The Well of Loneliness
is a 1928 lesbian novel
by the British author Radclyffe Hall
that follows the life of Stephen Gordon, an Englishwoman from an upper-class family. Her "sexual inversion
" (homosexuality) is apparent from an early age. She finds love with Mary Llewellyn, whom she meets while serving as an ambulance driver in World War I
, but their happiness together is marred by social isolation and rejection. The novel portrays inversion as a natural, God-given state and makes an explicit plea: "Give us also the right to our existence". Although its only sexual reference consists of the words "and that night, they were not divided", a British court judged it obscene because it defended "unnatural practices between women". In the United States the book survived legal challenges. Publicity over The Well'
s legal battles increased the visibility of lesbians in British and American culture. Gordon's expressions of self-hatred have been faulted for inspiring shame, but the book was for decades the best-known lesbian novel in English, and often the first source of information about lesbianism that young people could find. (Full article...