Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, commonly known as Fanny Hill, has been shrouded in mystery and controversy since John Cleland completed it in 1749. The Bishop of London called the work 'an open insult upon Religion and good manners' and James Boswell referred to it as 'a most licentious and inflaming book'.The story of a prostitute's rise to respectability, it has been recognized more recently as a unique combination of parody, sensual entertainment and a philosophical concept of sexuality borrowed from French libertine novels. Modern readers will appreciate it not only as an important contribution to revolutionary thought in the Age of Enlightenment, but also as a thoroughly entertaining and important work of erotic fiction, deserving of a place in the history of the English novel beside Richardson, Fielding and Smollett.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This pithy bit of wit (on p. 110 of the 2001 Modern Library paperback edition, which I just read) is about as close to a maxim as John Cleland -- in the mouth (or at least the thoughts) of Fanny Hill comes.
Cleland writes in an appropriately corseted Victorian vernacular. This particular edition maintains his peculiar spelling, syntax and punctuation, all of which present certain obstacles to a contemporary reader. Lucky for us, the subject-matter presents no such obstacle. Eminently more readable (and less laughable) than Anne Desclos's (nom de plume: Pauline Réage) Story of O, Fanny Hill or, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure contains many of the same elements so sportingly penned by Henry Fielding in Tom Jones -- complete with happy ending. John Cleland, however, is no Henry Fielding. If the definition of `circumlocution' in Webster or the OED doesn't say `cf. John Cleland's Fanny Hill,' it ought to!
There's a wee bit of popular wisdom in Fanny Hill,...
This work by Fanny Hill is a very poorly written expose of a young girl's sexual awakening. It reads like that of a sixteen-year-old...I'm unsure how old she was when she put her memoirs to paper. It appears Fanny is writing to give her readers a voyeuristic taste of a rather sad life of a teenager thrown into the world of prostitution after her parents died. It is interesting from a historical standpoint, to me, only as I pity this poor girl. There is one distasteful incident wherein she and another young woman seduce a mentally disabled young man. I personally wasn't impressed by her accounting of sexual encounters and juvenile exploits into vice, but it is very apparent how naive men and women were. Each to his own.....just wasn't a book for me.
Much more than just "the original dirty book" this is a remarkably well written novel. Although over 200 years old, the author's insights on human nature still resonate. The characters are fully dimensional while the erotic passages, too, are true to life and avoid pat clichés. All in all, a great read and long overdue to be rediscovered.
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