Was Ann Walker really mentally ill? Find out the real life story of Gentleman Jack

What is the real story behind Gentleman Jack?

Emmy Griffiths

The sixth episode of Gentleman Jack saw Anne Lister's lover, Ann Walker, become terrified after hearing voices that only she can hear, sending her into a hysterics night after night while frantically reciting the Lord's Prayer. In the series, Anne Lister (played by Suranne Jones) attempts to help her by arranging for her to visit a psychiatrist in York, only to have her plans changed by Ann's relatives, who collect her and take her to Scotland to undergo medical treatment for her mental health. Since the show is based on Anne's real life diary, how close was Miss Lister's mental illness to the truth?


Ann's mental health deteriorated in episode six

Anne kept dozens of diaries throughout her lifetime detailing her day-to-day life as well as her rendezvous with women, including her most committed relationship with Ann Walker, the focus of the BBC show. According to biographer Anne Choma in her new book Gentleman Jack: The Real Anne Lister, although Anne and Ann eventually married, Anne Lister's untimely death left Ann's already delicate health unbalanced, and she was eventually committed to an asylum after her mental health deteriorated following her wife's death.


The show is based on the life of Anne Lister

The excerpt reads: "Ann Walker returned [Anne's] body to Shibden in a process that would take six months, the last act of devotion to a woman who had altered the course of her life. Ann Walker continued to live at Shibden. Sadly, her mental health deteriorated in the period following Anne's death, and following concerns for her safety she was removed from the hall a few years later. Staying for a time in an institution in York, she eventually returned to live at Cliff Hill in Lightcliffe. She died in 1854."

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Ann had a tragic early life after her younger brother William died shortly after childbirth, her other young brother John Junior died on his honeymoon aged just 25. Her parents and her sister, Mary, died when she was 19, leaving her and her only surviving sibling, Elizabeth, as orphans. She died aged 51.

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