Excerpted from Fanny Hill by John Cleland. Copyright © 2001 by John Cleland. Excerpted by permission of Modern Library, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
1. Fanny Hill is the first pornographic novel in English literature. Why do you think it surfaced in the mid-1700s? Do you think it complemented or contrasted with the London of that time?
2. Some modern critics compare Fanny Hill to Defoe’s Moll Flanders. Is this an accurate comparison? Why or why not?
3. Some have argued that there are definite morals in this novel, as evidenced by the straight, truthful Fanny as opposed to Richardson’s Pamela, in which sex is used to attract a husband. Is Fanny a moral woman?
4. When Fanny Hill was published, many opposed to the work were part of upper-class society. Why do you think that was? What is Cleland saying about the upper class in his descriptions of the lower class?
5. Some critics feel Fanny Hill has endured because of its uninhibited heroine. She has been described as “an ideal of both male and female fantasy: a woman who is extremely exciting to men, who delights in her own sexuality” (J. H. Plumb). Do you agree with this description? Do you agree with the critics’ assessment?
6. Fanny “rewins” her domestic life and lover in the end, journeying from a lower-class prostitute to a virtuous, married lady. What is Cleland saying here? Was he simply giving a tidy ending to his book?
7. Fanny Hill lacks dramatic tension and events, and Cleland seems to lack the ability to weave narration with digression. Does this hurt the book?
8. As the second letter progresses, Fanny’s exploits turn from the perverse to less wild escapades. How does this affect her and the story?