• 9th August 1818

    Mrs Page began talking about my getting married. Told me I had a good figure, good complexion, held myself well & was, she thought, good-tempered. That I should be good-looking if I dressed my hair with bows, as they do now, and with curls, etc. She is a vulgar, good sort of woman, fond of giving her opinions and advice. I took it all well, was amused, led her on & praised her &, I daresay, came off with flying colours.

A glimpse of Anne Lister’s Christmas of 1810

Christmas night, 1810, found Anne writing a wistful letter to her new love, Isabella Norcliffe, in which she imagines her lover dancing the night away at the Assembly Rooms in York.

Perhaps my dear girl at this moment whilst my thoughts are all yours, you are gaily winding through the mazes of the dance, or led by some stupid senseless coxcomb gasping for breath among the careless crowd.”

Sat at home, far away from the York revelries, Anne’s melancholy mood deepened as she allowed her imagination to conjure up seasonal ghosts and spirits to haunt the ‘midnight dances’ in which she fancied Isabella was indulging.

“’Tis then the hour when sprites and witches go abroad and thin shiv’ring ghosts from yawning charnels throng and dance with silent sweep the shaggy vaults along.”

She cheered up a little when she remembered that, as it was Christmas night, the Assembly Rooms would be closed, but still, her own Christmas festivities of burning the ‘yewl log’, eating rich food and playing cards with the family ‘from conformity rather than inclination’ were no compensation for the absence of Isabella.

Anne Lister creates an eerie picture of Christmas night when she conjures up “thin shiv’ring ghosts from yawning charnels”. Do you have a spooky Christmas experience to share?

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