‘Gentleman Jack’ is a historical TV series. Organized after the Industrial Revolution, the exhibition tells the story of Anne Lister, a landowner, and an industrialist who did everything in her power to save the place of her ancestors, Shibden Hall. In addition to gradually getting into her coal mining business, she has also thwarted all social expectations that bind women. Dressed in black and armed with a unique charm, Anne formed strong bonds with her servants, employers, and ex-wife, Ann Walker.
With real-life narratives and unique characters, the show impresses the audience with its handling of sensitive topics such as the disapproval of LGBTQ + 19th-century relationships in England and women seeking their rightful place in a male-dominated society. Moreover, the true depiction of the Georgian Age makes everyone wonder if the ‘Gentleman Jack’ is based on a real person.
Is Gentleman Jack A Real Story?
Yes, ‘Gentleman Jack’ is based on a real story. This series is based on the detailed diary of Anne Lister, an English diary expert, and landowner in Calderdale, West Riding, Yorkshire. Best known as the first modern lesbian, she wrote extensively about her stories with other women, political views, sex, and a mixture of daily events in her long five-word diary. One-sixth of the diary was written and coded from 1806 until her death in 1840.
Born in 1791, Anne was the eldest daughter of Jeremy Lister and Rebecca Battle. She was very close to her aunt and uncle Anne and James Lister, who later inherited the Shibden Hall from them in 1836. In 1804, she attended the Manor House School in York, where she met her first love, Eliza Raine.
Both girls shared a bedroom, but Anne was made to leave two years later and returned after Eliza left. Using Greek alphabets, stars, punctuation, and mathematical formulas, they developed a code of cuneiform writing systems. (Gentleman Jack) In addition, the first entries were pieces of paper that were exchanged as parcels of secret codes between them.
Anne then had an affair with Isabella Norcliffe and Mariana Balcombe (later Lawton). The latter was an important romantic interest in her life, and they continued their relationship even after Mariana was married. However, Anne became famous for a number of reasons such as her male appearance, contact with women, and the decision to wear a black dress.
In addition, Anne opened and owned a working company and ran her own large businesses, including buildings, as well as railway stocks, stone quarries, and canals. This was considered inappropriate for women in those days, so she was nicknamed the “Gentleman Jack.”
Regardless of how the community scrutinized her, Anne’s legacy and status helped her to carry on her life the way she loved it and to pursue her love of travel. In February 1834, she married informally to Ann Walker, a wealthy heir to the Crow Nest Estate and her sister. Although Anne and Ann Walker became neighbors when the former moved to Shibden Hall in 1815, they became lovers after a reunion in 1832.
In 1834, Anne and Ann Walker marked their union by having their communion together on Easter Sunday at Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate in York. Ann then left her family home in Crow Nest and moved to Shibden Hall with her wife. “Gentleman Jack.”
The couple lived together and traveled extensively until Anne’s death on September 22, 1840, in what is today Kutaisi, a city in the state of Georgia. She was 49 years old and had no fever. After Anne’s death, Ann embalmed her and made ongoing efforts for six months to get her body back to the UK.
In April 1841, Anne Lister was buried next to her beloved aunt and uncle at Halifax Minster. She left her legacy to her cousins but gave her wife Ann Walker the desire to live in it. Unfortunately, after a long struggle with mental health problems, Ann Walker was declared unfit and removed from Shibden Hall. In 1854, she died in her childhood home in Lightcliffe, West Yorkshire. “Gentleman Jack.”
Anne’s diary was later recorded by her descendants John Lister and her friend Arthur Burrell. Given the scandal of the content of the diary, Arthur advised John to burn himself. However, he refused to do so and kept them all behind a secret team at Shibden Hall. After John’s death in 1933, the hall was placed under public ownership, and a diary was obtained and donated to the Halifax library. Not only that, Arthur was made to share his copy of the code. Later, the text was written in the 1960s, but the city council refused to publish it.
Secret episodes first appeared in the public eye only in 1982, when writer Helena Whitbread researched and used a copy of the code to reveal Anne’s words. She published several diaries in two volumes in 1988 and 1992. These are the oldest major research on gender, women’s history, and gender in 19th Century England. They even inspired several biographies of Anne’s life.
In 2011, Anne’s diary was added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Program register. In addition, Ann Walker’s journal – writing about her life between June 1834 and February 1835 – was published in 2020 and helped reinforce Ann’s diary entries. Since translated diary books are a major source of ‘Gentleman Jack’ knowledge, it is clear that few buildings have been invented on television.
The creator Sally Wainwright shared in the interview that she chose Anne Lister as a theme because of her love for the famous trailblazer and her knowledge of growing up in West Yorkshire following the rules. Therefore, he fought hard for the idea to be accepted and followed it up with extensive research in order to accurately replicate Anne’s life and times. In conclusion, we can say that the show is a real tribute to Anne Lister and brought by Ali. “Gentleman Jack.”
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