Hall, Radclyffe

BORN 12 Aug 1880, Bournemouth, Dorset: Sunny Lawn, Durley Road - DIED 6 Oct 1943, London: Dolphin Square
BIRTH NAME Hall, Marguerite
GRAVE LOCATION London: Highgate Cemetery West, Swain's Lane, Highgate (Catacombs)

Radclyffe Hall was born as Marguerita Hall. She was the daughter of Radclyffe Radclyffe-Hall, an Englishman from a wealthy family. Her mother Mary Jane was American. Around the time she was born her father was cheating her mother with a maid named Elizabeth Jane Farmer and the marriage ended soon afterwards. Her mother married the singer and teacher Alberto Visetti, who often conducted affairs with his female students.

Marguerite hated her name, cut her hair short and started wearing men's clothes. She changed her name to John. Around 1898 she started an affair with one of Visetti's pupils, the young singer Agnes Nicholls who became a famous soprano in the twenties.

In 1898 her father died and she inherited the family fortune of 100.000 pounds. From her 27th until her 35th she lived with the singer Mabel Batten, who was 23 years her senior and whom she called Ladye.

In 1915 she fell for Ladye´s cousin, Una Troubridge. Una was the wife of admiral Ernest Troubridge. This caused Ladye to suffer a fatal stroke and she died in 1916. John and Una felt guilty and for years they tried to contact Ladye by means of seances (they believed they contacted her).

In 1924 Radclyffe Hall, the name John used for her writings, published her first two novels, "The Forge" and "The Unlit Lamp". "Adam's Breed" (1926) won her the Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1927 and also the Prix Femina. In 1928 "The Well of Loneliness" was published. The novel described lesbianism as something normal and was considered obscene by the English authorities. A trial followed and although no obscene passage could be pointed out it was banned for its theme. However, the book was published in France in the English language and many copies were sold in England. It was a success in the United States and also in England after its publication in 1949.

Radclyffe Hall visited Gabriele d'Annunzio at his villa "Il Vittoriale". In Paris she knew famous lesbians like Natalie Barney, Romaine Brooks and Sidonie Colette. She and Una both admired Mussolini.

In 1934 she fell in love with the Russian émigré Evguenia Souline, much to the disgust of Una Troubridge, with whom she still lived. She had been chain smoking most of her life and in 1943 she died of colon cancer. She was buried at Highgate Cemetery in Lady's tomb. Una Troubridge managed to get hold of her fortune and - against John's explicit wish - hardly provided for Evguenia Souline. She only gave her very small amounts of money when Evguenia's need was high. She was paid back after her own death in Italy, when her heirs ignored her wish to be buried beside Radclyffe Hall because they didn't want to pay for the transferring costs.

• Mother: Visetti, Mary Jane

Related persons
• was a friend of Barney, Natalie Clifford
• was the lover of Batten, Mabel Veronica
• was a friend of Brooks, Romaine
• was a friend of Colette, Sidonie Gabrielle
• was a friend of D'Annunzio, Gabriele
• knew Hunt, Violet
• was the lover of Troubridge, Una Vincenzo
• was written about by Troubridge, Una Vincenzo
• is stepson/stepdaughter of Visetti, Alberto
• was a friend of West, Rebecca

22/8/1907First meeting between Radclyffe Hall and Mabel Batten in Homburg [Batten, Mabel Veronica]
0/0/1924"The Forge" and "The Unlit Lamp" by Radclyffe Hall are published. These were the first two prose works by Hall that were published. They were preceeded by several volumes of poetry. 
24/7/1928"The Well Of Loneliness" by Radclyffe Hall is published. On this day Radclyffe Hall and her friend Una Troubridge checked all the booksellers to see if the book was properly on view. After the Sunday Press called the book 'moral poson' Home Secretary William Joynson-Hicks threatened to sue publisher Johanthan Cape if he wouldn't withdraw the book. Soon many copies were imported from Paris and a trial followed. The prosecution was unable to find mention any obscene passeges, but still the book was banned because of its subject of lesbian love. Only in 1949 it was published again in England. 


The entrance to the tomb of Radclyffe Hall and Mabel Batten at the catacombs of Highgate West Cemetery, London.
Picture by Androom (12 Dec 1993)


The grave of Radclyffe Hall and Mabel Batten at Highgate Cemetery West, London.
Picture by Androom (28 Mar 2016)


• Cline, Sally, Radclyffe Hall, A Woman called John, The Overlook Press, Woodstock, New York, 1998
• Culbertson, Judi & Tom Randall, Permanent Londoners, Robson Books, London, 1991
• Dickson, Lovat, Radclyffe Hall at the Well of Loneliness, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1975
• Souhami, Diana, The Trials of Radclyffe Hall, Virago Press, London, 1999
• Troubridge, Una, The Life and Death of Radcyffe Hall, Hammond Hammond, London, 1961

Hallé, Charles

Published: 29 Oct 2006
Last update: 20 May 2023