The Memoirs of a Woman for Pleasure, better known under the title Fanny Hill, is an erotic novel. The book is from the English novelist John Cleland. It was first published in London in 1748. The book was written while the writer was under debtors' prison in London. Fanny Hill is the first pornography that uses the form of the novel. The novel was one of the most prosecuted and banned books in history.
Publishing histories[change | change source]
The novel was published under two installments, the first being 21 November 1748 and again in February 1749 by Fenton Griffiths and his brother Ralph.
At first there was no governmental reaction to the novel. But in November 1749, just over a year after the first installment for the book was published, John Cleland and Ralph Griffiths were arrested and charged for "corrupting the King's subjects". Cleland then abandoned the novel in the courts. The book was withdrawn.
As the novel became more popular, pirate editions started appearing.
The book later began coming into the United States. In 1821, a Massachusetts court outlawed Fanny Hill. Its publisher, Peter Holmes, was found guilty for printing a "lewd or obscene" novel. Holmes appealed to the Massachusetts Supreme Court. He then said the judge, relying only on the prosecutor's description, hadn't even seen the book. The state Supreme Court, however, wasn't having it.
Plot[change | change source]
The novel is associated under two letters. They appear as volumes I and II under the original edition. They are written by Frances "Fanny" Hill. She is a rich English woman in middle age. She leads the life of contentment with her husband Charles and their children under an unnamed acquaintance who is known only as "Madam". Fanny has been talked into recounting 'scandalous stages' of her earlier life. Fanny proceeds to do that, having the 'stark naked truth' for her governing principle.
The first letter begins with the short account of Fanny living under poverty during her childhood in a Lancashire village. At age 14, she loses her parents to smallpox. She arrives in London to look for domestic work. She gets lured into a brothel. Fanny sees two sexual acts: one with an ugly older couple, the other between a young attractive couple. She then participates in a lesbian romance with Phoebe, a bisexual prostitution. A customer, Charles, convinces her to escape. Fanny loses her virginity with Charles. She becomes his lover. Charles is sent away under deception to the South Seas. Fanny is driven under desperation and poverty to become the kept woman for a rich merchant named Mr H―. Mr H― later abandons her. She then becomes a prostitute for the wealthy clients of a pleasure house. This is the end of the first letter.
The second letter begins with the reflection on the tedium with writing about sex. Fanny then tells of her adventures in the house of Mrs Cole. They include a public orgy, a bogus sale of her "virginity" to a rich dupe named Mr. Norbert and a sadomasochistic session.
Fanny later retires from prostitution. She becomes the lover for a rich and worldly-wise man around age 60. She becomes wealthy after her lover dies from a sudden cold. Shortly after, she meets Charles again. He has returned to England a poor man. Fanny offer her fortune to him.
Literary or movie adaptations[change | change source]
Because of the book's notoriety (and public domain status), numerous adaptations have been produced. Some of them are:
- Fanny, Being the True History of the Adventures of Fanny Hackabout-Jones (1980) (a retelling of 'Fanny Hill' by Erica Jong purports to tell the story from Fanny's point of view, with Cleland as a character she complains fictionalised her life).
- Fanny Hill (US/West Germany, 1964), starring Letícia Román, Miriam Hopkins, Ulli Lommel, Chris Howland; directed by Russ Meyer, Albert Zugsmith (uncredited)
- The Notorious Daughter of Fanny Hill (US, 1966), starring Stacy Walker, Ginger Hale; directed by Peter Perry (Arthur Stootsbury).
- Fanny Hill (Sweden, 1968), starring Diana Kjær, Hans Ernback, Keve Hjelm, Oscar Ljung; directed by Mac Ahlberg
- Fanny Hill (West Germany/UK, 1983), starring Lisa Foster, Oliver Reed, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Shelley Winters; directed by Gerry O'Hara
- Paprika (Italy, 1991), starring Debora Caprioglio, Stéphane Bonnet, Stéphane Ferrara, Luigi Laezza, Rossana Gavinel, Martine Brochard and John Steiner; directed by Tinto Brass.
- Fanny Hill (UK, 1995), directed by Valentine Palmer.
- Fanny Hill (Off-Broadway Musical, 2006), libretto and score by Ed Dixon, starring Nancy Anderson as Fanny.
- Fanny Hill (UK, 2007), written by Andrew Davies for the BBC and starring Samantha Bond and Rebecca Night.