Sunday, June 06, 2010

One more day...

Well, I took my own advice and checked out the Anne Lister doc, Revealing Anne Lister, on the BBC i-player. It's up until tomorrow night and well worth a watch. Where to start?

Well, presenter Sue Perkins, decked out in North Face jacket and a succession of hoodies (those budget cutbacks at the BBC must really be biting), cut a dashing dykey figure, wandering over the Yorkshire moors and meeting a gaggle of tweedy academics for insight into Lister's life. Perkins took to her task with relish, reading out saucy excerpts from Lister's diaries and offering her own critique of the diarist's life, noting acidly that there was no excuse for her to abandon her first girlfriend after she was committed to an asylum. She also wondered aloud, with some anger and incredulity, why she had never heard about Anne Lister when she was growing up.

The coda of what happened to the diaries offered some clues. Far from being lost for 150 years, the diaries were actively suppressed, owing to their explicit lesbian content, by an array of family members, townsfolk and researchers until Helena Whitbread re-discovered them and set about translating them again. That made me most angry--what a wasted effort when Lister had left behind an index and a friend of the family had already decoded them some 100 years before. And so one can see how unkind history can be to trailblazers. Odd to think society actually moved backward between the time of Lister's very open life and now.

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