“By the Author of Fanny Hill”: Selling John Cleland

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In the wake of the court cases that led to the clearing for publication of Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, a handful of publishers rushed other more or less erotic eighteenth-century novels into print, eager to cash in on the new celebrity of Fanny Hill (as it was usually known). In one case, the 1963 Lancer edition of the “suppressed sequel to Fanny Hill,” Memoirs of a Coxcomb, the work in question was certainly Cleland’s. But in two other cases, mildly racy eighteenth-century “memoirs” were blazoned on their covers as “by the Author of Fanny Hill,” despite the absence of any evidence. Both works, the Memoirs of an Oxford Scholar (1756) and Genuine Memoirs of Maria Brown (1766), are nevertheless indebted to Cleland’s work. This article starts by examining the canny, fraudulent marketing of these eighteenth-century erotic novels after Fanny Hill’s revival, including the insertion of newly written, explicit sexual scenes in keeping with late twentieth-century tastes. It then offers close readings of both works, to assess the impact of Cleland’s pioneering novel-memoirs on the later history of erotic literature in the eighteenth century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-57
Number of pages20
JournalEighteenth-Century Life
Issue number2
Early online date1 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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