For correct presentation and full functionality,
you will not be able to see the pages as they should be presented,
and you will find it much more difficult (if not impossible) to navigate between pages.
Anne Hughes' Diary was first published as a magazine serial in 1937 and subsequently as a book running to several editions. At face value it's a late eighteenth-century account of English life on a farm somewhere on the Herefordshire borders and as such it would be an important historical document. Unfortunately it's not that simple. Enjoyable as literature, we believe the book retains many genuine diary entries, but the text also includes inconsistencies and errors caused by additions and mistranscriptions. As well as supporting the new edition, this website is about trying to discover the truth behind the book. It relates research findings and seeks out help to resolve unanswered questions. Chief among these is what happened to the original manuscript said to have been lent to an American serviceman in WW2.
The Anne Hughes Research Team consists of Adele Davey, Frances Houghton and Ian Shankland who, in collaboration with Colin Preston, the copyright owner, are trying to understand and resolve the issues surrounding this book. We are simply a group of interested private individuals bitten by the Anne Hughes bug. But beware, it's catching!
Using this website
Hopefully we have structured this website in a way that makes it easily navigable. The home page side buttons include this introduction and cover administrative topics and some research spin-off. The other three sections, each with their own top button, deal with the book, the questions surrounding it and the research so far. The writing on the top buttons and the button colour on the side buttons both change to indicate where you are.
There are also useful internal links located just below the top buttons. These 'top-of-page' links are accessible from every page in the website:
- Site Map - if you get lost or want to find a particular page.
- Who's who? - if you lose track of names of characters in the Diary itself or people in it's background story.
- Abbreviations - the 'Abbreviations' page expands an abbreviation and explains more about it.
- Contact us - allows you to get in touch with us via email from wherever you are in the site.
- Photographs - allows you to access the photo gallery.
- Research Updates - use this to check on latest research findings.
Eighteenth Century diarist Anne Hughes needs little introduction.
We enter her world almost as soon we read her opening lines. But who she was,
where she lived and even whether she really existed at all is still a mystery. Several
people have tried to understand and describe the background to both Anne and her transcriber, Jeanne Preston. They include TV producer Michael Croucher, Suzanne Beedell and Mary Day of
the ‘Farmers’ Weekly’, who first brought the serialised version to public attention in 1937. All have
outlined the origins and history of the Diary. Michael Croucher and Michael Dover of Penguin Books both interviewed Jeanne's daughter Molly in order to better understand it's background and explain the discrepancies in the book. But the most extensively researched account was by Adele Roberts and Frances Houghton in their 1992 Introduction to the most recent edition by Penguin.
So why is it necessary to bring this book to public attention again? Well when Penguin
released their first edition of Anne Hughes it produced a storm of letters from
people convinced it was a fake. In 1992 Frances and Adele went some way to pointing
out elements of the Diary that have the ring of truth while accepting that much may also
have been added by Jeanne Preston. In their words, “If the diary is authentic then it is a
document of considerable importance because it is a first hand account of life on a farm
in the latter part of the eighteenth century”.
Yet, the task of finding an acceptable provenance for this book remains unfinished.
And time is running out.
Since 1992, the Internet has come into being and considerably aided research. With ongoing study and the addition of another researcher to their team, more of the Diary‘s background
has come to light.
Most importantly, thanks to Jeanne’s grandson, her own wartime diary and photo album
are once again accessible.
But, while advances have been made, much still remains unexplained. Critically, we need
to find anyone with memories of the events and people surrounding the original manuscript’s
disappearance in 1944. And these eye witnesses will now be elderly people.
It is time to put our research into the public domain with the hope we may find someone
able to furnish the missing pieces of the puzzle. At last it may be possible to discover the
fate of Anne Hughes’ old diary and even, perhaps, the original manuscript itself. If that is too much
to ask we may at least locate the place or places where Anne lived and wrote.
Or we may fail to prove the doubters wrong. That too is possible.
A key to all this will be to identify more of the people in Jeanne‘s photographs. We think that among them is the American soldier to whom Jeanne gave or loaned Anne Hughes' original manuscript. But which one? These wartime snaps have not previously been seen by the general public.
Please take a look at the photos of the people we’d like to identify and, if you recognise them
or have any additional information, please get in touch with us using the email link at
the top of each of these web pages. Perhaps at last due credit can be given to two women
writers of past centuries and a genuine provenance supplied to what was once described as
‘That old fake’.