How the mighty have fallen. For years, I have had a vague sense of who Radclyffe Hall was, the woman who wrote The Well of Loneliness, the seminal treatise on the rights of gay women. The book was banned for being obscene and RH was vilified for writing it. However, I have just read Diana Souhami's The Trials of Radclyffe Hall and it has left a rather sour taste in the mouth.
According to Souhami, Radclyffe Hall supported Fascism and Mussolini, was intolerant and unkind and her pleas were for a 'certain class' of lesbian (or 'invert' as she called herself). They were god's creatures and, therefore, to be treated with forbearance and consideration. Others, it seemed, could go hang.
The trial did underscore the deep misogyny and prejudice of the government and judiciary of the time. Indeed, though we quite rightly still rail against the 'isms' of today's society, we need only go back a century to see how far we have come. And as for violence, is anyone else shocked by the White Queen being serialised on the BBC? Assuming that at our core humanity has not changed in 600 years, there is a lot of brutality which is now lying dormant.
It is hard, however, to see Radclyffe Hall, a feminist icon, in such a different light. What she did with The Well of Loneliness was ground-breaking and paved the way for what was to come. And yet, as an individual, she was so imperfect. It is difficult for me to marry those two aspects. And it is a conundrum presented by a number of other writers.
Going off on another tangent, when (in the late 1930s) RH was diagnosed with cancer, her doctors advised her to cut down on smoking. So they must have known even then about the link?