Yesterday, BBC 2 released details about their forthcoming drama based on the life of Anne Lister, including the working title, which unfortunately is not Anne Lister: Original Lez. Instead, the BBC has given the project the properly titillating title The Secret Diaries Of Miss Anne Lister.
Maxine Peake will star as Anne Lister, about whom Peake said:
[She] was a extraordinary woman who, up to recently, has only really been documented in lesbian history. Hopefully, with this film and documentary, she will reach a wider audience exposing them to this inspirational and formidable woman. I am honored but petrified to be embarking on the role of such a pioneering lady!
Anne Lister is considered by many to be the first modern lesbian. She was a contemporary of Jane Austen, and while Jane was penning biting social critique that frowned on single women riding in open carriages with men, or, you know, talking about their feelings, Anne Lister was compiling a four million word diary.
Let me say that again: Four. million. word. diary.
And it wasn’t all business and philosophy, either. Lister’s diaries are full of tales of love and seduction, and some of it was written in a code that has only recently been deciphered.
Here are some excerpts:
Monday 29 January 1821 [Halifax] — I love and only love the fairer sex and thus beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any love but theirs.
Saturday 12 July 1823 [Halifax] — Could not sleep last night. Dozing, hot & disturbed … a violent longing for a female companion came over me. Never remember feeling it so painfully before … It was absolute pain to me.
Sunday 14 September 1823 — At [first], we thought someone [was] breaking into the house but the continuance of the noises & the pattering of rain soon ushered in a tremendous thunder storm. Very vivid, fast-succeeding flashes of lightning enlightened the whole room. After some time came 1 or 2 tremendous peals of thunder & the heaviest rain I almost ever heard. In the midst of all this, we drew close together, made love & had one of the most delightfully long, tender kisses we have ever had. Said she, in the midst of it, ‘Oh, don’t leave me yet.’ This renewed & redoubled my feelings & we slept in each other’s arms.
(Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy weren’t even allowed to hold hands!)
Lister eventually even married a wealthy heiress, Ann Walker. In addition to being a professional lesbian, Lister was a scholar, a philanthropist, a landowner and a world-traveler. You know, standard lesbian over-achiever stuff.
When The Secret Diaries Of Miss Anne Lister airs next spring, it will be preceded by an hour-long documentary about Lister’s life, presented by openly gay comedy writer Sue Perkins.
I’ve got one more quote from Lister’s diaries, and this one is going to hook you.
September 1820 — Yet my manners are certainly peculiar, not all masculine but rather softly gentleman-like. I know how to please girls.
OK, show of hands: Who will be tuning in for The Secret Diaries Of Miss Anne Lister?