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The Secret Diaries Of Miss Anne Lister (Virago Modern Classics Book 251) (English Edition) eBook Kindle
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Although I've considered myself fairly well versed in that time period of England, I've learned so much from this diary. And the details are simply fascinating. In fact, I wish there were more of them: I wish this book included the whole diary, not just the excerpts. Anne counting her money and detailing the specifics of trying to heal her venerial disease? I want to read it. I want to know more about the relative costs of things, about her day-to-day goings, about what it was like to travel at that time.
The editor (translator) never explains how she chose what to include and what to omit, and those omissions is why I took off one star from my rating. Was there more to the diary? Or is it all? How are the cuts made? I wish the editor would have at least explained.
The other editorial choice I didn't quite understand is her perchance for summarizing the events to come. Perhaps it makes the following pages more easily understandable, but, at the same time, it removes what suspense can be found in a diary. I also found that there were at least a couple of places where I disagreed with the editor's summary. E.g. before the pages detailing the last few months of Anne's acquaintance with Miss Browne, the editor summarizes it as "Miss Browne went away never completely understanding what Anne wanted from her." Oh, but from the dialogues Anne relays, I think Miss Browne understood it very well! In fact, how much clearer can she be when she says "I wish you were a gent"? Maybe there were more material included that made the editor think Miss Browne so naive and unaware. But maybe not. All in all I could've done without those editorializing comments.
On the other hand, I think this diary is ripe for more research and more annotations explaining some details of what Anne is doing or why she's doing certain things. I was able to piece some things together, but others remained unclear -- but it would make for a wonderful volume to have more explanations and illustrations (e.g. a detailed explanation of the systems of measures for money and other measurements).
Still, overall it's an enjoyable read and an invaluable work was done by the translator/editor, for which I give her my huge thanks.
Another very inspiring part of the diary is when she visits the Ladies of Llangollen, 2 Irish lesbians who relocated to the north of Wales to escape their family and societies prejudice against their sexuality. Here's an interesting thing about that meeting, she's only able to meet one of them, the other sick. Anne realizes that these women are living the life she wants--outside of loneliness, in their own love for each other, in the context of community tolerance. She alludes to their lifestyle inspiring her in her own goals of living.
The diaries are filled with the day to day responsibilities of taking care of herself and family, while trying to live as a woman in society. Evidently Anne's butchness is very apparent, prompting insults from strangers at times claiming she's a man dressed as a woman. The details of these encounters with people, acquaintances and other closeted women is interesting from a sociological point of view.
The only other thing I wished this volume (2010) included, was the relationship with Ann Walker, which was absent of all mention. This relationship, I'm assuming, took place between 1825 to 1840; so essentially there is 15 years missing from the diaries. I'm not sure why these years are not included; from what I've gathered these years are Anne's most rewarding years in terms of relationship and commercial enterprise and development of the Shibden estate along with Miss Walker's property in coal mining. There's a very good documentary by Sue Perkins called: Revealing Anne Lister, which details some of that story, and the film "The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister" tells a little of this story as well. This last relationship with Ann Walker is a sort of happy ending for Anne until their travels abroad begin in 1839, only to end tragically with Anne's death.
So the only big disappointment is the missing entries from these years. I wanted to know how that relationship with Miss Walker evolved with both of them keeping house in the end as partners. I almost think that there should be another volume, part 2 revealing the life of these years--I'll buy it in a New York minute when it comes out!
Bottom line of these diaries is that they are a treasure, since there is not much documentation of a lesbian life of this era with such detail until these were published completely very recently (1992?). They represent a very important part of invisible lesbian history--now visible--and should be celebrated and read.
The book is very badly indexed; a casual perusal turned up 3 different mistakes, along with obvious misspellings. It is also very brief.
Also, for the reader who jumps around, you can't find out what year you're in without paging back to the beginning of the chapter. You have to go back one page at a time, since there are no page headings telling which chapter we're in (which also could have listed the year). Or simply including the year in each diary entry's date would have solved the problem.
I'm grateful the book exists and respect the work done by Whitbread, but the mechanics of the book are not great. The publisher let her down.