Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Banned Books Week: The Well of Loneliness

September 28th, 2018

It’s the end of September, which means that it’s Banned Books Week (this year, September 23-29th), an annual celebration of the freedom to read.  Among the most frequently challenged books in recent years have been ones that include LGBTQ content or themes, such as same-sex relationships or issues surrounding gender identity. (Four of the 2017 and five of the 2016 top ten most challenged books, as compiled by the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, were challenged in part for LGBTQ subject matter.)  With this in mind, today we feature a typescript from Spencer’s collections for a novel that stands as a landmark in the history of lesbian literature and the history of censorship, Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness (1928).

The Well of Loneliness tells the story of Stephen Gordon as she struggles to find love and acceptance in a society that rejects same-sex desire. Often discussed as the first openly lesbian novel in English, The Well of Loneliness favors the term “invert” over lesbian.  The novel’s author, the British writer Radclyffe Hall, imported this word from late nineteenth and early twentieth century writings of sexologists such as Richard von Krafft-Ebing and Havelock Ellis.  Indeed, Havelock Ellis wrote a prefatory comment for Radclyffe Hall’s novel, and Spencer Research Library’s typescript copy appears to have been given by Hall to Ellis.  It includes a manuscript copy of Ellis’s introductory “comment,” and is marked “Special Copy I” in Radclyffe Hall’s hand on the title page.  Photographic portraits of both Hall and Ellis have been added to the typescript, perhaps by some later owner.

Well of Loneliness typescript title page marked "Special Copy I", with tipped in photographic portrait of Radclyffe Hall

Photograph of Radclyffe Hall pasted next to the title page of a typescript of her novel The Well of Loneliness. England, approximately 1928. Call #: MS D45. Click image to enlarge.

Hall intended her novel as both a work of art and a means of gaining sympathy and recognition for same-sex love.  In his introductory comment, Havelock Ellis writes,

So far as I know, it is the first English novel which presents, in a completely faithful and uncompromising form, one particular aspect of sexual life as it exists among us to-day. The relation of certain people—who, while different from their fellow human beings, are sometimes of the highest character and finest aptitudes—to the often hostile society in which they move presents difficult and still unsolved problems.  The poignant situations which thus arise here are set forth so vividly, and yet with such complete absence of offence, that we must place Radclyffe Hall’s book on a high level of distinction.

 

Manuscript of Havelock Ellis's prefatory "commentary" with pasted facing page gelatin print of Havelock Ellis

Havelock Ellis’s prefatory “commentary,” with photograph of Ellis in the first volume of a typescript for Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. England, approximately 1928. Call #: MS D45. Click image to enlarge.

Ellis’s careful allusion to the “complete absence of offense,” however, did not convince all readers. Though The Well of Loneliness contains no sexually explicit scenes, its subject matter and its insistence on the humanity of its queer characters inspired controversy upon its release in 1928.  James Douglas, the editor of the tabloid newspaper the Sunday Express, published an article in which he famously and bombastically asserted that he “would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid” than Radclyffe Hall’s novel. “Poison kills the body but moral poison kills the soul, Douglas wrote as he called upon the government to take action to suppress the book.  At the urging of England’s Home Secretary, the novel’s publisher, Jonathan Cape, withdrew it from sale.  However, Cape also arranged to have the printing molds sent to the Pegasus Press in Paris, with the plan of importing copies.  When those copies of the novel were brought back into the UK from France, both Cape and the London bookseller involved, Leonard Hill, were charged under the Obscene Publications Act of 1857.  Following a trial, Chief Magistrate Chartres Biron ordered copies of the novel be destroyed, and The Well of Loneliness was not republished in the United Kingdom until 1949.

Across the ocean, the novel fared better. John Sumner of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice lodged a complaint against the American publisher of The Well of Loneliness, Covici-Friede.  But ultimately, attorney Morris L. Ernst succeeded in defending Friede against the charge of possessing and selling an obscene book.  A victory edition of the novel was released in the U. S., and the controversy that had surrounded it fueled its sales.

The corrected typescript at Spencer Research Library gives insight into Radclyffe Hall’s process in writing and revising the novel, and it includes emendations in at least two hands. Though some of the deletions remain difficult to read, others can be seen through the black ink and blue crayon used in the editing process (click on the images below to enlarge them).  For example, in a scene in which Stephen and her mother argue over the disclosure of young Stephen’s love for the married Angela Crossby, we see that Hall has edited down some of Stephen’s more vocal justifications of her love.

The Well of Loneliness typescript p. 348 with deleted passages and manuscript emendations

Deletions on p. 348 of a typescript for Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. England, approximately 1928. Call #: MS D45. Click image to enlarge.

The blacked out lines in the passage above read “I loved with my body and mind and spirit” and “My love was not vile, it was the finest thing in me.”   The succeeding lines, which Hall leaves untouched, suggest how the author’s depiction of Stephen’s “inversion” is inflected with elements of what we now call transgender identity.  Stephen explains to her mother, “If I loved her the way a man loves a woman, it’s because I can’t feel that I am a woman. All my life I’ve never felt a woman and you know it —.“

On the following page, Hall also deletes a line in which Stephen invokes God in explaining her love.  “I’m not ashamed of it, there’s no shame in me,” Stephen declares, and then the deleted text continues, “I glory in my love for Angela Crossby.  It was good, it is good, for all true loving must be good if you believe in God’s existence —.“

The Well of Loneliness typescript p. 349 with deleted passage.

Additional deletions on p. 349 of the typescript for Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. England, approximately 1928. Call #: MS D45. Click image to enlarge.

The idea that same-sex love is a part of God’s creation recurs throughout the novel, as does Stephen’s anguish at being persecuted by society for it nevertheless.  Following the tragic deaths of Stephen’s two friends, Barbara and Jamie, Hall writes of Stephen, “She would clench her hands in a kind of fury. How long was this persecution to last? How long would God sit still and endure this insult offered to His creation? How long tolerate the preposterous statement that inversion was not a part of nature? For since it existed what else could it be?  All things that existed were a part of nature!”

 

Detail from The Well of Loneliness typescript p. 704.

Detail from The Well of Loneliness typescript p. 705.

How long was this persecution to last? Details from p. 704-705 of a typescript for Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. England, approximately 1928. Call #: MS D45. Click images to enlarge.

2018 marks ninety years since The Well of Loneliness was first published.  In spite of its suppression for two decades in the UK and the attempt to suppress it in the US, readers and scholars continue to analyze and respond to Radclyffe Hall’s novel. We invite you to delve further into its history by exploring the “special” typescript copy, with emendations, held at the Spencer Research Library. Researchers can then compare this copy to other drafts available in the collection of papers for Hall and her partner Una Troubridge at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas.

Interested in more material related to banned books?  Take a peek at last year’s banned books week post on Spencer Library’s copy of a 1512 edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy that was expurgated at the behest of the Inquisition in Spain.  Curious about more contemporary instances of censorship and challenges to books? Read through the lists of the top 10 most frequently challenged books for each year since 2001.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

 

 

Throwback Thursday: Beat Oklahoma State Edition

September 27th, 2018

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

We’re excited about tonight’s Homecoming parade and this Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State! This week’s photo looks back at another year when the Jayhawks faced the Cowboys in the Homecoming game.

Photograph of the "Flush the Cowboys" float in the Homecoming parade, 1979

“Flush the Cowboys” float in the Homecoming parade, 1979. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/1 1979 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Check out additional floats from the 1979 Homecoming parade.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Homecoming History Edition

September 20th, 2018

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Photograph of an early KU Homecoming football game, 1910s

An early KU homecoming football game at McCook Field, 1910s. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/1 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

For over a century, the tradition of homecoming has been observed across KU and the city of Lawrence. Originating as an opportunity for alumni to revisit campus, the first homecoming game was played against the University of Missouri in November 1912, with KU winning 12-3. Over the next decade, the popular event spun off into many traditions. Some – like homecoming parades – have endured to this day, while others – like the annual tiger bonfire and a day dedicated to dressing like hobos – have disappeared.

Photograph of KU students dressed up for Hobo Day, 1931

Students dressed up for Hobo Day, 1931. The raucous event became an
integral part of homecoming festivities at KU. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/9 1931 Prints: Student Activities: Hobo Day (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Homecoming mostly continued on in this fashion for nearly six decades – a week of parties, rallies, and promotional activities leading up to the big football game. It wasn’t until 1970 that the next major development in the history of KU homecoming took place. In 1969, senior student Janet Merrick was crowned KU’s final homecoming queen. The selection of the homecoming queen had been part of the celebration since 1925. Protests surrounding the war in Vietnam and a growing sense of student-establishment tension deemed the tradition to be clashing with modern sensibilities. Additionally, frustrated with a process that had never resulted in a black homecoming queen, KU’s Black Student Union first chose its own queen in 1969. The following year was the first homecoming celebration without a queen, and the tradition remains shelved. The Black Student Union continues to crown a homecoming queen each year.

Photograph of KU Homecoming Queen Jan Merrick, 1969

Homecoming Queen Janet Merrick, 1969. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/1 1969 Prints: Student Activities: Homecoming (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

The following year, KU introduced a second Jayhawk mascot. During halftime of the 1971 homecoming game against Kansas State University, Baby Jay was unveiled to the student body after hatching from a giant blue egg. Big Jay and Baby Jay have been staples of the university spirit team ever since.

Photograph of the Baby Jay egg, 1971

Baby Jay egg, 1971. University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 0/25 1971
Negatives: University General: Jayhawk mascot, dolls, etc (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Photograph of KU Chancellor Chalmers with new Baby Jay at Homecoming, 1971

Chancellor Chalmers with new Baby Jay at Homecoming, 1971.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 2/13 1971 Prints:
Chancellors: E. Laurence Chalmers (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

In 1993 there may have been some consideration in reviving the homecoming court; however, a new tradition began instead. An award was given to students that exhibited academic excellence, leadership, and a strong sense of service to the Lawrence community. This became the KU Excellence in Community, Education and Leadership Awards, or the KU Ex.C.E.L. Awards. This honor has been given to two students, every homecoming, for the past twenty-eight years.

Homecoming in more recent years has seen the emergence of new traditions. For example, at Chalk ‘n’ Rock, student groups and organizations create elaborate chalk murals along Wescoe Beach. The Jayhawk Jingles continue as a new version of the Jayhawk Follies; students compete in a contest of musical performances.

Photograph of the Jayhawk Follies, 1954

Four women dancing on stage dressed as dolls in the Jayhawk Follies, 1954.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/1 1954 Prints: Student Activities:
Homecoming (Photos). Click on image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

This year, KU faces off against Oklahoma State in the 106th homecoming football game. The theme this year is “Home on the Hill,” a call for alumni to return home to their University as they always have and for current students to further solidify their own homes on the hill.

Mallory Harrell
KU Museum Studies graduate student and University Archives intern

Throwback Thursday: Tailgate Edition, Part II

September 13th, 2018

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Photograph of football fans tailgating outside Memorial Stadium, 1975-1976

Football fans tailgating outside Memorial Stadium, 1975-1976.
University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 71/66/14 1975/1976 Prints:
Student Activities: Sports: Football (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Celebrating the New Conservation Lab

September 11th, 2018

Earlier this summer, the Conservation Services Department completed a move from its former location in the basement of Watson Library to a new facility on the second floor of Spencer Research Library. After years of wishing and hoping, months of dreaming and planning, and some intense weeks of packing, hauling, unpacking, and arranging, we opened our doors to the new space in late July.

Working in this space has been everything we hoped it would be, and more. Here we are better situated to care for Spencer collections, while still providing service to all other campus libraries. Shortly after we opened, we held an open house for our Libraries colleagues. We were delighted that more than 50 people came to view the new space and share in our excitement. We three conservators – Whitney, Roberta, and myself – took turns offering tours of the lab to visitors. For those who were unable to attend, here is a quick look at some of what we love about this new lab.

Our new height-adjustable, wheeled workbenches and tables offer more flexibility to accommodate many types of treatments and projects – and even meetings, tours, and other activities. Each staff member can also configure their benches to the height and arrangement that is most comfortable for them.

Height-adjustable, wheeled workbenches and tables in the new lab space.

Adjustable workbenches and tables on casters in the new conservation lab (with windows!). Click image to enlarge.

We have a quarantine room for isolating and treating items affected by mold or pests. In addition to ample shelf space and our existing sub-zero freezer, this room houses a new biosafety cabinet which will allow us to mitigate the risks of handling and cleaning these vulnerable collection materials.

Quarantine room for isolating and treating items with mold or pests.

Inside the quarantine room: biosafety cabinet at left, shelving at right. Click image to enlarge.

The new wet lab will soon be equipped with a large sink in which we can treat oversize items, or do the messy work of preparing repair materials – such as lining cloth or paper – in a space that is easily cleaned up.

Wet lab within the new conservation lab for paper treatments and preparation of repair materials.

Wet treatment lab, for wet or messy work. Click image to enlarge.

We also have a dedicated area for photodocumentation just a few steps from our benches. This makes it so easy to quickly snap photographs of items before and after treatment.

Section of the new lab designated for photography of materials before and after treatments.

Photodocumentation area, with two different setups and a handy blackout curtain. Click image to enlarge.

A centrally located student work area is well placed to access all of the equipment and supplies. Like the staff workbenches, the students’ tables and chairs are on casters and are height-adjustable.

Student work spaces in the new lab.

Two groups of four student work tables occupy the center of the lab. Click image to enlarge.

We couldn’t be more pleased to be continuing our work caring for KU Libraries collections in this beautiful new conservation lab.