Steamy real story behind the new Foxtel show


The extravagant antics of the lesbian of the high society Anne Lister in Foxtel's new drama, Gentleman Jack, have already seen the spectators under the collar, but the real story is much more solid.

The 19th-century BBC drama follows the landowner Anne, played by British actor Suranne Jones, who was invited to stay in the home of some friends of her family.

He slept with three of the four women in the house in a matter of nights, The sun relationships.

The twenty-nine year old then had his first lesbian encounter in his school attic at the age of 15, which led his lover to end up in an asylum.

Surprisingly, this was in the 1800s, a time when homosexuality was illegal and lesbianism barely recognized.

But Anne – whose lively love life is found in the series that runs on Foxtel every Sunday – was a skilled seducer of women.

He welcomed the wives of the company under the nose of their husbands, slept with virgins who were encouraged to share his bed as protection and had sex with almost all his friends.

The Yorkshire heiress – who wore men's clothing and wore a medallion containing pubic hair – had also "married" his lover Ann Walker in what was considered the first lesbian marriage, although he was not legally recognized.

A familiar figure in the streets around her home in West Yorkshire by Shibden Hall, Anna was cruelly nicknamed "Gentleman Jack" by men who scoffed at his manly appearance, low voice and hairy lower lip.

A practical wild card has even included an announcement in the Leeds Mercury, claiming he was looking for a husband.

But surely he had the last laugh, while the women fell into his arms at a stunning pace – with every encounter and every orgasm recorded in his extensive and heavily coded diaries.


Born in 1791, Anne was the second of six children of the military Jeremy Lister and his wife Rebecca, but only she and her younger sister survived.

Fired by her mother as an "unmanageable tomboy", she was taken out of the college at seven, where she demonstrated a relentlessly rebellious student.

In his adolescence, teachers tried to limit his disruptive influence by removing her from the dorm and putting her in a bedroom in the attic, which is when he started recording every awake thought in his diary.

His life changed dramatically when fifteen-year-old Eliza Raine, the half-Indian daughter of a British doctor, was sent to join her in the attic.

The outcasts quickly became lovers, and both registered their sexual encounters with the word "felix" – the Latin word for "happy".

During this period, Anne devised a complicated code for her explicit diary entries, which combined Greek, Latin, mathematical, punctuation, and zodiac symbols, and she believed it was adamant.

Although Eliza was his first love, Anne was eager to move on when the couple left school and so ended the relationship.

Eliza was upset, writing to her lover: "You know very little about the pain you gave me." It sank in depression and, with a broken heart, was finally engaged in an asylum.

But Anne was only discovering her sexuality and was anxious to explore further.

Trawled medical books in an attempt to understand his feelings, and finding no answer, he embraced his "strangeness", becoming promiscuous and, many would say, a predatory seducer.

"I can't live without female company, without anyone interested in me," he wrote in his diary.

Typical of the details he recorded was his description of a meeting with Maria Barlow, widow of Guernsey.

"I kissed and pressed Mrs. Barlow on my lap until I had a complete passion," he read a diary.

"My knees and thighs trembled, my breath and everything told her what the problem was.

"Then I made many gentle efforts to put my hand on the petticoats which, however, prevented.

"But she crossed her legs and leaned against me that I put my hand on her and drips her on the outside of her skirts until she was obviously a little excited."

As she passed by her lover, however, a woman stole her heart completely.


Mariana Belcombe, a doctor's daughter, was 21 when the couple fell madly in love, carrying on an illicit novel for years.

Anne went to see Mariana, who lived about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Shibden Hall, every week, and the couple exchanged rings.

The couple regularly shared a bed, which was not uncommon among young unmarried women whose families were eager to protect the virginal reputation of their daughters before they landed a husband.

Anne, however, wanted a wife and was shattered when, in 1815, Mariana announced that she should marry a wealthy landowner.

Thrilling with jealousy, Anne witnessed the marriage and joined the honeymoon couple, releasing herself continuously on "legal prostitution", seeing the union.

"It was believed, or seemed to believe, beyond the ears and ears in love," he barked. "Yet he sold his person to another.

"Surely no one ever went into another like I did on her."

Anne got her revenge by settling a series of women in society including Mariana's own sister, also called Anne.

But the couple met after a year in which Mariana came to stay and, taking to her bed with a toothache, slipped Anne into her room and asked for a "kiss" – later revealed as a sex code.

"I took off my pelisse and drawers, went to bed and kissed myself," wrote Anne. "By showing all the necessary inclinations and in less than seven minutes, the door was unbolted and we were well again."

Anne continued to have other business until Mariana, jealous of her other lovers, implored her to "be faithful, to consider me married".

"Now I will begin to think and act (like) if it were my wife," he wrote.

But the report overflowed again after Anne, eager to see her lover who was traveling to Shibden, traveled 10 miles (16 kilometers) in the pouring rain to meet his diligence.

Dripping damp, he jumped into the carriage where Mariana slept, witnessed by her maid and her sister.

Mariana was furious. Worried about their secret relationship they would be exposed, then told Anne that she was embarrassed to be seen in public with a woman so masculine.


By now Anne was almost 30 years old and was desperate for domestic happiness.

Her gaze settled on Ann Walker, the young heiress of the adjacent estate, High Cliff, and decided to seduce her.

Several times a day, he walked four miles (six kilometers) between the two houses to see it, and built a cabin in his garden for secret meetings.

But her intentions were hard to come by – Anne had to ask her three times before agreeing to sleep with her, which was unusual in her considerable sexual experience.

Once they became lovers, Anne proposed and, in 1834, the two women took communion together in the Holy Trinity Church, in Goodramgate, York.

Although same-sex marriage was not a legal possibility, Anne considered this as their marriage and began to address Ann as his "wife".

His motives were not entirely romantic, however. Anne, who would inherit Shibden a year later, was running out of funds, and her new wife was about to become a considerable fortune.

But Anne was a compulsive spasm and soon wasted their earnings on home improvements, a new garden, and unfortunate investments in a coal mine and hotel.

Anne, who had always been a passionate traveler, also insisted that her bride join her on a carriage ride to Moscow and then to the Caucasus (now Georgia) in the winter of 1840.

There Anne, 49, took a fever and died.

In his will, he left Shibden to his paternal cousins, giving Ann Walker an interest in life, so he continued to live there. But the new owners declared her mad and turned into an asylum. He died in his family home in 1854.


Fifty years after his death, in 1890, Anne's relative, John Lister, decided to decipher the code in the 26 leather-bound diaries in the Shibden Hall library.

He showed them to his teacher friend Arthur Burrell, and after careful work over several months, he worked out the key to the complicated code.

But what he read shocked him to the core. Her detailed descriptions of sex with hundreds of women contrasted any social norm of the Victorian era and, Arthur noted, "Almost none of them escaped her."

He advised his friend to burn the journals to protect the family name, but John hid them behind the house panels, where they were rediscovered in 1933 and given to the Halifax library.

Reluctantly, Arthur revealed the key to the code, but as they were translated, they were again buried by the council due to "unsuitable content".

In 1982, the academic Helena Whitbread discovered a diary microfilm and began to unravel the bold stories.

A turning point came when he deciphered the passage of 12 December 1817, the night when Anne and Mariana met after his marriage.

Helena realized that the "kiss" was the code for sex, while a Q with a curl denoted a sexual experience.

Anne's orgasms were marked in the margin with an X, and she often referred to "gurgling" – her word for trying to feel.

"Of all the things I thought was hidden, it wasn't sex with other women," said Mrs. Whitbread.

"I think the feeling was … & # 39; Oh my God – here's an absolutely truthful account of the lesbian sex & # 39;".

In 1988, Mrs Whitbread published her first volume of diaries – When I know my heart.

Even then, after 150 years, explicit sexual encounters were so shocking that some thought the book was a joke.

But today, Anne Lister is considered a pioneer in LGBT movements, and is celebrated with a tombstone in front of the church in York where she "married" Ann.

This article originally appeared on The Sun and has been reproduced with permission

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