Anne Lister's Sex Guide

Steph Gallaway, Lívia LabatePublished 5 September, 2020 · Last updated on 10 October, 2021

This guide offers a starting point for understanding Anne Lister’s sexual practices and language.

Each definition is described from information provided by Anne Lister herself across journal entries, knowledge of intimacy and sexual norms in the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as additional interpretation drawn from analyzing her usage of terms and commentary of various activities over time.

It is difficult to separate the sexual behavior contained in the journals and the language Anne Lister uses to describe them, including her evolving understanding of human anatomy, notions of pleasure and sexual satisfaction, and other related activities and terms.

By describing these concepts as a cross-referenced index of definitions, we are able to see how they relate to each other and ask new questions about what is and is not known from the evidence left behind. The example excerpts shown for each definition are meant to illustrate their usage and explain their meaning, and are best read in context of the full journal entry.

A more thorough understanding of the relationships in which these events occur helps contextualize why and how they take place, as well as how Anne Lister’s own understanding of many of these practices changed over her lifetime, through study and personal growth. Given that many of her relationships with other women span months or years, reading the journals will provide necessary context that a summary cannot sufficiently capture.

As always, this work represents active research and the facts and details included have been and will continue to be updated as new information is uncovered.

Symbolic representation

Anne Lister used unique symbols to represent recurring intimate health and sexual activities across her journal entries. In addition to using the symbols in the entries themselves, they were also indexical and found on the left margin of the dated entry, sometimes near the date, other times along the margin in proximity to where she is writing about the activity in question.

Cross Incurred

An x by the entry's date indicates Anne has 'incurred a cross' (masturbated). This is sometimes confused with a + symbol used for reading.

Examples of this can be seen on 4 May 1825 and 3 January 1830.

Grubbling with Finger Up Queer

A leftward spiral with a rightward tail from the middle and a vertical crossbar indicate 'grubbling' with 'finger up queer'.

This mark appears on some entries with Mariana Lawton, Maria Barlow, and Sibella MacLean in 1829, where Anne specifies there was no 'kiss', but does mention 'grubbling' with a 'finger up queer'.

Kiss

A leftward spiral with an overlapping upward loop from the center (similar to a commercial at symbol) indicates a 'kiss' (sexual intercourse). A dot added means a good one.

An example and explanation can be found on 27 June 1819:

"A kiss last night. This mark stands for it. I have used it to denote the same in my journal written at Lawton in 1816."

Kiss with Miss Vallance

A 'kiss' symbol with additional cursive ascender and a horizontal crossbar through is used to denote kisses with Miss Vallance.

This mark starts appearing on entries between 15 October and 15 December 1820 while Anne is at Langton Hall. It distinguishes kisses with Mary Vallance from those with Isabella Norcliffe due to them sometimes occurring within the same entry. Recognizable examples of this occur on 20 October 1820 and 11 December 1820, on 2 Nov 1820 she specified, “I have had nothing to do with Tib when there is not this mark [standard kiss symbol] made.”

Anne Lister's Cousin

Two dots at the beginning of an entry indicate that Anne's 'cousin' (menstruation) has started on this date.

Examples of this can be seen on 28 December 1820 and 1 September 1824.

Ann Walker's Cousin

Two vertically stacked dots at the beginning of an entry signify that Ann Walker's 'cousin' (also 'monsieur') started on this date.

Examples of this can be seen from the following references:


16 May 1837 — SH:7/ML/E/20/0062

“A–’s cousin came this afternoon”


3 August 1838 — SH:7/ML/E/21/0159

A–’s monsieur came gently just before we went out”


28 August 1838 SH:7/ML/E/22/0005

“On returning home Josephine observed a spot of monsieur on A–’s petticoat. He had come while we were out without A–’s suspecting it."


31 January 1838 — SH:7/ML/E/21/0035

“A–’s cousin came this morning”

Thumbnail image excerpts courtesy of the WYAS SH:7/ML/E

PART 1: CORE CONCEPTS

These central ideas and terms are more prevalent throughout Anne Lister’s journal and represent much of her overall language around sex and sexuality. Most of their uses remain consistent over the years, while others evolve with time—some have variations for specific individuals.

Incur a Cross

Anne used this phrase to indicate that sexual self-gratification or masturbation had occurred. She specified that she incurred a cross "by rubbing the top part of queer,” indicating the practice commonly involved manual stimulation. However, she also used the phrase while describing instances where she incurred a cross from sitting “astride” a bedpost.

Frequently, this activity stemmed from Anne fantasizing about particular women, though she notes that it's not always due to affection but for the purpose of 'incurring the cross'. Sometimes these occurred during a lazy morning in bed, sitting in a chair, and even while walking. She would also often get excited from reading over her past exploits in her journal, letters from lovers, or other material that might be sexual in nature—sometimes even purely anatomical.

In other instances where mutual pleasure from a ‘kiss’ was not attained and Anne was primarily pleasuring her partner, she would also sometimes satisfy herself afterwards by ‘incurring a cross’. While Anne never saw any religious conflict in her sexual interaction with women, she did express regret over self-satisfaction, and would pray to be rid of the habit.

Variations: incurred, incurring (verb)

Synonyms: masturbation, self-gratification, autoeroticism, wank (modern)

DEFINITIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS

“In referring to her own orgasms, she always used the terminology "incurred a cross" and the reference is always made in code.

— Catherine A. Euler in Moving Between Worlds: Gender, Class, Politics, Sexuality and Women's Networks in the Diaries of Anne Lister of Shibden Hall, Halifax, Yorkshire, 1830-1840


“Always recorded in crypt-hand at the top of the day’s diary entry, this was Anne’s preferred way to describe an orgasm she had achieved by masturbation. It was frequently used in conjunction with the name of her current or would-be lover, and sometimes followed with the specification that she had been thinking of that woman ‘merely as a mistress.’”

— Anne Choma in Gentleman Jack: The Real Anne Lister

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

5 December 1819 — SH:7/ML/E/4/0010

“Observe the cross at the head of today. Oh, I wish I could get off this vile habit. This lying in bed in a morning does not do. I wish I had a companion whom to love and by whom be beloved.”

29 June 1820 — SH:7/ML/E/4/0066

“From 11 35/60 to 5 3/4 read from verse 185. to 353. (i.e. 168 lines) Satire 6 Juv[enal] (and all Lubinus' & all the notes to my uncles Edition) – In a state of considerable excitement all the time, and the close has made me add another shameful cross at the head of this day. Surely I will pray and try to amend."

15 January 1823 — SH:7/ML/E/6/0084


“Masturbation just before getting up. I have scarcely done it this year and half before and was cheering myself the other day with the thought that my complaint had at least broken me of this vile habit. The wish for it came over me this morning in an instant and alas I could not or did not resist the temptation, but it was done without much encouragement of loose thought and I hope I shall do so no more. How weak are we to resist temptation if we do not flee from it in the beginning. May the grace of heaven assist me.”


14 January 1824 — SH-7/ML/E/8/0116

“Trying last night to get the middle right finger up myself to see which manner of doing answered best that I might practise this on Mrs. Barlow but it gave me no pleasure at all rather hurt me and I left off and incurred a cross in my own way, that is by rubbing the top part of queer.”

5 April 1824 — SH:7/ML/E/7/0120

“I became exceedingly excited. Miss Vs letter occurred to me. I tried to put it out of my head, yet still the excitement and pulsation continued very strong, so as to be painfully disagreeable. It continued perhaps half hour, but at last thro the grace of heaven I got to sleep about twelve and half without having incurred a cross. I have felt strongly excited too this morning while writing out my French. I have wished for π [Mariana], thinking had she been with me I should have relieved myself. I still feel the heat and erection, as is it the least movement only chair cushion making me uncomfortable.”

24 July 1825 — SH:7/ML/E/8/0170

"Rousseau set me rather wrong, then turned to Juvenals 6th satire which made me worse. The Johannas Secundus finished the thing, and I sat astride one of the bedposts and incurred a cross."

4 May 1825 — See transcript

"Read the joconde of de Lafontaine and the treatise upon, at the end of this volume and other parts of the volume. Took me till near 1. Excited me so that I incurred a cross sitting on my chair."

2 June 1825 – See transcript

"Read over several parts of my journal respecting Mrs. B– which so excited me I incurred a cross." [Maria Barlow]

9 September 1825 — See transcript

“I meant to have begun to write but after sitting in vain on the close-stool, felt excited and foolishly incurred a cross sitting astride the bedpost. Then lay my head on the pillow and slept about an hour, remorseful to have thus incurred a cross.”

28 June 1827 SH:7/ML/E/10/0196

“I was nearly excited myself once, but thought of Mariana and would not… Pretended sleep and thus kept Mrs Barlow away, or she might have come to me or sat by me. Had nearly incurred a cross but escaped it.” [Maria Barlow]

8 July 1827 — See transcript

“Went to her for about an hour, right middle finger up almost all the time. Gave her two or three long excitements. She said she was very long about it. Thought she should never have done no pleasure to me, but returned to my own bed for twenty minutes. Thought of π [Mariana] and incurred a cross.” [Maria Barlow]

28 January 1828 — See transcript

“Sat up reading from page two hundred and sixty five to the end of volume first de Sade and incurred a cross as soon as got into bed”

27 January 1828 — See transcript

"Got into bed to her and staid till eleven not daring to go near her but with my right middle finger up and handling her well… On leaving her got into my own bed for twenty and incurred a cross thinking of her." [Sibella MacLean]

23 February 1830 — Moving Between Worlds... by Catherine A. Euler

"Reading anatomy from 12 to 1 50/60. Chiefly dictionary, clitoris, etc., & at last, in trying if I had much of one, incurred a cross on my chair."

2 August 1830 — SH:7/ML/E/13/0071

“In driving along, between three and four, on the top of the mountain a man and woman courting. He putting his hand into her right pocket hole, and afterwards, another pair walking amorously set me wrong, and I tended in my incurring a cross a little before four thinking chiefly of Mariana.” [Mariana Lawton]

6 January 1831 — See transcript

"Thinking... of getting some country girl, Welsh perhaps, knowing that I was not a man...yet to live with me apparently as my wife, while I studied anatomy here…this enflamed me so that there followed masturbation, manipulation, & a cross incurred walking on the Bois."

28 September 1831 — SH:7/ML/E/14/0123

"At four and three quarters in the carriage incurred a cross thinking partly of Lady S de R [Stuart de Rothesay] and of V [Vere Hobart] and π [Mariana Lawton]”

3 November 1831 — SH:7/ML/E/14/0146

"In returning just near home, thinking of Miss H– so as to excite me and stood ten minutes in the road with my hand touching me but not enough to incur a cross." [Vere Hobart]

2 January 1832 — See transcript

“A good while on the pot for nothing then incurred a cross by handling the clitoris and thinking of Miss H.” [Vere Hobart]

2 June 1832 — SH:7/ML/E/10/0085

“Incurred a cross just before getting up thinking of Mrs. Milne though despising her.” [Harriet Milne]

30 September 1832 — See transcript

"Awake at five and from then to getting up, lay thinking of Miss W– at nine incurred the cross. [Ann Walker]

8 December 1833 — See transcript

"Incurred a cross thro’ my drawers thinking of π (but not affectionately) between nine and ten." [Mariana Lawton]

21 May 1835 — Moving Between Worlds... by Catherine A. Euler

"No kiss. She left me and incurred a cross." [Ann Walker]

26 March 1838 — See transcript

"Incurred a cross last night very quietly while A– was snoring between one and two." [Ann Walker]

30 May 1839 — See transcript

"I incurred a cross sometime after getting into bed thinking of A–, and she snoring by me. " [Ann Walker]

8 February 1840 - See transcript

“Incur a cross think loosely of π [Mariana], as I always do now when she serves me for these purposes, which I do not now give way to very often. But I have had no opportunity of putting anything on, nor have I washed once, so that my shift is one clot and the hair is clotted together, and this and the friction of jolting brought on erection. Which, as I lay conveniently down in the bottom of the kibitka and A– sleeping, I did not discourage.”

Queer

While Anne did use this word in its traditional definition when referring to strange or peculiar things, such as ‘queer business’, ‘queer temper’, ‘queerish letter’, etc. she also employed use of it to refer to a woman’s vulva and vagina.

Variations: queer, quere (noun)

Synonyms: vulva, vagina, pudendum, privy parts

DEFINITIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS

"Queer (or ‘quere’) Anne Lister uses the word to denote the female pudendum. It appears to be a distortion of the word ‘quim’ or ‘queme’, a slang word used to describe the same area of the female body. It is derived from the old Celtic word cwm, meaning cleft or valley."

— Helena Whitbread in No Priest But Love — The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister: Volume II

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

20 October 1818 — See transcript

“In rubbing her stomach to relieve the spasms I repeatedly rubbed over quere” [Mary Vallance]


23 October 1818 — See transcript

“I had my head on her pillow nearly the whole time and my hand under the clothes creeping down every now and then till I got to quere, she making no objection.” [Mary Vallance]


11 October 1820 — See transcript

"I had the three big fingers of my right hand pushed as far as they would go up queer. Distinctly felt the stones of ovaria. She was very ready and wide as if there was not virginity to struggle with." [Mary Vallance]


14 March 1825 — See transcript

“Tired and unwell as she was on coming home, she put my hand to queer as soon as she was lain down and I began to grubble.” [Maria Barlow]


26 August 1830 — SH:7/ML/E/13/0081

“Feeling a good deal fatigued. Had a little motion and washed queer in the stream.”


7 October 1832 — Nature's Domain by Jill Liddington

“I kissed and pressed very tenderly and got my right hand up her petticoats to queer, but not to the skin – could not get thro’ her thick knitted drawers, for tho’ she never once attempted to put my hand away, she held her thighs too tight together for me.” [Ann Walker]


08 October 1832 — Nature's Domain by Jill Liddington

“At last I got my right hand up her petticoats and, after much fumbling, got through the opening of her drawers and touched (first time) the hair and skin of queer”


19 October 1832 — See transcript

“I had had my hand at her queer – spite of her cousin – and we had gone on just like a married pair, I telling her all sorts of things.” [Ann Walker]


24 November 1832 — Nature's Domain by Jill Liddington

"Near German House an impertinent fellow with a great stick in his hand asked if I was going home and made a catch at my queer. God damn you, said I, and pushed him off."


28 January 1840 — SH:7/ML/E/23/0190

“When I went into her last night she was in her shift being soaped and lathered and then went into the bath which there was not time to prepare for me, but her maid afterwards washed me all over, head and all, and threw hot and cool water on and at me – and washed even my queer and thighs!”

Grubbling

Grubbling is the phrase Anne refers to when using her hands to sexually pleasure another woman, with direct contact to their ‘queer’ or over clothing (drawers, petticoats, etc). It does not imply, but may include climaxing. For instances when there is grubbling with a ‘finger up queer’ see Vaginal Penetration. There are no known examples of Anne Lister using this word for self-pleasure with her hands. In those instances, ‘Incur a Cross’ would be used.

Variations: grubbled, grubbling (verb), grubble (noun)

Synonyms: genital touching, stroking, massaging, manipulating, fingering (modern)

DEFINITIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS

"Grubbling is like groping, except less organised. It is a verb that usually refers to pockets, but can also be used for feeling around in desk drawers that are filled with nicknacks and whatnot. It can even have a non-pocket-related sexual sense, although this is rare and seems only ever to have been used by the poet Dryden, as in his translation of Ovid's Ars Amatoria where he rather wistfully arranges to meet his lover thus:

There I will be, and there we cannot miss.

Perhaps to Grubble, or at least to Kiss."

— Mark Forsyth, Horologicon: A Day's Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language


“According to the Oxford English Dictionary, 1989 second edition, s.v. ‘grubble’ meaning to grope, was a term used from the late seventeenth to early eighteenth century, and subsequently obsolete. However, Anne’s use suggested the term continued to be used in the early nineteenth century. She possibly sourced it from the poems of John Dryden (1631–1701) written in the style of Ovid (43 BC – AD 17), ‘Ovid’s Amours’.

— Dannielle Orr in A Sojourn in Paris 1824–25 Sex and Sociability in the Manuscript Writings of Anne Lister (1791–1840)


“‘Grubble’ means grope, but perhaps also included caress or fondle; it apparently became obsolete by 1719.”

— Jill Liddington in Nature’s Domain: Anne Lister and the Landscape of Desire


“‘Grubbling’ (using her hands to bring another woman to orgasm)”

— Anne Choma in Gentleman Jack: The Real Anne Lister

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

18 October 1820 – See transcript

“She wanted a kiss and said she was well of her cousin, however grubbling seemed to satisfy her. I gave her enough of it and was glad to escape so easily, tho my right hand was heartily tired” [Isabella Norcliffe]


19 October 1820 – See transcript

“No kiss, only grubbled Tib last night” [Isabella Norcliffe]


26 October 1820 — See Transcript

"Half hour alone with V, but being dressed only grubbled." [Mary Vallance]


18 November 1820 – See Transcript

"Not twice washing would take the strong ram smell off my fingers the other night when I grubbled her in bed." [Isabella Norcliffe]


21 December 1820 See Transcript

"Took her on my knee held her with my right arm and grubbled with the second finger of the left. I kept it nearly still and she gave the action." [Mary Vallance]


14 March 1825 See Transcript

"Tired and unwell as she was on coming home, she put my hand to queer as soon as she was lain down and I began to grubble, and after a little her working, I gave her the excitement. I stood up to work her better and latterly looked at her as I was doing it, she being nothing loth." [Maria Barlow]


23 December 1825 See Transcript

"Grubbled Tib a little last night but she every now and then when my right middle finger was a little up said I hurt her she was very dry and I let her alone without once attempting to go near her myself ." [Isabella Norcliffe]


3 August 1831 See Transcript

"Mark down a kiss but it was a grubble three or four times night and morning as 𝜋 had her cousin since Sunday." [Mariana Lawton]


25 December 1834 See Transcript

"I kept my hands over her clothes & my arms decently round her till the right wandered to queer outside till she took up her petticoats & put it to her & I gave her a thorough grubbling." [Mariana Lawton]


2 September 1837 See Transcript

"Slept with A– and she lay upon me – Amorosa – and I grubbled, or rather handled and excited her, in spite of her cousin. She herself being the promoter." [Ann Walker]

Being Near

In these references, being ‘near’ generally seems to refer to Anne having her queer near her partner’s. There is also the implication that being ‘near’ required being naked (unless specified that Anne or her partner have drawers on) and some examples imply that ‘being near’ was necessary to ‘have a kiss’.

Variations: get near, have near, held near

Synonyms: embrace, connect

DEFINITIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS

13 November 1824: “got on the subject of Saffic regard. Said there was artifice in it. It was very different from mine & would be no pleasure to me. I liked to have those I loved near me as possible” [Maria Barlow]

“There are at least two possible interpretations of this passage: one is that her understanding of "Saffic regard" was informed by late eighteenth-century French notions of an aesthetic but not physical passion. She differentiated her own feelings by saying that she wanted those she loved "as near [her] as possible." this passage could be interpreted as though her understanding of "saffic regard" was that women who were saphists would, like Marie Antoinette, also have male lovers, and would not live with the women who were their sexual partners. When she says she wants those she loves as close as possible, and that she is not a saphist, she perhaps means that she is exclusively a lover of women, and that she wants a life-companion who lives with her. Either interpretation is viable.”

— Catherine A. Euler in Moving Between Worlds: Gender, Class, Politics, Sexuality and Women's Networks in the Diaries of Anne Lister of Shibden Hall, Halifax, Yorkshire, 1830-1840

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

14 December 1820 — See transcript

"I soon got her near me without much difficulty. Felt her tremble and shew signs of no objection to a kiss. I got half a one and was going on well, working away, when she fancied she heard someone coming and jumped up and went away." [Anne Belcombe]


21 January 1825 — No Priest But Love by Helena Whitbread

"She bade me put her in the position I liked best, she then lay all her length upon me, the tops of our two queers in contact. Then she lying on her left side with my right thigh between hers. She said it should be the other on which I put the left thigh between hers and got as near to her as I durst not to be in danger of infecting her with my complaint." [Maria Barlow]


30 January 1825 — SH:7/ML/E/8/0122

“I said I could not quite reach her, the pleasure was when she came down to me so that I reached the orifice of the womb. I had not done or been able to do this quite at first, but I durst not tell her so then & knew she would be right when more accustomed to me. Asked how she had felt. She said as if I did not quite meet her, but there was some part I might touch that would give her greater pleasure.” [Maria Barlow]


26 February 1825 — No Priest But Love by Helena Whitbread

"She lain on me & tried to see how I could get myself near her. I played sometime with only my shift parting me from her, lying just as I should do for a kiss." [Maria Barlow]


6 May 1827 — SH:7/ML/E/10/0089

“She on my left thigh. But tho as near her as yesterday, had not at all a kiss to myself, nor had she a right, that is a best, one. The [tho] she said she felt for me the whole time I was handling her, or near her.” [Maria Barlow]


28 June 1827 SH:7/ML/E/10/0196

“She asked me to get near her, to rub her and bruise as at Senlis. I got off saying I was afraid I had a little of my old complaint yesterday, so grubbling sufficed.” [Maria Barlow]


7 July 1827 — See transcript

“Went to Mrs B [Barlow] last night for quarter hour right middle finger up all the time then slept in my own bed in the same room. I never go near her myself”


12 June 1828 — See transcript

“Kissed and fondled and got rather excited but came away afraid of going near her for the present, tho’ I know not that it matters much as I surely gave it to her, and she will not do me more harm than Marianna or poor Tib did.” [Sibella MacLean]


15 October 1832 — See transcript

"Made two or three attempts to get myself quite near her, but somehow could not manage it & she seemed so tender & able to bear so little (I think she was more intact & innocent & virginal than I had latterly surmised) that I contented myself with handling her gently & love making." [Ann Walker]


18 February 1833 — SH:7/ML/E/16/0018

"Grubbled her last night, she on the amoroso, and wanted to be near to me – that is, have my drawers off, but I thought it better not. " [Ann Walker]


6 January 1834 — See transcript

"Held her near me, but had on my drawers – in fact I had as much a kiss as possible without absolute contact." [Ann Walker]


12 February 1834 — See transcript

"If I was once really near her (no drawers on) and she was pretty well satisfied I should be at ease. She has often said she wished to be near myself." [Miss Walker]


27 February 1834 — See transcript

"No drawers on last night - first time and first attempt to get really near her - did not succeed very well, but she seemed tolerably satisfied." [Ann Walker]

Kiss

There have been various interpretations of ‘kiss’ to mean an orgasm or a sexual act. Anne herself recorded that a ‘kiss’ was pleasure “produced on the surface” (as opposed to pleasure by penetration). It is most often used to indicate mutual action with a partner, but not necessarily mutual pleasure as Anne sometimes distinguished how satisfactory a kiss was to her in comparison to her partner, or attributes them separately between them.

There are references to partners being unable to ‘bear’ her or having pain during ‘kisses’ which could refer to being unable to bear her weight, or relate to her strength as she was likely more athletic due to physical activity than most of her partners. There are also examples of Anne using ‘kiss’ to refer to sex between a woman and man. Various passages also indicate Anne believed being ‘near’ or a ‘kiss’ was the ultimate sexual connection she could have with a partner.

Variations: kiss (noun), kiss (verb), kissing (verb)

Synonyms: orgasm, pleasure, sexual intercourse, tribadism, tribbing, scissoring (modern)

DEFINITIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS

"In addition to the more commonplace and contemporary usage, the word 'kiss' was used as a euphemism for the sexual act. See Shakespeare's Bawdy, ed Eric Partridge (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968). The explanation given there states: 'KISS – n. and v. 'A second time I kill my husband dead When second husband kisses me in bed' (Coits with me: it is a euphemism – cf French 'baiser'). Hamlet (III. ii. 203-204). Similarly, in defense of cuckoldry, the clown in All's Well That Ends Well (I. iii. 50) says: He that kisses my wife is my friend'."

— Helena Whitbread in No Priest But Love — The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister: Volume II


“An intense state of desire combined with intimate contact and mutual orgasms were all elements of ‘kisses’.”

— Dannielle Orr in A Sojourn in Paris 1824–25 Sex and Sociability in the Manuscript Writings of Anne Lister (1791–1840)


"Some might question the meaning given for "kiss," but there is abundant evidence that it refers to sexual activity of some kind, and quite possibly to orgasm."

— Catherine A. Euler in Moving Between Worlds: Gender, Class, Politics, Sexuality and Women's Networks in the Diaries of Anne Lister of Shibden Hall, Halifax, Yorkshire, 1830-1840

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

18 October 1820 — See transcript

“Just got back into my room before Tib came. She wanted a kiss and said she was well of her cousin, however grubbling seemed to satisfy her.” [Isabelle Norcliffe]


20 October 1820 — See transcript

“Good kiss, then put my left hand up and gave her a thorough grubbling. Observing afterwards that that did her more harm than the other, that is kissing. That it was not fair. Was wasting the energies of us both” [Mary Vallance]


12 November 1820 — See transcript

"The last eight or ten minutes got into bed to her and she gave me a pretty good kiss. Tho’ I rather think hers was better than mine. I cannot keep her close enough to me. She moves so about, seeming to enjoy herself." [Mary Vallance]


15 November 1820 — See transcript

"She gave me four kisses. The two first not quite good to me. She lifts herself up so high and wriggles so much. The third was excellent." [Mary Vallance]


27 November 1820 – See transcript

“Was not much in a humour for Tib, who is generally as dry as a bone and is as stiff and unelastic as a loaf. Worked away for what seemed a long time. Tib said she had a kiss, certainly I had not much of it.” [Isabella Norcliffe]


15 December 1820 — See transcript

"Had a kiss almost immediately after getting into bed. A good one to me, but as I found not so to V” [MaryVallance]


9 January 1821 — See transcript

"Had two kisses of Anne last night by two struck. The last pretty good. The first, little or nothing to me. She was not near enough, and besides had such a nervous shaking" [Anne Belcombe]


10 August 1821 — SH:7/ML/E/5/0051

“trying to use my two ivory syringes… got to manage very well with the uterine syringe. Pushed it up to the extremity without any pain, and I think I can manag[e] the injecting system. I was obliged to go, work very carefully. For I never had anything up me before, and do not like it all. I tried with my finger afterwards in bed. But anything of this sort would never give me pleasure, or a Kiss. The latter is produced on the surface, and I am ashamed to say, I had one just before going to sleep.”


6 September 1823See transcript

“Had a tolerable kiss, tho I dont think she had. She is much larger than when I saw her last. In fact, she is unwieldy and had so little spring in her I thought I could not have gotten to her” [Isabella Norcliffe]


26 February 1825 — No Priest But Love by Helena Whitbread

"She lain on me & tried to see how I could get myself near her. I played sometime with only my shift parting me from her, lying just as I should do for a kiss." [Maria Barlow]


1 March 1825 — No Priest But Love by Helena Whitbread

"In laying just right for a kiss I got quite near her for the first time in my life & remained working there tillI was quite in a perspiration, tho I had moved about very little. She said she was not enough excited for me as this was a new thing to us. In fact it was too new to me & I could not feel her so as to have a kiss, tho being a good deal excited, she fancied there was a little linen between us, but there was none to signify." [Maria Barlow]


23 March 1825 — See transcript

"Began playing this morning. Got close to her, but not enough so for a regular kiss. However, I felt a little one tho she did not.” [Maria Barlow]


5 May 1827 — SH:7/ML/E/10/0088

"Latterly, she lay a little on my right thigh but more on my left (π [Mariana] always on the right), that I was all but close to her. I felt her top hair against me and this gave a slight kiss to myself." [Maria Barlow]


7 June 1828 — See transcript

“On getting into bed last night two kisses, then lay talking till after three, then another kiss. She gave it me heartily and I had a pretty good one (she complained of being hurt before) and we fell asleep.” [Sibella MacLean]


25 July 1828 — See transcript

"Kiss last night, but not good to her tho’ pretty well to me." [Sibella MacLean]


12 January 1829 — SH-7/ML/E/11/0124

“Good one [kiss] last night but find this morning that however free I have been from discharge for some time she has brought it on again this will not do… I must amuse myself in another way, meaning grubbling her” [Mariana Lawton]


3 August 1831 See transcript

"Mark down a kiss but it was a grubble. Three or four times, night and morning, as 𝜋 had her cousin since Sunday" [Mariana Lawton]


6 January 1834 — SH:7/ML/E/16/0156

“Pressed and partly grubbled, and held her near me but had on my drawers – in fact I had as much a kiss as possible without absolute contact.” [Ann Walker]


8 January 1834 — See transcript

"Goodish touching and pressing last night, she much and long on the amoroso, and I had as much kiss as possible with drawers on." [Ann Walker]


30 March 1834 – See transcript

“Three kisses better to her than to me.” [Ann Walker]


26 July 1834 — See transcript

“Her bed stocks creaked so that the people in the adjoining room being up, I put Miss W's bedding on the floor and we had a good long kiss.” [Ann Walker]


28 June 1834 — See transcript

"With her from ten to eleven and a quarter, and a long very good kiss to her and tolerable to me." [Ann Walker]


31 July 1834 — See transcript

“Miss Walker came to me at eight and ten minutes. Had shewed me her bosom and on my asking her, took off her night things and stood naked. So then got into bed and we had a kiss.” [Ann Walker]


Partners unable to ‘bear’ her during ‘kisses’:

13 November 1816 — SH:7/ML/E/26/3/0004

“Made a trial for a kiss last night and did not succeed. Had a good one on a second trial very soon after. Had a long conversation on the nature of kisses. Anne said she sometimes felt odd when I looked at her but that when I was so very near her, that is when I was getting a kiss, it was rather pain than pleasure.” [Anne Belcombe]


18 October 1820 — See transcript

"I had a very good kiss she nothing loth... She said in the midst she could hardly bear me and that I hurt her, and afterwards that it was more pain than pleasure." [Mary Vallance]


27 November 1820 — See transcript

"I hoped I had not done her harm last night at last it came out that she herself had not had a very good kiss that she was perhaps not strong enough to bear me." [Mary Vallance]


15 December 1820 — See transcript

"She said she really could not bear me, I hurt her. I found, however, she had no objection to being grubbled. I did it and found she felt it answer." [Mary Vallance]


27 September 1835 — See transcript

"Attempt at a kiss last night. A–’s manner leading to it but she called out in the middle of it that she was too weak and I stopped immediately." [Ann Walker]


Belief of being ‘near’ or a ‘kiss’ as the ultimate ‘connection’:

8 November 1816 — SH:7/ML/E/26/3/0005

“We went great lengths as we had often done before, such as feeling her all over, pushing my finger up her, etc. but still did not get to the last extremity. I asked her several times to let me get nearer to her and have a proper kiss.” [Anne Belcombe]


22 March 1825 — See transcript

Grubbled long and had at last the kiss last night just after getting into bed. Lay talking this morning. Foolish to be really connected now for fear of the possibility of doing her any harm, but she thinks when I come again we shall soon get accustomed to each other and do very well. ‘But’, said she, ‘if I do not fit you, you will not have’. ‘Oh,’ said ‘my little one,’ (as I always call her) ‘there is no fear of that.’” [Maria Barlow]


23 September 1825 — No Priest But Love by Helena Whitbread

“I said it was her sister Anne. She asked anxiously if I had really gone the utmost length and asked for my honour that I had not. I gave it. Could I do otherwise? But owned I had done all but absolutely kiss. Had gone as far as possible.” [Mariana Lawton]


26 October 1832 — See transcript

“Unluckily, so pleased with the success of last night grubbling, ventured to take off my drawers and try to get to her. Did not succeed. In despair about it. Owned that I had no business to think her fairly my own till we had been really and properly together.” [Ann Walker]



Examples of 'No kiss' referring to 'no sexual activity', not necessarily sex but no orgasm:


12 October 1820 – See transcript

Tib asleep and no kiss.” [Isabella Norcliffe]


16 October 1820 – See transcript

No kiss of Tib on account of her cousin.” [Isabella Norcliffe]


25 March 1828 – See transcript

𝜋 [Mariana] could only come to me for a minute just before going down, so no kiss.” [Mariana Lawton]


27 June 1834 – See transcript

"No kiss. She asleep, so got quietly into my own bed in the same room." [Ann Walker]


Use of ‘kiss’ to refer to sex between a woman and man:


15, 16, 17 August 1816 — SH:7/ML/E/26/2/0003, SH:7/ML/E/26/2/0004, SH:7/ML/E/26/2/0005

"∂ [Charles Lawaton] had a kiss." [Mariana Lawton]


15 November 1820 — See transcript

"I said ‘did no one ever kiss you before’... I told her her manner gave me answer sufficient the fact is that from my first having any thing to with her I have thought her more like a married woman than she should be too open too wide and easy passaged for virginity." [Mary Vallance]

Les Moustaches

Like ‘queer’, Anne Lister sometimes used the term ‘les moustaches’ to mean vulva or pubic mound. She adopted the term from Isbergue de Rosny, who used it to refer to her ‘privy parts’.

Variations: moustaches (noun)

Synonyms: pubic hair, vulva, vagina, pudendum, privy parts

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

23 January 1828 — See transcript

"Went to my dressing room and poured out some cold water. She heard me, joked, and said I was going to refraississ her les moustaches. I laughed and said my dressing room was much too near to her, both of us understanding quite well that I was excited (in fact I was a little), and therefore washed to cool myself. I had laughed at her this morning about her not washing enough, and when she talked of what she had to wash said what?, and, what? till she replied ‘les moustaches’ meaning the privy parts. I caught at the term and joked her about it.” [Isbergue de Rosny]


24 January 1828 — See transcript

“Had her legs between mine. She now undresses before me. Went in to her room tonight. She washed her moustaches before me; true I saw nothing.” [Isbergue de Rosny]


27 January 1828 — See transcript

“On coming away made water. Mrs B would kiss my moustaches, and so she did; saying I used be all passion all day and night. Now I was cooler, and she was warmer.” [Maria Barlow]


29 January 1828 — See transcript

“Put my hand to her breast and then down along her stomach very near to, but not quite as far as her moustaches. She merely laughed and said I tickled her.” [Isbergue de Rosny]


8 February 1828 — See transcript

“Before this I had washed her neck, and back, and her bosom, then her thighs. Made her hold up her chemise and saw her moustaches, she not seeming to care at all. Felt a little pulsation this morning. She evidently likes me, and the manner I play with her.” [Isbergue de Rosny]


10 February 1828 See transcript

“Half hour with her. Put my hand to her. She took up her chemise and I rubbed her moustaches.” [Isbergue de Rosny]


4 June 1828 — See transcript

“At last sucked her right breast. She resisting, but not preventing and not being angry, merely saying it was not fair as I endeavoured to get my hand down to her moustaches.” [Sibella MacLean]

Dinky

A term used by Ann Walker, likely referring to vaginal lubrication from arousal. Thus far, we've uncovered no entries that provide additional information about abundance in volume, so there is no female ejaculate or squirting meaning implied.

Variations: dinky dinky (noun)

Synonyms: arousal fluid, seminal flow

DEFINITIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS

"Possible dictionary meaning (small, neat, dainty, spruce) unhelpful here."

— Jill Liddington in Female Fortune

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

30 June 1834 — See transcript

"Ten minutes with her tonight. She was tired. Said I was long about it, that I gave her no dinky dinky – that is, seminal flow, and I excused myself and came away to my own bed." [Ann Walker]


17 October 1834 — See transcript

“A kiss last night but no better than the last. She said I did not give her dinky as at first how was it – That is, she did not feel moisture from me as before." [Ann Walker]

Cousin

This term refers to menstruation. Anne regularly documented her partners' menstrual cycles or irregularities, as well as her own, in code.

She also seemed to believe that 'grubbling' could bring on a woman's period. A partner having their ‘cousin’ would sometimes, but not always, prevent sexual interactions.

Variations: cousin (noun)

Synonyms: menstruation, period, monsieur

DEFINITIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS

"Menstruation was always referred to as her 'cousin,' as in 'so much cousin got up & came to my study & got worsted stocking prepared & put on.' (27 January 1835). Her regular monthly periods were always mentioned, and always mentioned in code. She always put on worsted stocking or linen (3 September 1835) or flannel and riband (4 April 1837) in private, partly so her partner would not 'be reminded of her petticoats," as she phrased it (20 February 1835).

— Catherine A. Euler in Moving Between Worlds: Gender, Class, Politics, Sexuality and Women's Networks in the Diaries of Anne Lister of Shibden Hall, Halifax, Yorkshire, 1830-1840


"...her period (or 'cousin' as she called it)"

— Anne Choma in Gentleman Jack: The Real Anne Lister

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

28 November 1820 — See transcript

"I find she has a napkin on, that her cousin has come probably this evening." [Mary Vallance]


17 October 1820 — See transcript

"I not in a humour for more kissing and glad of Tibs cousin for an excuse" [Isabella Norcliffe]


20 August 1823 — SH:7/ML/E/7/0055

“Soon began on the erotics last night, her warm then encouraging. I said this was not like keeping our promise. She answered no and reached a towel to put under us to keep the bed clean on account of her cousin.” [Mariana Belcombe]


1 September 1824 — See transcript

"Found to my surprise, on undressing, my cousin was come eight days too soon. This must be the effect of the heat."


31 August 1825 — No Priest But Love by Helena Whitbread

“Received her as well as I could but felt restrained. It was the second night of her cousin. Pretended it would do her harm to have a kiss, yet at last, as if unable to resist, she not discouraging it, had one and fell asleep.” [Mariana Lawton]


3 April 1828 — See transcript

"From six and fifty minutes to getting up, 𝜋 came to me and lay talking. Her cousin prevented a kiss."[Mariana Lawton]


16 June 1828 — See transcript

"It seemed her cousin was come so kissed and went away." [Sibella MacLean]


16 October 1832 — See transcript

“Had pain in her back and felt great heat and soreness about her queer. Her cousin comes irregularly – often suffers for a week before, thought it was perhaps coming.” [Ann Walker]


19 October 1832 — See transcript

"I had had my hand at her queer – spite of her cousin." [Ann Walker]


16 November 1832: — See transcript

"She said that I was right on Wednesday – that her cousin would come within twenty-four hours." [Ann Walker]


12 September 1834 — See transcript

“Playing last night, that is, merely grubbling a little, so that her cousin very scant yesterday – is plentiful today.” [Ann Walker]


25 December 1834 — See transcript

"I took up her petticoats and put it to her and I gave her a thorough grubbling. I think she will have her cousin for it." [Mariana Lawton]

Monsieur

Like ‘cousin’, this is another term to refer to menstruation. Anne Lister uses ‘cousin’ predominantly throughout her journal but, notably, she uses the term ‘monsieur’ when specifically referring to Ann Walker's period. This could be an indication that this is the term Ann Walker used for it, or possibly how Anne Lister referred to it in conversation with Ann Walker.

‘Monsieur’ has been previously interpreted as orgasm in the literature.

Variations: monsieur (noun)

Synonyms: menstruation, period, cousin

DEFINITIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS

"... on 7th June 1836, Anne invented a new euphemism to describe bringing a lover to orgasm: 'bring[ing] monsieur again'"

— Anne Choma in Gentleman Jack: The Real Anne Lister

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

30 May 1836 — See transcript

"With Dr Belcombe discussing A–‘s irregularity – advised her taking twelve drops of tincture of cantharides in a little cold water twice a day ten or twelve days before monsieur ought to come." [Ann Walker]


To ‘bring monsieur again’ is also comparable to the 15 December 1834 entry of bringing on Mariana's ‘cousin’ after a ‘grubble’ referenced in ‘cousin’:


7 June 1836 — See transcript

"No kiss but a very attempt at play last night & grubbling this morning – she owing it was not that she disliked it or that she did not like me but she thought it wrong – I did not say much but we should both be better & I could bring monsieur again." [Ann Walker]


4 July 1838 — See transcript

"A– had put on a stocking for fear of monsieur." [Ann Walker]


3 August 1838 — SH:7/ML/E/21/0159

A–’s monsieur came gently just before we went out” [Ann Walker]


28 August 1838 — SH:7/ML/E/22/0005

“On returning home Josephine observed a spot of monsieur on A–’s petticoat. He had come while we were out without A–’s suspecting it."


5 May 1840 — SH:7/ML/E/24/0096

“Sat perhaps near 1/2 hour with Madame and Mademoiselle Golovin. A– tired and came home with her, at least to the door. She has monsieur.” [Ann Walker]

PART 2: OTHER INTIMATE PRACTICES

As Anne Lister describes her sexual experiences with other women, we also see commentary about sexual curiosity, seduction, courtship, emotional responses to intimacy, and other topics. These ideas provide a broader context to the sexual practices and terms described before.

Expressions for arousal and desire

Often the terms Anne used describing her own desire express the feeling as ‘pain’, or ‘hurt’, and the state of arousal others observed her to be in, is often characterized as being ‘ill’, ‘unwell’, or doing herself ‘harm’.

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

14 November 1816 — SH:7/ML/E/26/3/0005

“Just before tea I told her the anecdote of the ancients using lead plates to prevent pain in their knees. The expression which I use, and which she understands, to mean desire.” [Anne Belcombe]


17 October 1820 — See transcript

“Sat on my knee and staid half hour, both of us in a state of great excitement. I told her I did not like to waste her feelings and was very foolish when we could have no opportunity. Said I was not well, and should not be till I had been with her again, etc.” [Mary Vallance]


30 October 1820 – See transcript

“She said I hurt her yesterday, meaning made her wet and uncomfortable, and I promised if she would give me a real kiss when we had an opportunity, I would behave well." [Mary Vallance]


6 November 1820 — See transcript

“I felt excited and my knees shook. She too was also excited.” [Mary Vallance]


20 December 1820 — See transcript

“Kissed her. Told her I had a pain in my knees, my expression to her for desire and saw plainly she likes me and would yield again without difficulty to opportunity and importun." [Anne Belcombe]


30 October 1820 — See transcript

"She said I hurt her yesterday, meaning made her wet and uncomfortable, and I promised if she would give me a real kiss when we had an opportunity, I would behave well." [Mary Vallance]


12 July 1823 – SH:7/ML/E/7/0038

“Could not sleep last night. Dozing, hot, and disturbed – At a very little before a violent longing for a female companion came over. Never remember feeling it so painfully before. Held out a good while, but at last fancied it would really compose and relieve me and so I gave way. I know not how it came on. I had given it no encouragement in thought or deed, but it was absolute pain to me.”


11 November 1824 – No Priest But Love by Helena Whitbread

“Asked her to sit on my knee. She refused, saying she did me harm. I still entreated and she yielded on my promise to behave well.” [Maria Barlow]


12 November 1824 – No Priest But Love by Helena Whitbread

“I kissed her neck over her habit-shirt. She said she was all skin and bone now, her pillows were gone. I said she satisfied me. She afterwards drew her shawl close round her saying, as she found me a little empassioned, I did myself harm. She did not like to see me in that state.” [Maria Barlow]

22 December 1824 – No Priest But Love by Helena Whitbread

“I was contented that my naked left thigh should rest upon her naked left thigh and thus she let me grubble her over her petticoats. All the while, I was pressing her between my thighs. She just said once, ‘Ah, you are doing yourself harm.’” [Maria Barlow]


8 October 1832 — See transcript

"She said I looked ill – I denied, then said if I did look so, I knew what would cure me – she would know what – said I really would not, could not, tell her. At last I got my right hand up her petticoats…" [Ann Walker]


26 December 1834 — See transcript

"The night before last she had left me in an agony. Quite wet through and ill." [Mariana Lawton]

Expressions of disappointment in not pleasuring her partners

On various occasions, Anne showed an investment in her partner’s pleasure, worrying that she would not be able to satisfy them or, upon failing to, giving up ‘in despair’.

Sometimes a failure to satisfy them in one manner would lead her to try something else, or pursue another attempt that night or the following morning until she felt better success had been achieved.

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

16 October 1820 – See transcript

“Took of[f] my things and my drawers brought her here into my room. Bolted the door and put in the window shutters. Laid her on the bedside carpet next the door and had another embrace. Long enough about it but still not a good kiss. Had tried a chair first but it did not do, I could not get rightly to her. Apologized for my awkwardness on account of agitation etc. Promised to manage better in future.” [Mary Vallance]


5 December 1820 — See transcript

"At intervals, and after dozing, tried twice to make her have one but neither time succeeded, either with her or myself. This annoyed me. Apologized for teazing her for nothing. Said it was my fault that I really could not give her one then, but must sleep and hope for better towards morning perhaps. Between five and six tried again but with no better success, and she said she really could not bear me, I hurt her. I found, however, she had no objection to being grubbled. I did it and found she felt it answer." [Mary Vallance]

23 March 1825 — See transcript

“Began playing this morning. Got close to her, but not enough so for a regular kiss. However I felt a little one, tho she did not. But I did not name it to her, saying only it was time for me to retire.” [Maria Barlow]


31 March 1825 — See transcript

“Cordingley lighted the fire in the drawing room about nine, then awoke grubbled well again and had the kiss. She said she was glad of it, for she knew I was always better satisfied when she had had it.” [Maria Barlow]


11 May 1825 — See transcript

"All that sticks in my throat is I cannot do enough for Mrs. B. I cannot give her pleasure in any way but with my finger, and this does not suit. If I had a penis an inch or two long, or the clitoris down far enough I could manage. But I fear, not without." [Maria Barlow]


21 July 1827 — See transcript

“Went to her last night for quarter hour, right middle finger up all the time she very well satisfied. Said she came to me entirely. This is all that is required. I myself care only to please her, for it is nothing to me.” [Maria Barlow]


26 October 1832 — See transcript

“Unluckily, so pleased with the success of last night grubbling, ventured to take off my drawers and try to get to her. Did not succeed. In despair about it." [Ann Walker]

Collecting queers hair

It wasn’t unusual for Anne to ask her partners for a lock of queer’s hair as a keepsake. Sometimes they would cut these for her, or allow her to cut a lock off herself. There are mentions of her keeping these in lockets, as well as intending to have them made into rings.

Adding hair to jewelry was already a common mourning practice in the 19th century, and asking for a lock of 'queers hair' was also documented by Anne as a practice among men at the time.

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

31 October 1818 — See transcript

"A little before 12 (p.m.) went for ¼ hour to Miss V. Sat by her bedside and got my hand down to quere and smuggled a pair of scissors under the clothes, meaning to cut off a lock of the hair." [Mary Vallance]


24 December 1820 — See transcript

"While V was in my room tonight asked her again for some of queers hair, and asked why she always so positively refused. Inquired if she had ever given it before. It came out that she had, to Harnett, and that he would never return [it]. He said it belonged only to him. She would never give it to any other." [Mary Vallance]


12 September 1825 — See transcript

“All this conversation had been my having owned that tho I had never given any of the hair of my own queer to anyone, yet I had asked for and received it from others.” [Mariana Lawton]


21 September 1825 — No Priest But Love by Helena Whitbread

“Mariana put me on a new watch riband and then cut the hair from her own queer, and I that from mine, which she put each into each of the little lockets we got at Bright’s this morning, twelve shillings each, for us to always wear under our clothes in mutual remembrance.” [Mariana Lawton]


5 February 1828 — See transcript

“Threatened to faire un petit vou. She understood what I meant (the hair of queer). Asked what I would do with it. Said I would have a ring made for it. She said not a word against it.” [Isbergue de Rosny]


02 November 1832 — See Transcript

"Just before getting up, I got scissors, took up her night chemise and attempted to cut the lock. But kissed her queer, gave her the scissors, said she must cut it for me herself – and threw myself into the great chair. She soon gave me the golden lock – threw herself on the chair by me." [Ann Walker]

Having someone 'on her knee'

This seemed to be a common way for Anne to get her partners close to her, moving from flirtation into kissing or pressing, which could then lead to grubbling or a kiss.

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

28 October 1808 — SH:7/ML/E/26/1/0011

“I had Miss A on my knee. Kissed once.” [Maria Alexander]


18 October 1818 — See transcript

“Went to Miss V at a quarter after nine and staid three quarters hour, holding her on my knee, sucking her right breast, and kissing and pressing her exceedingly. She seemed moved with a feeling of anything but dislike.” [Mary Vallance]


8 December 1820 — See transcript

“A few minutes in Anne’s room, kissing her as she sat on my knee undressing.” [Anne Belcombe]


11 December 1820 — See transcript

“She first sat on my knee. In spite of all her sorrows, I found I could still excite her. We both got on the amaroso. I without difficulty persuaded her to let me bolt the door, and I just took off my pelisse and boots. We lay down on her bed and had a good kiss.” [Mary Vallance]


19 December 1820 — See transcript

“V sat on my knee. Let me grubble her and enjoyed it very much, as her action and manner of exertion declared.” [Mary Vallance]


23 December 1820 — See transcript

“Anne Belcombe came into my room a little after 12 and staid till near 2 – Sitting on my knee and kissing me.” [Anne Belcombe]


24 March 1825 — See transcript

“At about eleven and three quarters took her on my knee and began grubbling. She having no support for her back lay,her on the bed. Knelt down by her grubbled well, and had the kiss.” [Maria Barlow]


28 January 1828 — See transcript

“After the man was gone she sat on my knee. Kissed; her lips rather open, she languishing.” [Isbergue de Rosny]


4 February 1828 — See transcript

“From five to five and twenty minutes had her on my right knee. Kissed her, got my left hand up to queer, she saying I felt her a little.” [Isbergue de Rosny]


8 February 1828 — See transcript

“At two she sat on my knee. Soon had right middle finger up well.” [Isbergue de Rosny]


29 June 1828 — See transcript

“Then sat with her on my knee toying and dallying, she evidently rather excited and not disliking it.” [Sibella MacLean]


21 October 1832 — SH:7/ML/E/15/0134

“An hour and a half with her till twelve and ten minutes – She all the while on my knee, I grubbling gently – She nothing loth. She certainly likes me.” [Ann Walker]

Looking at, lightly playing, trifling

In instances where Anne was building intimacy with a partner she might satisfy her own curiosity or excitement by looking at or ‘playing’ with them. This could come as a request from a partner, act as foreplay leading up to ‘grubbling’ or a ‘kiss’, or on occasion was a substitute for further action if there wasn’t enough time for anything more.

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

6 November 1820 — See transcript

"At last put my head down till I had a view of the top of queer. I might have grubbled if I liked." [Mary Vallance]


6 November 1820 — See transcript

“Let me feel her all over, put down the clothes and look at her, and pretended I had not time, and durst not, or else would have had a kiss. Felt her all over, but did not grubble.” [Mary Vallance]


10 October 1820 — See transcript

“Kept the candle burning looked at Tib and had a good kiss.” [Isabella Norcliffe]


6 November 1820 — See transcript

“Grubbled Tib for quarter hour with the candle on the bed, for the sake of seeing her.” [Isabella Norcliffe]


22 November 1820 — See transcript

“Quarter hour alone with V. Felt her stomach and thighs, kissed the top of queer and looked at it.” [Mary Vallance]


6 September 1823 — See transcript

“Kept the candle burning, looked at at Isabel both before and after getting into bed and I, from the excitement of all this, had a tolerable kiss” [Isabella Norcliffe]


14 March 1825 — See transcript

“Tired and unwell as she was on coming home, she put my hand to queer as soon as she was lain down and I began to grubble, and after a little her working I gave her the excitement. I stood up to work her better and latterly looked at her as I was doing it, she being nothing loth.” [Maria Barlow]


17 July 1828 — See transcript

“Went to her bed and staid trifling and playing, and two kisses from one and a half to two and fifty minutes.” [Sibella MacLean]


18 July 1829 — See transcript

“About an hour playing and trifling, right middle finger up but no kiss. Just getting her excited with my finger.” [Sibella MacLean]


22 May 1834 — See transcript

“Real playing and squeezing and pressing for an hour and a half last night, and almost as long this morning.” [Ann Walker]


24 May 1834 — See transcript

“Goodish kiss last night, and an hour’s play this morning. I am really getting fond of her, for the play was all my own bringing on.” [Ann Walker]


30 May 1834 — See transcript

“Quiet this morning, she not well enough for much moving about but looked at her queer and played gently tho not excitingly.” [Ann Walker]


21 October 1834 — See transcript

“Talked and played, but nothing like an attempt at a kiss.” [Ann Walker]


27 October 1834 — See transcript

“Tried for a kiss last night but did not get a good one. She then wanted me to play with and talk to her which I did.” [Ann Walker]


15 February 1833 — See transcript

“Touched her last night and this morning, but not to amount to regular grubbling" [Ann Walker]


17 April 1835 — SH:7/ML/E/18/0020

“A little play last night, but not even amounting to a grubble. Yet she was rather excited.” [Ann Walker]


22 June 1839 — SH:7/ML/E/23/0067

“Played a little last night, but A– thought we had better not have a kiss.” [Ann Walker]

Moisture and use of lubricant

At various times Anne described the state of her partner's ‘moisture’, and in a few examples remedied a lacking situation using saliva from her mouth or rose oil. A few observations from Maria Barlow and Ann Walker also comment on Anne's own arousal fluid. See ‘dinky’ for a specific use.

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

14 November 1816 — SH:7/ML/E/26/3/0005

“Enlightened her on many subjects, telling her the good of being moist, etc. etc. and that there can be no pleasure without it.” [Anne Belcombe]


20 November 1816 — SH:7/ML/E/26/3/0006

“Had a very good kiss last night. Anne has always an abundance of moisture and never fails to give me full gratification.” [Anne Belcombe]


4 October 1818 — See transcript

"After all Tib’s passion last night, or rather in the evening, she was dry at night. But oiled her with rose oil and then had a good kiss.” [Isabella Norcliffe]


14 October 1818 — See transcript

"Tried last night for a kiss unsuccessfully till, with the help of a little of my rose oil, I got a good one." [Isabella Norcliffe]


23 December 1824 — See transcript

“Had Tib on my knee. Looked at and grubbled her, and finding her tolerably moist got into bed to try for a kiss.” [Isabella Norcliffe]


30 January 1825 — SH:7/ML/E/8/0122

"Said that in copulation I always used my finger to keeps the parts open so that I could give them what came from me.” [Maria Barlow]


26 February 1825 — No Priest But Love by Helena Whitbread

"I began to handle her & look at her – Licked a little bit of her queer, opened her with my finger and slavered into her." [Maria Barlow]


2 December 1826 — See transcript

“She let me put my hand to her over her clothes, but said if she let me do as I liked, she should be in a fine state. For she could not bear everything. She said I must excuse her saying so, but she thought if a [I] had a little one, meaning a penis, what I emitted was not good enough to beget children. It was too thin, not glutinous enough, to which I agreed. She said my being occasionally unwell might make a difference, to which I said yes.” [Maria Barlow]


5 May 1826 — See transcript

"Very affectionate to each other. It ended in my grubbling her well. Put my right middle finger a little way up so as to give her great pleasure and make myself quite wet." [Mariana Lawton]


6 May 1827 — SH:7/ML/E/10/0089

"I this morning looked at her kissed the top hair with my mouth and letting fall a little saliva. This excited her again. The bed both yesterday and this morning was a good deal wet." [Maria Barlow]


7 February 1828 — See transcript

“Sucked each breast a few seconds, and afterwards, between three and four she sat on my knee and I had right middle finger up, she evidently liking it and feeling some little. Elle est plus mouillée n'est ce pas ces. She was more moist.” [Isbergue de Rosny]


11 October 1832 — SH:7/ML/E/15/0131

“As it became dusk we crept closer and I, without any resistance, got (for the first time) right middle finger up her queer at three separate times, she nothing loth but evidently excited – She liking it and wet.”


15 October 1832 — See transcript

"On leaving her, my night things so wet [I was] obliged to take them off and sleep in my dressing gown." [Ann Walker]


26 October 1832 — See transcript

"At it again before eight in the morning and left our bed sheets (she came and slept with me) quite wet – our night linen being ditto. The house maid being a widow might suspect what had been going on." [Ann Walker]


27 October 1832 — See transcript

"Lay in bed grubbling and lovemaking till our linen was almost as wet as yesterday morning." [Ann Walker]


10 January 1834 — See transcript

"She was at first tired and sleepy but by and by roused up and during a long grubbling, said often we had never done it so well before. I was hot to washing tub wetness and tired before it was half over." [Ann Walker]


30 June 1834 — See transcript

"Ten minutes with her tonight. She was tired, said I was long about it, that I gave her no dinky dinky – that is, seminal flow, and I excused myself and came away to my own bed." [Ann Walker]


17 October 1834 — See transcript

“A kiss last night but no better than the last. She said I did not give her dinky as at first how was it – that is, she did not feel moisture from me as before." [Ann Walker]

Oral stimulation

There are numerous examples of Anne kissing or sucking on breasts and the top or tip of ‘queer’, but these often occurred in progression of building intimacy with a partner that could lead to ‘grubbling’ or a ‘kiss’, rather than the kissing of queers to be a primary sexual act itself.

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

17 October 1818 — See transcript

“Sucked her left breast very near quarter of an hour – She certainly did not dislike it.” [Mary Vallance]


18 October 1818 — See transcript

“Sat by her bedside quarter hour, sucking her left breast and kissing her most warmly.” [Mary Vallance]


19 October 1818 — See transcript

“Sat on Miss V’s bedside – Sucking both breasts and kissing.” [Mary Vallance]

6 November 1820 — See transcript

"Tête-à-tête before the half bell, she sitting on my knee. Let me suck her left breast, which I quaintly call ‘my place,’ and which I generally suck every night." [Mary Vallance]


22 November 1820 — See transcript

"Quarter hour alone with V. Felt her stomach and thighs. Kissed the top of queer and looked at it." [Mary Vallance]


16 December 1820 — See transcript

“Anne owned she had not forgotten the past but still loved me she let me suck her [breast]” [Anne Belcombe]


20 December 1824 — No Priest But Love by Helena Whitbread

"Put my left hand on her left breast and at last by dint of management took three pins out and finally got the nipple into my mouth, and sucked it for perhaps as much as ten minutes." [Maria Barlow]


24 February 1825 — No Priest But Love by Helena Whitbread

"I put my face to her and twice got queer into my mouth and just sucked the tip of it." [Maria Barlow]


26 February 1825 — No Priest But Love by Helena Whitbread

"I began to handle her & look at her – Licked a little bit of her queer, opened her with my finger and slavered into her. Then grubbled, looking all the while and gave her a good excitement." [Maria Barlow]


2 December 1826 —See transcript

“I always deny havin[g] been connected with π [Mariana] or being seen naked by any but Mrs B. She said I had put my fingers into my mouth after touching her and had sucked her.” [Maria Barlow]


6 May 1827 — SH:7/ML/E/10/0089

"I this morning looked at her, kissed the top hair with my mouth and letting fall a little saliva. This excited her again. The bed both yesterday and this morning was a good deal wet." [Maria Barlow]


7 February 1828 — See transcript

“Sucked each breast a few seconds, and afterwards, between three and four she sat on my knee and I had right middle finger up, she evidently liking it and feeling some little.” [Isbergue de Rosny]


18 July 1828 — See transcript

"About an hour playing and trifling, right middle finger up but no kiss just getting her excited with my finger, having looked at and kissed her queer when the woman came to say it was ten o clock." [Sibella MacLean]

Vaginal penetration

This practice was more common for Anne to use with her partners, however she did experiment with herself to decide whether it gave her any pleasure, and in an instance with Maria Barlow touching her, reacted against the idea.

Though the topic of penetration via an instrument or attachment was not foreign to Anne, she also expressed a lack of interest in the ‘artifice’ of the idea.

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

13 November 1816 – SH:7/ML/E/26/3/0004, SH:7/ML/E/26/3/0005

“I mentioned the wickedness said to be practised by girls at schools, but explained how this was quite different, such as making use of instruments. Named the girl in Dublin who was obliged to have a surgeon to extract a stick from her (Jane Duffin’s story to Eliza Raine). Secret and solitary vice in all, which I had never any concern. That in fact they would have given me no pleasure and that I abhorred them all, in naming my peculiar detestation of solitary vice.” [Anne Belcombe]


21 September 1818 – See transcript

“A good kiss last night, but she will make me be constantly feeling her, putting my finger up, etc. Tho I do it as little as I can help. [Isabella Norcliffe]


26 October 1818 – See transcript

“I sat by her, and unobserved by those around, got my hand up her petticoats and pushed my finger up her quere.” [Mary Vallance]


11 October 1820 — See transcript

"I had the three big fingers of my right hand pushed as far as they would go up queer distinctly felt the stones of ovaria. She was very ready and wide as if there was not virginity to struggle with." [Mary Vallance]


10 August 1821 — SH:7/ML/E/5/0051

“From twelve to the time of getting into bed trying to use my two ivory syringes that were Eliza Raine’s… got to manage very well with the uterine syringe. Pushed it up to the extremity without any pain, and I think I can manag[e] the injecting system. I was obliged to go, work, very carefully. For I never had anything up me before, and do not like it all. I tried with my finger afterwards in bed. But anything of this sort would never give me pleasure, or a Kiss.”


1 November 1824 – See transcript

“Speaking of sapphic, I had before said I was not the person she thought me. I thought a sapphic attachment must be stupid work.” [Maria Barlow]


13 November 1824 – No Priest But Love by Helena Whitbread

“Got on the subject of Saffic regard. Said there was artifice in it. It was very different from mine, and would be no pleasure to me. I liked to have those I loved near me as possible, etc. Asked if she understood. She said no. Told her I knew by her eyes she did, and she did not deny it, therefore I know she understands all about the use of a ––” [Maria Barlow]


15 November 1824 – No Priest But Love by Helena Whitbread

“Sapphic love was again mentioned. I spoke rather more plainly. It was something Mrs. Middleton had said that made her comprehend what I had said about artifice. I mentioned the girl at a school in Dublin that had been obliged to have surgical aid to extract the thing.” [Maria Barlow]


29 November 1824 – SH:7/ML/E/8/0089

“Inserted the middle finger of my right hand as high as I could. It gave me no sensation. But in trying to, what he [Dr. Dupuytren] calls, embrace it by pushing myself internally backwards and forwards, which is done with little or no external movement, in five minutes I had felt probably all the pleasure of coition and my finger told me how to guess the sensation that must be experienced by a penis and how much art there may be on the womans [part]... After the five minutes spent in the experiment, with my finger kept my hand there resting as many minutes. The[n] in as many more incurred a cross my own way, and think it far the longer and pleasanter of the two. That dawdling about more on the surface and keeping nearer to the front gives a keener sensation; all pleasure with no trace of anything like pain or too great exertion. Hence I can understand why I give π [Mariana] so much delight and why I might please any married woman who did not like the ladies.”


14 January 1825 SH-7/ML/E/8/0116

“Trying last night to get the middle right finger up myself to see which manner of doing answered best, that I might practise this on Mrs. B. But it gave me no pleasure at all. Rather, hurt me, and I left off and incurred a cross in my own way. That is, by rubbing the top part of queer.”


30 January 1825 — SH:7/ML/E/8/0122

“Said I did not like girls, for I would not break the membrane for fear of nonsense when they married, and therefore the pleasure with them was not so great.” [Maria Barlow]


19 March 1825 – See transcript

“On getting out of bed she suddenly touching my queer I started back. ‘Ah,’ said she, ‘that is because you are a pucelle, I must undo this. I can give you relief. I must do to you as you do to me.’ I liked not this and said she astonished me. She asked if I was angry. No, merely astonished. However, I found I could not easily make her understand my feelings on the subject and I dropped the matter altogether. π [Mariana] would not make such a speech, this is womanizing me too much. π [Mariana] will suit me better. I cannot do much for Mrs B except with my finger. I am more sure of going on well with π [Mariana] who is contented with having myself next to her.” [Maria Barlow]


10 May 1825 – See transcript

“After eight began putting up my left middle finger, see the first line of yesterday. It hurt me less than ever before but yet gave no pleasure and I did not incur a cross after all."


23 May 1825 – See transcript

“Last night put up my left middle finger. It hurt me less than before, but gave not much pleasure, and afterwards seemed to have made pleasure in my usual way out of the question, that I did not incur a cross.”


8 June 1825 – See transcript

“Just after getting into bed last night put up my left middle finger. This gives me no pleasure, but incurred a cross my own way.”


13 June 1825 – See transcript

“Lay awake till after one last night, my left finger up. Tried hard if I could have any pleasure this way but no, and I will attempt it no more. Did not even incur a cross at all, after all I had to do.”


20 February 1827 – See transcript

“Till near five Mrs B [Barlow] and I then went to her bed for an hour. Right middle finger up a long while and three finger kisses.” [Maria Barlow]


26 August 1827 – See transcript

“Got into bed to Mrs B and being sleepy, it was late before I began to play with her. Right middle finger up twice. First time did it very well for her, and the second not bad.” [Maria Barlow]


16 August 1827 – See transcript

"Right middle finger up at three different times. A little dozing between each. First very good to her. Felt a very little myself, at last, from just being rather near her thigh.” [Maria Barlow]


8 April 1829 – SH:7/ML/E/11/0166

“Miss Maclean had sat on my knee till one above an hour I with my right middle finger up more or less all the time tried for the womb and told her to throw herself down upon my finger which she did and I told her I thought I could make an entrance that is regularly open the womb in a time or two”. [Sibella MacLean]


11 October 1832 — SH:7/ML/E/15/0131

"As it became dusk we crept closer and I, without any resistance, got for the first time right middle finger up her queer at three separate times." [Ann Walker]

Anal penetration

Similar to satisfying her curiosity with putting her finger up her own ‘queer’, Anne also experimented with putting a finger in her anus. There are examples of her examining her partners on request, and she and Maria Barlow had a conversation on 15 October 1824 about how “men can use women in two ways” and “as men do with men.”

A similar conversation occurred on 1 Nov 1824 referencing Romans 1:1 (‘Men committed indecent acts with other men’) and the idea that “that men used women as they used men,” referring to anal intercourse between heterosexual couples. Knowing that the two of them discussed this on more than one occasion, could cause the passage from 5 Feb 1827 to be interpreted differently.

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

30 November 1824 – SH:7/ML/E/8/0089

"I just after getting into bed last night tried inserting my finger in the anus to see what pleasure sodomy could give the stricture may be strong but I could get my finger a very little way for a moment or two I fancied it going to be the thing then this went off and after trying in vain perhaps almost five minutes gave it up without havin produced any pleasurable sensation.”


5 February 1827 – See transcript

“She came to me in her bedroom. Right middle finger up. Thought I felt something rough, but took no notice. We did the thing so well, that is so much to her satisfaction. At last she bade me wipe my hand on her calico drawers, would not let me look at it and washed it in two waters. She said she had made nasty work, could not account for it. She loved me too much. Gave me all herself. Gave me too much. She did not know she wanted to go to that place, but she had eaten figs at luncheon yesterday. That was the reason it was odd. ‘You know I did so the last time you had me at quai voltaire, before you left me’. I had forgotten it. Pretended that that present I knew little about. The matter had got a cold and could not smell. She left me to go Madame Galvani for a while I pretended to fall asleep, leaning on the bed. But as soon as she was gone, dipped my hand and rubbed it well. For it smelt very ill. When she came back she washed my hand with eau de cologne, which replaced the one smell by the other. I declared I knew little or nothing about the thing, but if I did, should like it because it was her doing. This however was more on my lips than in my heart.” [Maria Barlow]


5 February 1828 – See transcript

“For an hour at her bedside, right middle finger up well while she was awake. Told her she was dry; explained that the clytoris was rather too low. She told me to feel behind to see if all was right as to piles. Could perceive nothing wrong.” [Isbergue de Rosny]

Search for clitoris and penis envy

Although Anne had discovered the “keener sensation” of rubbing the top or front part of ‘queer’, she seemed to initially believe in early 18th and 19th century anatomical theories that described the vagina as an inverted or internal penis.

She wished to bring her clitoris down, “so as to be able to copulate with women”, and she sometimes fantasized herself having a penis to do so. It wasn’t until 1831 when she was studying female organs of generation that she found the clitoris, “distinctly for the first time in my life.”

JOURNAL EXCERPTS AND EXAMPLES

7 May 1821 — I Know My Own Heart by Helena Whitbread

“Foolish fancying about Caroline Greenwood, meeting her on Skircoat Moor, taking her into a shed there is there and being connected with her. Supposing myself in men’s clothes and having a penis, tho’ nothing more.”


14 January 1825 — SH-7/ML/E/8/0116

Trying last night to get the middle right finger up myself to see which manner of doing answered best, that I might practise this on Mrs. B, but it gave me no pleasure at all. Rather, hurt me, and I left off and incurred a cross in my own way. That is, by rubbing the top part of queer. But Mrs. B can take one or more fingers with ease, and I can feel her clitoris all the way up just like an internal penis."


9 May 1825 — See transcript

“Could not sleep last night. Then began putting up my left middle finger to bring down the clitoris, wishing it come so as to be able to copulate with women. I just felt it, which is more than I ever did before. Afterwards incurred a cross my old way by rubbing the top part of queer.”


10 May 1825 — See transcript

“After eight began putting up my left middle finger, see the first line of yesterday. It hurt me less than ever before but yet gave no pleasure and I did not incur a cross after all. I felt the end of the clitoris but it did not seem to come down much and it was all that I could do to reach. In pushing myself down as much as I could I felt a pain across the top region of the stomach just under the thorax. At the time it most relieved me to press across there with my arm. Any weight across would do good or a tight ligature. The pain or soreness, as if the muscles had been overstretched, was much greater than anywhere else felt but little in my back. The exertion made me very hot, quite in a perspiration, and about nine I began to feel a bilious headache.”


11 May 1825 — See transcript

“All that sticks in my throat is I cannot do enough for Mrs. B[arlow]. I cannot give her pleasure in any way but with my finger, and this does not suit. If I had a penis an inch or two long, or the clitoris down far enough, I could manage. But I fear, not without.” [Maria Barlow]


3 January 1826 — SH:7/ML/E/9/0047

“Incurred a cross thinking of Mrs Milne, fancying I had a penis and was intriguing with her in the downstairs water closet at Langton before breakfast, to which she would have made no objection.” [Harriet Milne]


17 February 1831 — SH:7/ML/E/14/0026

“Incurred a cross thinking of 𝜋. It was from studying the female organs of generation and finding out distinctly for the first time in my life the clitoris.” [Mariana Lawton]


21 April 1831 SH:7/ML/E/14/0051

“Incurred cross, but very gently, last night in trying to enlarge and in titillating the clitoris.”


2 January 1832 — See transcript

“A good while on the pot for nothing then incurred a cross by handling the clitoris and thinking of Miss H.” [Vere Hobart]


Future research

Anne Lister documented her sexual experiences extensively and there is much to be explored and uncovered under this broad theme. The next set of topics to come to this page may include her descriptions of venereal complaints and various treatments, use of euphemisms such as “wintering in Rome” and the concept of “excitement” to express sexual climax.



Notes:
14 Jan 1825 entry mentioning Anne's belief in the clitoris as an 'internal penis' is mistakenly cited as occurring on 13 Jan 1825 in Gentleman Jack: The Real Anne Lister

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Kathryn Williams, Marlene Oliveira, Amanda Pryce, Pauline M, Jude Škulec, and Jenna Beyer for their help locating additional references, and again to Kathryn for use of her image of the Red Room at Shibden Hall. Significant credit and gratitude also extend to all of the #AnneListerCodeBreakers who are sharing their work online, making curation of these examples and excerpts possible.