Perhaps you recall a short while ago when I was deliberating over which edition of Fanny Hill to read. I ended up buying this edition with illustrations by Talia Felix and was not disappointed.
Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland, is the story of a young woman (teenager, really) who moves to the bustle of London and quickly is scooped up by a madame to become a prostitute. Her virginity is sold and Fanny is very near being raped if it weren't for the client's impotence. Fanny is safe for the time being until a new danger appears in the form of falling in love with one of the young men visiting the brothel. They run away together where she does indeed loose her virginity and becomes head over heels in love with him. Unfortunately the two young lovers are separated and Fanny is forced into a life of a kept mistress and later, prostitute. Although she seems to enjoy her profession, her mind always wanders back to her lost love.
Let me first be clear about this book. It is smut. It was written with the intention to titillate and therefore has very little plot yet a large amount of detail when it comes to talking about sex. If you are looking for great literature of the 18th century, you won't find it in Fanny Hill, you will find, however, what tickles a 18th century gentleman's fancy. That in itself is interesting.
What one part of me (the sarcastic, bitter, feminist side) was thinking was, Well, not much has evolved in men's tastes. Penises had to be described in great detail, and size was a big topic. But that is just a detail I have come to expect when it comes to males and topics of sex. One of the first sexual scenes was girl-on-girl, so once again I was thinking about how men are creatures of routine and their tastes haven't evolved much in 200 years, and so on and so forth. But then there was something that I did notice which I found interesting: there was no oral sex. Oral sex was considered to be something the French favored throughout the centuries, and in page after page of the sexual scenes in Fanny Hill, its absence was obvious. It seemed as though this article of foreplay wasn't even a thought, or perhaps it just wasn't attractive to bedroom frolickers in 18th century England, or perhaps that was just Cleland's taste. Another noticeable difference was in the attention to pubic hair Cleland included in his details. The same things we, in the modern age, take great care to hide away, was a real turn-on for both men and women, if we are to believe what Cleland has to say!
As for the edition itself, I was pleased with my selection. I knew I wanted an illustrated version since I'm a visual person [feel free to begin snickering and making comments in context to the book]. I enjoyed Felix's illustrations which were reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley's style and added some fun to a text which can get redundant. Yes, redundant; you might find yourself skipping through the sex scenes once you get halfway through the book. But despite the little plot and large amount of redundant sex scenes I still found myself enjoying Fanny Hill.
That's what she said.