chapter  2
14 Pages

The Female Diarist in the Nineteenth Century

As Bernard Duyfhuizen points out, the diary is a democratic form, accessible to every literate person.1 Analysis of the diary-writing practices of real women demonstrates how nineteenth-century women were able to converse with themselves and to engage in life writing through the medium of a journal. The application of the model to nineteenth-century female diarists is illustrated in this chapter using the unpublished versions of the diaries of four women: Frances Burney, Emily Shore, Elizabeth Gaskell and Anne Lister. The discussion specifically addresses the diaries produced in their own time rather than the published edited versions which have since emerged. It should be noted that Burney’s diary has a complex textual history and the original is in the process of being recovered through the continuing work of the Burney Centre at McGill University.2 Lister’s diary has conversely been given a modern form which makes publication and consumption possible through severe editing and a degree of interpretation.3 In so far as it is possible, the following is a discussion of the diaries written at the time by the four women within the traditions and criteria established in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The reception as a public document of a diary written by a woman is explored in Chapter 3 using the published version of Burney’s Diary and Letters.