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Historian and Editor of 'The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister'

As the editor of the Anne Lister journals I was amazed when I found Natasha Holme’s book. I learned that, like Anne Lister (1791-1840), Natasha has been an obsessive diarist from her early teenage years. But the startling fact is that, again like Anne Lister, Natasha wrote in a secret code of her own devising. This marked her out, to me, as a modern-day Anne Lister. Natasha’s account of her struggle to realise her lesbian sexuality and to deal with her eating disorder makes for an interesting, honest and sometimes painful read. I contacted her and, finding that she has many more years of her diairies yet to be published, I feel that a discerning literary agent might well find it rewarding to take up the challenge of getting them published. Like Anne Lister, from whose diaries I have published two books from which two documentaries and a film have been made, Natasha’s story could, I believe, become the subject of a film. It is my belief that her work on her own life may well make her a ‘name’ in the world of lesbian writing.

For the love of lesbian diary-writing …

As a lesbian and a devoted diarist, I was thrilled to discover in 1989 the original (1988) publication of this book, I Know My Own Heart: The Diaries of Anne Lister, 1791-1840. At a time when lesbian books were few, this was a godsend and I lapped up every word.
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With the BBC film adaptation of Anne Lister’s diaries in 2010 and their subsequent reprint as The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, these amazing journals are now a household name.

BBC adaptation of The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister

Tib and Anne Lister, played by Susan Lynch and Maxine Peake, share a kiss.

Book cover of Helena Whitbread's No Priest But LoveHelena Whitbread’s second book, No Priest But Love, first published in 1992, is the lesser-known follow-up to the 1988 publication of I Know My Own Heart (republished in 2010 as The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister).

This portion of Anne Lister’s diaries covers the years 1824 to 1826. The book begins with Anne’s stay in Paris, where she wins the affections of a widow whose social standing and financial worth do not meet Anne’s aspirations.

Whilst continuing her affair with the love of her life, Mariana Lawton (married to Charles Lawton), Anne seeks a suitable life partner who will also allow her to climb the social ranks. She manages effortlessy to seduce a number of willing young women and writes freely in her diaries of her desires and of meeting those desires. About one sixth of Anne’s diaries–the encoded parts–cover this area of her life.

“As a document of one woman’s revolt against convention and as a celebration of love between women, this is an uplifting book.”–The Independent

This documentary from the BBC, presented by the gorgeous and fantastically witty Sue Perkins, introduces us to historian and editor Helena Whitbread and gives us a glimpse of Anne Lister’s encoded diaries. Here’s a trailer: