• From Anne’s diary, Friday 10th August 1832 (age 42)

    [The first time that Anne Lister put her thoughts in writing about the possibility of courting Ann Walker, the young heiress who lived at Lidgate in the neighbourhood of Shibden.]

    ‘… Thought I, as I have several times done of late, shall I try & make up to her?’

  • From Anne’s diary, Sunday 5th January 1834 (age 43)

    [After eighteen months of an on-and-off courtship, Anne was unsure about whether or not there could be a permanent relationship between them.]

    ‘…Miss W[alker] talks as if she would be glad to take me – then if I say anything decisive she hesitates to. I tell her it is all her money which is in the way. The fact is, she is as she was before [i.e. indecisive], but determined to get away from the Sutherlands and feels the want of me. But [I need to] take someone with more mind and less money. Steph [Belcombe – i.e. Mariana’s brother] is right: she would be a great pother [sic]. [I] have nothing serious to say to her – she wants better manning than I can manage.’

    [See also Jill Liddington’s Female Fortune. Rivers Oram Press. 1998. p.85.]

Books by Helena Whitbread

The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister

The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister - book cover

These diaries cover Anne Lister’s life from 1816-1824.

These remarkable diaries are a piece of lost lesbian history. Anne Lister defied the role of womanhood seen in the novels of Jane Austen: she was bold, fiercely independent, a landowner, industrialist, traveller – and lesbian. She kept extensive diaries, written partly in code, of her life and loves. The diaries have been edited by Helena Whitbread, who spent years decoding and transcribing them.

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Secret Diaries Past & Present

Secret Diaries Past & Present book cover

In the form of a Q&A, this book compares and contrasts the diaries and lives of 19th century lesbian diarist Anne Lister and modern-day lesbian diarist Natasha Holme.

Like Anne Lister two hundred years before her, Natasha wrote her diaries in a secret code, based on the Greek alphabet. The book contains photographs of Anne’s and Natasha’s encoded diaries. It is divided into sections such as …

  • Early sexuality
  • The mentality behind keeping a detailed diary
  • Encoding
  • Obsessiveness
  • Christianity

“When I first heard that you have been keeping a diary from a young age and, furthermore, that you had used an esoteric code, I was immediately interested. I was further intrigued by the fact that you are a lesbian and wrote about your sexual life. It seemed to me that a modern parallel could be drawn with Anne Lister, the early 19th century lesbian diarist who had written a great deal about her lesbian sexuality in her journals, couched in a secret code of her own devising. I thought it would be interesting to see how far this hypothesis could be taken and wondered if you would be willing to join me in an exploration of the similarities and differences, as diarists and as lesbians, between yourself and a woman who lived some two hundred years before your time.”

Helena Whitbread

Also by Natasha Holme:

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No Priest But Love

No Priest But Love

These diaries cover Anne Lister’s life from 1824-1826.

This journal starts with Anne’s trip to Paris. It is through her amazingly frank and detailed journals that we are able to enter into her adventurous life. The chronicling of her passionate affairs with other women would have startled her contemporaries. “I love and only love the fairer sex,” she wrote. The explicit accounts of Anne’s sexual contacts have a power to shock that has not diminished.

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