Last night was The Secret Diaries of Miss Ann Lister which was a good choice for the opening night because it is a very feel good movie that had the audience cheering at various points. I'm reviewing it for the TLS so I won't be talking about the film here until you see my review when it is printed.
What I will say is that this is the culmination of something I was minorly involved with twenty-some years ago when I was working for Virago as a reader. Helena Whitbread, who had discovered the diaries of Ann Lister and cracked the code in which large parts of it are written, offered a selection of the early diaries for publication; there was a certain scepticism about their content and I was one of several people asked to give an opinion. I showed some pages to a friend who was editing Keats' letters as a way of checking the language; I showed some of the passages about Lister's scholarship in the more recondite parts of Latin literature to a classicist friend; I read up on codes to check that her cipher was a plausible one for the time.
I and other more expert people all concurred that these were the real thing...
What was the big deal, you may ask? What you have to remember was that in the 1980s, in the middle of the Sex Wars, solid evidence that an Englishwoman in the 1820s was not just having romantic relationships with women, but having promiscuous penetrative orgasm-directed sex with them, was something of a shock to historiography. The model for early modern same-sex relationships between women subscribed to by much of academe was romantic friendship/Boston Marriage, something which was very convenient for those women who identified as political lesbians and were dismissive of mere 'lust lesbians'. They could claim that devotion to women, above base physical needs, was the source of empowering desire that had nothing to do with the sort of sweaty fumblings that men go in for, and they could claim that the historical evidence was on their side.
Until Ann Lister, who finger-fucked her way round Yorkshire's assembly-rooms and quadrilles, recorded her orgasms in her diaries and had intense adulterous liaisons and eventually married an even richer heiress.
There were some attempts to smear the diaries as forgeries, but they really did not take. And now a movie - some day someone will make a movie about the heroic role of Helena Whitbread in all of this, a nice amateur historian who found herself in the middle of a feminist firestorm.
So - it was good, and more anon.
I got home to discover police tape across the street and lots of police vehicles - I had to go into my flats from the back way. The tape is gone, but there are still
several vehicles. All I could find out is that there was 'an incident'.
More on this in due course.
Later Apparently it was a rumble between two gangs of youth which resulted in three casualties, one of them serious. Further research indicates that there have been several teen gang fights in the East End over the last couple of weeks.