Fanny Hill, a novel by John Cleland, was first published in England in 1748 and is generally considered to be the first English prose pornography. The book eventually became a topic of controversy for its references to things including lesbian and anal sex, brothels, masturbation, rape, and drugs. The escapades of the female characters were considered to be more than inappropriate and the epitome of obscenity. Although there was no initial ban of the book by the government, Cleland was arrested nearly a year after Fanny Hill’s 1748 publication. Although the church was outraged, newspapers and publishers had no problems promoting the book. "Sex sells," as Fanny Hill proved, even in the 18th century. The novel was published in two installments, November of 1748 and February of 1749. Cleland’s arrest came nearly nine months after the book's second installment when the government claimed he was "corrupting the King’s subjects." The novel was officially banned after Cleland renounced it in court, but this decision failed to keep the book from gaining popularity. Following the court’s decision, Fanny Hill had an extensive publishing history. Soon, derivatives of the novel started to appear in pirate editions. Cleland published an expurgated edition of the novel in March of 1750, but was eventually prosecuted for that too. The novel was banned for obscenity after appearing in the United States in 1821. Copies of Fanny Hill began to be sold “underground” in the 19th century, and in 1963 an unexpurgated paperback version was published by Mayflower Books. In an attempt to elude the obscenity ban, Putnam published the novel under the title Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. Not surprisingly, this version was soon banned. Fanny Hill was still continuously battling censorship when another unexpurgated version was again published in Britain in 1970. Fanny Hill gradually obtained publication rights throughout the 1960's and the ban on the novel was eventually lifted in the United States in 1973. Fanny Hill has been translated in film four times and was recently produced off-Broadway in New York.
  • expurgate:
to amend by removing words, passages, etc., deemed offensive or objectionable.
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