Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness – Outburst Book Group

25th May 2021

“that night, they were not divided”…

For May’s bookgroup we’re reading Radclyffe Hall’s groundbreaking classic novel The Well of Loneliness. Published in 1928, the book was swiftly banned from print for ‘obscenity’ reasons, only re-emerging into print in 1948. Despite being initially praised for its bravery and countercultural approach, it was soon railed against by various institutional, male critics. James Douglas (then editor of the Sunday Express) wrote:“In order to prevent the contamination and corruption of English fiction it is the duty of the critic to make it impossible for any other novelist to repeat this outrage. I say deliberately that this novel is not fit to be sold by any bookseller or to be borrowed from any library.” Meow.

Offering the first direct exploration of lesbian experience in fiction (Hall was referred to as “our Matron Saint”) the novel is part protest against queer subjugation, part manifesto for rights, as well as an incredibly important step toward the representation of homosexuality and lesbian women in particular. Many are revisiting and rereading The Well recently and exploring how the novel can be read in relation to trans masc and non-binary experience alongside lesbian experience.

The book is now, thankfully, wildly available in print, but please get in touch if you have any trouble finding or affording it and we can help!

Email: (micheal@outburstarts.com)

Outburst’s book group explores classic and contemporary queer books and ideas, sharing exciting writing that introduces and explores queer themes. From James Baldwin and Radclyffe Hall to Torrey Peters and Paul Mendez, we mix it up between the queer past and queer present,  tones and themes, always sharing work that will get us talking! We meet about every six weeks to discuss a new book in a welcoming and friendly setting that’s open to everyone. For the moment the reading group is online, but we hope to be able to gather in person as well soon!

Image ID: An iconic painting by lesbian artist Hannah Gluckstein, or Gluck, that was used as the cover of the Virago Press edition of this book.  It’s a sparse, close up, double head-and-shoulders portrait of two androgenous female / masc figures in profile close together, both with strong features and looking to left of picture. One has short, dark,  combed back hair and looks straight ahead. The other has wavy short blonde hair, also combed back, and is looking upwards. There is nothing else in the picture except the figures against a grey background. It feels very powerful and mysterious.


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