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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eighteenth-Century Heroines, 24 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Memoirs Of Fanny Hill A New and Genuine Edition from the Original Text (London, 1749) (Kindle Edition)
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.
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