FANNY HILL By JOHN CLELAND
- To read more about John Cleland, the author of Fanny Hill, CLICK HERE
- To read the text of Fanny Hill, click on the above cover.
- To read the decision in Memoirs v. Massachusetts, CLICK HERE.
An 18th century novel finally freed in the 60s
- Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, or Fanny Hill, was written by John Cleland in 1748. It was banned in England in 1749, and Cleland was forced to renounce the novel. However, the book was very popular, and pirated editions were almost continuously produced and circulated.
- G. P. Putnam’s Sons published the first official American edition in 1963. It was immediately banned for obscenity. Fanny Hill is an erotic novel that has an overall effect of appealing to prurient interest. It is a popular work that is not seen as having the same literary merit as Ulysses and Tropic of Cancer. Therefore, it was not clear that it would fail the Roth test for obscenity. However, Putnam, a large and well-respected popular publisher, challenged the ban in court.
- In Memoirs v. Massachusetts, 383 U.S. 413 (1966), Putnam’s lawyers argued that while the novel does “appeal to prurient interest,” its enduring popularity upheld its social value, as determined by community standards. In 1966, the Supreme Court repealed the ban on Fanny Hill. After that decision, it became exceedingly difficult for literary works to be banned as obscene. Text by Melissa A. Hubbard, Assistant Professor, Morris Library Special Collections Research Center. Paperback edition of Fanny Hill, 1963, from Morris Library Special Collections Research Center.