of the most hideous and loathsome vices no longer conceal their degeneracy and their degradation. . . . They do not shun publicity.  On the contrary, they seek it, and they take a delight in their flamboyant notoriety.  The consequence is that this pestilence is devastating young souls.” –Quoted in Lovat, p. 149.

4.  “Oh god not again.  The Well of Fucking Loneliness.  When will the nightmare stop?  Here we are again, asleep and fitfully dreaming: it’s the final play before the buzzer at the Greatest Lesbian Writers of the World Basketball Championship. . . .  How bad, bad, bad is The Well of Loneliness?  Like many bookish lesbians I seem to have spent much of my adult life making jokes about it, as if to fend it off once and for all.  After all, it is quite possibly the worst novel ever written . . .  [she cites the opening paragraphs as one example]. And likewise: who could forget (ever) The Well’s celebrated love scenes—turgid, pimple-ridden, sumptuously ungrammatical, yet all too pat to peter out in feeble redundancies just when everything is hotting up?” –Terry Castle, “Afterword: It was Good, Good, Good,” in Palatable Poison: Critical Persepctives on The Well of Loneliness, eds. Laura Doan and Jay Prosser, 2001, p. 394-95.

 Posted by PDT

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