Fanny Hill. John Cleland.

Fanny Hill

John Cleland. Wordsworth Classics: 1993/1748.

One of the early works of Western erotic literature, this novel, in two parts, follows the adventures of a country maid who goes to London and becomes a prostitute. Heavily idealized: she is always well paid, well treated, gets no diseases, never becomes pregnant. At the end, when she catches her man, she spouts off for a while about how much better it is with someone you love, and how much more pleasure is derived from Virtue rather than Vice: a questionable conclusion coming from someone (this applies to the author as well as the character) who so clearly relishes giving full detail to her life’s erotic adventures.

Great line “me, whose natural philosophy all resided in the favourite centre of sense.” Reminiscent of de Sade: reliance on the sense to develop a philosophy. Indeed, and perhaps some interesting conclusions may be drawn, this is the same groundwork of empirical science, which was blossoming roughly at this time; and both empiricism and eroticism were both heavily attacked by the Church.