I kept a list of books mentioned in the Outlanders and Lord John books, because that’s how I roll, and Fanny Hill was one of them. It was also free for Kindle. I have many thoughts about it.
Fanny Hill is an erotic novel that was published in the 1740s and immediately became completely scandalous. And I can see why. Fanny is orphaned at 15 and goes to London to seek her fortune. Once there she is taken in by a madam who starts having her trained up in preparation for selling her maidenhead, but before that happens she runs away with a young man who sets her up as his kept mistress.
Chance separates her from Charles and she goes on to live with several other men, and also finds work in the nicest brothel ever. After many lucrative adventures she and Charles find their way back together again – shocker – and marry, to live a life of quiet respectability and wealth.
I kind of thought it was hilarious. Fanny has a series of increasingly outrageous adventures and minutely described sexual escapades and then in the last two pages she talks about how even though she’s had all of this VICE (capitalized) and it was very fun and she made a ton of money doing it, she really prefers VIRTUE, as it is it’s own reward. Except, you know, for all of the orgasms and money.
Honestly, it’s not that great of a book. It’s well written and incisive at points, with a couple of truly great quotes, but I don’t actually think that her character is drawn particularly well. Especially in light of the hypocrisy in the conclusion. The book is told in the way of two letters written to a friend and her voice is clear, but not really her character.
I’m also not well pleased with her, 250 years after the fact, because at one point she spies on some young gay men in an inn and then attempts to get them arrested. She fails, catching a her shoe on a nail in her haste and briefly knocking herself unconscious, but afterwards follows a page and a half of hideous 18th-century style homophobia. This is especially infuriating because the very first sex in the book is Fanny with an older girl at the first brothel. It left a bad taste in my mouth, and I had to go and listen to some John and Percy to make myself feel better before I could finish.
In spite of the few problems with it, I would recommend it though. I sort of love reading scandalous books from other times, and this reinforces my suspicion that it would have been more fun to live in the 18th-century than the 19th. I also love being reminded that people are people are people, and always have been, and there’s nothing like a book actually written in that time to tell you so.