As Good As A Marriage: The Anne Lister Diaries 1836-38

A paperback edition of the diaries of Anne Lister from 1836-38 offers rare insights into Anne’s unorthodox relationship with Ann Walker and achievements as a businesswoman in 19th century Yorkshire.

As Good As A Marriage (Manchester University Press, 2023) by Dr Jill Liddington presents in detail Anne Lister’s diary entries over a two-year period and gives readers a valuable insight into lesbian relationships during this time.

As Good As A Marriage is the sequel to Female Fortune (Manchester University Press, 1998), the inspiration for the BBC1/HBO series, Gentleman Jack, and picks up where this book ended in mid-1836.

The diary entries from this period detail Anne’s relationship and ‘marriage’ to Ann Walker. Dr Liddington notes that ‘while still recording their relationship in intimate detail, [the entries] often detail tensions, silences and quarrels’ and the ‘tremendous emotional volatility in their daily lives.’  These years are, as Dr Liddington explains, ‘crucial to our understanding of Anne and Ann’s daring marriage, solemnized at Goodramgate Church in York in 1834’; yet they have been previously neglected by other historians transcribing Anne’s diaries.

The diaries entries also record the many ways in which Anne challenged society’s expectations of women. She had inherited ancient Shibden Hall from her uncle in 1826; and through her entrepreneurship and business achievements, she developed grand plans to renovate Shibden Hall. With no direct descendants herself, Anne’s ambition was to make her legacy as impressive as possible.

Reviews of the book include the following:

This meticulous study of a key two-year period in the marriage of Anne Lister and Ann Walker is a must-read for scholars and fans alike. Liddington highlights key passages of the diaries and letters while providing invaluable context and commentary.

- Jen Manion, author of Female Husbands

Jill Liddington delivers a thorough analysis of the critical years following Anne Lister and Ann Walker's union. Utilizing her own transcription of Lister's famously challenging "crypthand", Liddington brings us into the room as the couple struggles against challenges from within and without. Whether you're a fan of the BBC's Gentleman Jack or an Anne Lister scholar, this book is not to be missed.

- Pat Esgate, organiser of the Anne Lister Birthday Weekend

As Good as a Marriage continues the amazing Anne Lister/Gentleman Jack story. Jill Liddington's excellent introduction and careful editing of letters and diaries for the mid-1830s gives access to the personal, business and political life of this powerful lesbian couple.

- Catherine Hall, co-author of Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class 1780-1850

Dr Liddington will hold a book-signing at The Book Corner in the Piece Hall, Halifax, on Thursday 11 July 2024 from 12.30-13.30.

Dr Liddington will also lead a short walk around the Shibden Hall estate looking at ‘What Anne Lister inherited and what she bequeathed’ on Saturday 13 July 2024. Tickets are £6 and pre-booking via this form is required.

Dr Liddington joined Leeds University’s Extra-Mural Department in 1982 and is now Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies (CIGS) in the School of Sociology and Social Policy. Her work has focused primarily on women’s history, and her previous research has examined the women’s suffrage movement and earlier volumes of Anne Lister’s diaries.  Copies of As Good As A Marriage can be purchased from Manchester University Press.