By: John Cleland 1709-1789
Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1749) was the first widely-read English novel in the genre “Erotica.” It was written by John Cleland as he was serving hard time at a debtor’s prison in London. Over the centuries, the novel has been repeatedly banned by authorities, assuring its preeminent role in the history of the ongoing struggle against censorship of free expression.
Until Fanny Hill, previous heroines had conducted their amorous liaisons “off-stage.” Any erotic misadventures were described euphemistically. As women who had gone astray, they always repented, which made even their most outrageous dalliances somehow suitable for a moralistic readership. The protagonist of Fanny Hill, however, never repented a single moment of her sexual exploits … quite the contrary! And with Fanny, the devil is in the details, realistically described.
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