Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland
One of the most controversial and censored books in English literature, Fanny Hill is regarded as the first original English prose pornography. Notorious for its vivid depiction of sexual exploits in all possible forms, the novel digs up the most thrilling erotic fantasies and pieces them together in a most seductive manner. Published in two installments in 1748 and 1749, the novel was attacked for its obscene content and was consequently banned and withdrawn from publication, due to disparaging moral values whilst promoting debauchery and sexual promiscuity. It is indisputably a tantalizing, erotic novel guaranteed to stir up the imagination and senses.
The novel, which is written through the perspective of fifteen-year-old Fanny Hill, records details of her most intimate experiences. Following the death of her parents, Fanny decides to leave her home village in search of employment in the bustling city of London. In hopes of finding work as a maid, she encounters Mrs. Brown who hires the young girl. However, the job offering is not Fanny’s anticipated position as a maid, and instead realizes that Mrs. Brown is in fact a madam in charge of a brothel. Her intentions are quite clear as she plans to sell the young girl’s virginity to a wealthy client. During her stay with the madam, Fanny shares a bed with prostitute Phoebe Ayers, who introduces her to the world of carnal pleasure. After a near rape ordeal, she witnesses the sexual intercourse between Mrs. Brown and a large man of intriguing physical characteristics. Enticed by such a view, Fanny turns to self-pleasure as a means to subdue her sexual desire. It is not until she falls in love with a wealthy young man that she experiences sex for the first time, however, after her lover vanishes she discovers that love is not an element required for sexual pleasure. Consequently Fanny enters the enigmatic world of lust and sexual hunger, as she experiences pleasure in all its possible occurrences.
An arousing piece of literature, Cleland uses many instances of euphemisms in the novel as a technique to express images, which in turn leaves the audience to the mercy of their imagination. A novel of exploration, experimentation and sexual freedom, Fanny Hill depicts the true nature of passion.
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