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Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure

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One of the most prosecuted and banned books in history. The classic novel of a young girl's exploration of physical pleasures. Young Fanny Hill is tricked into a life of prostitution, but she quickly learns the power of her own body as she learns the ways of physical passion. She soon escapes her fate for the loving arms of a wealthy young man, but misadventure and fate cons One of the most prosecuted and banned books in history. The classic novel of a young girl's exploration of physical pleasures. Young Fanny Hill is tricked into a life of prostitution, but she quickly learns the power of her own body as she learns the ways of physical passion. She soon escapes her fate for the loving arms of a wealthy young man, but misadventure and fate conspire to keep her from domestic bliss. Instead, Fanny discovers that sex need not be just for love; that it can be had for pleasure. She then sets out to explore those pleasures in as wide a variety as she can. With old men and young, and women as well; in positions of power, and situations where she has none; either watching or participating, Fanny's journey through the realms of sexual pleasure is a literary tour-de-force.


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One of the most prosecuted and banned books in history. The classic novel of a young girl's exploration of physical pleasures. Young Fanny Hill is tricked into a life of prostitution, but she quickly learns the power of her own body as she learns the ways of physical passion. She soon escapes her fate for the loving arms of a wealthy young man, but misadventure and fate cons One of the most prosecuted and banned books in history. The classic novel of a young girl's exploration of physical pleasures. Young Fanny Hill is tricked into a life of prostitution, but she quickly learns the power of her own body as she learns the ways of physical passion. She soon escapes her fate for the loving arms of a wealthy young man, but misadventure and fate conspire to keep her from domestic bliss. Instead, Fanny discovers that sex need not be just for love; that it can be had for pleasure. She then sets out to explore those pleasures in as wide a variety as she can. With old men and young, and women as well; in positions of power, and situations where she has none; either watching or participating, Fanny's journey through the realms of sexual pleasure is a literary tour-de-force.

30 review for Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    If you've heard one euphemism for penis, you...well, you haven't heard them all. Once you finish this book, then you'll have heard them all. I had more fun reading this porn than I did many other 18-century novels, but that's largely because it's very short; faced with 600 pages of this, and given that I've already seen the word "vermilion" at least 600 times, I would probably give up. And as porn goes, it's....okay I guess? It's not exactly hot, but it's not unacceptably un-hot, either, which is If you've heard one euphemism for penis, you...well, you haven't heard them all. Once you finish this book, then you'll have heard them all. I had more fun reading this porn than I did many other 18-century novels, but that's largely because it's very short; faced with 600 pages of this, and given that I've already seen the word "vermilion" at least 600 times, I would probably give up. And as porn goes, it's....okay I guess? It's not exactly hot, but it's not unacceptably un-hot, either, which is more than one can say for most of the internet. I found myself skimming the sex scenes. It can be fairly entertaining, at least; I highlighted the euphemism "red-headed champion," which is legitimately funny. It's hotter than Moll Flanders, to which it's clearly somewhat of a response - although that's not saying much, as Moll Flanders is emphatically unsexy. The fact that this is a book written by a grown man from the perspective of a 15-year-old girl sometimes intrudes with ickiness, but one tries to get past it. Guys have written porn from the points of view of the ladies they wish they were nailing since - well, since this, as far as I know - and one has to suspend one's definition of the age of consent when one reads anything from Pamela to Tolstoy. And Cleland was only in his 20s when he wrote this, which makes it (again, allowing also for the era) at least slightly less creepy than if he was 50. It still throws me out of the narrative (such as it is) occasionally - particularly when he falls into one of the tropes that dudes writing porn have submitted to since (see above): all women want to be chaste but find themselves transported by passion as soon as they see a penis, and all penises are huge. I have, startling as it might seem, talked to upwards of several women, and they've assured me that neither of the above things are even a tiny bit accurate for any man other than me. I'll give you a (slightly spoiler-y) taste. See if you think you can handle the following two things: 1) A scene where a woman seduces a mentally handicapped man for no other reason than "She had had her freak out" (yes, he really wrote that, 250 years before Missy Elliott); 2) This thoroughly typical passage: "Presently the approach of the tender agony discover'd itself by its usual signals, that were quickly follow'd by my dear love's emanation of himself that spun out, and shot, feelingly indeed! up the ravish'd in-draught; where the sweetly soothing balmy titillation opened all the juices of joy on my side, which extatically in flow, help'd to allay the prurient glow, and drown'd our pleasure for a while. Soon, however, to be on float again!" If the first didn't horrify you too much, and the second didn't put you in a coma, you're good to go. There's a half-hearted sermon that closes the book; it reads, in part, "If I have painted Vice in all its gayest colours...it has been solely in order to make the worthier, the more solemn sacrifice of it, to Virtue." I don't think we're supposed to take that seriously. For what it's worth, this is a peculiarly feminist book. (Peculiarly, I said.) In sharp contrast to most books of its time, Fanny Hill presents a picture of a woman who enjoys sex and goes about getting it with no shame whatsoever. There are no nasty repercussions; things turn out quite well for her. Jane Smiley claims that shame was an obsession in the salacious 18th century; well, then, this book stands, possibly alone, above it. Good for Fanny Hill.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emily May

    I'm talking about an erotic novel here, so maybe don't read my review if you tend to get offended by open and frank discussion about sexual acts. Just warning you in advance :) Okay, firstly, this is porn. Just porn. Not a great literary achievement, not something that will sit snug in your mind with the Austen and Bronte classics... PORN. It got quite a reputation for being the first pornography to appear in novel form, and it also got a reputation because it was banned for multiple centuries an I'm talking about an erotic novel here, so maybe don't read my review if you tend to get offended by open and frank discussion about sexual acts. Just warning you in advance :) Okay, firstly, this is porn. Just porn. Not a great literary achievement, not something that will sit snug in your mind with the Austen and Bronte classics... PORN. It got quite a reputation for being the first pornography to appear in novel form, and it also got a reputation because it was banned for multiple centuries and resulted in a prison sentence for the author. Being published in 1748, I can't say I'm surprised. In fact, the much more surprising thing is that books like Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928) and Delta of Venus (1977) caused such a controversy when Cleland's work had already beaten them to it two hundred years beforehand. This is far more scandalous than Lady Chatterley's Lover and about on a par with Delta of Venus. The story is a rather disturbing (even by today's standards) tale about a fifteen year old girl who engages in sex with both men and women, participates in mutual masturbation, almost gets raped, falls into prostitution, takes part in orgies, whips a man for his sexual pleasure, and witnesses two men having anal sex only to report them to the local villagers. During this time, Fanny also manages to fall in love several times and - to give credit where it's due - does experience quite a bit of growth as a woman and as a human being. The plot, though, is completely ridiculous, moves too fast, and ends up feeling sloppy and careless. Fanny runs from lover to lover in what feels like a bunch of short stories about sexual encounters than a full novel about a woman's sexual exploration. It must be pointed out that Cleland's portrayal of female sexuality and the ability for women to have sex for pleasure, not just to make babies or appease their husbands, seems incredibly before it's time. However, Fanny Hill is not a particularly strong character and her circumstances are often a result of where others put her, not where she takes herself. When it comes to this kind of book, I always try and look it at from two angles and see if it delivers on either: 1) as a novel, or 2) as porn. I don't believe it delivers on the first beyond introducing the eighteenth century to the exploration of female sexuality. As for the second, well, I guess there's something for everyone stuck in here somewhere. Especially if you get hot when female genitalia is described as "clammy" and a guy's penis is described in this way: "not the play-thing of a boy, not the weapon of a man, but a maypole of so enormous a standard, that had proportions been observ’d, it must have belong’d to a young giant." Are you fanning yourself with desire? Then this is the book for you!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Fabian

    All sex acts are unique, beautiful, & uniquely beautiful in the immensely pleasurable "Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure." Through the ages, sex has brought wondrous delight to human beings & here is testament of that fortitude over mere convention and the evil forces of repression. This, like the ever-powerful "Naked Lunch" centuries later, had to be defended/bashed fervently by those thinking the book had any power over weak minds or even anything, um, ethical? Still, le petit mort (or being "emba All sex acts are unique, beautiful, & uniquely beautiful in the immensely pleasurable "Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure." Through the ages, sex has brought wondrous delight to human beings & here is testament of that fortitude over mere convention and the evil forces of repression. This, like the ever-powerful "Naked Lunch" centuries later, had to be defended/bashed fervently by those thinking the book had any power over weak minds or even anything, um, ethical? Still, le petit mort (or being "embalm'd by an injection") being exemplified by the most exquisite and tender prose imaginable, is surely a cause for celebration, yeah. It is appetizing in anecdotal terms, as well as in its lushly long sentences. Fanny Hill has no other option but to become a prostitute, and thus takes an immense amount of pride in such an old, tried-but-true occupation--she flourishes & learns. She is eager, adventurous. Sure, all things nasty men want their women to be. You will be amazed to find lesbianism, group sex, voyeurism, an array of anatomies and variety of men/participants, gay sex, threesomes, etc, etc. etc. It soon becomes clear that the mercenary aspect of the whole enterprise is what ultimately attracts and inspires Fanny (and remember, she has NO other choice, outlet, life). This is what brings her pleasure. And the part of men finding themselves through the sexual acts-- that is something that brings her pleasure as well. This is candid, verging on poetic, storytelling. Her life is sad, but there is a zero ugliness factor in this novel to declare it an essential one. It's a genuine template for our future erotica.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    They should make me Education Secretary. I'd make Fanny Hill required reading in freshman English classes across the country, thus instantly solving our country's illiteracy problem and instilling an abiding love of literature in our nation's young citizens. I miss my copy of this book! I'd never heard of it before when I found it in a box on the sidewalk in Park Slope a few years ago, and had no idea what a lovely filthy treasure I had just unearthed.... I hope Lindsey enjoyed my edition of this They should make me Education Secretary. I'd make Fanny Hill required reading in freshman English classes across the country, thus instantly solving our country's illiteracy problem and instilling an abiding love of literature in our nation's young citizens. I miss my copy of this book! I'd never heard of it before when I found it in a box on the sidewalk in Park Slope a few years ago, and had no idea what a lovely filthy treasure I had just unearthed.... I hope Lindsey enjoyed my edition of this venerable classic, and I REALLY hope her mom never found it under her mattress.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    If I could go back in time and track Cleland down for a nice chat, I'd smack him in the face with a clipboard and watch him like a hawk till he'd read through the list clipped there in its entirety. Better yet, I'd take a woman and a man back with me, both of them less concerned with feminism issues to an unholy extent than I, and let the conversings about the genders commence. Maybe then, perhaps, I'd figure this author out. The list? An abridged version of the following. If you've seen my review If I could go back in time and track Cleland down for a nice chat, I'd smack him in the face with a clipboard and watch him like a hawk till he'd read through the list clipped there in its entirety. Better yet, I'd take a woman and a man back with me, both of them less concerned with feminism issues to an unholy extent than I, and let the conversings about the genders commence. Maybe then, perhaps, I'd figure this author out. The list? An abridged version of the following. If you've seen my review of Delta of Venus, you know I take erotica seriously. That whole spiel about increasing respect and social justice and all that jazz? Still relevant, sadly so when considering this piece appeared in 1749. That's 265 years ago, 18th century stuff alongside the likes of Voltaire and Swift and we're still mucking around in slut shaming. Seriously! This is a classic written by a dead white male two and a half centuries ago, and it's chock full of feminism! Second wave feminism at that! Where are the feminist scholars and, more importantly, where are the rest of those classics/elitist/whatever your name for those in the literature "know" who are reading this without taking a single smidgen away from it besides the fact that it's bad erotica? Yes, bad erotica. While it may have done the job more than 250 years ago, these days people like their porn with a little more...well. Now that I think about it, a great deal of today's Fifty Shades of Grey readers don't actually mind if the biology's a little off so long as there's plenty of writhing and fingering and whipping, which this work has in full. The only difference really is Cleland's constant hitting home the fact that, while women have different equipment, they have the same need for pleasure and more importantly respectful pleasure, whomever the companion they happen to be with. Now that's something that could put modern readers off. Men know not in general how much they destroy of their own pleasure when they break through the respect and tenderness due to our sex, and even to those of it who live only by pleasing them. Of course, there are problematic aspects, namely the homophobia, the pretense of sex only being successful when dick thrusting is involved and resulting invalidation of female pleasure, the multiple instances of sexual assault rapid fire forgiven because the assaulter was attractive/pitiful/remorseful/what have you. Less problematic and more absurd were the multiple male orgasms business: so sorry, men, but your refractory period averages a half hour and can even go on for days, whereas women, you're good to go. Also, the synonyms for penis. I'm not even going to go into that. If you want a list, the book's been around for a while. Spoilers abound and may even be carefully categorized. Besides all that, not only does Fanny Hill like sex so long as her partner's not an asshole, she likes educating herself! Behold. ...he it was who first taught me to be sensible that the pleasures of the mind were superior to those of the body; at the same time, that they were so far from obnoxious to or incompatible with each other that, besides the sweetness in the variety and transition, the one serv'd to exalt and perfect the taste of the other to a degree that the senses alone can never arrive at. No wonder the unabridged version's been taken to trial as recently as 1963, as god forbid a woman reconcile body and mind so ardently. Yeesh. While I'm at it, have some more breakdowns of female stereotypes: Silks, laces, earrings, pearl necklace, gold watch, in short, all the trinkets and articles of dress were lavishly heap'd upon me; the sense of which, if it did not create turns of love, forc'd a kind of grateful fondness, something like love; a distinction it would be spoiling the pleasure of nine tenths of the keepers in the town to make, and is, I suppose, the very good reason why so few of them ever do make it. ...all my looks and gestures ever breathing nothing but that innocence which the men so ardently require in us, for no other end than to feast themselves with the pleasures of destroying it, and which they are so greviously, with all their skill, subject to mistakes to. You're welcome.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Duane

    By 18th century standards it was literary smut. Even by today's standards it is bawdy. Fellow GR reviewer Jessica called it "lovely filthy filth". It has survived the centuries though and still finds itself in print and apparently still being read by hundreds of Goodreads members.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    A strikingly repetitive book - certainly not a novel, with a curious jolly hockey sticks air to it. Structured as the memoirs of an innocent young girl, written in letters to a lady, from the countryside who is tricked into a life of prostitution (of the decorous type in respectable brothels not the wandering about Covent Garden type). It has a good deal of admiring descriptions of penises follows and the noun vermilion is frequently used to describe the vulvas seen during the course of her work. A strikingly repetitive book - certainly not a novel, with a curious jolly hockey sticks air to it. Structured as the memoirs of an innocent young girl, written in letters to a lady, from the countryside who is tricked into a life of prostitution (of the decorous type in respectable brothels not the wandering about Covent Garden type). It has a good deal of admiring descriptions of penises follows and the noun vermilion is frequently used to describe the vulvas seen during the course of her work. This is not a work in the realist tradition, clients apparently pay up, prostitutes don't get beaten up, pregnancy and disease aren't worries. Nor is there any character development unless that is a euphemism for the loss of virginity, or anything much you could call a plot. It is the work of a man imagining himself as a prostitute - a situation which he finds thoroughly enjoyable in a jolly kind of way, with the particular bonus of being able to see lots of big penises. The meat of the book - a very loose collection of disconnected episodes - is extra-textual, and that is imagining Cleland's sexuality. At the beginning of the first part of the book Ms Hill is broken into the work of being a prostitute, at the beginning of the second part her self and some other young women (I believe that child prostitution flourished for obvious reasons in 18th century London, not that you would ever suspect it from this book since they are young, but not that young) set up their own brothel and take turns relating how they lost their virginity. At the end of either the first or the second part - it's really not important which - Ms Hill settles down with a handsome, wealthy young man who has a very large penis. In-between are various encounters with clients who almost invariably have large penises. One would have to be particularly generous to regard this as constituting a plot. It's self indulgent (I suppose self-evidently, it is a work of pornography after all), but it's repetitive nature makes the book eventually boring and comes to limit the extent to which it even could be used as a one hand read. There is a very limited range of sexual acts described and the most interesting moment is the narrator's shock when a man and a woman actually undress, as most of the sex described involves only loosening clothing and opening it at strategic points. This book left me with the impression that 18th century sex was less interesting than I might have otherwise imagined. Certainly less interesting than suggested by the Edinburgh club whose members had to contribute clippings of their mistresses' pubic hair to make a ceremonial wig. No wonder people drank so much.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jr Bacdayan

    "The paths of vice are sometimes strewed with roses, but then they are for ever infamous for many a thorn, for many a cankerworm; those of virtue are strewed with roses purely, and those eternally unfading ones. If you do me then justice, you will esteem me perfectly consistent in the incense I burn to virtue: if I have painted vice all in its gayest colours, if I have decked it with flowers, it has been solely in order to make the worthier, the solemner, sacrifice of it to virtue." Interesting af "The paths of vice are sometimes strewed with roses, but then they are for ever infamous for many a thorn, for many a cankerworm; those of virtue are strewed with roses purely, and those eternally unfading ones. If you do me then justice, you will esteem me perfectly consistent in the incense I burn to virtue: if I have painted vice all in its gayest colours, if I have decked it with flowers, it has been solely in order to make the worthier, the solemner, sacrifice of it to virtue." Interesting afterthoughts from the infamous 18th century Fifty Shades of Sex.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stela

    There is a saying – Curiosity killed the cat. I learned about this 18th century porn while reading David Lodge’s Modes of Modern Writing, and of course it aroused (😊) my interest regarding both the language and the approach of a subject I had thought until then too daring for a prude period. It seems I was wrong and all that prudeness we know about is due to 19th century, mainly Victorian period. So, for one of most banished books in history (as Wikipedia informs us) Fanny Hill is not even very There is a saying – Curiosity killed the cat. I learned about this 18th century porn while reading David Lodge’s Modes of Modern Writing, and of course it aroused (😊) my interest regarding both the language and the approach of a subject I had thought until then too daring for a prude period. It seems I was wrong and all that prudeness we know about is due to 19th century, mainly Victorian period. So, for one of most banished books in history (as Wikipedia informs us) Fanny Hill is not even very revolutionary. However, with all the fuss around it, the main question one might ask is about Fanny Hill literary traits. In the same study, David Lodge says: "Pornography I define as a type of discourse designed to be used as a substitute for or stimulus to erotic pleasure. (…) Like other types of nonliterary discourse (advertising, polemic etc.) pornography can become literary if it responds successfully to a literary reading. What usually prevents it from doing so is that it is unrealistic rather than nonrealistic: it pretends to a realism it cannot sustain." Therefore, to answer the above question, it seems the more a text has porn qualities, the less likely it is to have literary ones. Let’s see in our book: -very virile men with huge penises– check -very sensual women with perfect bodies– check; -perfect orgasms every time– check; -erotic fantasies presented in a realistic way – check; -detailed description of the progress of excitement – check; -explicit language – not-so-check, but touchingly euphemistic, though; -Pretty-Woman-like finale – check. So, from what I can tell (although my knowledge of this kind of reading is limited to a few bad romances and Fifty Shades of Gray :D ) this could be considered a sort of old-fashioned porn, amusing and often involuntary parodic and even sweet in some kinky way. A curiosity, a useful document in the history of porn (there must be a history of porn, surely?), but of course, not literature in the same way Fifty Shades of Gray is not literature. To conclude, I’m not sorry I read it (in spite of my introductory line), but it didn’t feel like reading literature (and at some point it bored me so much I skipped many “hot” pages). I was amused by the moralistic finale, though, so contrary to the obvious message that you can have the cake and eat it too. In porn land, I mean.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    A rather repetitive and primitive story of a young naive girl who arrives in London without any money or family to take care of her and who have to endure a lot of hardship before finally finding her true love. The hardship, however, is mostly in the form of a lot of sex which she finds a lot of pleasure in - this is truly a book where the means are more important than the end and the means are described in detail, unfortunately these details are more or less the same, repeated over and over, on A rather repetitive and primitive story of a young naive girl who arrives in London without any money or family to take care of her and who have to endure a lot of hardship before finally finding her true love. The hardship, however, is mostly in the form of a lot of sex which she finds a lot of pleasure in - this is truly a book where the means are more important than the end and the means are described in detail, unfortunately these details are more or less the same, repeated over and over, only the metaphors used in describing them varies, basically. This also means that the plot is virtually non-existing, the end is unbelievable and there's just enough to serve as the string to tie the sexual encounters together with - rather like modern day porn. Furthermore, most of the women in this book are rather weak creatures, waiting to be swept of their feet by a(ny) man who happens to come along and who by persuasion and mild use of force always gets what he wants - and in thus surrendering, the women invariably discover their own pleasure in these borderline rapes. It is very obvious that this was written by a man and that even though our heroine, Fanny, are rather competent and at least one other woman can manage her own business, it is clear that the author's opinion of women is not the highest - which I think was rather typical of the time. But porn really hasn't changed much over the last couple of centuries... This is one of the early erotic novels and intellectually, I can appreciate this book - but I read for the joy of it and this was for the most part lacking in this book - rather ironically, one could say.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    I thought Fanny Hill was going to be in the same vein as The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, including a smattering of cheeky 18thC sex scenes that hardly raise an eyebrow in the 21stC. I couldn't have been more wrong. I'd heard Fanny Hill's reputation (who hasn't? the slattern!), but then I've also read Lady Chatterley's Lover which isn't half as saucy as its reputation.... I wasn't quite prepared for the fact that Fanny Hill consists almost entirely of sex scenes linked together by the slimm I thought Fanny Hill was going to be in the same vein as The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, including a smattering of cheeky 18thC sex scenes that hardly raise an eyebrow in the 21stC. I couldn't have been more wrong. I'd heard Fanny Hill's reputation (who hasn't? the slattern!), but then I've also read Lady Chatterley's Lover which isn't half as saucy as its reputation.... I wasn't quite prepared for the fact that Fanny Hill consists almost entirely of sex scenes linked together by the slimmest of storylines. I really should have guessed, 18thC attitudes to sex were far more liberal than those censorial Victorians, weren't they? I was laughing out loud during many passages.... Hilarious. 'Bawdy romp' doesn't start to describe it! The sex does become rather repetative towards the end, however I'm impressed at the number of different euphemisms the author, John Cleland, utilises for the male member! Some sections sit uncomfortably with a modern audience; raping virgins is not a bundle of laughs in the real world and the cliche of the 'happy-hooker' ignores the unhappy majority who would have preferred NOT to risk syphilis, every day, to earn their keep. However, I think this just serves to point out how society's attitudes have changed in the intervening years... If you're thinking of reading Fanny Hill; don't expect literature and be surprised by the sex; don't look for porn and be disappointed by the flowery language. Instead, see it as an entertaining insight into the fantasies of an 18th Century man.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

    An outstanding allegorical work. Using tales of sex, John Cleland managed to portray the common fate of women: from their blissful innocence, to their hard lives, their exploitation by men, rebellion and ultimate redemption. First person narrator here is the young and beautiful Fanny Hill. This is the story of her poverty as an orphan, the innocence of her virginity, her corruption in a brothel, her languid life as a mistress, her defiant infidelities and wild sexual abandon, and finally her red An outstanding allegorical work. Using tales of sex, John Cleland managed to portray the common fate of women: from their blissful innocence, to their hard lives, their exploitation by men, rebellion and ultimate redemption. First person narrator here is the young and beautiful Fanny Hill. This is the story of her poverty as an orphan, the innocence of her virginity, her corruption in a brothel, her languid life as a mistress, her defiant infidelities and wild sexual abandon, and finally her redemption, after getting rich (courtesy of a rich man who fell for her then died) and finding her true love. The story of each and every woman's life. Central to these lives is the uneradicated evil against which women all over the world, since time immemorial, had struggled, and continue to struggle: "I (Fanny Hill), struggling faintly, could not help feeling what I could not grasp, a column of the whitest ivory, beautifully streak'd with blue veins, and carrying, fully uncapt, a head of the liveliest vermilion: no horn could be harder or stiffer; yet no velvet more smooth or delicious to the touch. Presently he guided my hand lower, to that part in which nature and pleasure keep their stores in concert, so aptly fasten'd and hung on to the root of their first instrument and minister, that not improperly he might be styl'd their purse-bearer too: there he made me feel distinctly, through their soft cover, the contents, a pair of roundish balls, that seem'd to play within, and elude all pressure but the tenderest, from without." I'm looking down at it right now, reprimanding it for all its, and its brethrens', mischief

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    In 1748 English novelist John Cleland went to debtors’ prison; while he was there he wrote a novel that went on to become the most prosecuted and banned book in history. Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure is often referred to as Fanny Hill and is considered one of the first pornographic novels in the English language. Due to the release of this book, Cleland and his publisher Ralph Griffiths were both arrested and charged with “corrupting the King’s subjects”. The book went on to become so popular t In 1748 English novelist John Cleland went to debtors’ prison; while he was there he wrote a novel that went on to become the most prosecuted and banned book in history. Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure is often referred to as Fanny Hill and is considered one of the first pornographic novels in the English language. Due to the release of this book, Cleland and his publisher Ralph Griffiths were both arrested and charged with “corrupting the King’s subjects”. The book went on to become so popular that pirated editions were sold underground. The book’s popularity eventually saw the book being published in 1821 in the United States, where its first known obscenity case convicted publisher Peter Holmes for printing a “lewd and obscene” novel. Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure tells the story of an orphaned fifteen year old with no skill and very little education named Fanny Hill. She leaves her village to find employment in London, where she is hired by Mrs. Brown. Fanny believed her employment was legitimate and that she would be working as a maid but she discovered that Mrs. Brown ran a brothel and intended to sell her maidenhead. The prostitute that shared her room opened Fanny’s innocent eyes to the sensuality of sex. She eventually falls in love and runs away with a man named Charles. I do not want to go into too much detail about the plot of this book; in fact I have only covered the very first part of the story. I started off this review with mentioning that John Cleland wrote this book while in debtors’ prison and I think this is an interesting fact to remember. Cleland plays out all types of sexual fantasies while he is locked away; the novel pretty much covers everything you can think of sexually. The all-important one in this book was losing her maidenhead, which was sold to at least three different clients. However there is something deeper going on within the pages of Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. This novel kept getting banned until 1973 in the United States; it was the introduction of the Miller test which finally lifted its banning. The Miller test is a three prong obscenity tested used in the United States Supreme Court to determine if something should be labelled as obscene. The work is considered obscene if all three conditions are satisfied and I am going to quote the law here so you better understand the Miller test. (a) Whether “the average person, applying contemporary community standards” would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest (b) Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law (c) Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. The ban was lifted because Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure holds literary and artistic value and rightly so. Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure is a stunning book to read, the proses are elegant but I also found it fascinating how many erotic fiction tropes comes from this one book. I have not read many erotic novels, but from what I know and read, there is a lot that this genre needs to thank John Cleland. All the cliché scenarios and sex scenes owe a lot to this novel but one I am glad I don’t see any more is the use of the word ‘machine’. The idea of men walking around with machines between their legs bugged me and I just didn’t like that terminology; unfortunately the word ‘weapon’ seems to have survived. This was a fascinating exploration into the origins of erotic fiction and sex scenes in literature and ultimately I am glad to have read Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. It is not that often that I associate steaming sex scenes with literature of the 18th century, so it is good to know that people were deviant back then. Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure isn’t just about sex; Fanny Hill works as a sex worker but she also finds love. She discovers that sex outside love isn’t as pleasurable and this is the message that I really took away from this novel. Despite all the fantasies, I think John Cleland wanted to look at how important love is when it comes to pleasure seeking. This review originally appeared on my blog: http://literary-exploration.com/2014/...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sheri

    So I'm not really sure where to go here. I have a ton of thoughts but not really sure how best to organize. On one hand, I am astounded by the blatent language and content (given that this was published in 1748). Some of it makes fifty shades look tame (although if you read my review of that, my complaint there was that it really wasn't as graphic as advertised). I was also pleased (while simultaneously offended) at the progressive description of female sexuality. Especially after reading such cr So I'm not really sure where to go here. I have a ton of thoughts but not really sure how best to organize. On one hand, I am astounded by the blatent language and content (given that this was published in 1748). Some of it makes fifty shades look tame (although if you read my review of that, my complaint there was that it really wasn't as graphic as advertised). I was also pleased (while simultaneously offended) at the progressive description of female sexuality. Especially after reading such criticisms as Moran and Greer, this is a book written by a man over 250 years ago in which he credits women with active sexual desire. However, I was offended by the fact that the portrayal did not come across as accurate. Instead, it really does read like a bad porno movie. You can just see the male perspective "you know she wants it, can't you tell she just really, really wants it" oozing out of the text and the implication is less that a woman would become a prostitute out of economic necessity and more that the women who are prostitutes are self-selected nymphomaniacs who just can't get enough sex. The plot itself was ridiculously bad and contrived and full of conveniences. The heroine very easily stumbles across peepholes and is able to watch all sorts of scenes during which she is "educated" on the ways of the pleasure seekers. Similarly, all of the prostitutes end up losing their virginity to men that are attractive and young and to whom they are immensely attracted. I thought the first episode in which Fanny almost loses her virginity to the fat old man to be most realistic and was disappointed that it wasn't consummated (or at least have one other girl with a similar story in which it was consummated). It was just way too disney-fied (if I can apply that term to something so clearly not disney-esque) with the love story angles on top of the prostitution. Along with this, the girls paramours (and long term "keepers") were also usually attractive and young or at least not disguisting. The only two men who are slightly unattractive are the chubby guy who gets off on masochistic acts and the small dicked guy who needs viagra. But ultimately, Fanny doesn't really mind either of these fellows. The ending was also annoying in part because she was conveniently re-united with Charles (and now she's rich to boot), but also because despite the fact that the lesson here is really "living with Vice isn't so bad" but Cleland tries to change it to "Virtue is better". She does not choose virtue and is then rewarded; she has chosen vice, is rewarded monetarily and then is re-united with Charles and choses virtue simply because she wants no other man. It is just sort of "blechh-y", but I would imagine a necessary conclusion to this novel back when it was written. There were two language points that I was surprised with: "Does" was used to describe the prostitutes and I wondered if this was a slang that somehow originated from or led to the term "john doe" (especially since men who frequent prostitutes are now called johns); and she describes being taken from behind while lying on her side as "spoon-fashion", which made me wonder if it originated the term "spooning". Just interesting to see sexual slang from modern times used in a book like this. Finally, I was offended that Fanny was so put out by homosexuals. She describes it all as unnatural and wants to call in the police after witnessing a homo-erotic act. What? Really? She is fine with a guy hiring her to tie him up and beat him with switch until he bleeds and even allows this same dude to hit her clit with the switch but yet she is offended just because some guys want to have sex with each other? This just seemed a bit unbelievable. Especially given that I have heard that use of the "back door" was fairly common as a type of birth control; why would she find it so unnatural and offensive. Overall it is an amazingly interesting book from a historical perspective. The smut isn't bad, but the plot is awful.

  15. 5 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    Frequently sexy in the first half, predictably flaccid in the second. S’always the way.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    This was pretty fucking awful. The writing is terrible - I don't care what century you're from. Entire paragraphs that consist of one long, bloated sentence with about fourteen commas? Kill me. And I'm not exaggerating when I say that this guy loved the absolute shit out of synonyms. He crammed those babies, three and four at a time, into sentences that I was barely following in the first place. He couldn't tell you, for instance, about that whore over there with the pale white skin without also This was pretty fucking awful. The writing is terrible - I don't care what century you're from. Entire paragraphs that consist of one long, bloated sentence with about fourteen commas? Kill me. And I'm not exaggerating when I say that this guy loved the absolute shit out of synonyms. He crammed those babies, three and four at a time, into sentences that I was barely following in the first place. He couldn't tell you, for instance, about that whore over there with the pale white skin without also making sure you know that her skin is milky, pearly, snowy and ivory as well. He also really loved referring to the penis as a: weapon of destruction, instrument of battering, tool of attack. In short, penises are SCURRY, YA'LL! Watch out for those damn things. I'm not sure why anyone even remembers this dude's name except for the sheer shock factor of him having written such a porny pornaganza in a time when it was generally accepted that one should keep their porniness to themselves instead of sharing it amongst their fellows in written form. I'd like to travel back in time and puncture the weird, delusional bubble he lived in, in which orphaned children forced into prostitution somehow love and are super turned on by their aforementioned horrific predicament. And then there is romance. Aw. How cute.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Anya (~on a semi-hiatus~)

    It was free on Gutenberg and seventeen year old Anya wanted some sexy fun times. Unfortunately, this book was pure porn with no sexy fun times to be had. Seventeen year old Anya was very disappointed. :c

  18. 4 out of 5

    Konstantin

    Still beats much of today's erotica.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Charity

    Hooray for smut! Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure is widely considered the first pornographic novel and one of the most heavily banned books around. I thought it was an enjoyable read overall (though I found the first part/letter more entertaining than the second), but it really doesn't have much more storyline than modern-day porn. I also would have to agree with other reviewers who complained of it being rather penis-centric (the women just ooh and aah over all the amazing penises) Hooray for smut! Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure is widely considered the first pornographic novel and one of the most heavily banned books around. I thought it was an enjoyable read overall (though I found the first part/letter more entertaining than the second), but it really doesn't have much more storyline than modern-day porn. I also would have to agree with other reviewers who complained of it being rather penis-centric (the women just ooh and aah over all the amazing penises), hypocritical with regard to homosexual sex (women with women was fine; men with men, not so much), and overly chauvinistic (a woman can't be anything without a man...duh). However, I did really enjoy the character of Fanny Hill and think that her wily ways are enough to make every prude blush and make Samantha Jones (of Sex and the City fame) proud...even if the ending was a bit of a cop out (again with the chauvinism).

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cecily

    Anne says "Cleland was the first writer to represent sexual acts as something beautiful, rather than vulgar or ridiculous." Her full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... Anne says "Cleland was the first writer to represent sexual acts as something beautiful, rather than vulgar or ridiculous." Her full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Free download available at Project Gutenberg. Opening lines: I sit down to give you an undeniable proof of my considering your desires as indispensable orders. Ungracious then as the task may be, I shall recall to view those scandalous stages of my life, out of which I emerged, at length, to the enjoyment of every blessing in the power of love, health and fortune to bestow; whilst yet in the flower of youth, and not too late to employ the leisure afforded me by great ease and affluence, to cultiva Free download available at Project Gutenberg. Opening lines: I sit down to give you an undeniable proof of my considering your desires as indispensable orders. Ungracious then as the task may be, I shall recall to view those scandalous stages of my life, out of which I emerged, at length, to the enjoyment of every blessing in the power of love, health and fortune to bestow; whilst yet in the flower of youth, and not too late to employ the leisure afforded me by great ease and affluence, to cultivate an understanding, naturally not a despicable one, and which had, even amidst the whirl of loose pleasures I had been tossed in, exerted more observation on the characters and manners of the world than what is common to those of my unhappy profession, who, looking on all though or reflection as their capital enemy, keep it at as great a distance as they can, or destroy it without mercy. I wonder why this book was considered as a banned book. Just found out at Wikipedia: In the 19th century, copies of the book were sold "underground." The book eventually made its way to the United States, where in 1821 it was banned for obscenity. It was not until 1963, after the failure of the British obscenity trial of Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1960 that Mayflower Books, run by Gareth Powell, published an unexpurgated paperback version of Fanny Hill. The police became aware of the 1963 edition a few days before publication, after spotting a sign in the window of the Magic Shop in Tottenham Court Road in London, run by Ralph Gold. An officer went to the shop and bought a copy and delivered it to the Bow Street magistrate Sir Robert Blundell, who issued a search warrant. At the same time, two officers from the vice squad visited Mayflower Books in Vauxhall Bridge Road to determine if quantities of the book were kept on the premises. They interviewed the publisher, Gareth Powell, and took away the only five copies there. The police returned to the Magic Shop and seized 171 copies of the book, and in December Ralph Gold was summonsed under section 3 of the Obscenity Act. By then, Mayflower had distributed 82,000 copies of the book, but it was Gold rather than Mayflower or Fanny Hill who was being tried, although Mayflower covered the legal costs. The trial took place in February 1964. The defence argued that Fanny Hill was a historical source book and that it was a joyful celebration of normal non-perverted sex—bawdy rather than pornographic. The prosecution countered by stressing one atypical scene involving flagellation, and won. Mayflower decided not to appeal. However the case had highlighted the growing disconnect between the obscenity laws and the social realities of late 1960s Britain, and was instrumental in shifting views to the point where in 1970 an unexpurgated version of Fanny Hill was once again published in Britain. Overdrafts of Pleasure - The Paris Review

  22. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    Divided into two long letters written by Fanny to a female friend, this feels like a book of two halves. The first makes an intervention into the standard story of the innocent young woman, alone and without resources: Fanny makes her way to London, falls in love then loses her beloved Charles. Taken advantage of, and after a brief period of distress, rather than wringing her hands Fanny finds herself taking to her new-found role as a purchased mistress and rather good at both giving and taking Divided into two long letters written by Fanny to a female friend, this feels like a book of two halves. The first makes an intervention into the standard story of the innocent young woman, alone and without resources: Fanny makes her way to London, falls in love then loses her beloved Charles. Taken advantage of, and after a brief period of distress, rather than wringing her hands Fanny finds herself taking to her new-found role as a purchased mistress and rather good at both giving and taking sexual pleasure. This is definitely the better half, and makes interesting reading alongside other C18th novels such as Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded and Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady. Fanny isn't extraordinarily beautiful, she is economically-disadvantaged yet is given some agency, something figured by the way in which she is the owner of a gaze which dwells lasciviously on the physical charms of her male lovers, putting them into the position of being looked at in a way which is usually reserved for women. The second half is actually duller (unless you're reading this merely as a piece of 'pornography' in which case it's definitely more inventive!) as Fanny takes up residence in an upmarket brothel. What makes this such a scandalous novel is the ending: (view spoiler)[ rather than being castigated and punished, Fanny triumphs - she inherits a fortune from one of her clients, and is happily reunited with Charles, her lost love, and ends up with an unexpectedly happy-ever-after ending, married to the only man she's always loved and deliriously happy! (hide spoiler)] An antidote to the moralistic narratives about sin and punishment such as that we see in Hogarth's series of paintings, this is unexpectedly subversive for the way in which Fanny is both innocent and whore, and yet still gets her happy ending. It just would have been nice if there'd been a bit more story and fewer encounters with yet another massive penis in part two!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    This is what happens when you read too much Alan Moore. I actually enjoyed this story more than I thought. I wasn't really sure what to expect, it's porn after all. I liked the disruptions though. Some of them read liked a regular novel and some (most the sex scenes) got overly ridiculous which made the book fun. Most of this was dated though. I'll give it slack for being one of the earliest erotica novels in English. Modern erotic novelist, such as Anaïs Nin, are better, in my opinion.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I had no idea when I read this that people could be so naughty "back then". Heh. I am thinking I wouldn't even blink at the book now and would probably grumble at the lack of plot - but when I was a teen and I read this - it was shocking and kind of funny.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stinky Girl

    This is a great book of all the sexual escapades of a lady of leasure and pleasure. I recommend it to all.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Grace Harwood

    Oh my Goodness, I find it so hard to believe that this book came out of the same century as the works of Mrs Radcliffe!! I could hardly believe what I was reading as something which came out just a few decades earlier than those Radcliffean novels of sensibility and refined heroines. Fanny Hill is anything but refined. From Radcliffe you will get elongated descriptions of scenery which will elevate your soul - from this you get elongated descriptions of something else... mainly genitalia. I read Oh my Goodness, I find it so hard to believe that this book came out of the same century as the works of Mrs Radcliffe!! I could hardly believe what I was reading as something which came out just a few decades earlier than those Radcliffean novels of sensibility and refined heroines. Fanny Hill is anything but refined. From Radcliffe you will get elongated descriptions of scenery which will elevate your soul - from this you get elongated descriptions of something else... mainly genitalia. I read the Penguin Popular Classics edition and like all eighteenth century texts, it takes a few pages to "get your ear in tune" and start decoding the flowery language, but once you get past that, well... I was shocked and amused in equal measure. I think the one thing you can say about this book, is that you can definitely tell that it was written by a man with a male perspective of women and sex. What woman in her right mind would say of herself: "Violent passions seldom last long, and those of women least of any." (p.81) Also, some of the things Fanny engages in with alacrity - well, I don't think I'd be that keen, but maybe I'm doing it wrong. Once you get past the (many and frequent) descriptions of male and female genitalia and various sexual adventures, this is an interesting book if you are a student of the 18th Century. There's commentary on degeneration of the species in here ("...kept me constantly in exercise till dawning of morning; in all which time he made me fully sensible of the virtues of his firm texture of limbs, his square shoulders, broad chest, compact hard muscles, in short, a system of manliness that might pass for no bad image of our ancient sturdy barons, whose race is now so thoroughly refined and frittered away in the more delicate and modern-built frame of our pap-nerved softlings, who are as pale, as pretty, and almost as masculine as their sisters." p. 85) and on the class system and society in general ("We visited one another in form, and mimicked, as near as we could, all the miseries, the follies, and impertinences of the women of quality, in the round of which they trifle away their time, without its ever entering into their little heads that on earth there cannot subsist anything more silly, more flat, more insipid and more worthless than, generally considered, their system of life: they ought to treat men as their tyrants, indeed! were they to condemn them to it." p. 88) There's also a story to be found in Fanny's history of the four short years of prostitution from the age of 15 to 19. I worried about her at the end when she offered her fortune to her returned first lover - life in the eighteenth century was so precarious she could so easily have fallen foul of that. However, it seems that he was an honourable man after all and a happy ending was on the cards for her. Like other reviewers, I couldn't help thinking about disease and the threat of violence which must have been far more prevalent than the blithe Fanny relates in her tale. Also, I couldn't help thinking about Mrs Radcliffe, particularly when I read (on two occasions in the book) of the women "...who received him as he pushed at once dead at the mark like a heroine, without flinching;..." It seems to me like there's heroines and HEROINES in 18th century literature - and it depends which book you read as to which type you are reading about. This is a vastly entertaining book. I've never read those fifty shades books but I'm told that the quality of writing is terrible. However, in here there is a bit of everything: straight sex, gay sex, voyeurism, orgies, sado-masochism AND it's well-written.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Jacquie

    I have a thing where I MUST read controversial/banned books, and this one I HAD to read being that it was written in 1748! Controversial books written before America was even a country... I'm in. Not big on romance, and I definitely don't read erotica. I went in thinking this would be amusingly tame and innocent, something like Moll Flanders or Vanity Fair with an R rating a bit ahead of it's time. 1963, the US let up on obscenity laws and amazing books were published for the public to read. This I have a thing where I MUST read controversial/banned books, and this one I HAD to read being that it was written in 1748! Controversial books written before America was even a country... I'm in. Not big on romance, and I definitely don't read erotica. I went in thinking this would be amusingly tame and innocent, something like Moll Flanders or Vanity Fair with an R rating a bit ahead of it's time. 1963, the US let up on obscenity laws and amazing books were published for the public to read. This book is one of many that were able to to see the light of day legally, and I've found I've enjoyed most of these so far. Except this one. This is the first where I felt there was no purpose except for a man who wanted to write a long winded fantasy as a woman. From there, he gives a misogynistic perspective about loss of virginity, easy women, and basically painfully drawn out sex scenes. Which is totally okay if that is your thing! I'm not judging. While the writing is surprisingly fluid and reads well, the subject matter is 100% erotic. And at times funny. If there is anything about this book I did like, it was the description of anatomy and certain acts. Maypoles will never be the same. I read a few passages out loud to my boyfriend and mum, who both laughed with me. I was a bit frowny at parts because the author writes from the perspective(s) of women enjoying a man taking advantage of them when they put up a fight (um, its rape period) but the men giving them such "pleasure" makes the deflowering act forgivable and the woman forever fond of her rapist. It's formulaic: innocent girl + interesting boy = curious but reluctant girl. Curious but reluctant girl + man overpowers girl = girl having feelings of guilt and feeling forever ruined... but enjoyed the act so much she can only ever lead a life now of ill-repute. Hence, the main character's exploits all take place in an upscale brothel. I saw the book to the end. Wouldn't do it again. Historically amusing, came away with some vocabulary for 18th century anatomy. Awesome. * I rate everything 5 stars to check off I've read them, unless I hate them. I'm lazy. ;)

  28. 5 out of 5

    katerina ☕

    This is just some well written porn. That's it. There was no plot, no story whatsoever, just a main character who fell in love with a different man every couple of pages and a lot, I mean a lot, of sex. I actually skipped some of the sex parts, because they got too repetitive and boring after a while. Nothing really happens in this book and I was a bit disappointed by that. I was actually quite excited to read this because of how controversial it was when it first came out all those years ago, and This is just some well written porn. That's it. There was no plot, no story whatsoever, just a main character who fell in love with a different man every couple of pages and a lot, I mean a lot, of sex. I actually skipped some of the sex parts, because they got too repetitive and boring after a while. Nothing really happens in this book and I was a bit disappointed by that. I was actually quite excited to read this because of how controversial it was when it first came out all those years ago, and I live for controversial books. I was expecting an intriguing story, but all I got was freaking porn. I read it super quickly though, which I guess is a plus.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Namie

    "Having very curiously and attentively compared the size of that enormous machine, which did not appear, at least to my fearful imagination, less than my wrist, and at least three of my hand-full long, to that of the tender small part of me which was framed to receive it, I could not conceive its being possible to afford it entrance without dying, perhaps in the greatest pain, since she well knew that even a finger thrust in there hurt me beyond bearing." --By John Cleland, Memoirs of Fanny "Having very curiously and attentively compared the size of that enormous machine, which did not appear, at least to my fearful imagination, less than my wrist, and at least three of my hand-full long, to that of the tender small part of me which was framed to receive it, I could not conceive its being possible to afford it entrance without dying, perhaps in the greatest pain, since she well knew that even a finger thrust in there hurt me beyond bearing." --By John Cleland, Memoirs of Fanny Hill John Cleland masterful portrayal of a woman of pleasure reads like poetic dictation but with the content of contemporary pornography. However tasteful the prose, “enormous machine” is just a poetic description of a hugh cock, the novel towards the end drags from one sexual episode to another. Granted the first 100 pages are nothing other than pure erotic ecstasy, but like the novelty of a new porn, the lust starts to fade and the yearning for the end become mildly impatience. Besides from my impatience as a reader, the content gave insightful perspective in the mind of a highly sexual woman. The great advantage Fanny Hill gave to men who read the book are the apparent perils and “great pains” women endure in sexual relationships. Now Fanny Hill was a prostitute, but the attempts she makes to have somewhat monogamous sexual relationship with a man is universal even in today’s standards. Today’s standards give women sexual freedom and social acceptances to engage in monogamous or polygamous relationships. Fanny Hill, a woman who was extremely progressive for her time, learned the power she held over men and the power men held over her. She was a woman who listened to her conscious. Who engaged and satisfied her sexual appetite and pleased her partner. Fanny Hill looked upon sex as an art to learn, to be educated by, to practice freely and openly. Sex to Fanny Hill was an intimate act, of not only self-discovery, but of self-expression. I commend Fanny Hill for her art and for expressing her high limbo tastefully and applicably. She used her sexuality to form a profession. She satisfied men's exotic fantasies as well as her own. Fanny Hill knew who she was and acted appropriately. Her endurance to cleverly negotiate the dangers of being a woman of pleasure is to be acknowledged and appreciated. And I thank John Cleland for writing and publishing this novel. To note, like pornography, "The Memoirs of Fanny Hill" should be read with one’s sexual partner, because when the moments strikes you while reading the explicit words, it is best to have a partner near by to satisfy the unavoidable lust for touch, intimacy, and intercourse.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nuno R.

    A classic of erotic writing. Truly interesting to know how 18th century England society thought of sex and how men and women were suposed to behave in their roles. In this aspect, we have prety much an hyperbole of what still echoes today. Men are heroic figures, with big (sometimes irrealisticaly gigantic) penises, that lead what happens in bed and have an animalistic sexual energy. Women are dualistic. Trapped between the flesh temptations and very narrow spiritual path choices. They start as A classic of erotic writing. Truly interesting to know how 18th century England society thought of sex and how men and women were suposed to behave in their roles. In this aspect, we have prety much an hyperbole of what still echoes today. Men are heroic figures, with big (sometimes irrealisticaly gigantic) penises, that lead what happens in bed and have an animalistic sexual energy. Women are dualistic. Trapped between the flesh temptations and very narrow spiritual path choices. They start as chaste, we could almost say assexual. Sex is something that frightens them, like the male sexual energy does. They are fragile and pure. And purity means not yet touched (tainted) by sex. And then they become sexual. And when that happens, they discover that they like it. And they like it a lot. Men have to lead them, from ecstasy to ecstasy, because they lose control. They can become hysterical. Cleland writes a very exagerated book, a boring narrative unrelated to human sexuality, and by my modern standards and expectations, very unerotic. His style is intense and explicit, always trying to outshine himself in the next page, with descriptions of sexual acts that are even more emotional and leading to a paroxism of pleasure. Unlike Sade or Masoch, he does not wander into darker regions of human desire. What he does, quite repetitively, is to describe the lead character, Fanny Hill, as a pleasure starving young woman that achives the heigths of sexual enjoyment as she is being handled by her lovers. Interestingly there are some vague parallels with the lead character of The Lady of the Camellias, which would be published 1848, exactely 100 years later. This novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils, is in no way erotic writting, but the lead character is also "tainted" by sex, becoming a woman that men go to for pleasure. And she also, like Fanny Hill, becomes madly in love, dreaming that her love will take her away from that life. Maybe these novels are the ones that created the stories that would make the myth that mitigates the guilt associated with the inability of dealing with the problem of prostitution. That myth is the one we see in the film "Pretty Woman", oddly considered by many the perfect romantic comedy. This was a very hard book for me to read, and it is the first one that I am reviewing at Goodreads without finishing it (the last pages are left unread). It is, to a certain degree, dull and repetitive. To a point, it can be exciting, and entertaining, if our imagination goes back a few centuries. But it becomes too long, and the formula does not survive the length of the book.

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