History: Published in 1749, it is the first known erotic novel. It was written while John Cleland was in debtors prison. One of the most prosecuted and banned books in history, it has become a synonym for obscenity.
Plot: The book is written as a series of letters from Fanny Hill to an unknown woman, with Fanny justifying her life-choices to this individual. Frances "Fanny" Hill is a 15-year-old girl with a rudimentary education living in a small village near Liverpool. Shortly after she turns 15, both her parents die. Esther Davis, a girl from Fanny's village who has since moved to London, convinces Fanny to move to the city as well, but Esther inexplicably abandons Fanny once they arrive. Fanny meets Mrs. Brown, a short, obese, rich woman who gives Fanny lodging. Fanny must share a bed with fellow lodger Phoebe Ayres, who seduces Fanny into having lesbian sex the first night.
Unfortunately Mrs. Brown runs a brothel and Fanny is forced to spend an evening with an elderly, impotent, obese man. The man attempts to rape Fanny but fails. Fanny falls into a fever for several days. Mrs. Brown, realizing to her shock that Fanny was not a prostitute but rather a virgin—and that Fanny's virginity is still intact—decides to try to sell Fanny's sexual favors to the exceedingly rich Lord B.
Fanny recovers and spies on Mrs. Brown having sexual intercourse with a muscular, handsome, wealthy man. Fanny masturbates while watching them. That night, Phoebe enlightens Fanny about sex, child-bearing, anal intercourse, and other sexual practices. The next day, Fanny and Phoebe spy on another girl, Polly Ayres, having sex with a muscular, handsome, exceptionally well-endowed young Genoese merchant. Afterward, Phoebe and Fanny engage in mutual masturbation. Six days later, Fanny meets the 19-year-old wealthy nobleman, Charles, and they fall in love instantly. Charles helps Fanny escape the brothel the next day. They go to an inn outside London, where Fanny has sexual intercourse with Charles for several days. Charles takes Fanny to his flat at St. James's, London, and introduces her to his landlady, Mrs. Jones. For many months, Charles visits Fanny almost daily, making love to her.
Fanny works hard to become more educated and urbane. After eight months, Fanny becomes pregnant. Three months later, Charles mysteriously disappears. Mrs. Jones learns that Charles' father has kidnapped his son and sent him to the South Seas to win a fortune. Upset by the news that Charles will be gone at least three years, Fanny miscarries, falls ill, is nursed back to health by Mrs. Jones, and sinks into a deep depression.
Mrs. Jones tells Fanny that the now-16-year-old girl must work as a prostitute for her. Mrs. Jones introduces Fanny to Mr. H., a tall, muscular, hairy-chested rich man. Fanny unwittingly drinks an aphrodisiac, and has sexual intercourse with Mr. H. Fanny concludes that sex can be had for pleasure, not just love. Mr. H puts Fanny up in a new apartment and begins plying her with jewels, clothes, art, and more. After seven months, Fanny discovers the Mr. H. has been having sex with Fanny's maid. Fanny resolves to seduce Will, Mr. H.'s muscular, curly-haired, 19-year-old servant. Will has an extremely large erection: "...not the plaything of a boy, not the weapon of a man, but a Maypole, of so enormous a standard, that, had proportions been observed, it must have belonged to a young giant. ... In short, it stood an object of terror and delight." A month later, Mr. H. catches Fanny having sexual intercourse with Will, and stops supporting Fanny.
Fanny is taken in by Mrs. Cole, the mistress of one of Mr. H.'s friends, who also happens to run a brothel in the Covent Garden neighborhood of London. Fanny meets three other prostitutes, who are also living in the house:
Emily, a blonde girl in her early 20s who ran away at the age of 14 from her country home to London. She met a 15-year-old boy who, being sexually experienced, engaged in sexual intercourse with virgin Emily. Although the two lived together a short time, Emily became a street prostitute for several years before being taken in by Mrs. Cole.
Harriet, a brunette and an orphan raised by her aunt, had her first sexual experience with the son of Lord N., a nobleman whose estate adjoined her relative's.
Louisa, the bastard daughter of a cabinetmaker and a maid who entered puberty at a very young age and began engaging in extensive masturbation. While visiting her mother in London, Louisa began masturbating in her mother's bedroom. The landlady's 19-year-old son caught her and made love to the 13-year-old girl. Louisa spent the next few years having sex with as many men as she could and turned to prostitution as a means of satisfying her lust.
A short time later, Fanny participates in an orgy with the three girls and four rich noblemen. Fanny and her young nobleman begin a relationship, but it ends after a few months because the young man moves to Ireland. Mrs. Cole next introduces Fanny to Mr. Norbert, an impotent alcoholic and drug addict who engages in rape fantasies with prostitutes. Unhappy with Mr. Norbert's impotence, Fanny engages in anonymous sex with a sailor in the Royal Navy. The unfortunate Mr. Norbert soon dies, however. Mrs. Cole then introduces Fanny to Mr. Barville, a rich, young masochist who requires whipping to enjoy sex. After a short affair, Fanny begins a sexual relationship with an elderly customer who becomes sexually aroused by caressing her hair and biting the fingertips off her gloves. After this ends, Fanny enters a period of celibacy.
Emily and Louisa go to a drag ball, where Emily meets a bisexual young man who believes Emily is a man. The truth is discovered, and the man makes love to Emily in his carriage. Fanny is confused by her first encounter with male homosexuality. Shortly after this incident, Fanny takes a ride in the country and takes a room at a public tavern after her carriage breaks down. She spies on two young men engaged in anal homosexual intercourse in the next room. Startled, she falls off a stool and knocks herself unconscious. Although the two men have left, she still rouses the villagers to try to hunt the two men down and punish them.
Some weeks later, Fanny watches as Louisa seduces the teenage son of a local woman. His erect penis is even larger than Will's, Fanny believes. The boy, clearly a virgin, engages in somewhat violent, brutal sex several times with Louisa. Louisa leaves Mrs. Cole's a short time later after falling in love with another young man. Emily and Fanny next are invited by two gentleman to a country estate. They swim in a stream, and the two men have sex with the girls for several hours. Emily's parents soon find their daughter, and (unaware of her career as a prostitute) ask her to come home again. She accepts.
Mrs. Cole retires, and Fanny lives on her savings for a while. One day she encounters a middle-aged man of 45 who looks 60 due to his very poor health. The man falls in love with Fanny but treats her like a daughter. He dies and leaves his small fortune to her. Now 18 years old, Fanny uses her new wealth to try to locate Charles. She learns that he disappeared two and a half years ago after reaching the South Seas. Several months later, a despondent Fanny takes a trip to see Mrs. Cole (who had retired near Liverpool). A storm forces Fanny to stop at an inn along the way, where she runs into Charles: He had come back to England but was shipwrecked on the Irish coast. Fanny and Charles get a room together and make love several times. Fanny tells Charles everything about her life of vice, but he forgives her and asks Fanny to marry him, which she does.
Review: Along the way Fanny is invariably cheerful, and enters into every -- well, almost every -- new encounter with boundless enthusiasm. To say that she's a woman of pleasure is complete understatement: She is the original
Happy Hooker. Her heart may belong to Charles, but the rest of her belongs to anyone who can pay the rent. Many can, and do, and no one has more fun than Fanny. She also learns a few things about men, and women, and life:
Hard-earned wisdom, but wisdom all the same. "Fanny Hill" is more than 2 1/2 centuries old, and at times its language is a trifle dated, but in matters of the human heart and body it is as up to date as anything you'll find in "The Playboy Advisor," and a whole lot more fun.
Written while Cleland was in a debtors' prison and published in two volumes in 1748 and 1749, Fanny Hill caused a storm with its tale of a young and beautiful country girl who, through a series of misfortunes, ends up being forced to work as a prostitute.
A favourite of many an English literature undergraduate, it chronicles a cornucopia of sexual practices, including lesbianism and sado-masochism, and led to the arrest of its author who was charged with corrupting the king's subjects. It is seen as the first erotic novel in the English language.
Fanny Hill traces the heroine's rise from humble beginning to becoming a high-class "specialised" prostitute.
Opening Line: "Madam I sit down to give ou an undeniable proof of my considering you desires as indispensable orders."
Closing Line: "I shall see you soon, and in the meantime think candidly of me, and believe me ever."
Quotes: "And now his waistcoat was unbuttoned, and the confinement of the breeches burst through, when out
started to view the amazing, pleasing object of all my wishes, all my dreams, all my love, the king member indeed!"