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I Know My Own Heart: The Diaries of Anne Lister, 1791-1840 (Cutting Edge: Lesbian Life & Literature) Paperback – 1 Aug 1992

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: New York University Press; New edition edition (1 Aug. 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814792499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814792490
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.5 x 20.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 105,870 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"...the souvenir of an unabashed and often triumphant erotic life, rediscovered after nearly two hundred years, the story of [Anne Lister's] desire- and of the comic, gallant ways in which she satisfied it-seems especially poignant...the passion women find together has always existed, and we have only now begun to uncover its remarkable, lyrical history." --The Women's Review of Books

"An interesting historical record, edited with great sensitivity...[Lister] reveals her lesbian affairs with remarkable honesty, offering a rare insight into the mores of the time." --Sunday Times

As a document of one woman's revolt against conventions and as a celebration of love between women, this is an uplifting book." The Independent "These remarkable diaries, a veritable Roseta Stone of lesbian life in the early nineteenth century, tell the story of the life and loves of Anne Lister, a outwardly conventional upper-class Englishwoman, who, from adolescence onward, was involved in a succession of passionate affairs with other women. Composed in a secret cipher - a kiss is Lister's codeword for orgasm, as in Two kisses last night, one almost immediately after the other, before we went to sleep- and ably decoded by Helena Whitbread, who spent six years editing them, the diaries trace not only Lister's relationships, but her attempts at self-definition and her strikingly confident and guilt free outlook. Lister's account of her daily life and her sometimes snobbish, but always compelling and unflinching commentary about the failings and shortcomings of her friends and acquaintances only add to the book's readability. One may take delight in what is here: the souvenir of an unabashed and often triumphant erotic life . . . . Rediscovered after nearly two hundred years, the story of [Anne Lister's] desire--and of the comic, gallant ways in which she satisfied it--seems especially poignant . . . . What Lister's diary suggests is that . . . the passion women find together has always existed, and we have only now begun to uncover its remarkable, lyrical history." The Women's Review of Books "An interesting historical record, edited with great sensitivity . . . . [Lister] reveals her lesbian affairs with remarkable honesty, offering a rare insight into the mores of the time." --Sunday Independent

About the Author

Rebecca E. Zietlow is professor of law at the University of Toledo College of Law.

Helena Whitbread lives in Halifax, England. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Fascinating glimpse into the secret life of a lesbian in 19th century Georgian England. Anne Lister was an outwardly conventional member of the Yorkshire landed gentry; a true blue, Church of England Tory. But all her life she conducted passionate secret love affairs with other women. Her deepest love was for Mariana, with whom she longed to live as 'man and wife' but who broke her heart by marrying a man for financial security and respectability's sake.
Throughout her life, Anne kept journals, partly-written in a code that was eventually deciphered by one of her heirs; shocked by what he read, he concealed the journals until they were discovered after his death in the 1930s.
The journals are a chronicle of what it was like to be different; how it felt to be taunted in the street for having a mannish appearance, and teased at polite tea-parties; whether one could dare to 'come out' even to women of similar inclination. It is also a fascinating and detailed social history; this is what it was like for a single woman in the 1820s trying to access discreet medical treatment for sexually transmitted disease. It's also about everyday life in provincial England ... about food and fashion, and learning to drive a gig, and making a small income stretch to attain a modicum of independence. (Anybody familiar with the city of York will be enthralled by references to banquets and assemblies in pubs that are still standing today.)
Anne isn't a very likeable woman ... she's a snob, to say the least, and despises most of her local accquaintances. But she is courageous and loyal, bravely forging a life for herself and daring to be different.
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Format: Paperback
Other peoples diaries usually provide a certain degree of voyeuristic pleasure and this volume certainly did that.
I must congratulate Helena Whitbread on a fine interpretation of Anne Lister's journals,which could not have been easy to write given the archaic language of the period and the original minutely written script.
The diaries provide a vivid insight into part of the life of an exeedingly strong minded woman. I would imagine that in those days most women with Anne Listers sapphic orientation would have found it considerably easier to go with the flow, marry well and either suppress their innermost feelings or manage liaisons with extreme discretion.
Anne Lister was true to herself, there was no pretence of being anything other than she knew herself to be and consequently suceeded in seducing a good number of women. The diaries do not go into much detail concerning her physical lovemaking with the exception that she always notes the number of 'kisses' (orgasms) achieved with each encounter, which is clearly important for a woman who needed to make the most of her opportunities when they presented themselves.
I found it sad that the great love of her life, Marianne, never resulted in the cosy domestic bliss they both dreamed about.
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Format: Paperback
Fascinating glimpse into the secret life of a lesbian in 19th century Georgian England. Anne Lister was an outwardly conventional member of the Yorkshire landed gentry; a true blue, Church of England Tory. But all her life she conducted passionate secret love affairs with other women. Her deepest love was for Mariana, with whom she longed to live as 'man and wife' but who broke her heart by marrying a man for financial security and respectability's sake.
Throughout her life, Anne kept journals, partly-written in a code that was eventually deciphered by one of her heirs; shocked by what he read, he concealed the journals until they were discovered after his death in the 1930s.
The journals are a chronicle of what it was like to be different; how it felt to be taunted in the street for having a mannish appearance, and teased at polite tea-parties; whether one could dare to 'come out' even to women of similar inclination. It is also a fascinating and detailed social history; this is what it was like for a single woman in the 1820s trying to access discreet medical treatment for STDs. It's also about everyday life in provincial England ... about food and fashion, and learning to drive a gig, and making a small income stretch to attain a modicum of independence. (Anybody familiar with the city of York will be enthralled by references to banquets and assemblies in pubs that are still standing today.)
Anne isn't a very likeable woman ... she's a snob, to say the least, and despises most of her local acquaintances. But she is courageous and loyal, bravely forging a life for herself and daring to be different.
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Format: Paperback
It is hard to overstate the extraordinary nature of this book; The insight it gives into the minutiae of everyday life in 19C England is breathtaking. It will be famous (or notorious?) for its lesbian revelations but the calm account of the removal of a tooth without anaesthetic and and the unpredictability of any form of travel will astound. Having recently spent some time in Egypt I was also struck by the parallels between 19C England and the culture of the middle east: there is no social security, and a low-wage economy; every possible social niche is filled by a human being struggling to make a living and depending on those further up the ladder for tips to supplement a frugal and insecure income. Don't do things for yourself which others can do - you are denying them work and income.

Miss Lister's phenomenal predations on vulnerable, sexually uninformed and repressed young women would be scandalous if conducted by a man; we would denounce him as a scoundrel. Yet she never forced herself upon any of those she pursued, and as it seemed many women lived much of their lives without sexual fulfilment, who are we to judge a woman who offered them this? Her judgements on them, by contrast, are sometimes harsh and unremitting; she is unhesitating in denouncing those for whom her interest has waned, as her "roving eye" lights upon someone more titillating.

It is a disappointment that the book comes to an abrupt halt as we are aware we are nearing her final adventure (of which we have been forewarned in the prologue) There is no explanation of why the author has not completed the story which makes for a sudden "and then that's the end" moment - a huge and inexplicable anticlimax at the end of a rivetting book
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