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Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 21 Jan 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New edition edition (21 Jan. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192835653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192835659
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 1.3 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,455,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


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

About the Author

John Cleland wrote 'Fanny Hill', also known as 'Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure', in two instalments whilst serving time in Fleet Prison for a bad debt. In 1749, Cleland was arrested for obscenity, yet denied responsibility for the novel. The book was officially withdrawn, and not officially published again for a hundred years. However, it continued to sell well and was published in pirate editions.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By H. Tee on 30 Nov. 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
Frances `Fanny' Hill is an orphan country lass aged 15. She goes to London to seek her fortune and is soon introduced to a brothel. Her naivety and virginity is a premium value and after a lesbian introduction to intimacy meets some possible clients but ultimately gives in to her first true love, Charles a young man of 19. He is taken away against his will and Fanny must progress her career as a middle class courtesan (she is no street walking strumpet) meeting various fellow girls, masochistic men, well endowed guys, pretending to lose her virginity again, madames etc. She relates her bawdy story in the form of a letter to its conclusion when she is still only 19. This famous story was written in 1749 and Cleland was prosecuted for it. The BBC recently made this into a mini series.

The language is surprising readable given it is 250 years old - indeed I'd even say the olde style is actually the most entertaining aspect of the book. Cleland's turn of phrase is interesting, colourful and flowing. It is quite remarkable how completely explicit the text is using only innuendo; I gave up counting the number of substitute words for `penis' were used in the story. The sex is quite real, one would have no doubts about what our forebears got up to. There is even, much to my surprise, a detailed gay sex scene.

One must accept this is basically not intended to be a naturalism depiction of the real life of a prostitute (though I suppose it does refer to pregnancy and STIs) but rather a fun and diverting erotic story. It is ultimately a moral tale with a happy romantic ending, making it all the better - really fun and recommended.

The 12 illustrations in the kindle edition are apt and explicit (as can be seen on the cover) showing scenes throughout the book; though annoyingly they all occur at the end. Reading on the kindle obviously may offer the reader the reduction in potential (unjustified) teasing in being caught reading the book.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By T. Gambrell on 18 Jun. 2001
Format: Paperback
Literature, as with the other arts, has often courted scandal, and scandal often prevents an objective, rational appreciation of a work until that scandal has become a part of history. Such is the case with 'Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure' ('Fanny Hill'). It is only after the late Twentieth Century relaxation of taboos that we have easy access at the unexpurgated text and can look beyond the purely sexual aspects of it and consider its place as an Eighteenth Century text, and its importance in the development of the novel. Peter Sabor's critical introductory essay contextualises the piece well, not playing up the eroticism and astutely drawing the reader to comparisons with Samuel Richardson's novel 'Pamela' (1740). One cannot ignore the eroticism of the novel, though, and it would be wrong to do so for therein lie many of its strengths. It is never explicit - although one could claim that in allowing the reader to infer more and to translate mataphor the text becomes more erotic, more of a turn-on. It is a turn-on, even through its archaic metaphors, but one can't help but admire its boldness, energy and creativity. One feels it to be a more worthwhile read than modern, trashy erotic fiction with its expletives and explicit phraseology. Not by any means the best novel of the Eighteenth Century, but one of the better 'anti-Pamelas', and a vital piece in our picture of the development of the novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Didier on 10 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
I'll readily admit one of the reasons I was drawn to this book is its reputation as 'a dirty book' which to my mind it still has. I wouldn't hesitate to read for instance Moll Flanders in a crowded train, but found myself hesitant to do so with 'Fanny Hill', however prudish that may sound. However, read it I did, and it proved to be a very interesting experience though for entirely different reasons.

Is there then no sex in the book? On the contrary, there's lots of it. But if you want to be 'titillated' (as Cleland would say) think twice before you consider reading 'Fanny Hill'. First of all, I think you'll find that since 1749, when 'Fanny Hill' was first published, we have grown accustomed to a lot more, and that in a much more explicit style. Cleland may describe sexual acts but he does so 'without naming names', and in a way this book that once scandalized therefore now at times seems a bit ludicrous (as in 'that store-bag of nature's prime sweets that is so pleasingly attached to its conduit-pipe, from which we receive them;'). At the very least, I found myself admiring Cleland for his virtually endless store of synonyms, euphemisms and circumlocutions. But, given the fact that we (or I at least) are accustomed to a more explicit style, and taking into account that Cleland writes in often extremely long sentences, I found myself rarely 'titillated'.

This does not imply that I did not find myself interested, on the contrary. One of the interesting things about 'Fanny Hill' is that, in terms of philosophy and outlook on life, this is in fact a very middle-class, conservative book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Smiler on 6 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Interesting story of a young, naive women being compelled into the seedier side of life by lack of money and manipulative contacts. She embraces elements of this life for a while, sometimes seemingly enthusiastically, before becoming ultimately disillusioned and yearning for a more traditional set up. Descriptive racy scenes before the reader can titilate but are somewhat repetitive. Gives a reasonable feel of the time and its social mores. A quick read, that you can comfortably dip in and out of without losing the plot.
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