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Gentleman Jack: A Biography of Anne Lister, Regency Landowner, Seducer and Secret Diarist

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  778 ratings  ·  120 reviews

The extraordinary life of history's first modern lesbian who inspired the television series Gentleman Jack

Anne Lister's journals were so shocking that the first person to crack their secret code hid them behind a fake panel in his ancestral home. Anne Lister was a Regency landowner, an intrepid world traveller ... and an unabashed lover of other women.
In this bold new

Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published November 1st 2018 by Serpent's Tail (first published September 1st 2017)
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 ·  778 ratings  ·  120 reviews

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Auntie Terror
Jul 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
If Don Juan had met Anne Lister, he'd habe become depressed. [Prtf] ...more
John Anthony
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book that will stay with me for weeks to come I suspect. It leaves much to ponder upon. I’ve no hesitation in recommending it, especially if British history’s your thing, social, cultural, political. An interest in diversity might help too, along with travel. Here you would read how an ambitious and highly charged lesbian on the perimeter of the landed aristocracy sought fulfilment. Old money forced, because of the turn in the economic tide, to mingle with the new.

There is much to admire about
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Gentleman Jack is a biography of Anne Lister, Regency Yorkshire landowner known for her relationships with women and explicit diaries partly written in code. Full of quotations from her diaries, it is a good biography for anything looking for an introduction to Lister's life and what she wrote about in her diaries. Likely to be of most interest are her various relationships with women—often surprisingly openly for Regency society—and her interest in travel, scaling mountains and visiting countri ...more
I initially picked this book up for two reasons. The first is, as I work in a bookshop, keeping up to date with upcoming releases makes my life much easier when talking to customers about the books they were based on. HBO is dramatising Anne Lister's life, more specifically they are basing their interpretation off this particular biography.

The other reason is that as a gay woman, I am always hungry for LGBT history in any form. I wanted desperately to feel some sort of connection, to hook my ow
K. A. MacKinnon
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Please, please do not read this book. Seriously. If you’re actually interested in learning about Anne Lister, this is not the book for you.

This book is judge, jury, and executioner to its subject, which feels like a complete violation of the rules of a biography. You can tell just by the table of contents - her life is divided up not by milestone events but by the women she seduces. Because clearly when someone isn’t straight, the only interesting thing about them is their sex life. Everything e
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
She's a Tory and a landlord but I love her ...more
Nicki Markus
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-non-fiction
Gentleman Jack was an interesting read on many levels—firstly, as a commentary on the life of a lesbian in the early 19th century, and secondly, as an account of a fascinating woman who did some amazing things in the course of her life. Anne Lister was certainly quite a character, and while I was intrigued by her romantic exploits, it was more her extensive travels that gripped me. This work shines a light on a little-known figure who deserves more recognition. The only reason I give this book f ...more
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
**Originally posted to**

Earlier this year, HBO and the BBC treated us to Suranne Jones swaggering across the screen in butch Victorian get-up, playing the character of Anne Lister. The first season of Gentleman Jack follows just a segment of Anne’s life starting in 1832, as she woos her future life-partner, Ann Walker.

While I loved the show, it left me wanting to know more. What was Anne Lister really like? Who was she before 1832, and how does her story end? This led me to pick up
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Look, Anne Lister was a terrible, terrible person. But if you can stomach reading about pretty much any white male landowner with a host of lovers from the nineteenth century, you can handle this. Mr. Rochester turned female is no less awful, and worse because she was a real person.

But it means something as modern LGBT+ people, to see someone like us, openly living their truth, hundreds of years ago. Anne's girlfriends were all fascinating women, and I wanted to know more about them and less ab
Celia T
Jun 29, 2019 marked it as to-read
Okay: I think I need to take a break from this book because it is depressing the hell out of me. The more research I do on Anne Lister, the more it becomes clear that she fact.......a horrible human being? I sort of went from thinking "well, she was a flawed human being like all of us, and it's unfair for me to hold her, as a queer woman, to a higher moral standard than I would hold a man from the same era," to thinking "Jesus Christ, even Byron never did anything THAT fucked up." And ...more

a groundbreaking new biography of Anne Lister, Regency landowner, seducer and proud lesbian during a time when it was difficult simply to be female. With the code to her secret diaries now cracked, we get to know her many lovers ...
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book makes you realise what a huge social snob Miss Lister really was, and also how mercenary. While her lust for life and adventure and determination to live on her own terms was admirable, the fact is that the relationship with Ann Walker was not the love match it is portrayed in the current BBC series. Lister needed money to sink her coal mines, refurbish Shibden Hall and also travel the world. Ann Walker was a pliable pawn who most importantly was wealthy and Lister cynically targeted h ...more
Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hesitated between this book and the TV series tie-in, and now am not at all sure whether I should have chosen the latter instead. But I wanted more than the love story between Anne and Ann, because (although I loved the love story in the series) I was also intrigued by Lister's business dealings.

I feel a bit like the academic who prudishly consigned Lister's coded sex scenes to oblivion as being "merely personal" and "of no historical interest", i.e. I would have liked less of them--but that's
Steph Pomfrett
Aug 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Full disclosure before I start: my grandma is Helena Whitbread, who initially published the diaries in the 1980s.

Anne Lister was a fascinating woman, both publicly and privately. She was also a colossal narcissist who would have been a nightmare on social media; instead she had her journal.

This book highlights that, although relies incredibly heavily on the transcriptions of Helena and Jill Liddington, with some reference to the notes of Phyllis Ramsden. I was quite frustrated that the author
Amanda Van Parys
This was a good read but very dry, even considering all the "scandalous" content of Lister's life. I'm not sure how you could make nonfiction like this not dry when you're dealing with thousands of pages of transcribed tedious journal pages, but still this somehow managed it. A worthy read if you're at all interested in lesbian history. ...more
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anne Lister was a narcissistic but fascinating person, her life full of polyamorous dyke drama and travels. This biography is also a poetic middle finger (a body part that Anne mentions a lot) to the romanticed tales of female "friendships".
(now English edition: "Gentleman Jack")
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anne Lister was both amazing and a monster. I wish I had half her swagger.
May 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a fascinating book about a fascinating life! I could not put my Kindle down this weekend.
A little sad because I feel I've read spoilers for tonight's HBO episode, although I'm eager to see the Sally Wainwright version of events!
I especially loved the detailed account of Anne and Ann's life & travels together (in Imperial Russia! in the winter!) after their marriage, which the Ann Choma biography skimmed over. It was interesting to learn the history of the decoding process, and the disagree
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: lgbt, biography
I read an article about Anne Lister some months ago, and found it very interesting: the bare facts of her life are fascinating. An independent woman, Lister travelled extensively, and managed to take control of her uncle's estates due to her determination and strong business acumen. She was also a lesbian, and had many different female partners over her life, and lived openly with a woman, considering herself to be married. She wrote obsessively in her diary, using a secret code in a mixture of ...more
Sep 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: hate, dnf
First things first, this is bad history. The author explains in the very first chapter that she deciphered none of Anne Lister's diaries herself and based her book entirely on secondary sources created by other historians. Go read the books by Jill Liddington and Helena Whitbread instead of this, (or better than that you can now access the diaries themselves and many people around the world are deciphering them as we speak so they will be fully digitized in a few years.)
They have devoted decades
The Reader
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and informative - although I do think it's a bit of a stretch to suppose that Anne Lister could have been the inspiration for Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. Gives an even greater appreciation for the TV series. Love that this biography doesn't gloss over Anne's dickishness and self-absorption; if she wasn't such a narcissist, we wouldn't have had 4 million words of priceless 19th century history at our disposal! ...more
Rachael Eyre
Jan 14, 2019 rated it liked it
It's difficult to argue with the author's conclusion that Anne Lister was an egotistical fortune hunter, but her diaries are an invaluable historical document, disproving the homophobic argument that LGBT people are a modern phenomenon. This biography is a quick, informative read. ...more
May 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
Terribly dull, read to the page 35. I couldn’t take anymore of the fuckboy attitude and rather nasty way of speaking about her romantic interests. This book is basically an outline of Lister’s life and lovers. The writing has no feeling and is very clinical/basic. One star for the pretty cover.
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was such a good read!! Anne lister is hugely admirable in one sense, but also a total nightmare. Also a massive Tory.
Jennifer Mangler
Anne Lister is fascinating (although not such a great person, it turns out), but this book is rather dull.
Elizabeth Versace
Sep 19, 2019 rated it did not like it
Don't bother. Depressing. Worst possible depiction of Anne Lister. ...more
Helen Cooley
Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting read about a fascinating historic character. Anne Lister was a female (lesbian) ‘Casanova’, born in 1791, who seduced and loved many women and wrote prolifically and often graphically about it in her diaries. As well as her complex love and sex life, which makes for a fascinating piece of LGBT+ history, she also travelled widely across Europe and into Russia in a time when it was extraordinarily adventurous to do so, she also entered into several (rather unsuccessful) business ventur ...more
Oct 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Due to research issues (outlined here by other reviewers), this should NOT be the first book you read about Anne Lister.

That said, if you're new to the topic, the first thing you should know about Anne Lister books is to NEVER FORGET you're reading (or watching!) someone's INTERPRETATION of Anne Lister. All biographers and researchers of Anne Lister lay a heavy hand on their works in determining what they think you should know about her or how they want to present her based on their own feeling
Helen Carolan
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
The premise of this book sounded so interesting but the execution fell far short. The author is German so perhaps it lost something in translation. I had never heard of Anne Lister so was even more intrigued by the book. Sadly I couldn't get with it at all. Found it far too repetitive. ...more
Ilona Suviranta
Jul 20, 2019 rated it liked it
The topic of this book - Anne Lister - got me completely obsessed, as in my eyes there's almost nothing more interesting than queer history. However, despite the fascinating life of its subject, the book itself was dragging at points. A bit of editing would have done this book good. ...more
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