About Ann

Ann Walker’s Humour

The discovery of Ann Walker’s humour is one of the reasons I have enjoyed transcribing her letters and diary so much. Even in Anne Lister’s diary, which purpose was not necessarily to record all the funny things her wife said, there are a few instances described that either made Ann Walker laugh or elicited a snarky comment from her.

Humour, of course, is subjective. Even when we are face to face with someone, it can be difficult to know if they are being intentionally funny or not. In written text it is even harder to know for sure, as probably most of us have experienced one time or another in a confusing exchange of text messages. Ultimately, a lot comes down to how we view a person and how we interpret their reactions.

That being said, Ann Walker never fails to make me laugh. As stubborn, irritable, and melancholic as Ann Walker could be (with quite the flair for dramatic rhetoric), she also comes across as someone who appreciates the absurdity of situations, who can be sarcastic and, at times, a bit quirky.

So, without further ado, here are my top 10 moments that made Ann Walker laugh (or me while transcribing it).

Top 10 Funny Ann Walker Moments

10. Taking orders

The first time Ann addresses Aunt Anne Lister as ‘Aunt’ in a letter, written from London just at the beginning of the Ann(e)’s trip to the continent, there seemed to have been a bit of a discussion beforehand between Anne and Ann:

“My dear Aunt, (I hope you will excuse the liberty I am taking, but so I am ordered to begin)”

Letter from Ann Walker to Aunt Anne Lister – 11 June 1834
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:7/ML/779 – Transcription by Leila Straub

 

Bonus: Payback time

Most of the letters to Aunt Anne Lister in 1834 are written by both Anne and Ann, with the one starting the letter usually filling the first two and a half pages and the one closing the letter using the last half of the third page and the two ends. On one occasion, however, when Anne Lister goes on a solo hike up Puy de Dôme, Ann gleefully fills all three pages and one end, leaving Anne Lister a mere little snippet to write on:

“I laughed and told her as she choose to run away, I should write to you, and fill all the paper, not leaving her a morsel, however my heart relents so much, I have concluded to leave one end for her”

Letter from Ann Walker to Aunt Anne Lister – 16 August 1834
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:7/ML/794 – Transcription by Leila Straub

 

9. Comparing mountains

In another letter to Aunt Anne Lister, written from Geneva, Ann recounts a conversation she had with young George (Joseph) Booth, the footman:

“I asked George one day how he liked the mountains, and if he had ever seen any so high before; he told me yes, he thought the mountain we were then upon (the Brevent), a very fine one, was very like one of the Hambledon Hills called the White Mare –”

Letter from Ann Walker to Aunt Anne Lister – 22 July 1834
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:7/ML/791 – Transcription by Leila Straub

The Brévent reaches a height of 2525 m (8284 ft) and offers an excellent view of the surrounding alpine mountains, most prominently, Mont Blanc (4807 m/15’774 ft). The Hambleton Hills, while very pretty, are at best 400 m (1312 ft) and are certainly no alpine scenery.

View of Mont Blanc from the summit of Le Brévent
Image courtesy of © Guilhem Vellut, “Hike to Le Brévent, Lac du Brévent & Aiguillette des Houches”
https://www.flickr.com/photos/o_0/42298727560/in/album-72157672336345318
Whitestone Cliff aka “White Horse Crag”
Image courtesy of © Gordon Brown, CC BY-SA 2.0 , “The well-named Whitestone Cliff”
www.georgraph.org.uk/p/7007817

 

We do not know Ann’s reaction to George making this comparison, but she must have thought the anecdote would amuse Aunt Anne Lister.

 

8. Laughing at others’ miseries

Anne Lister’s diary does record an instant in which Ann Walker was laughing at George. On the same trip through France and Switzerland, Anne Lister got into an argument with an impertinent postillion, which escalated and left poor George trembling in fear:

“had up the maître de poste, very civil but got out of the way – threatened to send for one of the police (one of the women of the house said a gendarme) so got rid of the man – A- laughing, George trembling (like an aspen leaf) she said

Anne Lister’s diary – 29 June 1834
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/17/0048 – Transcription by Leila Straub

 

7. Flying hats and combs

One of the reasons I believe Ann Walker’s humour shows itself in her appreciation of absurd situations is this scene that occurred on their trip in 1838. Anne Lister and Ann Walker were travelling in their carriage in France when Anne’s hat was suddenly gone:

“A- awoke me by calling out the hat was gone – 2 or 3 times to call to the postillion and in taking off my velvet travelling cap 2 combs flew out – George had to run back – A- laughed much and long

Anne Lister’s diary – 25 May 1838
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/21/0108 – Transcription by Leila Straub

 

6. Dearest’s obsession with Spain

On the same trip, Anne Lister was obsessed with going to Spain. It was quite dangerous at that time because of a civil war. However, Anne took every chance she got to ask people, who either just came from Spain or had connections to Spain, what the situation was like and whether it might be safe to cross (and yes, the Ann(e)s did go to Spain). Anne’s chattiness caused quite a bit of delay every now and then to the point where Ann Walker would just leave her behind:

“A- had get on some distance a head – I said on overtaking her it would be 9 ½ before we got home – yes! said A- laughing, it will be that if we meet no more Spaniards

Anne Lister’s diary – 28 July 1838
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/21/0156 – Transcription by Leila Straub

 

5. The bane of climbing stairs

In another letter to Aunt Anne Lister in 1834, we learn that Ann Walker did not seem to be the biggest fan of climbing stairs:

“London is quite full, and Dover Street so full that Mrs. Hawkins could not take us in, but she had procured apartments here at the Pulteney hotel No. 13 Albemarle street, they are certainly up three flights of stairs, and comfortable enough, when we do get to them

Letter from Ann Walker to Aunt Anne Lister – 11 June 1834
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:7/ML/779 – Transcription by Leila Straub

 

Bonus: Oh goody, let’s look at MORE minerals

It’s not clear how much of Anne Lister’s fascination with minerals was shared by Ann Walker but based on Ann’s dislike of climbing three flights of stairs, the following entry in Ann’s own diary has a whiff of exasperation in it:

“went to a mineralogist’s, saw some beautiful specimens, of the different minerals of this country, mounted 6 flights of stairs, to see more minerals”

Ann Walker’s diary – 04 August 1834
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale WYC:1525/7/1/5/1 – Transcription by Diane Halford, Ivana Nika, Dorjana Širola, Leila Straub, and Alexa Tansley on behalf of In Search of Ann Walker

 

4. Sharing the bed

When the Ann(e)s were travelling, they were always plagued by fleas. Ann Walker, without giving any explanation – we only know from Anne Lister’s diary what she was talking about – simply refers to them as:

Company in bed”

Ann Walker’s diary – 14 August 1834
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale WYC:1525/7/1/5/1 – Transcription by Diane Halford, Ivana Nika, Dorjana Širola, Leila Straub, and Alexa Tansley on behalf of In Search of Ann Walker

 

3. Only the plague could keep me away from you

When Anne Lister and Ann Walker first started their courtship in 1832, Ann went away for a few weeks on a trip to the Lake District with Catherine Rawson. Before going, Ann agreed to meet up with Anne Lister for breakfast the second she was home. In a letter to Anne, Ann confirms the date one more time, with quite the dramatic add on:

“you may depend upon my receiving you here at breakfast on the 27th; this promised pleasure I am not going to relinquish unless we are visited by cholera

Letter from Ann Walker to Anne Lister – 07 September 1832
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:7/ML/609 – Transcription by Ivana Nika and Dorjana Širola

 

Bonus: And I take any excuse to write to you

Back at Lidgate, Ann Walker is informed by her cook one morning that there is no milk because her tenant and supplier Collins was moving away and took all his cattle with him. Ann Walker is “totally at a loss what to say to him”, as she writes in her letter to Anne Lister, but also quite happy to have a reason to write to Anne:

“How little did I imagine when we parted last night that I should so soon have had the pleasure of addressing you my dear friend, under other circumstances I should not have dared to take up my pen, but the plea of soliciting your advice seems at least a tolerably fair excuse

Letter from Ann Walker to Anne Lister – 09 October 1832
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:7/ML/614/1 – Transcription by Ivana Nika and Dorjana Širola

 

2. Shakespearian Ann

In a memorandum in 1835, Ann makes a list of reasons why she has the right to reclaim some property of William and John Priestley that she believes belongs to her according to her father’s will. She starts the memorandum with quite the poetic musing:

Shall I or shall I not claim from Mr. William Priestley the house at Hall End in Halifax, and from Mr. John Priestley Longley farm in Norland?”

Ann Walker’s Memoranda – 1835
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:103/4/62 – Transcription by Leila Straub

Ann Walker uses similar linguistic quirks in her letters, such as in the one she writes to Anne Lister about going to the Lake District with Catherine Rawson, which she starts with:

“After many arrangements and disarrangements, it is finally settled that I and my friend Catherine, commence our journey early on Monday”

Letter from Ann Walker to Anne Lister – 07 September 1832
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:7/ML/609 – Transcription by Leila Straub

Similarly, in a letter to Elizabeth Sutherland, Ann throws shade on Christopher Rawson and his bank, who is refusing to pay interest on the already delayed release of administration money to the Walker sisters:

“I should not have had any objection to write to Mr. Rawson, if writing would have served us; but he so unceremoniously says and unsays things, that as a safe and secure release is of the utmost consequence to us, it would really have been great folly in us to have anything to do with him, but through Parker and Adam”

Letter from Ann Walker to Elizabeth Sutherland – 15 October 1834
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:103/4/29 – Transcription by Leila Straub

 

1. Let me tell you about those magnificent hotels…

Finally, my favourite moment that gives us a bit of insight into Ann Walker’s humour: in a letter to Aunt Anne Lister written from Geneva in 1834, Anne Lister describes the route they took over the mountains. In a throwaway line, Anne writes: “of course, our hotels were not always magnificent” and then swiftly moves on from this somewhat embarrassing fact to listing all the mountain passes they crossed. Ann Walker reads all of this and then starts her part of the letter with what is probably Ann at her most sarcastic:

“Anne has told you our route over the mountains, but I find she has not given you any description of the magnificent hotels we met with. At Mottets we slept between the cows and the hay loft, and at the village des Ferret there were two rooms, for us, guides, George, and the poor widow with eight children. We thought at first George must sleep at the foot of our bed, but a bed was at last contrived for him in the room with the family and the guides. In our little apartment, which was so low, that we could touch the ceiling with our hands when we were in bed, we had two sickly children that cried a great part of the night. The people were very civil and attentive, and we were really very tolerably comfortable, and I assure you these little adventures not only served us to laugh at, at the time, but they made us feel the comfort and value afterwards, of a good hotel.”

Letter from Anne Lister and Ann Walker to Aunt Anne Lister – 22 July 1834
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale  SH:7/ML/791 – Transcription by Leila Straub

There are many more funny moments in the diaries and letters that demonstrate Ann Walker’s humour. I hope this current selection of quotes will serve as an example (and maybe also a reminder) that Ann Walker certainly had a sense of humour and did not shy away from showing it.

 

Special Thanks

Diane Halford – In Search of Ann Walker

Mandy Mellor – Editing

Dorjana Širola and Ivana Nika – Transcriptions

 

To cite this article

Leila Straub (2023) “Ann Walker’s Humour” Insearchofannwalker.com [Accessed *add date*]

Leila Straub

#AnneListerCodeBreaker whose heart beats faster for Ann Walker. Lives in Switzerland. “shy perhaps, or very stupid”

2 Comments

  • Lucy

    It’s nice to see that both Anne had fun on their travels and they share love and affection for one another, it will be nice to see this in the tv series as it focuses on Anne rather than walker who was rather courageous and unashamed to love by the details within the humour.