The Well of Loneliness

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Date: 1929

Region: North America, Europe

Subject: Sexual/Gender Orientation

Medium: Literature


Well Loneliness.jpg

Artist: Radclyffe Hall

Confronting Bodies: New York Court

Dates of Action: 1929

Location: New York City, New York, England

Description of Artwork: The Well of Loneliness, a mawkish yet powerfully moving novel about a lesbian's struggle for acceptance and self-respect.

The Incident: The book was found obscene in Britain even though it had no explicit descriptions of sex. Expert testimony on its literary worth, offered in the English trial by Virginia Woolf and other major writers of the day, was rejected by the court as irrelevant. A New York Court in 1929, ruled The Well of Loneliness obscene even though the judge acknowledged that the book was "a well written, carefully constructed piece of fiction" with "no unclean words." It was penalized because it drew a sympathetic portrait of homosexuality, and "pleads for tolerance on the part of society."

Results of Incident: The prosecutor in the case used the Hicklin Rule to demonstrate that some passages were obscene and therefore under the Hicklin Rule the entire work was obscene. The Hicklin Rule was overturned in 1934 in the case United States vs. One Book Entitled Ulysses.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Censorship,J.Green, Facts on File pg.. 3-4