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Fanny Hill: Memoirs Of A Woman of Pleasure (Wordsworth Classics) Paperback – December 30, 2001

3.9 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A rare achievement . . . a ray of sunshine in the gloomy world of lust."
--Erica Jong --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

Fanny Hill, shrouded in controversy for most of its more than 250-year life, and banned from publication in the United States until 1966, was once considered immoral and without literary merit, even earning its author a jail sentence for obscenity.
The tale of a naive young prostitute in bawdy eighteenth-century London who slowly rises to respectability, the novel-and its popularity-endured many bannings and critics, and today Fanny Hill is considered an important piece of political parody and sexual philosophy on par with French libertine novels.
This uncensored version is set from the 1749 edition and includes commentary by Charles Rembar, the lawyer who defended the novel in the 1966 U.S. Supreme Court case, and newly commissioned notes. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd; 1st. edition (December 30, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840224177
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840224177
  • Product Dimensions: 4.9 x 0.5 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #816,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I once reviewed Matthew Lewis' 1796 novel "The Monk" and said that it should be rated "R". Well, having just had the experience (and it is an experience) of reading John Cleland's 1748-9 novel, "Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure," everything else just seems like children's literature. Cleland's "Memoirs" was simultaneously reviled and a best seller, declared obscene and yet continued to be published illegally througout the 18th century. In the aftermath of the public frenzy for and against Samuel Richardson's ultra-famous novels "Pamela" and "Clarissa" and Henry Fielding's equally famous responses, "Shamela," "Joseph Andrews," and "Tom Jones," Cleland's novel strikes out into wholly uncharted moral and aesthetic territory.
Similarly to Defoe's "Moll Flanders," Cleland's novel begins with its heroine, Fanny Hill, an innocent, uneducated country girl, thrown at a very early age into the cruel world of London and forced into a life of prostitution. As an innocent virgin, the madam whose house she live in is saving Fanny for a noble customer whom they expect daily, but learns about sexual commerce by watching other prostitutes in the house. Eloping with a beautiful, wealthy young man named Charles before she engages in any sexual activity, the novel concerns Fanny's sexual awakenings and her life with and without her first love, Charles. The way that the novel refigures fidelity in the relationship between Fanny and Charles is astounding.
Cleland's master-stroke, if you will, linguistically, is to write a whole-heartedly pornographic novel and couch everything in such a rich variety of metaphors. Graphic scenarios can be found on almost every page, but there is a marked and remarkable absence of graphic language.
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By A Customer on September 1, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The wellspring of all erotic fiction. How can anyone give less then 5 stars to a classic of its stature...especially such a classic with so many naughty bits. Of course it was written by a man...geez guys look at the first author on the list. Ok ok so maybe the 5th time you hear Fanny rapsodize about "from his prodigious size I feared he would rip me asunder" it starts to get a bit old (or maybe not for some), but on the other hand, this is the erotica everyone grew up on before the days of xrated magazines. Just think...a naughty book your grandmother couldn't disaprove of...she probably read it too.
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Format: Paperback
Well, here it is - maybe the most famous dirty book in the history of the English language. And it's dirty, all right, but what it mostly is, is hilarious.

Mind you, in some respects "Fanny Hill" is quite a good book too. We'll get to the reasons for that in due course. Nevertheless, I found it difficult to get through more than a few pages without laughing. Why? Because the author can't seem to come right out and say what he means, but has to describe it in the most strained, outlandish metaphors.

John Cleland came up with this story back in the early Hanoverian period, twenty to thirty years before the American Revolution, so I can't say what variety of dirty words he may have had access to, but you won't believe the ways he has his narrator, Miss Hill, describe a man's "engine" without actually naming it. The same goes for the corresponding parts of a woman's body, of course, and the narrative tends to describe two people having sex in similarly mechanistic terms.

Which is all very well - we're talking about the tale of a woman who makes her living by this mechanical process, after all. However, the metaphorical approach is not only funny in itself, it also adds a surprising layer of romantic detachment to the whole business. Yes, you get this poetic, romantic language in the middle of some of the raunchiest physical activity in existence, and the result is just plain hysterical. Eventually, Miss Fanny Hill sees a young man's white skin beneath his pubic hair and compares it to a sunrise peeking through the silhouettes of the forest trees. That was about it for me.

For all I know, John Cleland's contemporaries might have read these comparisons and thought them perfectly reasonable, but a sunrise through the trees? Really, now.
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Format: Paperback
This book is fascinating, not merely as an erotic novel (and the historical significance of this book cannot be denied) but also as a glimpse of society and mores of the mid-18th century.
Fanny is an orphaned girl who goes to London to Seek Her Fortune and ends up with a career alternating between prostitution and being a kept woman. Unlike most porn, she's not always happy about her sexual encounters, and there are times when she's heartbroken over a lost love. She's decieved by a woman who claims to be hiring her "as a companion," in a another scene she's exploited by a money-hungry landlord.
As she grows older, though, Fanny becomes more in charge of her sexuality and more open to exploration. We, as readers, also see a glimpse of 18th-century prostitution and the demimonde of kept mistresses (which many wealthy men of the period kept).
Hardly a rollicking farce (there are times when sex has serious consequences) but at times it is humorous. Never crass or vulgar, but nevertheless explicit, this bawdy gem is worth checking out. Fanny is always honest about herself and what she does to survive, and pulls no punches. (I took away a star because, at times, it is difficult going because of the outdated language, but don't let that deter you.)
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