Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure

Helen Williams, Richard Terry

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


John Cleland’s Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure has been described as the first erotic novel in English and is perhaps the greatest example of the genre. From the outset it was mired in disrepute. Cleland penned the novel to liberate himself from debtors’ prison, and the book’s manifestly lewd content led to its legal suppression within a year of publication. Though versions of the novel, nearly always abridged in some form, continued to find a way into print, the Memoirs remained an underground text until the 1960s. Only as that decade ushered in a culture less socially deferential and more sexually permissive was the moment opportune for the obscenity ban to be successfully challenged. Cleland’s novel is a triumph of literary style, resting on his invention of an entirely new, vividly metaphoric, terminology for describing sexual pleasure.

This Broadview Edition provides a new text of the original novel alongside extensive materials on Cleland’s biography and career, contemporary censorship, and pornography and prostitution in the eighteenth century.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherBroadview Press
Number of pages336
ISBN (Print)9781554812967
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2018


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