Fanny Hill: Or, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure

( 40 )

Overview

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 naïve 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 ...

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Fanny Hill: or, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure

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Overview

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 naïve 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A rare achievement . . . a ray of sunshine in the gloomy world of lust."
--Erica Jong
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375758089
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/11/2001
  • Series: Modern Library Classics Series
  • Edition number: 2001
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,453,383
  • Product dimensions: 5.23 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary Gautier is a professor at the University of Colorado and the author of the book Landed Patriarchy in Fielding’s Novels: Fictional Landscapes, Fictional Genders.
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Read an Excerpt

Volume I

Madam,

Sit down to give you an undeniable proof of my considering your desires as indispensible orders: ungracious then as the task may be, I shall recall to view those scandalous stages of my life, out of which I emerg'd 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 tost 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 thought or reflexion as their capital enemy, keep it at as great a distance as they can, or destroy it without mercy.

Hating, as I mortally do, all long unnecessary prefaces, I shall give you good quarter in this, and use no farther apology, than to prepare you for seeing the loose part of my life, wrote with the same liberty that I led it.

Truth! Stark naked truth, is the word, and I will not so much as take the pains to bestow the strip of a gauze-wrapper on it, but paint situations such as they actually rose to me in nature, careless of violating those laws of decency, that were never made for such unreserved intimacies as ours; and you have too much sense, too much knowledge of the originals themselves, to snuff prudishly, and out of character, at the pictures of them. The greatest men, those of the first and most leading taste, will not scruple adorning their private closets with nudities, though, in compliance with vulgar prejudices they may not think them decent decorations of the stair-case or saloon.

This, and enough, premised, I go souse into my personal history. My maiden name was Francis Hill. I was born at a small village near Liverpool in Lancashire, of parents extremely poor, and I piously believe, extremely honest.

My father, who had received a maim on his limbs that disabled him from following the more laborious branches of country-drudgery, got, by making of nets, a scanty subsistance, which was not much enlarg'd by my mother's keeping a little day-school for the girls in her neighbourhood. They had had several children, but none lived to any age, except myself, who had received from nature a constitution perfectly healthy.

My education, till past fourteen, was no better than very vulgar; reading, or rather spelling, an illegible scrawl, and a little ordinary plain-work, composed the whole system of it: and then all my foundation in virtue was no other than a total ignorance of vice, and the shy timidity general to our sex, in the tender stage of life, when objects alarm, or frighten more by their novelty, than any thing else: but then this is a fear too often cured at the expence of innocence, when Miss, by degrees, begins no longer to look on man as a creature of prey that will eat her.

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Table of Contents

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 philosphical 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 thoroghly 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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Reading Group Guide

1.  Fanny Hill is the first pornographic novel in English literature. Why do you think it surfaced in the mid-1700s? Do you think it complemented or contrasted with the London of that time?

2.  Some modern critics compare Fanny Hill to Defoe’s Moll Flanders. Is this an accurate comparison? Why or why not?

3.  Some have argued that there are definite morals in this novel, as evidenced by the straight, truthful Fanny as opposed to Richardson’s Pamela, in which sex is used to attract a husband. Is Fanny a moral woman?

4.  When Fanny Hill was published, many opposed to the work were part of upper-class society. Why do you think that was? What is Cleland saying about the upper class in his descriptions of the lower class?

5.  Some critics feel Fanny Hill has endured because of its uninhibited heroine. She has been described as “an ideal of both male and female fantasy: a woman who is extremely exciting to men, who delights in her own sexuality” (J. H. Plumb). Do you agree with this description? Do you agree with the critics’ assessment?

6.  Fanny “rewins” her domestic life and lover in the end, journeying from a lower-class prostitute to a virtuous, married lady. What is Cleland saying here? Was he simply giving a tidy ending to his book?

7.  Fanny Hill lacks dramatic tension and events, and Cleland seems to lack the ability to weave narration with digression. Does this hurt the book?

8. As the second letter progresses, Fanny’s exploits turn from the perverse to less wild escapades. How does this affect her and the story?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 40 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(11)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

(15)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2011

    Erotic and Exciting - Must Read!

    I bought this on a whim and wasn't sure if I'd like it - Turns out I LOVE this book! I highly recommend the Fanny Hill book to anyone looking for a bit of excitement and erotica in a book.

    You'll enjoy every page as I did.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2012

    Terrible format

    Not worth the money. Odd formatting of the text.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2013

    I enjoyed it

    It is one of those that you have to take your time reading. This book was banned for a while for obvious reasons. It is very interesting with a great ending. Good interesting details.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2013

    Recommend as a historical read

    I always wondered what this book was about and why it was such a hushed book in its time. It is quite interesting to read the ideas and value system of this era. It is a good book for those who might think that woman were not less than second class chattel in the last 100 plus years. Reading this book just puts perspective onto a young woman's sexual situation and lack of freedom. For that reason alone it'sworth the time to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2012

    Terrible

    Cannot get past the first page.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2011

    classic erotica

    brings back memories of yesteryear

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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