Eighteenth Century Book Review – Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure
by Solomon Philbrick
The Book that I hold in my hands, one Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by one Mr. John Cleland, shall live in infamy for all subsequent times unless we, the English people, do what is necessary for the good of our Nation, and burn all extant copies of this most nefarious Book at the site of the nearest hangman. This vile Book, I daresay, is such an egregious Attack on the morals of our youth, that I found myself reading it twice in one sitting, in order to assure myself that not only had the filth that I had just read actually existed, but to mark and underline every offensive passage, which was not an undaunting task, I assure you.
Mr. Cleland’s Book, told from the perspective of a Whore by the name of Fanny Hill, is replete with tales of the most unnatural acts, Viz. self-love, acts between two members of the same sex and other such grotesqueries that I shall not describe in detail lest I become implicit in so soiling the moral fabrique of you, my dear Reader, as the abominable Mr. Cleland has so clearly sought to do. I know that we English could not possibly imagine such deprav’d and contemptible acts as those which take place within the pages of this Book, so I suspect that Mr. Cleland is a nom de plume, either of some wanton Frenchman or an agent of the Romish Church, seeking to corrupt and undermine the principles of this fair Sceptr’d Isle. The very fact that this Mr. Cleland would stoop to speak from the voice of an English woman is all the more loathsome, for to impute this kind of ill behaviour and rude manner of speech on one of our fairer sex is to tarnish the moral nature of both our Nation and her women.
I must urge you, dear Reader, not to fall into the evil trap of Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. There has not been a greater Attack on our values, nay, on Christianity itself, in many a year. Having read the book not one, but two times I can say with all certainty that the strange feelings that occur’d in my trousers while perusing this toxique tome were not natural by any means, but no doubt the work of Old Scratch Himself as he work’d through the odious pen of Mr. Cleland. I fear that if this Book becom’s well read, the Devil will have caus’d our Nation to stray far from Mr. Sidney’s notion that Poetry should teach as well as delight, for while this foul book delighted me in only the most unwholesome ways, it also taught me the coarseness of one man’s thoughts.