Anne's coded journals might have gone unexplored had not Helena Whitbread invested six years of her time carefully exploring and decoding them. Helena's book, I Know My Own Heart: The Diaries of Anne Lister 1791-1840, offers the diaries as fascinating story of the "everyday" life led by an early 19th century lesbian. Engrossing reading, to say the least.
About Anne Lister, Helena says, "She became the first woman to be elected to the committee of the Halifax branch of the Literary and Philosophical Society because of her academic contributions to that society. She took an active interest in schools in the area and generally encouraged the spread of education. She managed her estates, dealt with the business of farming, and developed coal-mining on her land. Much of her working life was spent out of doors supervising workmen and, at times, tackling some of the physical tasks herself."Anne died unexpectedly at 49, from a fever contracted while traveling through Russia.
Excerpts from 1821: Monday 29 January 1821, Halifax
Cutting curl papers half an hour ... Arranging & putting away my last year's letters. Looked over & burnt several very old ones from indifferent people ... Burnt ... Mr Montagu's farewell verses that no trace of any man's admiration may remain. It is not meet for me. I love, & only love, the fairer sex & thus beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any other love than theirs.
Thursday 8 February 1821, Halifax
Came upstairs at 11 a.m. Spent my time from. then till 3, writing to M- very affectionately, more so than I remember to have done for long ... Wrote the following crypt, 'I can live upon hope, forget that we grow older, & love you as warmly as ever. Yes, Mary, you cannot doubt the love of one who has waited for you so long & patiently. You can give me all of happiness I care for &, prest to the heart which I believe my own, caressed & treasured there, I will indeed be constant & never, from that moment, feel a wish or thought for any other than my wife. You shall have every smile & every breath of tenderness. "One shall our union & our interests be" & every wish that love inspires & every kiss & every dear feeling of delight shall only make me more securely & entirely yours.' Then, after hoping to see her in York next winter & at Steph's before the end of the summer, I further wrote in crypt as follows, 'I do not like to be too long estranged from you sometimes, for, Mary, there is a nameless tie in that soft intercourse which blends us into one & makes me feel that you are mine. There is no feeling like it. There is no pledge which gives such sweet possession.'
Janet and I wax romantic and cuddle up sapphically, as always.