Fanny Hill – Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland

With Illustrations by Paul Avril

In 1748, John Cleland (c. 1709-1789) was in debtor’s prison where he finished up Fanny Hill – Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure and made it ready for publication. The novel was published in two installments.  Letter the First  was published in November 1748 and  Letter the Second  was published in February 1749.

Initially, there was no governmental reaction to the novel. However, Cleland was arrested again in November 1749, along with the publishers and printer of Fanny Hill. In court, Cleland disavowed the novel and said that he could only “wish, from my Soul,” that the book be “buried and forgot”. The book was then officially withdrawn and not legally published again for over a hundred years. However, it continued to sell well in pirated editions.

It is one of the most prosecuted and banned books in history. In the 19th century, copies of the book sold underground in the United States, the UK, and throughout Europe. The book has never been truly ‘out of print’.

Efforts to publish the book were prosecuted in 1821 in Massachusetts, in 1963 in London, and in 1963 in New York. However, in a landmark decision in 1966, the United States Supreme Court ruled in  Memoirs v. Massachusetts  that  Fanny Hill  did not meet the Roth standard for obscenity. The book has been readily available since that time.

In 1887, Édouard-Henri Avril (1849-1928) better known as Paul Avril was commissioned to illustrate a French edition of the Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. The two-volume French edition featuring Avril’s illustrations, Mémoires de Fanny Hill, was so successful that the twelve illustrations were also issued separately in a discrete folder to fulfill the demand from a discerning readership.

This edition reproduces the 1748-1749 unexpurgated text and includes the suite of twelve illustrations from Avril.

FannyHill01 Fanny Hill   Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland


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