The country is in the grip of Potter mania. London’s Tube network is awash with people reading the seventh and last installment of the adventures of the boy wizard on their way to work.
The adult edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has a black and white picture of author J K Rowling on the back of the book jacket.
The richest author in the world is photographed, fittingly, in front of a bookcase.
A closer examination of the image gives us an insight into Rowling’s own reading material. Assuming it’s her bookcase of course.
Alongside James Joyce’s The Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man, some Miss Marple and the writings of Sigmund Freud, just above her left ear, is a well-thumbed copy of classic lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall.
The book, written in 1928, is a passionate defence of the rights of lesbians to reject the expectations of straight society.
It is also a Sapphic love story set against the backdrop of World War One.
The novel is concerned with a female character called Stephen Gordon, a rich, upper-class novelist loved by her father and rejected by her mother.
It draws heavily on the theories of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first modern writer to propose a theory of homosexuality. In her novel Hall argued that homosexuality is inborn and created by God.
Above all else, The Well of Loneliness calls for tolerance from straight society towards ‘inverts,’ as gay men and lesbians are called in the novel.
Hall’s publisher ended up in court, charged with obscenity, after a vicious moralistic campaign by the Daily Express.
Many other national newspapers defended the book, as did authors from Virginia Woolf to Rudyard Kipling, but it was banned and all copies destroyed.
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