John Cleland, 1709-1789

Biographical note

English novelist most famous and infamous as the author of Fanny Hill: or, the Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure.

In 1748, Cleland was arrested for an £840 debt (equivalent to a purchasing power of about £100,000 in 2005) and put in Fleet Prison, where he remained for over a year. It was while in prison that Cleland wrote and had published Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, which was published in two installments, in November of 1748 and February of 1749. In March of that year, he was released from prison. In November of 1749, Cleland was arrested, along with the publishers and printer of Fanny Hill. In court, Cleland disavowed the novel and said that he could only "wish, from my Soul," that the book be "buried and forgot" (Sabor). The book was officially withdrawn at that point. It was, therefore, never legally published again for over a hundred years. However, it continued to sell well and to be published in pirate editions.

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