After about fifteen years' knowledge of its existence, and having seen the film with Lisa Foster in it twice (although I have yet to see the Russ Meyer version or any of the other 4 or 5 interpretations of the story), even enduring a year of working in a bookshop wherein I got over 20% discount, I've finally gotten around to reading Fanny Hill. Took me long enough. And since I downloaded it from Project Gutenberg and thereby depleted my mother's ink and paper supply, it's not really something I can read on public transport, as it's on a stack of sheets of A4 that I'm keeping in a plastic folder. Effectively, it's my bedtime book.
Something I've noticed about this infamous volume is that the language used by John Cleland is explicit, but in a deliberately flowery manner. I didn't know much about this book (other than the basics of the plot...), and although what struck me first is the fact that it is an epistolary novel - although not exactly overtly so, like The Color Purple or We Need To Talk About Kevin - what struck me second (because after a few pages you're thrown straight into the action) is how similar Cleland's descriptions of sex are to mine. I mean, look at this:
We had now reached the closest point of union; but when he beckened to come on the fiercer, as if I had been actuated by a fear of losing him, in the height of my fury, I twist my legs round his naked loins, the flesh of which, so firm, so springy to the touch, quivered again under the pressure; and now I had him every way encircled and begirt; and having drawn him home to me.
And it often doesn't let up. And yes, it is quite explicit. There's no question as to exactly what our Frances Hill is talking about in these passages. But there aren't any swear-words in it (they weren't as prevalent in printed media during 1748, I assume), and although nothing is veiled, nothing is on display either.
I like it.
So much so that, at bedtime (and often I go to bed quite tired, so having to read this ten pages at a time, whereas were it a paperback I'd have finished it by now), within catching a few paragraphs of this stuff, I am captivated, I've often found my instrument of mischief (again, that's a Cleland line - and I quite like that one) ready for - well - mischief. Not that I've ever done anything about it - I'm not one to start masturbating over a masterpiece of English literature - but I have felt the urge, even if I've been up to mischief myself during the day which precedes the sneaky bed-based consumption of words.
But nevertheless, it turns me on. And that's always a sign of well-written prose.