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Jill Liddington: As Good as a Marriage: The Anne Lister Diaries, 1836–38


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‘A unique and thrilling insight into the brilliant mind of Anne Lister’ 
Sally Wainwrightcreator of Gentleman Jack 

The BBC and HBO series Gentleman Jack brought Anne Lister to international attention, awakening tremendous interest in her diaries, which run to nearly five million words and are partly written in her secret code. They record in intimate detail Anne’s intellectual energy and her challenges to so many of society’s expectations of women at the time.

In As Good as a Marriage, the sequel to Female Fortune, Jill Liddington’s edited transcriptions of the diaries show us Anne from 1836 to 1838. She guides the reader through life at Shibden Hall after Anne’s unconventional ‘marriage’ to wealthy local heiress Ann Walker. The book explores the daily lives of these two women, from convivial evenings together to Anne’s ruthless pursuit of her own business and landowning ambitions.

Yet the diaries’ coded passages also record tensions and quarrels, with Ann Walker often in tears. Was their relationship really as fragile as Anne’s coded writing suggests? This question is at the heart of As Good as a Marriage.

‘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’ 

Professor Jen Manion, author of Female Husbands

Jill Liddington is the author whose book, Female Fortune: the Anne Lister Diaries 1833–36, inspired scriptwriter Sally Wainwright to write the epic drama series Gentleman Jack (2019, BBC1 & HBO). Female Fortune, first published in 1998, was reprinted in 2010 and 2018, with a new second edition in 2019. Dr Jill Liddington, Honorary Research Fellow at Leeds University, is a feminist historian. Her first book, One Hand Tied Behind Us (1978, 2000) quickly became a suffrage classic. The Long Road to Greenham won the Fawcett Book Prize in 1990. 


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