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Palatable Poison: Critical Perspectives on the Well of Loneliness

By Laura Doan; Jay Prosser | Go to book overview

5
“Radclyffe Hall” (1975)

I read Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness first when I was fiteen years old. I knew nothing about her real life and not very much about my own, but I was badly frightened. Like Stephen Gordon, the main female character in the book, I was six feet tall. I had broad shoulders and narrow hips, no bosom, and a deep voice. Though I had a feminine interest or two like needlework and collecting miniature animals, I had spent most of my childhood trying to horn in on my older brother's activities, whether it was touch football (when I split open my elbow, my mother sighed for the permanent damage to my feminine future, doomed at six to long-sleeved evening dresses) or fishing trips with my father (who indulgently defended my right to be the youngest and only female even though I was always car sick on the way and rarely caught anything but trees from which I had to be untangled). At twelve I was sent to a girls' school, grateful because I was already too tall, too active, and too bright to make anything but the most grotesque transition into heterosexual adolescence. Among girls I could still take pride in all those attributes my brother could carry into maturity without apology. I didn't want to be a boy, ever, but I was outraged that his height and intelligence were graces for him and gaucheries for me. Since I could not hide the one fault, I decided there was no point in hiding the

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