Review: “The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister”, edited by Helena Whitbread

by writereaderly

Miss Anne Lister was alive and (sexually)* active in the first few decades of the 19th century, a lover of the fairer sex who kept her diaries in a “crypthand” whenever she wanted to write about seductions or laundry (I’m totally serious). Whitbread was the latest to locate and transcribe her diaries, and publishes the highlights of 1816-1824 here as part of her ongoing Lister obsession. It later became an apparently watchable TV show/series, according to the one punter I carefully sought out and interviewed for the benefit of this review.

I had this book pegged as read of the week – how could I go wrong with Austenian England, secret code, hidden diaries and voracious lady-chasers? – but really, anyone’s diary (including and especially one’s own) is just terribly, terribly boring. We’re all worried about not having enough [guineas] to go round, whether people gossip [that we dress like men] or whether we’ll die alone [and get eaten by an Alsatian]. Sigh. Human evolution has come so far. Please consider this post my will and testament to the effect that ALL my diaries and unpublished writings are to be burned and buried upon my final demise.

Anyway, the sociology of day-to-day life was moderately interesting, what with clothing repairs, VD and carriage purchases, and it’s always happy-making to read of dyke-sisters doing it for themselves in historically unfriendly times, but My God, these middle-class women had NOTHING to do with their lives except pay visits, try hard to be bluestockings to entertain themselves, seduce each other occasionally, and worry about their millinery. Abandoned to move on to funner things.

*  Sorry, couldn’t resist. After all, would we give a damn about her secret diary had she not been a seducer of respectable womenfolk?

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading: A few armchair-, bed- and incidental-reads
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of: How unremarkable people’s diaries are (well, except for Anne Frank, hers is splendid of course)
Who I’d recommend it to: Hmm… Dykes after a bit of history
Also reading: Rabbit #5