Hall, Radclyffe (1880–1943)
Hall, Radclyffe (1880–1943)
English novelist, poet, and champion of lesbian rights. Name variations: Radclyffe Hall; John or Johnny Hall. Born Marguerite Antonia Radclyffe-Hall on August 12, 1880, in Bournemouth, England; died on October 7, 1943, in London; daughter of Radclyffe Radclyffe-Hall and Mary Jane (Marie) Diehl Sager; educated by governesses; never married; no children; lived with Una Troubridge for 28 years.
Wrote first book of poems (1906); met Mabel Veronica (Ladye) Batten (1907); converted to Catholicism (1912); met Margot Elena Gertrude (Una) Taylor Troubridge (1915); sued St. George Lane Fox-Pitt for slander (1920); published first novel, The Forge (1924); won the Prix Femina and James Tait Black Prize for Adam's Breed (1926); published The Well of Loneliness (1928); figured in obscenity trial against her publisher, London (1928); met Evguenia Souline (1934); diagnosed with cancer (1943); death of Una Troubridge, Rome (1963).
Instantly banned on two continents upon its publication in 1928, Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness, arguably the most famous novel about love between women ever written, sold over 1 million copies and saw translation into 11 languages by the time of the author's death. Radclyffe Hall, who termed herself in accordance with the language of her day a "congenital invert," regarded herself as neither male nor female but rather as one of a third sex, or "other." Both her work and life were influenced by the medical community of her era, a time which witnessed a rush toward classification of everything imaginable, including sexuality.
As the sexologists of this period began to categorize "normal" and "abnormal" sexual behavior, romantic relationships between women—often tolerated until the latter half of the 19th century—were increasingly regarded with suspicion. Women who loved other women and possessed traditionally masculine attributes were often categorized as men whose unfortunate lot it was to be born into the bodies of women. For Radclyffe Hall, who recalled wanting to be known by the masculine name of Peter or John from her youth, the view of masculine lesbians as such "inverts" provided a scientific explanation for both her masculinity and her love of women. Declaring inversion a "part of nature, in harmony with it, rather than against it," she posed the question: "if it occurs in and is a part of nature, how can it be unnatural?"
Known as unconventional, humorless, restless, poorly educated, and unapologetically a lover of women, Hall was condemned and vilified for her outspoken defense of lesbianism. Publication of The Well of Loneliness, a largely autobiographical work in which the main character Stephen is a sexual invert, sparked historic controversy over issues of lesbianism and obscenity. The enormous success of the novel was directly responsible for bringing the sexologists' views, consciously incorporated into the novel, to the reading public. For better or worse (the arguments still rage), Radclyffe Hall had set the standard for what became the predominant portrayal of lesbians in literature of the first half of the 20th century: men trapped in women's bodies, members of the third sex.
On August 12, 1880, she was born Marguerite Antonia Radclyffe-Hall, an unwanted child destined for an unhappy childhood. Her father, the only child and heir of a wealthy physician, attended Eton and St. John's College, Oxford, but never graduated. Rejecting a career in law, the flamboyant, indolent philanderer married Marie Sager , an American widow, in 1878 and settled in Bournemouth, England. Four years later, Marie filed for divorce, charging cruelty. Abandoned by her father who provided an adequate trust fund for her maintenance, Hall saw him no more than a dozen times before "Rat" died when she was 18. She was neglected and rejected by her mother because the child was a constant reminder of the Radclyffes. When Hall was nine, her mother married Albert Visetti, a music teacher; they maintained a comfortable lifestyle in London by plundering the child's trust funds. Hall seldom alluded to her childhood, even to friends and lovers, leaving little record of her early days. There is evidence to suggest that in later life she would regard her youth with a revisionary eye, altering a feminine picture of her young self by blacking out the long hair and creating a masculine image that could then be traced to her earliest beginnings. Until age 40, however, Hall's hair was waist length and worn in a chignon. A solitary child, she had a musical talent that was ignored, as was her education in general. Governesses and a few fashionable dayschools in London were considered adequate for the solemn, insular youth.
By her late teens, Hall realized she was different from other girls; she evinced no interest in men or marriage, an attitude likely lent support by her own family experience. In her later fiction, she would characterize "men as a breed [that] had little to recommend them," almost invariably portraying them as weak, untrustworthy, insensitive, and complacent. Though this was an apt portrait of her father, Hall idealized and romanticized him, justifying his absence by reasoning that he had been disappointed that she was not a boy.
At age 21, she inherited a fortune from her paternal grandfather and took control of her trust. When she learned that her mother and Visetti had squandered the trust, she confronted them and left home with her "warm-hearted [but] weak and foolish" Grandmother Diehl. "Thus being freed of economic need to marry," writes historian Lillian Faderman , "she was able to eschew traditionally feminine pursuits and indulge her love of hunting, fast horses, and fast cars." Hall's inheritance precluded the need for her ever to have to earn a living, but she was unsure of what to do with her life. A year at King's College in London and another year of study in Germany were inadequate preparation for any career that demanded an advanced degree. But there was no urgent need to make a decision; writing poetry, traveling, and numerous affairs with young women occupied her unstructured life. During her 20s, Hall wrote, and received, few letters and kept no diary or journal, leaving only a sketchy portrait of this period. However, we know that she traveled extensively; it satisfied her restless nature and assuaged her aimlessness. In 1906, she financed the publication of her first book of poems, Twixt Earth and Stars, 80 short lyrics depicting "unfulfilled love." But Radclyffe Hall, the writer whose life and work would help lead the lesbian cause, had not yet come into being.
Unattached and drifting, Hall made a trip to Homburg in 1907, where she met the first love of her life, Mabel (Ladye) Batten , a 50-year-old married grandmother who had ties to aristocratic society and was rumored to have had an affair with King Edward VII; witty, elegant, cultured, beautiful, and worldly, Batten was all that Hall admired and hoped to become. The following year on a trip to Brussels, they became lovers. Hall's book of poems, A Sheaf of Verses, published in 1908, reveals her first, tentative references to homosexuality. Batten proved to be a good influence on Hall, encouraging her to read classic literature. Batten was politically conservative and outspokenly a monarchist, and Hall adopted similar loyalties. Hall was acquiring direction and purpose from this passionate attachment, which included a spiritual awakening. Ladye was a Catholic convert, and Hall had been seeking "a scheme, an order that gave meaning to the apparent misery and chaos of existence." Catholicism provided her with a means of sharing an afterlife with her lover. On February 5, 1912, Hall joined the Church and in December had an audience with the pope in Rome. The refined Ladye was both a maternal and wife-like figure for Hall; in public, Batten was sophisticated and stately, and in private she was "girlish, lazy, impractical, accident-prone, and rather helpless." Meanwhile, Hall—calling herself John as she would for the rest of her life—was the tutelary husband, the masculine element, attired in severely tailored clothes. She smoked and swore, even though Batten thoroughly disapproved of these coarse habits, and credited her companion with making her take herself seriously as a writer.
Hall continued to write poetry, securing her reputation as a poet with her Songs of Three Counties and Other Poems. The volume received good reviews, and the poem "The Blind Ploughman" was widely popular when set to music. The ploughman was afflicted with blindness, and Hall was homosexual; both endured suffering from their "handicaps" which were "a part of God's scheme," a means of testing the individual. Certainly Hall was giving more thought to her sexuality, and through Batten she met other lesbians such as Winnaretta Singer , a cultured patron of the arts in Paris who was heiress of the Singer sewing machine company and widow of Prince Edmond de Polignac. Though Batten and Hall were interested in promoting women's rights and publicly endorsed divorce, Hall's feminist support was ambiguous; seeing herself as a man in a woman's body, she identified strongly with men and maintained many traditionally male views about women's incompetence. She was convinced that few women were capable of accomplishing great things and that they would be happier as wives and mothers. Both in her world view and physicality, Hall inhabited a man's world, reinforced by her reactionary politics and class consciousness. Regarding herself as a man, she actively pursued women and would struggle with issues of monogamy, torn by her desire to live up to her own image of a dutiful husband and her desire to love more than one woman at a time. Hall had a brief affair with Phoebe Hoare which may have served as a respite from Batten's dependency.
When war engulfed Europe in August 1914, Hall wanted to join the women's ambulance corps in order to be actively engaged in this horrific conflict, but she could not leave Batten who was now a semi-invalid. Frustrated at being forced to remain at home in the village of Malvern, Hall converted two rooms into a care facility for wounded soldiers while deeply resenting the ties that prevented her from being more engaged in the war effort. In 1915, Hall's last anthology of poems, The Forgotten Island, was published. They reveal her increasing dissatisfaction with her relations with Batten and allude to her affair with Hoare. But poetry was not her forte. Hall's short stories were never published (they would be destroyed, at her request, after her death), but upon reading some of them her publisher, William Heinemann, encouraged her to write a novel. By this time, Hall in fact had attempted a prose work but failed to complete it.
On Sunday, August 1, 1915, Hall met Una Troubridge at a tea party in London. Troubridge was impressed with Hall whom she described as "a very handsome young man," fully realizing Hall was a woman. And Hall was attracted to the young, intelligent, talented, well-read, cosmopolitan woman. Troubridge was a wife and mother who was married to a career naval officer 25 years her senior. She was Batten's cousin and also a Catholic convert, tying her to Hall in two important ways. Fluent in French and an artist of some repute, Troubridge was in London taking singing lessons and seeing a therapist about her "nerves," while her husband Jack was in Malta. Her relationship with Hall progressed cautiously, but in November 1915 they became lovers. After eight years of marriage to Jack Troubridge, Una would spend 28 years with Hall. Despite the matched gender of their bodies, Hall's identity was shaped by what she saw as the man in her, and as such she was attracted to the "eternal feminine" that Una symbolized. Hall and Batten now lived in London. In May 1916, Batten suffered a cerebral hemorrhage after a quarrel with Hall
over Troubridge and died ten days later. Distraught over Batten's death, Hall tried to break off her relationship with Troubridge, but Una's persistence kept them together. Troubridge got a legal separation from her husband in 1918, with Jack agreeing in order to avoid public scandal.
From the summer of 1917 to 1943, Hall and Troubridge lived together as a married couple. There is no doubt that Hall would have legally married Troubridge had that been possible. In their adaptation of married life, Hall in practice served as the husband and a kind of "enlightened despot" while Troubridge was relegated to coping with household affairs. "Each of their lives would have been the less without each other," Troubridge's biographer noted. Reflecting the notion that the husband should be the property owner, Hall bought a house near Windsor in her name only. Troubridge's daughter Andrea was sent off to a boarding school because Hall did not like children. For Troubridge, life was not always easy with Hall, who could lapse into black moods and use sexual abstinence to "punish." However, the two established a comfortable home and lived well, employing numerous servants. They began taking more interest in the subject of lesbianism which would serve as a theme in Hall's future novels.
Hall and Batten had shared an interest in spiritualism, and after Batten's death Hall and Troubridge attended spiritual séances with a Mrs. Leonard, trying to contact Batten, and they joined the Society for Psychical Research. Hall delivered a paper to the Society in 1918, based on their sittings with Leonard. Because the Catholic Church condemned spiritualism, Hall, but not Troubridge, confessed that she had attended séances.
In 1919, Hall began writing Octopi, based on a scene she had witnessed of a middle-aged, unmarried daughter caring for her elderly mother. Such caretakers were "unpaid servants," Hall declared, and the elderly were "sucking the very life out of them like octopi." The novel likely reflects Hall's perceptions of her own sacrifice in caring for Ladye Batten. Rooted in the real-life relationship of Batten, Hall, and Troubridge, the book reveals Hall's sense of guilt in being unfaithful to Batten while also expressing her sense of being trapped by Batten's dependence and love. Writing was an ordeal since Hall had no routine or inspiration to focus her thoughts. During her "blackout periods," words failed her, which brought on bouts of insomnia, ill-temper, and depression. Octopi underwent frequent revisions and took two years to complete. Hall wrote in longhand, and Troubridge read the finished pages aloud to Hall who corrected and rewrote each section. Troubridge corrected the spelling, and the revision was dictated to a typist. Later Hall's habit of working all night under-mined her health. Her biographer claimed she had "a positive lust for suffering—which affected her writing for the worse."
Una Troubridge was a mainstay in Hall's personal life and her literary career. Jack Troubridge, however, still had an affect on their lives. At the time Hall was being considered as a council member of the Society of Psychical Research, Jack confided to Fox-Pitt, a member of the council, that the paper Hall had delivered before the Society was "immoral," and he intimated that Hall was responsible for the breakup of his marriage. Fox-Pitt relayed this to the council, and Hall's nomination was withdrawn. She and Una contacted their solicitor and sued Fox-Pitt for slander. At the trial in November 1920, Fox-Pitt stated that he characterized the paper as immoral, not Hall personally. The jury, nevertheless, awarded Hall £500. This unfortunate incident increased Hall's consciousness of the roadblocks barring the way for "inverts," but she did not let it alter her lifestyle. In fact, Hall and Troubridge adopted more masculine attire, including starkly tailored clothes (not trousers yet). Una wore a monocle, and Hall cut her hair short and tried smoking a pipe. Both donned long capes and tricorn hats. Despite the eccentricities wealth affords, there is no overstating the degree to which this framed them apart from the majority of other women of their time. When in 1922 Hall no longer menstruated, she felt her manhood had commenced, making her and Una unequivocally man and wife. They lived in a fashionable section of London, and their social circle expanded to include many artistic and literary lovers of women who influenced Hall's career. Violet Hunt and May Sinclair , founders of PEN (the international writers' club), and Ida Wylie often accompanied Hall and Troubridge to gay clubs such as the Orange Tree club, where they dined and danced. Through these women Hall met the artist Romaine Brooks and her lover Natalie Clifford Barney , the well-known American whose Paris salon was frequented by the intellectual elite.
Hall joined PEN and the Women Writers' Club and made efforts to improve her writing. She was contemptuous of "modern" literature which she labeled "experimentalist," thus dismissing such writers as James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, and Virginia Woolf . More "middle-brow," traditional writing appealed to her, especially romantic historical novels. Hall's first novels are largely autobiographical and deal with love and feminism. Octopi, judged too long and not commercial enough, did not attract a publisher. Undeterred, Hall began another novel, Chains (published as The Forge in 1924 and dedicated to Troubridge), again autobiographical and dealing with the subject of love. The characters of Hilary (the husband) and Susan (the wife) are models of Hall and Troubridge, and the plot reflects their life together since 1918. Hall completed The Forge in five months, and it appeared under the name Radclyffe Hall, with no hyphen and no feminine identity attached to the author. Audrey Heath , Hall's literary agent, finally found a publisher for Octopi, renamed by Troubridge The Unlit Lamp, which appeared in September 1924, received good reviews and sold well. Many critics consider it her best book.
As Hall gained recognition as a writer, her self-confidence grew and her circle of friends became a bit more eclectic; Princess Violette Murat and the American actress Tallulah Bankhead were among the most unorthodox. A Saturday Life was published in 1925, and Hall's female character Frances Reide became the archetype of the masculine woman, similar to those in The Unlit Lamp and to Stephen in The Well of Loneliness. Created by Hall, this type of character is a 20th-century phenomenon, which biographer Richard Ormrod claims is perhaps Radclyffe Hall's "main contribution to literature as an extension of human understanding." In her novels, plot takes a backseat to characterization, and her plots, considered her weakest feature as a writer, reveal what has been called "a tendency to be platitudinous, pompous, to over-state, sentimentalize, and over-employ the pathetic fallacy." A Saturday Life—the last of Hall's novels to deal with the Batten-Troubridge-Hall love triangle—was well received.
Hall approached each new work with trepidation, fearing that she might lose the ability to write, and each recounted her increasing sense of isolation. In a world that judged difference harshly, Hall was ever conscious of the ways in which her homosexuality set her apart; in being true to herself, she became dislocated from the world at large. Troubridge, however, provided a stable, orderly work environment for Hall, willingly sacrificing her own artistic talents to serve as Hall's "amanuensis, housekeeper, and social secretary." Radclyffe Hall's success brought public acclaim and invitations to speak at women's clubs. In 1926, with the publication of Adam's Breed, she reached the pinnacle of her career when she was awarded the Prix Femina Vie Heureuse and the James Tait Black Prize for best novel of the year.
Radclyffe Hall had achieved the recognition she had coveted so long; with her next novel, she would also acquire notoriety for her outspoken defense of homosexuality. Knowing it could damage her career and bring public condemnation to both her and Troubridge, she was determined "to speak on behalf of a misunderstood and misjudged minority." Hall had been thinking of writing about "sexual inversion" for a long time, and her work would rely heavily on Studies in the Psychology of Sex, by the sexologist Havelock Ellis, which asserted that homosexuality was "congenital" and urged toleration. The Well of Loneliness (originally titled Stephen) would create a furor and be castigated as harmful to public morality. This 500-page novel is largely autobiographical and covers a period of 35 years, from the late Victorian era to the early 1920s. Stephen Gordon, a female, is forced to leave home when her mother discovers she is a lesbian. Stephen is a composite figure, and Hall largely based the character's life on Troubridge's childhood and her own adult experiences. "What have I done to be so cursed," Stephen asks, and she pleads, "Give us the right to our existence." Like other proponents of "inversion theory," Radclyffe Hall argues that homosexuality is inborn, not acquired, an "affliction" which proscribes the lesbian as a social pariah. Writes historian Faderman:
Autobiographical writings of the first half of the twentieth century suggest how useful the sexologists' pronouncements were to lesbians in identifying their differences, explaining their sexual drives, and denying moral culpability for who they were and what they did. The sexologists' work gave them ammunition to argue against moralists who condemned lesbian sexuality. If lesbians were born men trapped in women's bodies then they could not help their sexual urges, and they had as much right to sexual expression as men fortunate enough to be born into the right bodies.
Nevertheless, as expected, publishers hesitated to commit to a book they were certain would arouse adverse public reaction to the subject of homosexuality. Hall explained that she had approached the subject "as a fact of nature—a simple, though at present tragic, fact." Finally, the publishing house of Jonathan Cape accepted the challenge; Hall insisted that not a word, not a comma, be changed. She was also eager for the book to be published in America. Houghton Mifflin, in "Puritan Boston," declined the offer; Blanche Knopf , however, accepted the book, but only if Hall would accept all legal responsibility for any action undertaken by American authorities. Hall's irritation with Knopf prompted her to remark, "I put it down to the fact that she is a woman, and that in many cases, it is better for women to keep out of business negotiations."
The Well of Loneliness appeared in July 1928, and, despite mixed reviews, the first printing sold out in a week. One powerful reviewer, James Douglas, editor of the Sunday Express, voiced moral outrage and demanded that Jonathan Cape withdraw the book; if the publisher refused, he wrote, the authorities should suppress it by law. Cape, attempting to be conciliatory, offered to request approval for the book from the Home Office, without consulting Radclyffe Hall. She was furious. The Home Secretary, a Christian fundamentalist known as "The Policeman of the Lord," demanded repression of The Well or Cape would be legally culpable of obscenity. This was, in fact, beyond the purview of the Home Office, but Cape capitulated and halted production; however, he had a contingency plan to undermine the Home Office censure. He would ship the type-molds to an English-language publisher in Paris who would print The Well and send copies to English booksellers. When a shipment was seized at the port of Dover, it was eventually released and sent to Leopold Hill, an English book distributor. But the books were confiscated, and Hill was now liable to be tried under the Obscene Publications Act of 1857. Hall hired a lawyer, Harold Rubin-stein. In an interview, she had stated that banning the book "can only insult the public intelligence." The issue was larger than suppressing a work on homosexuality; the issue was freedom of expression. In fact, lesbianism was not a crime in England, though many considered it "disgusting" and persecuted lesbians, but male homosexuality was still a criminal offense.
The trial opened in London on November 9, 1928, and Hill and Cape were ordered to show why The Well should not be destroyed. Several eminent writers, such as E.M. Forster and Virginia Woolf , appeared as defense witnesses; George Bernard Shaw declined, explaining that "he was too immoral to stand as a credible witness for the defense." Hall contributed to the defense's legal costs (she sold her house in London), but she did not testify. She, as author, was not on trial. The publisher and book distributor were found guilty and paid a modest fine. Meanwhile, the book sold well in Paris, but in New York 800 copies were seized by police. Knopf was found guilty of selling an obscene book which would "debauch public morals." The verdict was overturned by an Appeals Court. Over 50,000 copies of The Well were sold by the end of February 1929. Translated into 11 languages, it sold over one million copies by the time Radclyffe Hall died in 1943. The obscenity trials revived interest in Radclyffe Hall's other works which were reprinted and sold well.
Hall was disappointed in the limited support she had received from her fellow writers. Regarding herself as a member of a third sex, "neither man nor woman, but uniting the best qualities of both (and, therefore, implicitly superior to either)," she saw herself as the defender of a "defenseless minority." Response to the book made Hall ever more mindful of her sexuality; publicly, it brought the subject of lesbianism "into the forefront of public consciousness," while reinforcing an image of the lesbian as a masculine woman.
With increased royalties from her books, Hall bought Troubridge a house—in her own name—in Rye, a small town favored by artists and writers. Despite the success of her new novel, The Master of the House (1931), Hall and Troubridge began to isolate themselves, and Hall became increasingly convinced that she was a failure, that everyone was against her, everyone except Una, whose support was constant during the obscenity trials. Wrote Hall in a later letter: "When all the world seemed against me at the time of the 'Well of Loneliness' persecutions, Una stood shoulder to shoulder with me, fighting every inch of the terrific battle. She has given me all of her interest and indeed all of her life ever since we made common cause."
While writing The Master of the House, a bizarre occurrence took place when Hall experienced a pain in the palm of her right hand and then "livid red stains" appeared on the palms of both hands. This phenomenon is particularly arresting since The Master dealt with a carpenter's son and had a religious theme. Five short stories, published in 1934, did not do well; in the midst of the Great Depression, the "bleak vision" and obvious despair that permeated the stories had little appeal. Despite her drop in sales, Hall remained a notable literary figure and was invited to lecture at Oxford University and London University. However, increased isolation and restlessness marked Hall and Troubridge's lives. They frequently traveled abroad and divided their time between their house in Rye and their apartment in London. As Hall turned inward, Troubridge remained loyal, never doubting the "insoluble bond, spiritual as well as physical," that united them. They had, she believed, made a "sacred commitment" to each other, which she took for granted. But Hall—never demonstrative, often morose and dissatisfied—withdrew even more from Troubridge. It became evident that her irascibility was a product of her attitude towards the confining "domestic bliss" represented by Troubridge and her efficient household management. Hall's idea of self has been characterized as "the anguished loner," and one can infer that she felt trapped in a "marriage" that lacked passion and expression. Troubridge suffered from a variety of ailments and bouts of "nerves" and was aging noticeably faster than Hall. Perhaps Hall viewed Troubridge as a potential burden, a dependent invalid as Batten had been.
In 1934, Hall injured her leg in a hunting accident, and Troubridge suggested they go to Bagnoles, France, one of their favorite places, where Hall could recuperate. While there, Troubridge developed enteritis, and Hall cared for her. Troubridge, however, insisted they hire a nurse, a decision that would change their lives forever. Evguenia Souline was a White Russian who had fled Russia in 1922; manipulative, exploitative, uncultured, selfish, and plain, Souline was the antithesis of all Hall admired in Una. The 54-year-old Hall fell passionately in love with the 32-year-old Souline, and the stable, monogamous relations that had sustained Troubridge and Hall since 1915 became displaced by Hall's open admissions to Una that she loved Souline. Troubridge asked only that Hall remain faithful to her "in the fullest and ultimate meaning of the word." For the last nine years of her life, Hall poured out her longings to Souline in hundreds of letters. To Troubridge's great dismay, Hall's creative energies diminished, and she abandoned her writing. Hall and Souline became lovers, despite Hall's promise to Troubridge. How could Hall be so smitten with a woman of "inferior intellect," Una wondered, to which Hall replied that she "could never tolerate a woman with brains." Wrote Hall to Souline:
Then [Una] has reminded me over and over again until I have nearly gone mad, that I have always stood for fidelity in the case of inverted unions, that the eyes of the inverted all over the world are turned towards me, that they have respected me because for many years my union has been faithful and open. And when she says that I can find no answer, because she is only telling the truth—I have tried to help my own poor lot by setting an example, especially of courage, and thousands have turned to me for help and found it, if I may believe their letters, and she says that I want to betray my inverts who look upon me almost as their leader.
Indeed, Hall did not want to leave her longtime devoted partner. "Remain with me for ever and ever.… You are permanent," she wrote to Una. Nonetheless, Hall's obsession with Souline outweighed Troubridge's obvious distress, and it ignored Souline's avaricious nature. This was to be the scenario followed by the three women to the close of their triangular relationship. Through it all, Troubridge comforted her distraught companion and clung to the hope that Hall would realize the futility of her painful infatuation for an unworthy woman. The ill-sorted triangle survived despite quarrels and the undisguised hostility Troubridge felt towards Souline.
In October 1935, Hall and Troubridge returned to Rye from a lengthy visit to France and Italy. In Italy, Troubridge had arranged for Hall to meet the Italian poet and patriot Gabriele d'Annunzio. They shared a love of Italy, an admiration of Fascism (as did Troubridge), and the rejection of modern values. On their return to Rye, Troubridge was encouraged by Hall's completion of The Sixth Beatitude (1936), which was set in Rye and contained portraits of many local inhabitants. The novel received mixed reviews and sales were sluggish. Restlessness drove Hall and Troubridge back to France and Italy, and back to Souline who often traveled with them, though she adamantly refused to share an apartment with them. The ever accommodating Troubridge was responsible for finding lodging and hiring a maid for Souline. Hall and Troubridge particularly loved Florence and its marvelous cultural offerings, and they began to think of settling in Italy.
After a year abroad, Hall and Troubridge returned to Rye in July 1937. A month later, Hall broke her ankle which was slow to heal, forcing her to use two canes; she had problems with her eyes, contracted influenza, and suffered from insomnia. Troubridge patiently nursed her and accompanied Hall to consult doctors and specialty clinics in London. Unhappy with the changes modernization had brought to Rye, Hall and Troubridge decided to move permanently to Italy. They sold their house, but the outbreak of war in 1939 altered their plans. Hall blamed the Jews and the Treaty of Versailles for Europe's problems, maintaining her regard for Fascism.
From 1940 to 1942, as Hall's health deteriorated rapidly, Troubridge grew more robust; she was indispensable now. Unlike Hall in her caretaking role with Batten, Troubridge willingly, almost happily, took over the direction of Hall's life. But for Hall, ill health and her turbulent relations with Souline made her sadly aware of her age and "the hollowness of her own cherished values, of fidelity in particular." In March 1943, Hall was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. Troubridge located an apartment with ready access to medical treatment and stayed with Hall until she died at 8:07 pm on October 7, 1943. Only Una was present, and she later recalled that as she looked at Hall she detected "not a trace of femininity; no one in their senses could have suspected that anything but a young man had died." In her will, Hall left everything to Troubridge who was directed to provide for Souline "at her own discretion." Hall had asked Una to destroy her unfinished novel; too much of her pain from loving Souline had gone into it. Troubridge kept her promise. Seven hundred letters from Hall to Souline survive. Only one letter from Souline to Hall survives; Troubridge may have destroyed the others.
Radclyffe Hall was buried in a vault next to Ladye Batten in Highgate Cemetery in London. Troubridge, now a wealthy woman, moved to Italy and died of cancer in Rome in September 1963, at age 76. Shortly before Troubridge died, a woman asker her how she and Hall reconciled their relationship with their Catholic religion. What did they do about confession? Answered Una, "There was nothing to confess."
Baker, Michael. Our Three Selves: A Life of Radclyffe Hall. London: GMP Publishers, 1985.
Faderman, Lillian. Chloe Plus Olivia. NY: Viking Penguin, 1994.
Ormrod, Richard. Una Troubridge: The Friend of Radclyffe Hall. NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1985.
Brittain, Vera. Radclyffe Hall: A Case of Obscenity? UK: Femina Books, 1968.
Dickson, R. Lovat. Radclyffe Hall at the Well of Loneliness: A Sapphic Chronicle. London: Collins, 1975.
Franks, Claudia Stillman. Beyond the Well of Loneliness. UK: Aveburg Publishing, 1982.
Troubridge, Una. The Life and Death of Radclyffe Hall. London: Hammond, 1961.
Papers and letters are located in the Lovat Dickson Collection, National Archive, Ottowa, Canada, and in the Radclyffe Hall Collection, Humanities Research Center, University of Texas, Austin.
Jeanne A. Ojala , Professor of History, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah