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I Know My Own Heart: The Diaries of Anne Lister, 1791-1840

edited by helena whitbread
Copyright Date: 1988
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    I Know My Own Heart
    Book Description:

    Upon publication, the first volume of Anne Lister's diaries, I Know My Own Heart, met with celebration, delight, and some skepticism. How could an upper class Englishwoman, in the first half of the nineteenth century, fulfill her emotional and sexual needs when her sexual orientation was toward other women? How did an aristocratic lesbian manage to balance sexual fulfillment with social acceptability? Helena Whitbread, the editor of these diaries, here allows us an inside look at the long-running love affair between Anne Lister and Marianna Lawton, an affair complicated by Anne's infatuation with Maria Barlow. Anne travels to Paris where she discovers a new love interest that conflicts with her developing social aspirations. For the first time, she begins to question the nature of her identity and the various roles female lovers may play in the life of a gentrywoman. Though unequipped with a lesbian vocabulary with which to describe her erotic life, her emotional conflicts are contemporary enough to speak to us all. This book will satisfy the curiosity of the many who became acquainted with Lister through I Know My Own Heart and are eager to learn more about her revealing life and what it suggests about the history of sexuality.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8497-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-xii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xv-xx)

    Despite the efforts of lesbian and feminist publishing houses and a few university presses, the bulk of the most important lesbian works has traditionally been available only from rare book dealers, in a few university libraries, or in gay and lesbian archives. This series intends, in the first place, to make representative examples of this neglected and insufficiently known literature available to a broader audience by reissuing selected classics and by putting into print for the first time lesbian novels, diaries, letters, and memoirs that have special interest and significance, but which have mouldered in libraries and private collections for...

  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xxiii-xxix)
    Helena Whitbread

    Anne Lister (1791–1840) was an outwardly conventional upperclass woman who lived at Shibden Hall, Halifax, West Yorkshire. In her diaries, which she kept faithfully throughout her life, the events of her daily round are acutely observed and duly noted: her rigorous programme of intellectual study, the purchase of a horse and gig, days out at the races, accounts of the petty squabbling of the provincial gentry. But she also chronicles, in a cipher of her own devising, her passionate love affairs with other women. It is the combining of these two elements — the orderliness and, indeed, often ordinariness...

  6. [Illustration]
    (pp. xxx-xxx)
  7. 1817
    (pp. 1-33)

    Friday 21 March[Halifax]

    In the afternoon, mending my black silk petticoat & black worsted stocking. In the evening, wrote a letter to Marian,¹ Market Weighton. A fine, cold, frosty day … The flute for\frac{1}{2}hour after tea.

    Wednesday 2 April[Halifax]

    Began this morning to sit, before breakfast, in my drawers put on with gentlemen’s braces I bought for 2/6 on 27 March 1809 & my old black waistcoat & dressing-gown.

    Tuesday 15 April[Halifax]

    Did not sleep well last night & was, besides, disturbed about 4 by the cook, who awoke me to say a shabby-looking man was stealing the hens....

  8. 1818
    (pp. 34-73)

    Wednesday 7 January[Halifax]

    Tried on a pair of drawers Marian sent me & some black raw silk stockings (cotton tops & feet) like which my father brought me 3 pairs, he having bought them for Marian, for whom they are too small, & not choosing them to be returned.

    Thursday 8 January[Halifax]

    After breakfast … dawdling away the morning in looking over medical mss., weighing out powders for Betty, the housemaid, etc., till\frac{1}{2}past 12, when I got ready to go to Halifax … Called at Whitley’s, the booksellers, & staid\frac{3}{4}hour at the library. Went to congratulate Mr Knight...

  9. 1819
    (pp. 74-112)

    Friday 8 January[Halifax]

    Miss Browne met me at their front gate … I was rather in a complimentary strain & rather more inclined to be a little jocose than usual. I asked if she was still afraid of me. She said she could not help feeling a little so sometimes … She told me she thought I had a very penetrating countenance. She did not observe it so much at first, but she had thought so of late and very often did not like to look at me. I said I was, at some times, more anxious to be penetrating...

  10. 1820
    (pp. 113-141)

    Tuesday 4 January[Halifax]

    Gave the librarian five shillings as I said, last September, I would do every half-year on condition of his managing to let me have as many books at a time as I wanted. Not, however, that I think of exceeding the regulated allowance by more than two.

    Wednesday 5 January[Halifax]

    A man civilly asked if it was going to thaugh [sic] as I came up the new bank. Whether it was the same or not, I am uncertain, but a man in a greatcoat made like a soldier’s followed me down our lane & asked if...

  11. 1821
    (pp. 142-176)

    Sunday 7 January[Langton]

    All up late & none of us went to church. From 3 to 4, packing. Miss Vallance put, in one of my drawers, a sealed parcel of spills to light candles with & a note enclosed, half sheet full, very affectionate. She certainly likes me & is very low & nervous about my going … Gave her the crypt hand alphabet which M– has … but was not very tender. Indeed, I get lukewarm about her. Tib low. Anne curled & saw me in bed.

    Monday 8 January[York]

    All seemed low at our going. Dawdled till 2 when Mrs Milne,...

  12. 1822
    (pp. 177-232)

    Thursday 3 January[Halifax]

    M– & I sat all the morning in the hall, writing letters … I wrote … to Isabella Norcliffe (Langton) to thank her mother, in my uncle & aunt’s name, for a hare & brace of partridges received yesterday week – to announce my safe arrival here – say we should be glad to see her … Came upstairs at10\frac{1}{2}. Sat up talking till after 1. M– teaching me to do my front hair & we laughed heartily at my awkwardness. We are very fond of each other & perfectly happy together.

    Sunday 6 January[Halifax]

    M– very...

  13. 1823
    (pp. 233-319)

    Friday 10 January[Halifax]

    At 11, my aunt & I were off in the gig to Pye Nest … Sat\frac{1}{2}hour with Mrs E. & her daughter, Delia & sons, Charles, Henry and Thomas. A sad, vulgar set. I said nothing but my aunt exclaimed about it as soon as we were out of the house. I thought she would. The servant came in with his linen jacket & apron on.

    Wednesday 29 January[Halifax]

    Went to Northgate. My father gone since 12 to an assessed taxes meeting. Sat with Marian till 3.50 … She thinks the housekeeping will only be about eight...

  14. 1824
    (pp. 320-365)

    The year 1824 can be seen as the year in which Anne’s life took on a different direction. The emotional ties between herself and her two greatest friends, Isabella Norcliffe and Marianne Lawton, had considerably weakened. In Isabella’s case, her physical deterioration, her heavy drinking and unpredictable temper had all served to convince Anne that they were no longer compatible. Despite this, the two remained friends, occasional correspondents and visitors to each other’s houses.

    The emotional dependence between Anne and M–, because of its greater intensity, took longer to die. Anne had been severely shocked by M–’s reservations...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 366-373)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 374-375)