The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister
I first came across Helena Whitbread’s The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister in 1989–and highlight this discovery in my diary–shortly after their publication in 1988 under the title I Know My Own Heart: The Diaries of Anne Lister, 1791-1840. This was so exciting on many fronts. Lesbian books, films, or references of any kind, were rare at that time. So, to encounter a lesbian book, which was also a diary, encoded as my own was, and one from two hundred years ago, was a dream. Anne Lister is known as ‘the first modern lesbian.’
For the love of lesbian diary-writing …
As a lesbian and a devoted diarist, I was thrilled to discover in 1989 the original (1988) publication of this book, I Know My Own Heart: The Diaries of Anne Lister, 1791-1840. At a time when lesbian books were few, this was a godsend and I lapped up every word.
With the BBC film adaptation of Anne Lister’s diaries in 2010 and their subsequent reprint as The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, these amazing journals are now a household name.
Tib and Anne Lister, played by Susan Lynch and Maxine Peake, share a kiss.
This documentary from the BBC, presented by the gorgeous and fantastically witty Sue Perkins, introduces us to historian and editor Helena Whitbread and gives us a glimpse of Anne Lister’s encoded diaries. Here’s a trailer:
Helena Whitbread’s second book, No Priest But Love, first published in 1992, is the lesser-known follow-up to the 1988 publication of I Know My Own Heart (republished in 2010 as The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister).
This portion of Anne Lister’s diaries covers the years 1824 to 1826. The book begins with Anne’s stay in Paris, where she wins the affections of a widow whose social standing and financial worth do not meet Anne’s aspirations.
Whilst continuing her affair with the love of her life, Mariana Lawton (married to Charles Lawton), Anne seeks a suitable life partner who will also allow her to climb the social ranks. She manages effortlessy to seduce a number of willing young women and writes freely in her diaries of her desires and of meeting those desires. About one sixth of Anne’s diaries–the encoded parts–cover this area of her life.
“As a document of one woman’s revolt against convention and as a celebration of love between women, this is an uplifting book.”–The Independent