The Real Anne Lister Blog

Thoughts on Gentleman Jack episode 6 (Do Ladies Do That?)

Well, I must say Gentleman Jack episode 6 (Do Ladies Do that?) was heart-wrenchingly painful TV to watch. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to shed a tear at the scene showing Anne Lister and Ann Walker in bed on their last night together before Ann Walker goes to Scotland. Suranne Jones is spell-binding; what a beautiful portrayal of vulnerability and strength!

However, having already read Jill Liddington’s transcriptions of Anne Lister’s diary entries covering the beginning of her relationship with Ann Walker, I wondered what Anne Lister actually wrote in her diary at this time. So I checked. I went to the image of Anne’s original diary pages for 17 and 18 February 1833 on the West Yorkshire Archive Service website and checked it out.

Here’s my transcriptions of those days:

Saturday 17 February 1833

One loose largeish motion all deep dark green. [Came] downstairs at 10 to speak to Booth the mason. Can hardly tell what Park Farm [illegible] end will take to built it up new, but will take it down & then make [illegible] either[?] or do the job & have it valued afterwards. Breakfast with my aunt at 10 ¼. Came to my room at 11 ½. Cut my nails. Read from page 164 to 173 volume 2 Lyell’s Geology. Prayed from 11 55 to 12 ¾ & read sermon 31 Mr Knight. [illegible] came in about 12 ½. Came to my room at 1 ¼ and till 3 ¾ from page 173 to 234 vol ii Lyell’s Geology. Miss Walker sent my Tuscan cloak with a slip of paper contained mentioning “I hope to see you at diner at 5 o’clock, AW.” Off to Lidgate at 4 20 & there in ½ hour. Found Mr & Mrs Jeremiah Dyson & Mr Parker there. The Dysons soon went away but Mr P stayed for dinner. Saw H- on business for a few minutes before dinner. Said I would give 4 percent for the £2000 joint money but no more. Very [sorry?] to keep it all. Might as a charity give Miss [Theobald?] something more on the £500 made over to her but this should be a separate thing & always optional. The money should be considered at 4 percent like the rest. Mr Jeremiah Rawson [illegible] been blustering at Mr P-‘s office, said he never saw such on lease (the coal-lease), would never sign it. What had it to do with the upper bed works. The fact is they are stealing my upper bed coal & do not like to be looked after. Told Mr P- to write a civil note to Mr R- Christopher & ask whether he meant to sigh the lease or not.

Diner about 6. Captain Sutherland professed his love of sitting [illegible] [illegible] wine after dinner & kept Mr P- till about 9 ½ when they came in to tea & coffee and Mr P- went away about 10. Captain S- said prayers & very soon afterwards we all went apart at 11 ¼ .

I had been very sorry for myself [on account of] such company. Mrs S- vulgar, which would have been sooner and more easily perceived had she been less quiet. She had dirty nails. Captain good hearted and well enough but evidently not a high bred highlander. Mr Parker the best, but he on going away held out his hand and of course I shook hands. Thought I, well poor girl what a set she is getting amongst. Rainy afternoon & evening from about 1 ½ p.m., the morning till then fine & mild.

You can see an image of the original diary page here:

Sunday 18 February 1833

Grubbled her last night. She on the amoroso and wanted to be nearer to me, that is have my drawers off, but I thought it better not. She would sleep in my arms and snored so shockingly I could scarce bear it. Gooded myself with thought of its being the last night. She seemed as if she was going to leave all she liked best and could scarce have enough of me, poor girl. She could hardly leave me in the morning and this made us so late. She was a little on the amoroso again. I touched and handled her and grubbled a little but would not do much. Miss W- & I down to breakfast at 9 ¾ [illegible] Captain & Mrs Sutherland began breakfast. She had given me last night the little bible – society for promoting [illegible] knowledge – promised me some time ago, having written on the fly leaf next the title page “February 18th 1833. Psalm 91.1” and on the back, at the end, “AW to AL.” I did not see this till tonight when I turned to the reference “For he shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways.” And the sight of this affected me. Poor girl, what a pity she has not more mind to be happy herself and mane others so. She seemed to the last thinking of being back before I was off and of going with me. She said she should never let me leave England without her and once let slip that she must hear of me or she should write to me herself. I said I would tell Mrs Sutherland all I knew of my plans when I wrote. Should not be here longer than till the end of June at farthest but should be off as much sooner as I could.

Margin: Captain Sutherland recommends P Lawson & sons seedsmen, Edinburgh. They told him they secured cuttings from America stuck in a potato & Captain was thus taking some rose cuttings with him to the Highlands.

Miss W- & Captain S- went to Cliff Hill (for 20 minutes there) just after breakfast. Mrs S- and I sat chatting. She said yesterday she supposed Miss W- had fifteen hundred a year now she rated her at two thousand and asked me but I said I did not exactly know her income but it was as good as her sister’s. She asked if any love affair was on her mind. ‘No.’ If she thought of Sir Alexander Mackenzie Mrs S’s nephew? ‘No, I knew she did not like him.’ It came out he had offered to her on a threedays acquaintance and thought at first he had reason to hope but she changed her mind. I said he must have mistaken her civility for something else, she was always civil. Mrs S- said she refused him on the plea of having another attachment. He meant her to have paid his large debts, he had not a sixpence and besides had his mother and her family to keep. I said I thought Miss W- would not marry to pay anyone’s debts nor ought she. Surely Captain would take care that proper settlements were made. She looked as if not expecting this. Poor girl, they want her for some of their kin if they can get her.

Miss W- busy at 1 thing or another but seemed very low at going, said she would rather go with me. Knew she should be miserable there as she was before, felt as if she should never come back, yet smiled and rallied when I joked her about running after me. She seemed quietly bent on being back before June when she thinks I am to be off. Miss W- gave me the little bronze topped stick she [illegible] [illegible] [illegible] [illegible]. Asked for some time [secretly?] but had now forgot. At last I saw them off at 1 ¼. Miss W- & Mrs Sutherland inside & Captain S- & James (McKenzie, Miss W-‘s manservant) in the rumble behind. Heaven be praised said I to myself as I walked homewards, that they are off and that I have got rid of her and am once more free.

Called at Washington’s & left with Mrs W- a sovereign for Mr Armitage which Miss W- had forgot to give him on the account of the missionary society & a message to W- to tell him to pay for 2 children at a little school. Strode along my walk, home at 2 10. Mrs Henry Priestly & Mrs Dyson of Willow Ford & Miss Edwards of Pye Nest here. Went into the drawing room to pray for 20 minutes, very civil to all participants. Mrs H. P. there from 2 35 all the afternoon with [illegible] & I [illegible] [illegible] in the [illegible] fitting the wainscot doors to the 2 large [illegible] cupboards till dinner at 6 ¼. Afterwards read the last 62 pages Lathobe’s “alpenstock” on travels in part in Switzerland. Asleep some time. Went into the little room at 9 ½ & came upstairs at 10 ½. Rainy windy wild sort of day & [illegible] & very high wind now at 11pm at which F 47⁰.  Found on the desk on coming home KW letter for [illegible] [illegible] But I did not open it, determined to leave it till I could answer it tomorrow. Have [illegible] [illegible] for Miss Norcliffe, Langton directed by C. N. Sat by John tonight to the post, the 2 letters Mrs Sutherland gave into my charge to James Sutherland Esq, Waterloo Estate, St, Vincent, W. Indies & to Mrs Alexander Macleod, Tousame[?] Estate, St. Vincent, W. Indies.

Margin: Sent my kind regards to Mrs Sutherland and begged to tell how Miss W- was on her arrival at Inverness as I thought it better not to write to Miss W-, it would only be a harass to her. The captain looked, said nothing but seemed surprised? Mrs Sutherland [agreed] to tell me how Miss W- bore her journey to Inverness.

You can see an image of the original diary page here:

A bit different from on TV, right? It’s been suggested that perhaps Anne Lister did not share her ‘true’ feelings with her diary on this occasion; perhaps she was trying to convince herself she didn’t really care rather than acknowledge the depth of her sorrow. That could be true. It’s also true that at other times in her life she seems to be very honest about her feelings in her diary (hence the need for her cyrpthand so that her secrets aren’t discovered by nosey parkers). There are diary entries where she pours out her emotions onto the page, recording tears she’s shed and expressing thanks that she can tell all to her diary and feel better for it.

It’s worth remembering that people use their diaries for different things at different times: sometimes they’re historians, recording facts and events for posterity or as an aide-memoire; sometimes they’re writing to a friend, venting their emotions and seeking solace; sometimes they’re trying out different ways of feeling about a situation or rationalising their emotions.

I’ve been really struck by the difference between the way Anne Lister writes about the separation from Ann Walker, and the relationship with Ann Walker in general, and the way she writes about Marianna Belcome. Anne writes about heartbreak and tears aplenty where difficulties in the relationship with Marianna is concerned. Not so much (apart from frustration that things aren’t going her way) with Ann Walker. I guess it’s significant that the relationship with Marianna took place when Anne was in her 20s and 30s. By the time she starts pursuing Ann Walker she’s in her 40s, older and wiser perhaps, and definitely much more cynical about romantic relationships.

Before I sign off, I want to make crystal clear that I am in no way criticising Gentleman Jack the TV show. All praise to those who wrote, produced, directed and acted in the show; it’s a fantastic TV show with some brilliant actors (particularly Suranne Jones *swoon*). I love it. It explores some incredibly important issues/themes and has brought Anne Lister to the attention of many people who would not otherwise have been aware of her. However, what I am saying – as much to myself as to anyone else – is that what we can read in Anne Lister’s diaries is much more complex than the beautiful romantic story we see on the screen.

And do ladies do that? Yes they do!

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Gentleman Jack episode 6 (Do Ladies Do That?)

  1. I just think it’s not really in any way a good thing to mislead so many gay women/girls re the true real life AL the way Sally Wainwright has done and then in interviews not tell listeners mostly gay women the real make up of AL.
    Is Wainwright totally blinded by what she wants AL to have been? Maybe so…and if not for that the whole Gentleman Jack HBO/BBC thing would never have happened…so Sally has certainly raised the level of awareness on the subject of Anne Lister. But sadly how many of these besotted crazy in love with…AL and SJ’s portrayal of AL (totally from SJ’s fantasies after her research and guidance from Wainwright)viewers will ever read the actual books with direct transcripts of the real AL in her own words?

    1. You are absolutely right about the true make up of AL. She was totally self serving from her first sexual encounter through her last. As well as all of her dealings with basically everyone in her life. She cared about no one but herself with the possible exception of her aunt/mother figure.
      Yes it’s true Wainright seems to have some gigantic crush on AL making her blind to Lister’s true character…and all of the women gay and straight who have swooned over absolutely nothing other than the character Suranne Jones has projected (exceptionally well for what she was going for, probably at Wainright’s request) has little to do with The real woman AL. Jesus these “fans” have no idea Wainwright has fabricated along with SJ what they have seen portrayed in gentleman jack.
      It is disturbing to say the least.

  2. I agree there’s an interesting discrepancy between the two relationships. But she seems to talk herself in and out of love with both of them with a startling turnaround. I think she was so desperate to be truly loved, and by the time she met Ann, so desperate not to be let down again, that she protected her heart quite fiercely, even to the point of heartlessness.

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