Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness (London: Jonathan Cape, 1928) was an effort to force issues of sexual orientation into the public discourse. The novel traces the life of Stephen Gordon, a woman born into a wealthy family who self identifies as male and suffers a life of loneliness because of society’s lack of acceptance. While the book is rooted in early twentieth century notions of homosexuality, it began a push for gay rights.
Not surprisingly, the book was declared obscene for its subject matter and banned in England. In the United States, there was an attempt to ban the book, but the courts ruled that the subject matter was not inherently obscene and allowed the book to stand. The case was argued by Morris Ernst who would later defend James Joyce’s Ulysses in court in another landmark obscenity case.
The U. S. courts today have ruled again in favor of a more open and accepting society.
We have a copy of the first edition of the banned London edition signed by the author. To see it, ask for Rare PR6015.A33W43 1928.