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Sunday, October 18, 2009

BBC unveils a new drama about Anne Lister, "the first modern lesbian"

The life and times of Anne Lister, a woman who is often considered "the first modern lesbian", is to be the subject of a new BBC drama based on her sexually explicit diaries.

Lister had written about her life and travels in a four million-word collection of diaries prior to death at age 51.

The majority of Lister's diaries were deciphered in the 1930s, as she had developed special encryption to exchange letters with her first lover, Eliza Raine and the married Marianna Belcombe Lawton, with whom she indulged a 16 year long relationship.

In her sexually explicit diaries, Lister referred to orgasms as “kisses”, and marked her diary with a cross to indicate each time she had experienced one.

An October 1820 entry in her diary revealing her attraction to the same sex, read: ‘I love and only love the fairer sex and thus beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any love but theirs.’

In another excerpt from the same year Lester said: ‘Yet my manners are certainly peculiar, not all masculine but rather softly gentleman-like. I know how to please girls.”

Maxine Peake, whose previous role include Myra Hindley, is set to play the Anne Lister in special for BBC Two. The film is expected to get underway next month at Listers 19th century home Shibden Hall near Halifax which she shared with her “wife” - another local heiress named Anne Walker, with whom she underwent a same-sex marriage ceremony.

If your interested in reading more about Anne Lister, an author by the name of Helena Whitbread invested six years exploring and decoding Lister's diaries. In her book, I Know My Own Heart: The Diaries of Anne Lister 1791-1840, she offers the diaries a fascinating story about the "everyday" life led by an early 19th century lesbian.

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