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Fanny Hill in Bombay

The Making and Unmaking of John Cleland

John Cleland is among the most scandalous figures in British literary history, both celebrated and attacked as a pioneer of pornographic writing in English. His first novel, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, or Fanny Hill, is one of the enduring literary creations of the eighteenth century, despite over two hundred years of legal prohibition. Yet the full range of his work is still too little known.

In this study, Hal Gladfelder combines groundbreaking archival research into Cleland’s tumultuous life with incisive readings of his sometimes extravagant, sometimes perverse body of work, positioning him as a central figure in the development of the novel and in the construction of modern notions of authorial and sexual identity in eighteenth-century England.

Rather than a traditional biography, Fanny Hill in Bombay presents a case history of a renegade authorial persona, based on published works, letters, private notes, and newly discovered legal testimony. It retraces Cleland’s career from his years as a young colonial striver with the East India Company in Bombay through periods of imprisonment for debt and of estrangement from collaborators and family, shedding light on his paradoxical status as literary insider and social outcast.

As novelist, critic, journalist, and translator, Cleland engaged with the most challenging intellectual currents of his era yet at the same time was vilified as a pornographer, atheist, and sodomite. Reconnecting Cleland’s writing to its literary and social milieu, this study offers new insights into the history of authorship and the literary marketplace and contributes to contemporary debates on pornography, censorship, the history of sexuality, and the contested role of literature in eighteenth-century culture.

About the Author

Hal Gladfelder is a senior lecturer of English and American studies at the University of Manchester, editor of John Cleland’s Memoirs of a Coxcomb, and author of Criminality and Narrative in Eighteenth-Century England: Beyond the Law, also published by Johns Hopkins.

Endorsements

"Innovative, adventurous, and exciting. Gladfelder has given us a new and, for eighteenth-century studies, a newly significant and central John Cleland—a writer whose notoriety as author of the first pornographic novel in English has until now overshadowed a long, varied, and remarkable career as colonial administrator, projector, jailbird, bookseller's hack, alleged sodomite, translator, reviewer, philologist, and author of numerous original works beyond the Memoirs. All this arises from an exemplary—an unusual and immensely enabling—combination of painstaking archival and other historical research and analytic, expository flair. The scholarship is formidable throughout."

- Thomas Keymer, University of Toronto

Reviews

"An impressively learned, scrupulously detailed study."

- Terry Eagleton - London Review of Books

"Cleland's life story is a puzzle with many pieces still missing. But Gladfelder's careful, painstaking reconstructions have brought the fascinating picture into much clearer focus."

- Choice

"Anyone interested in the history of pornography or Cleland cannot afford to be without this study of the writer and his work."

- Julie Peakman - Times Literary Supplement

"Lucid and engaging."

- Paul Baines - Review of English Studies

"Fanny Hill in Bombay will prove to be of essential reading to scholars of many kinds: of the novel; print culture; social; legal and colonial history; and translation."

- Gregory Lynall - Women's History Review

"Intelligently conceived, intensely researched, gracefully articulated, Mr. Gladfelder's Fanny Hill in Bombay has 'made'... the 'literary career' of Cleland as a perversely exemplary 'miscellaneous writer' on the cusp of modernity."

- William H. Epstein - The Scriblerian
Johns Hopkins University Press
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