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John Cleland (1) (1709–1789)

Author of Fanny Hill, or, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure

For other authors named John Cleland, see the disambiguation page.

20+ Works 3,546 Members 59 Reviews

About the Author

Born in London, England in 1709, John Cleland studied at Westminster School. After working and traveling abroad, Cleland wrote the book that has made him notoriously famous to this day. The novel, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, also known as Fanny Hill, details the life and loves of a prostitute show more in 18th century London. A bestseller in its time, Fanny Hill has been heavily censored by various establishments since its inception. In 1749, Cleland was arraigned and reprimanded by the Privy Council in London for his literary obscenity. As a punishment, Cleland was ordered to pay 100 pounds annually and promise not to repeat the offense again. In the early 1960s the highest courts in New Jersey and Massachusetts declared the erotica novel obscene, but on appeal the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the judgments and cleared the book for publication. Cleland, who also spent time studying Celtic philosophy and dramaturgy, died in 1789 at the age of 80. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Works by John Cleland

Memoirs of a Coxcomb (1751) 131 copies
Erotic Tales (1993) 37 copies
Fanny Hill [film] (2008) 9 copies
Fanny Hill - Part One (2003) 6 copies
The Stripteaser (1953) — Contributor — 2 copies

Associated Works

The Olympia Reader (1965) — Contributor — 279 copies
The Columbia Anthology of Gay Literature (1998) — Contributor — 158 copies


Common Knowledge



Viisapipa | 57 other reviews | Nov 25, 2023 |
John Cleland’s 1748 novel Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure tells the story of a young woman who traveled from Lancashire to London seeking work as a domestic, but instead was lured into a brothel. Cleland writes the story from the perspective of Fanny, who is writing in the form of a letter. Amid her erotic encounters, she meets a man named Charles who convinces her to escape. She becomes the kept woman of a wealthy man, but finds that he’s having an affair with his maid, so she has an affair with his footman as revenge. He catches her and she must return to work in a brothel, though for wealthy clients. In the second volume, she describes the various acts at the brothel, spending more time describing others’ activities. Eventually, Fanny retires and has a chance encounter with Charles, whom she marries and with whom she shares the fortune she accumulated over the years.

Cleland published the novel in order to pay his way out of debtors’ prison. Despite its success and numerous knock-off editions, Cleland was arrested and charged with “corrupting the King’s subjects,” though he was freed after renouncing the novel. It remained available in pirate editions from underground booksellers in the U.S. and U.K. from the late-eighteenth through nineteenth centuries. Only in the mid-twentieth century was the book cleared for publication in both nations as the result of court cases and changing public sentiment. Possibly aiding the revised opinions were the book’s historical significance and Cleland’s own writing style in which he eschewed “dirty words” or explicit descriptions in favor of euphemism. The work itself may be of interest to those looking to learn more about late-seventeenth-century sexual mores as well as the history of obscenity in the English-speaking world.
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DarthDeverell | 57 other reviews | Dec 27, 2022 |
This is what happens when you read too much Alan Moore.

I actually enjoyed this story more than I thought. I wasn't really sure what to expect, it's porn after all. I liked the disruptions though. Some of them read liked a regular novel and some (most the sex scenes) got overly ridiculous which made the book fun. Most of this was dated though. I'll give it slack for being one of the earliest erotica novels in English. Modern erotic novelist, such as Anaïs Nin, are better, in my opinion.
Ghost_Boy | 57 other reviews | Aug 25, 2022 |



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