Our essay documents some of the issues we faced as modern editors of John Cleland’s Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1748–49). We were conscious of the groundbreaking earlier editions of Peter Sabor and Peter Wagner, and also of the particular difficulties posed by editing a text that was both the author’s first literary work and one that he subsequently repudiated. Our edition argues for the continuity of this early text with some of the concerns that become evident in Cleland’s later life and writings. In particular, we explore some of the novel’s many references to the physical health of its characters, such as Fanny’s mild smallpox in childhood, Mr. Norbert’s “flimsy consumptive texture,” and Mr. Crofts’s aggressive sexual impotence. We see these facets of the novel as being consistent with Cleland’s regular concern, evident from his letters, for the health of his friends, and his authorship in 1761 of the Institutes of Health, which details how individual well-being could be promoted by exercise, hygiene, and a good diet.
Research Article|April 01 2019
Reading Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure against Cleland’s Life and Letters
Eighteenth-Century Life (2019) 43 (2): 29-37.
Richard Terry, Helen Williams; Reading Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure against Cleland’s Life and Letters. Eighteenth-Century Life 1 April 2019; 43 (2): 29–37. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-7492876
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