Palatable Poison: Critical Perspectives on the Well of Loneliness

By Laura Doan; Jay Prosser | Go to book overview

2
“A Book That Must Be Suppressed”
(August 19, 1928)

The Well of Loneliness (Jonathan Cape, 15s. net), by Miss Radclyffe Hall, is a novel. The publishers state that it “handles very skillfully a psychological problem which needs to be understood in view of its growing importance.”

“In England hitherto,” they admit, “the subject has not been treated frankly outside the region of scientific textbooks, but that its social consequences qualify a broader and more general treatment is likely to be the opinion of thoughtful and cultured people.”

They declare that they “have been deeply impressed by this study; they have felt that such a book should not be lost to those who may be willing and able to understand and appreciate it. They believe that the author has treated the subject in such a way as to combine perfect frankness and sincerity with delicacy and deep psychological insight.” …[Douglas then cites Ellis's “Commentary” in full.]

That is the defense and justification of what I regard as an intolerable outrage—the first outrage of the kind in the annals of English fiction.

The defense is wholly unconvincing. The justification absolutely fails.

In order to prevent the contamination and corruption of English fiction it is the duty of the critic to make it impossible for any other novelist to repeat this outrage. I say deliberately that this novel is not fit to be sold by any bookseller or to be borrowed from any library.

-36-

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