Your John: The Love Letters of Radclyffe Hall

Joanne Glasgow, Editor, Radclyffe Hall, Author New York University Press $65 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8147-3092-8
Many assumptions have been made about the degree to which Radclyffe Hall's lesbian classic, The Well of Loneliness, may be autobiographical. Your John dismisses all such notions. This exhaustive collection of letters written between 1934 and 1942 to Evguenia Souline, a White Russian emigre with whom Hall fell deeply in love are detailed, intimate records of Hall's personal life and convictions (only one of Souline's letters survives). As Glasgow notes in her excellent introduction, the love affair between Hall and Souline started during Hall's relationship with Una, Lady Troubridge, which lasted from 1915 until Hall's death in 1943. Hall had a deep commitment and sense of obligation toward Lady Troubridge and never imagined living without her. But as the letters show, the degree of emotional stress in the daily lives of all three women as they tried to accommodate the situation was great. Hall comes across as at once infinitely romantic and oddly practical. She praised Souline constantly, questioned her loyalty and fussed endlessly over her well-being. However, these letters chronicle much more than Hall's obsessive love for Souline. Hall's views on homosexuality turn out to be far more advanced than any reading of The Well might suggest. Her knowledge of current events, her devotion to her writing and her emotional and fiscal generosity toward Souline combine to paint a portrait of a devoted, passionate writer with an unquenchable thirst for love. There is nothing romantic about this collection, however, as Hall's relationship with Souline seems to have been impossible from the beginning. If Hall's neurotic tone is sometimes grating, the collection is still a heart-wrenching record of how politics, money, and geography converged to undermine these women's dreams. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-8147-3125-3
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