The Real Johnny Hall

Penelope Fitzgerald

  • Our Three Selves: A Life of Radclyffe Hall by Michael Baker
    Hamish Hamilton, 386 pp, £13.95, June 1985, ISBN 0 241 11539 6

When The Well of Loneliness came out in July 1928 the reviewers were not astonished. Both Leonard Woolf and L.P. Hartley thought the book sincere, but overemphatic. The Times Literary Supplement also called it sincere, and Vera Brittain said it was ‘admirably restrained’. It sold quite well, going into a second impression, and Radclyffe Hall, with her lover Una Troubridge, thought of taking a cottage in Rye. She may have felt some disappointment, having planned her novel in a crusader’s spirit. She claimed to have written the first full-length treatment in English of women who loved women. In Rosamond Lehmann’s Dusty Answer, she said, ‘the subject was only introduced as an episode.’ (She seems not to have known Dickens’s Tattycoram and Miss Wade.) She wanted to ‘smash the conspiracy of silence’, but found herself instead mildly successful at W.H. Smith and the Times Bookshop.

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