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GirlGenius Suggests -- Fanny Hill (ADULTS ONLY!!)

Updated on December 2, 2008

Great Literature that gets an NC-17

John Cleland wrote the book "Fanny Hill" while he was in jail in 1749. He got sent to debtor's prison because he owed close to US$100,000 in today's money.

Obviously, this is not a guy who shies away from scandal! From the moment it was first printed, "Fanny Hill" has been subject to a lot of controversy. Before we go any further, let me make it clear that the book is tasteful (this was 1749 after all) and graphic in an almost scientific way. There is an objectivity to the descriptions that makes it clear the author wants to tell the story, not seduce the reader!

Okay, so let's get down to the basics. Fanny is a lovely country girl whose parents die suddenly. She takes what little money she has and decides to go to London. What's amazing is that 250 years ago, the idea of "clean country life" vs "the big evil city" was already established.

Sweet innocent Fanny is convinced she can find honest work (probably as a maid of some sort) and in good faith shows up at an "employment agency". But when the end of the day draws near, and no one has shown up with a job to offer, Fanny's in a tough situation. Luck seems to smile upon her, though, as the owner of the agency says she will take Fanny in!

Fanny's good luck is short-lived though. While at first she is overwhelmed at the kindess of her new mistress, things get a little strange when it's time to go to bed. Fannie is to share a bed with an older woman and that would be fine, except... this older woman wastes no time in "deflowering" poor Fanny. It is clear that this woman enjoys this her task and has performed this work on numerous other innocent young girls.

After an initiation period with the older woman, Fanny "graduates" into being able to experience sex with a man. At this point, she will officially become a prostitute. But there is a very high price put on a virgin! And Fanny is considered a real virgin still.

The Madam who runs this house of prostitution has promised Fanny's virginity to a very creepy old man. Yuck!! Fanny finds out about this and escapes just in time -- with the help of a good-looking, well-educated young man. They live in a small hotel together as man and wife (although they never got married) and everything is great! They truly love each other. But one day this charming man disappears. Fanny gets sick for a few weeks, partly from a broken heart, and then must confront all the bills to be paid. The only solution is to become the "companion" of an older guy who has been admiring her in the dining room...

Fanny has many adventures and is not afraid to describe them all. Does love win, in the end? I will leave that for you to discover!

"Fanny Hill" was banned shortly after it was written but pirate copies were constantly in circulation. This book is so controversial that I could find no portraits of the author!

Times have changed a lot since 1749, but human nature has not. John Cleland was one of the first people to write about sex as simply a part of people's lives. He does not try to seduce the reader -- again, the descriptions are objective and not racy. But he does give what sounds like an accurate description of a prostitute's life in the mid-1700's.

The author talks a lot about "springy moss", and in honor of that I have chosen the photo below.

Waterfall and the mossy banks

Opportunity vs Necessity

Do you believe there would be less prostitution if women and girls had more access to education?

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    • girlgenius profile image

      girlgenius 9 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thank you Tony!

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 9 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks for a great Hub about what is indeed a very fine book! Despite many things said about it the book actually is very tasteful and matter-of-fact about what is, after all, an integral part of human life. And the descriptions, as you say, are almost objective. Imagine a book about sex and prositution and all that, without one "dirty" word? It's amazing.

      Love and peace,


    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 9 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      I like Lady Chatterley's Lover and Women in Love - both were made into movies. Unfortunately the film adaptation for Lady Chatterley, though it was good, was overpowered by all that focus on the you know what. I haven't read Women In Love but I love the movie! Can't wait... thanks!

    • girlgenius profile image

      girlgenius 9 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thanks Cris! I'm so glad you enjoyed this hub.

      It may take me a while to get to D.H. Lawrence, but I definitely will. Which is your favorite book of his -- Sons and Lovers? The Rainbow? Lady Chatterley?

    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 9 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      can't wait for you to get to D.H Lawrence! LOL I've read this a looooong time ago but i still appreciate the refresher course! :D