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No Priest But Love: The Journals of Anne…
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No Priest But Love: The Journals of Anne Lister From 1824-1826 (N Y U…

by Anne Lister, Helena Whitbread (Editor)

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I didn't know about this book until recently. I had read and loved 'I Know My Own Heart' (republished in 2010 as 'The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister') in 1989. This, Helena Whitbread's second book, first published in 1992, is the lesser-known follow-up, covering the period Sept 1824 to Oct 1826.

In this second book almost every diary entry is preceded by a heading, which serves as a summary of that day for easy reference; and photographs, drawings, and paintings depict Anne's world.

The book begins with Anne's stay in Paris, where she courts a widow whose social standing and financial worth do not meet Anne's aspirations. Whilst continuing her affair with the love of her life, Marianna Lawton (married to Charles Lawton), Anne seeks a suitable life partner who will allow her to climb the social ranks.

About one sixth of Anne Lister's diaries (the encoded parts) reveal her desire for women and her forthright approach to satisfying that desire. Where this second book really wins out for me is that Helena Whitbread now seems less shy about sharing with her readers the finer details of Anne's lesbianism. ( )
  Natasha.Holme | Aug 25, 2012 |
No Priest But Love follows on the heels of I Know My Own Heart. While I Know My Own Heart was published in large part because it seals Anne Lister's claim to fame as the first "modern lesbian," it is light on lesbian content given its overall length and heavy on early 19th century Halifax gossip. Dedicated readers will appreciate Lister's sexual frankness mixed in with the banalities of provincial life, but others may find that the title of First Modern Lesbian demands a bit more. No Priest But Love delivers that "more." At the end of 1824 Lister left Halifax for an extended stay in Paris. In Paris Lister finds what the reader was probably hoping she would--unadulterated dyke drama. Lister begins a satisfyingly explicit seduction of an English widow, Mrs Barlow. Like all good lesbians of any age, Lister encourages Mrs Barlow to pack up her U-Haul, and then Lister wrecks the relationship by dragging her ex-girlfriend-wait-a-second-we're-likely-to-get-back-together-any-moment into the picture. If that isn't modern lesbianism, then I don't know what is. And so the drama continues at home and abroad.

In addition to introducing this new love interest of Lister's, No Priest But Love also introduces us more fully to someone who has been there all along--Helena Whitbread. This volume contains more numerous (and very interesting) historical asides, images, and psychological analyses of Lister and her world. (These are few and far in between in I Know My Own Heart). Ms Whitbread also included subject headings for the majority of Lister's entries, making it easier to skim back through and appreciate the overarching narrative of Lister's life at that time.

Overall, this is a faster-paced, more varied, and more sexually explicit extract from Lister's life. Even if I Know My Own Heart didn't do it for you, try giving this volume a whirl. Anne Lister isn't exactly likable, but she is at least readable. ( )
1 vote mambo_taxi | Jun 12, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lister, Anneprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Whitbread, HelenaEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 081475077X, Paperback)

"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

"As a document of one woman's revolt against convention and as a celebration of love between women, this is an uplifting book."
The 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 through I Know My Own Heart and are eager to learn more about her revealing life and what it suggests about the history of sexuality.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:23 -0400)

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