Gentleman Jack by Angela Steidele review – seductions of a secret diarist


This post is by Ruth Scurr from Books | The Guardian


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A new account of a pioneering lesbian life draws on a diary with graphic descriptions of sex in code

In July 2018 the first blue plaque to be encircled by the LGBT+ rainbow was unveiled at Holy Trinity church, Goodramgate, York. The plaque celebrates the life of Anne Lister (1791-1840), a “gender-nonconforming entrepreneur”, and commemorates the “marital commitment without legal recognition” that took place between her and her lover Ann Walker in the church in 1834. Controversially, the word “lesbian” was not used on the plaque.

Lister, from a wealthy family, inherited Shibden Hall, a Tudor mansion, near Halifax. She was closely involved in running her estate, well-read, well-travelled, and the only female co-founder of the Halifax Literary and Philosophical Society. She dressed always in black and spoke openly in her deep voice of her interest in other women. Locally she was mocked as “Gentleman Jack”. “Does your cock stand?...