Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, commonly known as Fanny Hill, has been shrouded in mystery and controversy since John Cleland completed it in 1749. The Bishop of London called the work 'an open insult upon Religion and good manners' and James Boswell referred to it as 'a most licentious and inflaming book'.The story of a prostitute's rise to respectability, it has been recognized more recently as a unique combination of parody, sensual entertainment and a philosophical concept of sexuality borrowed from French libertine novels. Modern readers will appreciate it not only as an important contribution to revolutionary thought in the Age of Enlightenment, but also as a thoroughly entertaining and important work of erotic fiction, deserving of a place in the history of the English novel beside Richardson, Fielding and Smollett.
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John Cleland was born in 1710, eldest son of William Cleland, an officer and friend of the Pope. For a while hoe worked for the East India Company, rising from soldiers to businessman to secretary of the Bombay Council, though he returned to London in 1741. He then became a literary hack and journalist and was imprisoned for debt on several occasions, and on one such occasion used the time to write Fanny Hill. He died in Westminster in January 1789.
Peter Wagner is a lecturer at the Catholic University of Eichstatt in Bavaria. His books in English include a study of Puritanism in colonial New England, and a survey of erotica in the age of Enlightenment.
"A rare achievement . . . a ray of sunshine in the gloomy world of lust."
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