"Female Fortune is the book which inspired Sally Wainwright to write Gentleman Jack, now a major drama series for the BBC and HBO. Lesbian landowner Anne Lister inherited Shibden Hall in 1826. She was an impressive scholar, fearless traveller and successful businesswoman, even developing her own coalmines. Her extraordinary diaries, running to 4–5 million words, were partly written in her own secret code and recorded her love affairs with startling candour. The diaries were included on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2011. Jill Liddington’s classic edition of the diaries tells the story of how Anne Lister wooed and seduced neighbouring heiress Ann Walker, who moved in to live with Anne and her family in 1834. Politically active, Anne Lister door-stepped her tenants at the 1835 Election to vote Tory. And socially very ambitious, she employed architects to redesign both the Hall and the estate. Yet Ann Walker had an inconvenient number of local relatives, suspicious of exactly how Anne Lister could pay for all her grand improvements. Tensions grew to a melodramatic crescendo when news reached Shibden of the pair being burnt in effigy. This 2022 edition includes a fascinating Afterword on the recent discovery of Ann Walker’s own diary. Female Fortune is essential reading for those who watched Gentleman Jack and want to know more about the extraordinary woman that was Anne Lister.
Female Fortune: The Anne Lister Diaries 1833–36 inspired Sally Wainwright to write Gentleman Jack, her major drama series (BBC1 and HBO, 2019 and 2022). This companion volume Anne’s story from May 1836, with the death of her elderly father and the effective banishment of her sister. In the autumn, with the death of Anne’s beloved aunt, Anne Lister and Ann Walker were on their own at Shibden. Anne’s magnificent diaries record their life together. The compelling coded passages reveal the ups and downs of their lesbian marriage. Alongside, Anne developed her own coal mines, embellished Shibden’s architecture, and was politically active, especially at the 1837 election. So, was it ‘as good as a marriage’? And what was heterosexual marriage like then? Married women had few rights. Both women had to be courageous, always easier for Anne than for Ann. By placing this lesbian relationship in its historical context, Jill Liddington shines a dazzling light on this subversive marriage and its tensions.
Lister onwards; yet, as we know, they do leave large gaps. And, despite the social media explosion since GentlemanJack , most of these gaps remain, and these I have aimed to fill.
From May 1836 to May 1838, Anne was essentially rooted at Shibden, her hopes for wider travels deferred. This has some real advantages for an editor, particularly if they live locally and know Halifax's geography and political landscape. However, with Anne now writing slightly more each day than
The first collection of its kind, Chartist Drama makes available four plays written or performed by members of the Chartist movement of the 1840s. Emerging from the lively counter-culture of this protest campaign for democratic rights, these plays challenged cultural as well as political hierarchies by adapting such recognisable genres as melodrama, history plays, and tragedy for performance in radically new settings. A communal, public, and embodied art form, drama was linked for the Chartists with other kinds of political performance: the oratory of the mass platform, festival-like outdoor meetings, and the elaborate street theatre of protest marches. Plays that Chartists wrote or staged advanced new interpretations of British history and criticised aspects of the contemporary world. And Chartist drama intervened in fierce strategic arguments within the movement. Most notably, poet-activist John Watkins’s John Frost, which dramatises the gripping events of the Newport rising of 1839, in which twenty-two Chartists lost their lives, defends the rebellion and the Chartist recourse to violence as a means for the movement to achieve its aims. The volume’s appendices document over one hundred Chartist dramatic performances, staged by activists in local Chartist associations or at professional benefits at some of London’s largest working-class theatres. Gregory Vargo’s introduction and notes elucidate the previously unexplored world of Chartist dramatic culture, a context that promises to reshape what we know about early Victorian popular politics and theatre.
), God’s Own Country (2017) and GentlemanJack (2019)
(about Anne Lister of Shibden Hall) provided queer takes on West Yorkshire. The pathbreaking
drama Queer as Folk (1999) had earlier introduced Manchester’s Canal Street to
national and international audiences. Our period, we decided, should come more or less to the
present day of our project; we wanted to explore the reasons behind – and the
significance of – this regional queer flourish.
Changes at a national level certainly affected our cities – whether
‘Dan Tempest and the Amazons’ both feature shiploads of women
coming out to settle the colony. The scarcity of women gives them a
commodity value which they use to set their own terms. ‘Dan Tempest
and the Amazons’ is about women asserting control of their own destinies: a group of Englishwomen being shipped to Barbados as indentured servants are shipwrecked and picked up and sold by the French;
but they respond by taking control of the ship which enables them
to negotiate their own terms. ‘GentlemanJack and the Lady’ features
female pirate Anne Bonney (Hazel Court
Scene I 69
‘When Adam delved and Eve span,
Who was then the gentleman?’
JACK STRAW. The mob are up in London– t he proud courtiers
Begin to tremble.
TOM MILLER. Aye, aye, ’tis time to tremble;
Who’ll plough their fields, who’ll do their drudgery now,
And work like horses to give them the harvest?
JACK STRAW. I only wonder we lay quiet so long.
We had always the same strength, and we deserved
The ills we met with for not using it.
HOB. Why do we fear those animals called lords?
What is there in the name to frighten us?
Is not my arm as mighty as a Baron’s?