MORE INTERESTING THAN MINE
The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister
is a 2010 British television biographical drama about a 19th century Yorkshire landowner Anne Lister.1 The Real Anne Lister
2 followed on Australian television. Anne Lister (1791–1840) was a wealthy, unmarried woman who inherited land from her uncle in 1826.
Just for the record and to place Anne Lister and her diaries in some historical perspective, 1826 was the year the second president of the United States, John Adams, died and the year the first photograph was taken. And also, just for the record, the view of early 19th century England, at least in literature, in fiction writing is seen, for those people who read 19th century literature, through the eyes of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters.
Throughout her life Lister kept diaries which chronicled the details of her everyday life, including her lesbian relationships, her financial concerns, her industrial activities and her work on her 400 acres. She was a polymath, an autodidact and a traveller. She lived at the centre of the Regency era, a period which historians call the pre-Victorian period from 1811, when the formal Regency began, through 1837 when Queen Victoria came to the throne. The Regency was the period when King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son, the Prince of Wales ruled as his proxy as Prince Regent: 1811 to 1820. The Prince Regent became George IV in 1820 on the death of his father.
I’ve been keeping diaries for more than 25 years, but I don’t think mine will ever have quite the spice that Lister’s had or have. Thanks to the direction of James Kent and the starring role of Maxine Peake as Lister, with a script by Jane English a mass audience in this third millennium, more than a century and a half after the diaries were written, can get a taste of Anne Lister’s 4 million word diaries. If my poetry is included in my diaries I can match Lister in quantity, but I can’t turn the erotic screws on for millions and billions of viewers, mirabile dictu. The Real Anne Lister
reveals a complex character: pioneering, self-serving, rebellious, manipulative and bold.
My diaries are far too philosophical and religious, intellectual and exotic, concerned as they are with the new religion I have been associated with for nearly 60 years.3 I, too, may be complex and pioneering and many of the things Lister is or was. It is difficult to assess oneself.
A sixth of Lister’s words concern the intimate details of her romantic and sexual relationships. I’ve never quantified that portion of my diaries, poetic and otherwise, that have a highly sensuous style and manner, content and mode, but my diaries would not entice the voyeur. There is little turn on those whose interests are sexual. Readers of Lister’s diaries, at least those who would want to engage with the digest of her 4 million words, will not in all likelihood get bored. I cannot guarantee the absence of boredom for readers who come to my memoiristic works.
The film The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister
premièred at the 24th London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival on 17 March 2010 and was screened in Australia tonight, 18 months later. -Ron Price with thanks to 1ABC1TV
, 13 November 2011, 8:30-10:05 p.m., 2 ABC1 TV
, 12 March 2012, 12;30-1:30 a.m., and 3 the Baha’i Faith.
Some said the film1 was sex-obsessed
on those wild-windy Yorkshire moors:
this story of the first modern lesbian, &
part of the fountainhead of queer studies2
say some scholars of lesbian sexuality!!
Her pioneering life and wide-ranging
travels as well as her relationships in
those sexually charged 4 million word
diaries concerned themselves with the
social & emotional lot of lesbians in an
era of oppressive patriarchy….The film
did not preclude a bit of hot girl-on-girl
action for those of a puerile and yet of a
punctilious nature. Snatching that carnal
ecstasy from stolen moments with a true
love will have a claustrophobic and yet a
a curiously liberating effect for some of the
millions and billions who will see this film.
The complexity of her character and what
happened to those diaries was as remarkable
as Anne Lister’s life & her writing: mirabile
1 The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister
2 Queer studies is the critical theory based study of issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity usually focusing on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender(LGBT) people and cultures. Universities have also labelled this area of analysis Sexual Diversity Studies, or Sexualities Studies. Once only meaning odd or unusual, and later an anti-gay epithet, "queer" used in reference to such individuals and communities remains controversial.
Originally centred on LGBT history and literary theory, the field has expanded to include the academic study of issues raised in biology, sociology, anthropology, the history of science, philosophy, psychology, political science, ethics, and other fields by an examination of the identity, lives, history, and perception of queer people.
3 Latin word for marvellous. I have found, especially as I have got older, human character to be highly complex and Sue Perkins, who takes us on this journey through Lister’s life, reveals this complexity for viewers.
13/11/’11 and updated on 13/3/’12