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Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure

3.32  ·  Rating Details ·  8,368 Ratings  ·  642 Reviews
Fanny Hill, also known as Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, has been a notorious novel since it first appeared in London in 1748-9. Banned for its "obscene" content, this fictional account of a young woman's unconventional route to middle-class respectability is, in fact, a lively and engaging comic romp through the boudoirs and brothels of Augustan England, with a heroine w ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 234 pages
Published 1985 by Penguin Books (first published 1748)
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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
Emily May
Aug 19, 2012 Emily May rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Emily May by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
Shelves: erotica, classics, 2012
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
Jun 06, 2014 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 and 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
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
Oct 14, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: emily and other aficionadas of filthy, filthy, lovely filthy filth
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
Ron Nie
What an adorably ridiculous pornographic romp through London.
Ten points to the author for Fanny's rapid fire orgasms, "any port in a storm" scene (read: intimations of anal sex), lady on lady action, and whipping.
God I love the 18th century.

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 ...more
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.
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 ...more
Jan 25, 2014 Stela rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews

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 revo
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 ...more
Jun 27, 2016 Anya rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: el-clásico, meh
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
Jan 18, 2010 Charity rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sexy Folk
Shelves: 1001books
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)
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
Ana Lúcia
Jan 31, 2015 Ana Lúcia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fanny Hill – Memórias de uma Prostituta, considerado o primeiro romance erótico da modernidade, foi escrito em 1748, quando John Cleland, estava preso por dívidas.
Publicado pela primeira vez em 1749, os preconceitos da época impediram a sua livre circulação, mas não conseguiram embaciar o êxito a que estava destinado e ao longo dos tempos, tem sido sempre sinónimo da batalha contra a censura erótica.
Este livro consegue ser uma obra de arte, da qual sobressai, beleza, poesia e delicadeza na narra
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
Orbi Alter
Obozavam klasike! Ta percepcija zena koje padaju u trans za muskarcem probudi razlicite vrste negativno nijansiranih emocija u meni, pa sam i dalje u potrazi za kvalitetnijim erotskim klasikom kojeg potpisuje zena i to s nadom u nesto drugaciju perspektivu. Hoce li onda i one bit tako slabe i polunesposobne? Na stranu to, zabavih se slatkastim metaforama umjesto prostacenjima, sve bude dobro na kraju sto me isto malo zacudi s obzirom na vrijeme i kontekst, prava ljubav rasturi sve, a novopeceni ...more
Mar 23, 2009 Jennifer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: classic erotica buffs
Shelves: classics, porn
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.
Grace Harwood
Jan 24, 2014 Grace Harwood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another 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 ...more
Mar 26, 2010 Kim rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, zzzzz, eye-bleach
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
Daniel Namie
Jun 19, 2012 Daniel Namie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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 Hil
Sarah Jacquie
Nov 13, 2009 Sarah Jacquie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romance, erotic
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 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
Jul 19, 2012 Veerle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: movie
‘Fanny Hill, memoirs of a woman of pleasure’ is an eighteenth century erotic novel by John Cleland and is historically known as one of the first English prose pornographies. The author was arrested for writing such a scandalous book, and was only released on the promise he would never write such a thing again. The book was put on the forbidden literature list en wasn’t taken off until the 1960’s.

Most noticeable in this story is that sex is something women can appreciate. In that age and even mor
Mar 13, 2012 Taylor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Do you ever have those books where you have always wanted to read them and then you read them and you love them? This is one of them. I had heart of this book and I must say that I REALLY enjoyed it. It was beautifully written. I am a fan of erotica and I admire authors that can write it effectively. However, this was a great category. Descriptions were poetic and perfect. I felt as if I were in the bedroom. Every scene where the characters make love is treated so well... dripping with juicy det ...more
This was worth a read for the hundred and one ways to euphemistically describe intercourse and genitalia alone. The way Cleland adopts metaphors, similes, and analogues and then gleefully runs them to the ground is delightful indeed. It would be fun to properly analyse the source areas for his metaphors, and no doubt someone has done just that at some point. The most frequent, I think, were military/fighting terms - you know: dueling, conquering, battling, surrendering and all variations thereof ...more
Aug 07, 2012 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: erotica
It's many years since I last read this book and I must say I enjoyed it just as much this time around. Admittedly there are many flaws but no more so than with many other bawdy classics of the period, and certainly fewer than with some of the books that are currently taking the world by storm. The story of innocent but interested Fanny coming to London and swiftly being caught up in a world of vice is both an 18th century gentleman's wet dream and actually quite modern. At no point does Fanny co ...more
Dec 29, 2016 Sam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, feminism
Well this turned out to be somewhat more graphic and sexually charged than I expected, which at first made for a great story and a very interesting read. But then it started to get a little repetitive as Fanny moves from one man to another, using her sexuality (and little else) to gain their trust and support. That aside, she does still manage to keep a certain level of independence, particularly given the social norms of the era and how these dictate the direction her life goes. Not to mention ...more
Feb 19, 2008 Paula rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In addition to two pages (in my edition) that had blatant formatting errors, making the text difficult at best to read, the book itself was in several ways hypocritical. For example, the "intimate" scenes between two (or more) women in the novel were passed by as natural or innocent while the one (at the end) between two men was vilified and thought unnatural (despite being described in detail). Also, the ending was completely contrived, predictable, and unbelievable. Clearly written by a man pr ...more
Jun 25, 2016 Cecily marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Anne says "Cleland was the first writer to represent sexual acts as something beautiful, rather than vulgar or ridiculous." Her full review here:
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John Cleland (baptised 24 September 1709 – 23 January 1789) was an English novelist most famous and infamous as the author of Fanny Hill: or, the Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure.
John Cleland was the oldest son of William Cleland (1673/4 – 1741) and Lucy Cleland. He was born in Kingston upon Thames in Surrey but grew up in London, where his father was first an officer in the British Army and then a
More about John Cleland...

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“...but we no more choose our passions than our features or complexion.” 10 likes
“Em resumo, há nos homens, quando eles se deixam guiar pelos olhos, uma tal credulidade da qual sua majestosa sabedoria não suspeita, fazendo que os mais avisados dentre eles sejam frequentemente enganados por nós.” 3 likes
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