• 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.]

About the diaries

In their entirety, the journals of Anne Lister run to 6,600 pages, comprising four million words. From its beginnings in 1806 the complex construction of Anne’s journals evolved over a number of years.

The physical appearance of the journals indicates the growing importance of the role they came to play in Anne’s life. Her earliest entries, crammed into ten loose sheets of paper cover the period from Wednesday 11th August 1806 to Thursday 22nd February 1810. These pages form a very rudimentary unbound journal. In 1816, following a three year gap, Anne appears at some point to have taken up her journal more seriously. The former haphazard loose sheets are replaced by two thin school exercise books with blue covers. In mid-March 1817 the blue books were replaced by the first of a succession of sturdy, hard-backed books, twenty-four in all. Between the covers of these books, Anne’s life is chronicled in minute detail.

In addition to being an account of the day-to-day details of Anne’s life, her journals are inextricably linked to her need to find ways in which she could survive, emotionally and sexually, in a conventional world which held no place for, or cognizance of, those whose sexual orientation appeared to differ from the norm. This need for disguising and hiding her sexual nature found expression in the secret code which she devised in order to chronicle the more intimate side of her life. Writing her journal became an emotional outlet and a psychological prop for Anne and, inadvertently, provided the foundation for a literary masterpiece which has found its place in the canon of other famous English diaries.

Since the first publication in 1988 of an edited selection of extracts the Anne Lister journals have become internationally renowned, particularly in the world of academe.

In 2011 they received the accolade of being placed on the United Kingdom Memory of the World Register for Documentary Heritage of UK significance.