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Books Editorial

gentlemanjack.jpg Gentleman Jack
 

Angela Steidele, Serpent’s Tail

The story of Anne Lister’s life (1791-1840) may have slipped down the back of Time’s settee if it were not for a remarkable series of extensive diaries she kept. A self-absorbed woman she recorded great spools of her life, but much of it was in code. When she died one of her ancestors came across the diaries in the family home of Shibden Hall in Halifax, worked out the code, but concluded they were too explosive to publish. He kept them safe, however, and they gradually came to the public’s attention towards the back end of the 20thcentury. Why were they deemed too hot to handle? Lister was an unrepentant lesbian and her diaries recorded sexual encounters with reams of women. Naturally this biography draws heavily on these diaries (as well as her letters) and details how she lived as openly a lesbian lifestyle as it was possible to live during the Regency period. Lister was never content with just one lover and the almost endless trysts can become a bit wearying over the course of the book. More interesting are details of her jaunts abroad (and a meeting with fellow lesbians, the famous Ladies of Llangollen).