Our Three Selves

The Life and Times of Radcliffe Hall

By Michael Baker

Review by Cathleen Myers

For a detailed look at the events leading up to the censorship trial of The Well of Loneliness, read Michael Baker’s Our Three Selves, the Life and Times of Radcliffe Hall (neé Marguerite Radclyffe Hall), heiress and successful novelist who risked her career by writing a novel eventually banned for its sympathetic treatment of Lesbianism. Though she didn’t suffer financially from the controversial novel (which, even after being banned in Great Britain, remained an international best seller), she did risk both her social position and her future literary career by publishing a book advocating tolerance for the "love that dare not speak its name." Because her politics were aristocratic, conservative and only moderately feminist (initially a suffragette, she was repelled by the violence of the movement and concluded that most women were happiest as wives and mothers), "John" Hall is not a popular icon with modern gay rights activists, but she was an important figure in the movement, all the same, and was acquainted with most of the artistic underworld of her time. "Our Three Selves" is a reference to her two "marriages" - the first to musician Mabel Batten ("Ladye"); the second to artist Una Troubridge - both talented women in their own right.

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