Welcome back to the Richmond Read-along! Today we are reading a poem by Radclyffe Hall, poet and novelist best known for “The Well of Loneliness.” Born Marguerite Radclyffe Hall in 1880, Radclyffe Hall used the surname as a pseudonym, preferring to be called John by friends. Left money by a wealthy paternal grandfather, Radclyffe Hall did not become a celebrated writer until publishing novels later in life, although poetry collections were published at the beginning of the 1900s. “Adam’s Breed,” the novel preceding “The Well of Loneliness,” won Radclyffe Hall the Femina Vie Heureuse and James Tait Black prizes. E. M. Forster was the only person to have won both prizes before then (for “A Passage to India”).

While “The Well of Loneliness” is now Radclyffe Hall’s best known work, at the time it was highly controversial. It was banned in Britain until 1949 due to the main characters being lesbians, despite protests from Virginia Woolf and many other literary figures. Radclyffe Hall was adamant the novel be published unedited, and the publisher briefly got around the ban by publishing copies in France and shipping them to Britain before this was discovered. Although not the best of Radclyffe Hall’s work based on stylistic merit, the controversy surrounding “The Well of Loneliness” has kept public interest alive in the novel and its author.

Today we are reading “Sunlight on Distant Hills,” one of the many poems which – although sometimes overlooked – show the lyricism Radclyffe Hall was capable of:

“But a moment since and the sun was shining
Over the hills that I see from my room.
And now the rain and the mist come driving
Out of the West, in a cloud of gloom.
Over the woods, and meadows, and gardens,
Hurries the storm like the hand of Doom.

But a moment hence and the clouds shall vanish;
Breaking and drifting and all asunder.
And lo! in their midst will the sky be lying
Calm and blue with a peaceful wonder
Nothing may alter, though sorrow and tempest
Torture the Earth, as she trembles under.”

You can find this poem and many others on Project Gutenberg. Read more about Radclyffe Hall at the Literary Ladies Guide.

Join us tomorrow for the next Richmond Read-along!