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The Well of Loneliness is a 1928 lesbian novel by the British author Radclyffe Hall that follows the life of Stephen Gordon, an Englishwoman from an upper-class family. Her "sexual inversion" (homosexuality) is apparent from an early age. She finds love with Mary Llewellyn, whom she meets while serving as an ambulance driver in World War I, but their happiness together is marred by social isolation and rejection. The novel portrays inversion as a natural, God-given state and makes an explicit plea: "Give us also the right to our existence". Although its only sexual reference consists of the words "and that night, they were not divided", a British court judged it obscene because it defended "unnatural practices between women". In the United States the book survived legal challenges. Publicity over The Well's legal battles increased the visibility of lesbians in British and American culture. Gordon's expressions of self-hatred have been faulted for inspiring shame, but the book was for decades the best-known lesbian novel in English, and often the first source of information about lesbianism that young people could find. (Full article...)

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