Jack’s Naughty Bits: John Cleland, Fanny Hill

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Jack's Naughty Bits

Fanny, as many of you know, is not what you want to name your daughter. In American slang, it means butt, in English, pussy (making the American “fanny pack” a rather laughable entity — “Ooh, honey, I really need a good fanny pack!”). That it can mean the backside on one bank of the Atlantic and the front on the other is one of those vagaries of language that gives me no end of pleasure (like “cleave” meaning either to cling or to separate, or “egregious” meaning esteemed until 1700 or so, and horrible thereafter). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first use of “fanny” as something other than a name was in 1879, as a reference to the female genitals. I think it was probably far earlier. The most famous book of English erotica, John Cleland’s Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, was published in 1748 and my suspicion is that the book’s name (after its fictional protagonist) was a sly joke on the mons veneris. (Though it is possible, of course, that the slang emerged as a result of the book, even if the OED has no evidence of this happening.)


Whether its title is a play on the grassy knoll or not, the oft-banned Fanny Hill is a rollicking read. A quarter millennium has passed since its penning, and its language now seems both quaint and charming, but Cleland’s masterpiece still makes one wonder: Is erotica getting any better? I’ll reprint a sizeable chunk below and let you decide for yourselves.


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From Fanny Hill by John Cleland

I was then lying at length upon that very couch, the scene of Mr. H’s polite joys, in an undress which was with all the art of negligence flowing loose, and in a most tempting disorder: no stays, no hoop . . . no incumbrance whatever. On the other hand, he stood at a little distance, that gave me a full view of a fine featur’d, shapely, healthy country lad, breathing the sweets of fresh blooming youth; his hair, which was of a perfect shining black play’d to his face in natural side-curls, and was set out with a smart tuck-up behind; new buckskin breeches, that, clipping close, shew’d the shape of a plump, well made thigh; white stockings, garter-lac’d livery, shoulder knot, altogether compos’d a figure in which the beauties of pure flesh and blood appeared under no disgrace from the lowness of a dress, to which a certain spruce neatness seems peculiarly fitted.


I bid him come towards me and give me his letter, at the same time throwing down, carelessly, a book I had in my hands. He colour’d, and came within reach of delivering me the letter, which he held out, aukwardly enough, for me to take, with his eyes riveted on my bosom, which was, through the design’d disorder of my handkerchief, sufficiently bare, and rather shaded than hid.


I, smiling in his face, took the letter, and immediately catching gently hold of his shirt sleeve, drew him towards me, blushing, and almost trembling; for surely his extreme bashfulness, and utter inexperience, call’d for, at least, all the advances to encourage him: his body was now conveniently inclin’d towards me, and just softly chucking his smooth beardless chin, I asked him if he was afraid of a lady? . . ., and with that taking, and carrying his hand to my breasts, I prest it tenderly to them. They were now finely furnish’d, and rais’d in flesh, so that, panting with desire, they rose and fell, in quick heaves, under his touch: at this, the boy’s eyes began to lighten with all the fires of inflam’d nature, and his cheeks flush’d with a deep scarlet: tongue-tied with joy, rapture, and bashfulness, he could not speak, but then his looks, his emotion, sufficiently satisfy’d me that my train had taken, and that I had no disappointment to fear.


My lips, which I threw in his way, so as that he could not escape kissing them, fix’d, fired, and embolden’d him: and now, glancing my eyes towards that part of his dress which cover’d the essential object of enjoyment, I plainly discover’d the swell and commotion there; and as I was now too far advanc’d to stop in so fair a way, and was indeed no longer able to contain myself, or wait the slower progress of his maiden bashfulness (for such it seem’d, and really was), I stole my hand upon his thighs, down one of which I could both see and feel a stiff hard body, confin’d by his breeches, that my fingers could discover no end to. Curious then, and eager to unfold so alarming a mystery, playing, as it were, with his buttons, which were bursting ripe from the active force within, those of his waistband and fore-flap flew open at a touch, when out It started; and now, disengag’d from the shirt, I saw, with wonder and surprise, what? not the play-thing of a boy, not the weapon of a man, but a maypole of so enormous a standard, that had proportions been observ’d, it must have belong’d to a young giant. Its prodigious size made me shrink again; yet I could not, without pleasure, behold, and even ventur’d to feel, such a length, such a breadth of animated ivory! perfectly well turn’d and fashion’d, the proud stiffness of which distended its skin, whose smooth polish and velvet softness might vie with that of the most delicate of our sex, and whose exquisite whiteness was not a little set off by a sprout of black curling hair round the root, through the jetty sprigs of which the fair skin shew’d as in a fine evening you may have remark’d the clear light aether through the branchwork of distant trees over-topping the summit of a hill: then the broad and blueish-casted incarnate of the head, and blue serpentines of its veins, altogether compos’d the most striking assemblage of figure and colours in nature. In short, it stood an object of terror and delight.


But what was yet more surprising, the owner of this natural curiosity, through the want of occasions in the strictness of his home-breeding, and the little time he had been in town not having afforded him one, was hitherto an absolute stranger, in practice at least, to the use of all that manhood he was no nobly stock’d with; and it now fell to my lot to stand this first trial of it, if I could resolve to run the risks of its disproportion to that tender part of me, which such an oversiz’d machine was very fit to lay in ruins.


But it was now of the latest to deliberate; for, by this time, the young fellow, overheated with the present objects, and too high mettled to be longer curb’d in by that modesty and awe which had hitherto restrain’d him, ventur’d, under the stronger impulse and instructive partnership of nature alone, to slip his hands, trembling with eager impetuous desires, under my petticoats; and seeing, I suppose, nothing extremely severe in my looks to stop or dash him, he feels out, and seizes, gently, the centerspot of his ardours. Oh then! the fiery touch of his fingers determines me, and my fears melting away before the growing intolerable heat, my thighs disclose of themselves, and yield all liberty to his hand: and now, a favourable movement giving my petticoats a toss, the avenue lay too fair, too open to be miss’d. He is now upon me; I had placed myself with a jet under him, as commodious and open as possible to his attempts, which were untoward enough, for his machine, meeting with no inlet, bore and batter’d stiffly against me in random pushes, now above, now below, now beside his point; till, burning with impatience from its irritating touches, I guided gently, with my hand, this furious engine to where my young novice was now to be taught his first lesson of pleasure. Thus he nick’d, at length, the warm and insufficient orifice; but he was made to find no breach practicable, and mine, tho’ so often enter’d, was still far from wide enough to take him easily in.


By my direction, however, the head of his unwieldy machine was so critically pointed that, feeling him fore-right against the tender opening, a favourable motion from me met his timely thrust, by which the lips of it, strenuously dilated, gave away to his thus assisted impetuosity, so that we might both feel that he had gain’d a lodgment. Pursuing then his point, he soon, by violent, and, to me, most painful piercing thrusts, wedges himself at length so far in, as to be now tolerably secure of his entrance: here he stuck, and I now felt such a mixture of pleasure and pain, as there is no giving a definition of. I dreaded alike his splitting me farther up, or his withdrawing; I could not bear either to keep or part with him. The sense of pain however prevailing, from his prodigious size and stiffness, acting upon me in those continued rapid thrusts, with which he furiously pursu’d his penetration, made me cry out gently: “Oh! my dear you hurt me!” This was enough to check the tender respectful boy even in his mid-career; and he immediately drew out the sweet cause of my complaint, whilst his eyes eloquently express’d, at once, his grief for hurting me, and his reluctance at dislodging from quarters of which the warmth and closeness had given him a gust of pleasure that he was now desire-mad to satisfy, and yet too much novice not to be afraid of my withholding his relief, on account of the pain he had put me to.


But I was, myself, far from being pleas’d with his having too much regarded my tender exclaims; for now, more and more fired with the object before me, as it still stood with the fiercest erection, unbonnetted, and displaying its broad vermilion head, I first gave the youth a re-encouraging kiss, which he repaid me with a fervour that seem’d at once to thank me, and bribe my farther compliance; and soon replac’d myself in a posture to receive, at all risks, the renew’d invasion, which he did not delay an instant: for, being presently remounted, I once more felt the smooth hard gristle forcing an entrance, which he achiev’d rather easier than before. Pain’d, however, as I was, with efforts of gaining a complete admission, which he was so regardful as to manage by gentle degrees, I took care not to complain. In the meantime, the soft strait passage gradually loosens, yields, and stretch’d to its utmost bearing, by the stiff, thick, indriven engine, sensible, at once, to the ravishing pleasure of the feel and the pain of the distension, let him in about half way, when all the most nervous activity he now exerted, to further his penetration, gain’d him not an inch of his purpose: for, whilst he hesitated there, the crisis of pleasure overtook him, and the close compressure of the warm surrounding fold drew from him the extatic gush, even before mine was ready to meet it, kept up by the pain I had endur’d in the course of engagement, from the insufferable size of his weapon, tho’ it was not as yet in above half its length.


I expected then, but without wishing it, that he would draw, but was pleasantly disappointed: for he was not to be let off so. The well breath’d youth, hot-mettled, and flush with genial juices, was now fairly in for making me know my driver. As soon, then, as he had made a short pause, waking, as it were, out of the trance of pleasure (in which every sense seem’d lost for a while, whilst, with his eyes shut, and short quick breathings, he had yielded down his maiden tribute), he still kept his post, yet unsated with enjoyment, and solacing in these so new delights; till his stiffness, which had scarce perceptibly remitted, being thoroughly recovered to him, who had not once unsheath’d, he proceeded afresh to cleave and open to himself an entire entry into me, which was not a little made easy to him by the balsamic injection with which he had just plentifully moisten’d the whole internals of the passage. Redoubling, then, the active energy of his thrusts, favoured by the fervid appetite of my motions, the soft oiled wards can no longer stand so effectual a picklock, but yield, and open him an entrance. And now, with conspiring nature, and my industry, strong to aid him, he pierces, penetrates, and at length, winning his way inch by inch, gets entirely in, and finally a mighty thrust sheathes it up to the guard: on the information of which, from the close jointure of our bodies (insomuch that the hair on both sides perfectly interweav’d and incircl’d together), the eyes of the transported youth sparkl’d with more joyous fires, and all his looks and motions acknowledged excess of pleasure, which I now began to share, for I felt him in my very vitals! I was quite sick with delight! stir’d beyond bearing with its furious agitations within me, and gorged and cramm’d, even to surfeit. Thus I lay gasping, panting under him, till his broken breathings, faltering accents, eyes twinkling with humid fires, lunges more furious, and an increased stiffness, gave me to hail the approaches of the second period: it came . . . and the sweet youth, overpower’d with the extasy, died away in my arms, melting in a flood that shot in genial warmth into the innermost recesses of my body; every conduit of which, dedicated to that pleasure, was on flow to mix with it. Thus we continued for some instants, lost, breathless, senseless of every thing, and in every part but those favourite ones of nature, in which all that we enjoyed of life and sensation was now totally concenter’d.