Forced by the death of her parents to seek her fortune in London, Fanny Hill is duped into prostitution by an old procuress. In Mrs Brown’s bawdy-house the naive young woman begins her sexual initiation – progressing from innocence to curiosity and desire – and soon embarks on her own path in pursuit of pleasure, until she at last finds true love. John Cleland’s story of Fanny’s rise to respectability was denounced after its publication by the then Bishop of London as ‘an open insult upon Religion and good manners’, while James Boswell called it ‘a most licentious and inflaming book’. But beside its highly entertaining and boisterous depictions of a startling variety of sexual acts, Fanny Hill stands as one of the great works of eighteenth-century fiction for its unique combination of parody, erotica and philosophy of sensuality.
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