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The extraordinary life of history's first modern lesbian who inspired the television series Gentleman Jack Anne Lister's journals were so shocking that the first person to crack their secret code hid them behind a fake panel in his ancestral home Anne Lister was a Regency landowner an intrepid world traveller and an unabashed lover of other women In this bold new biography prizewinning author Angela Steidele uses the diaries to create a portrait of Anne Lister as we've never seen her before a woman in some ways very much of her time and in others far ahead of it Anne Lister recorded everything from the most intimate details of her numerous liaisons through to her plans to make her fortune by exploiting the coal seams under her family estate in Halifax and her reaction to the Peterloo massacre She conducted a love life of labyrinthine complexity all while searching for a girlfriend who could provide her with both financial security and true loveAnne Lister's rich and unconventional life is now the subject of the major BBC TV drama series Gentleman Jack


10 thoughts on “Gentleman Jack

  1. says:

    If Don Juan had met Anne Lister he'd habe become depressed Prtf


  2. says:

    A book that will stay with me for weeks to come I suspect It leaves much to ponder upon I’ve no hesitation in recommending it especially if British history’s your thing social cultural political An interest in diversity might help too along with travel Here you would read how an ambitious and highly charged lesbian on the perimeter of the landed aristocracy sought fulfilment Old money forced because of the turn in the economic tide to mingle with the newThere is much to admire about Anne Lister much less to like Her diary is shocking not so much in the secrets of the boudoir but in the rather brazen accounts of how she manipulated people to her own advantage sexually materially even politically She was totally at ease with her sexuality certainly free from feelings of guilt in an age of moral proscription That ought to make her a ‘gay icon’ But in today’s world where diversity is all important she is totally out of step She was an arch reactionary – on the side of the authorities over the Peterloo massacre opposed to the Parliamentary Reform Act of 1832 and the sworn enemy of the infant trade unions As a woman Anne Lister could not of course vote directly in parliamentary elections But as a canny operator of power and the systems at her disposal she could rely on 20 or so votes from her heavily leaned upon tenants It is hard to believe that had she lived into the twentieth century she would have had any truck with the suffragettes Anne Lister had boundless energy physical mental and sexual She was well read cultured a classicist and an inveterate and hardy traveller She was also keenly interested in scientific discovery industrial developments advances in medical science; she studied anatomy and was uite at home with a knife in her hand with which she dissected humans and animalsShe lacked the material resources to fund her lifestyle hence her alliance and ‘marriage’ with Ann Walker ‘new’ money as opposed to the Listers’ ‘old’ As proprietor of her family estates Anne did what had been done for generations before her she ‘married’ well I feel that her partner Ann Walker deserves a book of her own however slim ‘The Wife’s Story’ perhaps? When Anne Lister’s physical health finally failed her during her arduous trek with Ann W in and around Russia it was the latter who transported her body back to Halifax to be buried in the family vault there Ann Walker's story is a sad one she was incarcerated in a mental asylum by her family on her return to England There she joined Anne Lister’s first lover The Asylum was a growth industry then – a useful dumping ground for Society in which to incarcerate troublesome individuals for their own good of course I can’t help thinking that had Anne Lister lived she might have done the same and for similar reasons


  3. says:

    Gentleman Jack is a biography of Anne Lister Regency Yorkshire landowner known for her relationships with women and explicit diaries partly written in code Full of uotations from her diaries it is a good biography for anything looking for an introduction to Lister's life and what she wrote about in her diaries Likely to be of most interest are her various relationships with women—often surprisingly openly for Regency society—and her interest in travel scaling mountains and visiting countries across Europe and even Azerbaijan Steidele also weaves in elements of the act of uncoding Lister's diaries and the reticence of earlier generations to reveal their explicit lesbian sex which is crucial to thinking about the reception of Anne ListerBefore the BBC's upcoming drama of the same name the biography is a good way to learn about a fascinating historical figure It is engaging and readable giving enough explanatory detail that you don't need to know the period well Without knowing a huge amount about scholarship around Lister it is difficult to comment on its accuracy and depiction of her but it certainly is an interesting book


  4. says:

    I initially picked this book up for two reasons The first is as I work in a bookshop keeping up to date with upcoming releases makes my life much easier when talking to customers about the books they were based on HBO is dramatising Anne Lister's life specifically they are basing their interpretation off this particular biography The other reason is that as a gay woman I am always hungry for LGBT history in any form I wanted desperately to feel some sort of connection to hook my own longings onto the chain of women before me and not feel so isolated in my experiences Alas rather than find any kind of unity I found myself hating Anne Lister with every turn of the page She was an egomaniac finding fault in all of her lovers for swathes of reasons all of them demonstrating about Anne's personality flaws and inflated pride than damning any of her rejected women She found some too unintelligent others weren't rich enough others too far below her in social standing She didn't like any woman who had slept with a man preferring virgins who had not been 'spoiled' She didn't like her lovers to be assertive preferring them passive and docile both in the bedroom and in day to day life Monogamy was boring for her but rather than tell her various lovers that she preferred to lie and uite literally cheat Freuently many of them understandably suffered from break downs and depression which Anne hilariously never fathoms that she herself might be the cause Two of her lovers ended up in mental asylums the first and the last the first Eliza Raine Anne encouraged to have incarcerated for life so she would be unable to testify against her in court It's not the biographers fault if the subject is repulsive but I also found Steidele's approach too neutral and lacking any kind of spark It was like reading a chart of a life rather than steeping myself in the time and world of Anne Lister Anyway if you're going into this looking for any kind of familiarity I will be greatly concerned if you find any As a record the history of love between women it is a great starting off point there are several names dropped in this book that I want to explore further but is hardly in depth I have no idea how to end this review so uhhhhToodles


  5. says:

    Please please do not read this book Seriously If you’re actually interested in learning about Anne Lister this is not the book for youThis book is judge jury and executioner to its subject which feels like a complete violation of the rules of a biography You can tell just by the table of contents her life is divided up not by milestone events but by the women she seduces Because clearly when someone isn’t straight the only interesting thing about them is their sex life Everything else Lister was ever involved or interested in except her travels is dismissed with a couple of lines each Worse the biographer is making blatant value judgements along the way without at any point engaging with the context in which her subject lived In the last third of the book she is openly derisive when describing Lister’s activities To be clear it’s not that I need this book to be a hagiography I’ve read a few books about Lister at this point I get that she could be an asshole But she was also an intelligent woman navigating a man’s world in the early 19th century and walking the line of being an ‘out’ sort of lesbian when there had never been anyone before her to pattern her behaviour on Except men I doubt there would have been half so much judgement had the biographer been recounting the life of a young cad on the hunt for a rich bride Context is important And this biographer has NO grasp of that whatsoever because she clearly doesn’t understand the context herself In her final chapter she writes “In what we think of as the prudish pre Victorian age there seems to have been no great risk or conseuence to women loving women and it was not thought wrong They simply did not talk about it and went on to marry apparently unsullied” Just WHAT? How could this biographer have read the works of Jill Liddington and still come out with that kind of clumsy generalization? When Liddington’s work was all about the subtle ways the community found to express its disapproval of Anne Lister and her wife living together When political rage towards Lister was expressed in the form of homophobic attacks When she received taunting letters in the post and slurs hurled at her in the street throughout her life?I reference Liddington’s work here particularly because the biographer wrote this book without ever having read Anne Lister’s diaries for herself She is entirely reliant upon secondary sources The book is basically a recap of Helena Whitbread’s and Jill Liddington’s works with some additional references to Lister’s letters and correspondence thrown in Plus a LOT of editorializing in addition to the steaming piles of judgement the biographer regularly states her own interpretation as though it’s proven fact And it’s interpretation based often on extremely thin evidenceSo I say again please don’t read this book It strips Anne Lister of all depth and complexity Please please go read Jill Liddington’s work instead It has just been released on both Kindle and Kobo and occasional hard copies can be found at ABE Books


  6. says:

    Gentleman Jack was an interesting read on many levels—firstly as a commentary on the life of a lesbian in the early 19th century and secondly as an account of a fascinating woman who did some amazing things in the course of her life Anne Lister was certainly uite a character and while I was intrigued by her romantic exploits it was her extensive travels that gripped me This work shines a light on a little known figure who deserves recognition The only reason I give this book four stars rather than five is the fact that at times I found the prose style a little tiresome Although the story captivated me the writing didn't However I certainly recommend this work to readers interested in ueer history or those simply looking to learn about fascinating personalities from the pastI received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley


  7. says:

    She's a Tory and a landlord but I love her


  8. says:

    Okay I think I need to take a break from this book because it is depressing the hell out of me The research I do on Anne Lister the it becomes clear that she wasin facta horrible human being? I sort of went from thinking well she was a flawed human being like all of us and it's unfair for me to hold her as a ueer woman to a higher moral standard than I would hold a man from the same era to thinking Jesus Christ even Byron never did anything THAT fucked up And I know it shouldn't upset me so much to find out that a random woman who's been dead for hundreds of years was a total monster but I amdevastated So I might just stop researching her and pretend that Anne as she is in the BBC show and Anne as she was in real life are two completely different unrelated individuals After all as somebody pointed out to me when I was complaining about all this the moral discrepancy between the characters of Brooklyn 99 and their real life counterparts hasn't ruined that show for me


  9. says:

    Look Anne Lister was a terrible terrible person But if you can stomach reading about pretty much any white male landowner with a host of lovers from the nineteenth century you can handle this Mr Rochester turned female is no less awful and worse because she was a real person But it means something as modern LGBT people to see someone like us openly living their truth hundreds of years ago Anne's girlfriends were all fascinating women and I wanted to know about them and less about her It's a shame that the same virtue of self assurance which led her to lead her life with as much confidence as she did is also the same vice that caused her to hurt the people around her repeatedly and behave incredibly selfishly As the author says first she seduced me then she betrayed me much like her real loversHighly entertaining though the travel towards the end did have me skimming a little And food for thought because my god did Miss Lister manage to bed a lot of women so is lesbianism in history really as rare as we pretend?


  10. says:

    a groundbreaking new biography of Anne Lister Regency landowner seducer and proud lesbian during a time when it was difficult simply to be female With the code to her secret diaries now cracked we get to know her many lovers