I Know My Own Heart
by Anne Lister; Helena Whitbread
Publisher: New York University Press
Editor: Helena Whitbread
Format: Trade Paperback
No. of Pages: 404
No. In Series:
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. . . the souvenir of an unabashed and often triumphant erotic life, rediscovered after nearly two hundred years, the story of [Anne Lister’s] desire- and of the comic, gallant ways in which she satisfied it-seems especially poignant. . . the passion women find together has always existed, and we have only now begun to uncover its remarkable, lyrical history. ‘ The Women’s Review of Books ‘An interesting historical record, edited with great sensitivity. . . [Lister] reveals her lesbian affairs with remarkable honesty, offering a rare insight into the mores of the time. ‘ Sunday Times As a document of one woman’s revolt against conventions and as a celebration of love between women, this is an uplifting book. ‘ The Independent ‘These remarkable diaries, a veritable Roseta Stone of lesbian life in the early nineteenth century, tell the story of the life and loves of Anne Lister, a outwardly conventional upper-class Englishwoman, who, from adolescence onward, was involved in a succession of passionate affairs with other women. Composed in a secret cipher – a kiss is Lister’s codeword for orgasm, as in Two kisses last night, one almost immediately after the other, before we went to sleep- and ably decoded by Helena Whitbread, who spent six years editing them, the diaries trace not only Lister’s relationships, but her attempts at self-definition and her strikingly confident and guilt free outlook. Lister’s account of her daily life and her sometimes snobbish, but always compelling and unflinching commentary about the failings and shortcomings of her friends and acquaintances only add to the book’s readability. One may take delight in what is here: the souvenir of an unabashed and often triumphant erotic life . . . . Rediscovered after nearly two hundred years, the story of [Anne Lister’s] desire–and of the comic, gallant ways in which she satisfied it–seems especially poignant . . . . What Lister’s diary suggests is that . . . the passion women find together has always existed, and we have only now begun to uncover its remarkable, lyrical history. ‘ The Women’s Review of Books ‘An interesting historical record, edited with great sensitivity . . . . [Lister] reveals her lesbian affairs with remarkable honesty, offering a rare insight into the mores of the time. ‘ Sunday Independent Upon publication, the first volume of Anne Lister’s diaries, I Know My Own Heart, met with celebration, delight, and some skepticism. How could an upper class Englishwoman, in the first half of the nineteenth century, fulfill her emotional and sexual needs when her sexual orientation was toward other women? How did an aristocratic lesbian manage to balance sexual fulfillment with social acceptability? Helena Whitbread, the editor of these diaries, here allows us an inside look at the long-running love affair between Anne Lister and Marianna Lawton, an affair complicated by Anne’s infatuation with Maria Barlow. Anne travels to Paris where she discovers a new love interest that conflicts with her developing social aspirations. For the first time, she begins to question the nature of her identity and the various roles female lovers may play in the life of a gentrywoman. Though unequipped with a lesbian vocabulary with which to describe her erotic life, her emotional conflicts are contemporary enough to speak to us all. This book will satisfy the curiosity of the many who became acquainted with Lister throughI Know My Own Heartand are eager to learn more about her revealing life and what it suggests about the history of sexuality.
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