Category Archives: blog

My road to discovering Anne Lister: Fateful Encounter #1

There are certain days in a person’s life which can mark a change so dramatic that life is never quite the same again. Such a change happened to me in 1983, the day I walked into the archive department of the library in my home town of Halifax, in West Yorkshire.
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My road to discovering Anne Lister: Fateful Encounter #2

The mid-life impulse which led me to invest years in college and university was based, not only on a desire to complete my education (if it can be said that one’s education is ever completed!) but also a long-held desire to become a writer. The challenge was to discover which genre would provide the most fulfilment of this ambition.
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Christmas in Paris with Anne Lister

The Christmas of 1824 finds Anne, along with her maid Elizabeth Wilkes Cordingley, in Paris. They were staying at a modest guest house or pension at 24, Place Vendome. The proprietors were a M. & Mme de Boyve. Anne’s journal entry for Christmas day illustrates the difficulties of something which we all take for granted–that of taking a bath.
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When TV stars step from behind the screen

It is not often that a TV star asks to spend a day with you in your own home, but that is what happened to me once the BBC had decided to make a film from the book of extracts which I had edited from the journals of Anne Lister.
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Sally Wainwright’s epic series about Anne Lister

I am thrilled to be able to say that Sally Wainwright, brilliant writer and BAFTA winner of hugely acclaimed TV series such as Happy Valley and the Bronte drama To Walk Invisible, has at last achieved her ambition to write an epic series about Anne Lister to be entitled Shibden Hall. Filming is to begin nest year.
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Anne Lister and same-sex marriage

One of the hottest topics of the day in the gay community is that of same-sex marriages. Almost two hundred years earlier Anne Lister, in the two serious relationships of her adult years, firstly with Mariana Lawton and then with Ann Walker, tried to emulate, so far as was possible, the rituals performed in the heterosexual world.
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Tufthunter

During a visit to York, Anne Lister’s friend and ex-lover, Isabella Norcliffe, accused Anne, half-jokingly, of being a “tuft-hunter.”
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Two lesbian diarists in two different eras

What would two women, separated by two hundred years, both writing their diaries in a secret code, have in common?
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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.
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Secret Diaries Past & Present

Was Anne Lister unique as the only lesbian who kept a diary in code so that she could talk freely about her love-affairs with women? In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I was convinced that she was.
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  • 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.]