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Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure

Emily in the habit of a shepherd and the criminal scene

Second Letter - Part VI


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John Cleland, Memoirs of a woman of pleasure (Fanny Hill), Printed for G. Fenton (first edition), in the Strand, London, 1747.


You may be sure a by-jod of this sort interfered with no other pursuit, or plan of life; which I led, in truth, with a modesty and reserve that was less the work of virtue than of exhausted novelty, a glut of pleasure, and easy circumstances, that made me indifferent to any engagements in which pleasure and profit were not eminently united; and such I could, with the less impatience, wait for at the hands of time and fortune, as I was satisfied I could never mend my pennyworths, having evidently been served at the top of the market, and even been pampered with dainties: besides that, in the sacrifice of a few momentary impulses, I found a secret satisfaction in respecting myself, as well as preserving the life and freshness of my complexion. Louisa and Emily did not carry indeed their reserve so high as I did; but still they were far from cheap or abandoned, though two of their adventures seemed to contradict this general character, which, for their singularity, I shall give you in course, beginning first with Emily’s:

Louisa and she went one night to a ball, the first in the habit of a shepherdess, Emily in that of a shepherd: I saw them in their dresses before they went, and nothing in nature could represent a prettier boy than this last did, being so fair and well limbed. They had kept together for some time, when Louisa, meeting an old acquaintance of hers, very cordially gives her companion the slip, and leaves her under the protection of her boy’s habit, which was not much, and of her discretion, which was, it seems, still less. Emily, finding herself deserted, sauntered thoughtless about a while, and, as much for coolness and air as any thing else, at length pulled off her mask and went to the sideboard; where, eyed and marked out by a gentleman in a very handsome domino, she was accosted by, and fell into chat with him. The domino, after a little discourse, in which Emily doubtless distinguished her good nature and easiness more than her wit, began to make violent love to her, and drawing her insensibly to some benches at the lower end of the masquerade room, got her to sit by him, where he squeezed her hands, pinched her cheeks, praised and played with her fine hair, admired her complexion, and all in a style of courtship dashed with a certain oddity, that not comprehending the mystery of, poor Emily attributed to his falling in with the humour of her disguise; and being naturally not the cruellest of her profession, began to incline to a parley on those essentials. But here was the stress of the joke: he took her really for what she appeared to be, a smock-faced boy; and she, forgetting her dress, and of course ranging quite wide of his ideas, took all those address to be paid to herself as a woman, which she precisely owed to his not thinking her one. However, this double error was pushed to such a height on both sides, that Emily, who saw nothing in him but a gentleman of distinction by those points of dress to which his disguise did not extend, warmed too by the wine he had plyed her with, and the caresses he had lavished upon her, suffered herself to be persuaded to go to a bagnio with him; and thus, losing sight of Mrs. Cole’s cautions, with a blind confidence, put herself into his hands, to be carried wherever he pleased. For his part, equally blinded by his wishes, whilst here gregious simplicity favoured his deception more than the most exquisite art could have done, he supposed, no doubt, that he had lighted on some soft simpleton, fit for his; purpose, or some kept minion broken to his hand, who understood him perfectly well, and entered into his designs. But, be that as it would, he led her to a coach, went into it with her, and brought her to a very handsome apartment, with a bed in it; but whether it was a bagnio or not, she could not tell, having spoken to nobody but himself. But when they were alone together, and her inamorato began to proceed to those extremities which instantly discover the sex, she remarked, that no description could paint up to the life, the mixture of pique, confusion and disappointment, that appeared in his countenance, joined to the mournful exclamation: "By heavens, a woman!" This at once opened her eyes, which had been shut in downright stupidity. However, as if he had meant to retrieve that escape, he still continued to toy with and fondle her, but with so staring an alteration from extreme warmth into a chill and forced civility, that even Emily herself could not but take notice of it, and now began to wish she had paid more regard to Mrs. Cole’s premonitions against ever engaging with a stranger. And now an excess of timidity succeeded to an excess of confidence, and she thought herself so much at his mercy and discretion, that she stood passive throughout the whole progress of his prelude: for now, whether the impressions of so great a beauty had even made him forgive her sex, or whether her appearance or figure in that dress still humoured his first illusion, he recovered by degrees a good part of his first warmth, and keeping Emily with her breeches still unbuttoned, stript them down to her knees, and gently impelling her to lean down, with her face against the bed-side, placed her so, that the double way, between the double rising behind, presented the choice fair to him, and he was so fairly set on a mis-direction, as to give the girl no small alarms for fear of losing a maidenhead she had not dreamt of. However, her complaints, and a resistance, gentle, but firm, checked and brought him to himself again; so that turning his steed’s head, he drove him at length in the right road, in which his imagination having probably made the most of those resemblances that flattered his taste, he got, with much ado, to his journey’s end: after which, he led her out himself, and walking with her two or three streets length, got her a chair, when making her a present not any thing inferior to what she could have expected, he left her, well recommended to the chairmen, who, on her directions, brought her home.

This she related to Mrs. Cole and me the same morning, not without the visible remains of the fear and confusion she had been in, still stamped on her countenance. Mrs. Cole’s remark was, that her indiscretion proceeding from a constitutional facility, there were little hopes of any thing curing her of it, but repeated severe experience. Mine was, that I could not conceive how it was possible for mankind to run into a taste, not only universally odious, but absurd, and impossible to gratify; since, according to the notions and experience I had of things, it was not in nature to force such immense disproportions. Mrs. Cole only smiled at my ignorance, and said nothing towards my undeception, which was not affected but by ocular demonstration, some months after, which a most singular accident furnished me, and which I will here set down, that I may not return again to so disagreeable a subject.

I had, on a visit intended to Harriet, who had taken lodgings at Hampton-court, hired a chariot to go out thither, Mrs. Cole having, promised to accompany me; but some indispensable business intervening, to detain her, I was obliged to set out alone; and scarce had I got a third of my way, before the axle-tree broke down, and I was well off to get out, safe and unhurt, into a public-house, of a tolerable handsome appearance, on the road. Here the people told me that the stage would come by in a couple of hours at farthest, upon; which, determining to wait for it, sooner than lose the jaunt I had got so far forward on, I was carried into a very clean decent room, up one pair of stairs, which I took possession of for the time I had to stay, in right of calling for sufficient to do the house justice.

Here, whilst I was amusing myself with looking out of the window, a single horse-chaise stopt at the door, out of which lightly leaped two young’ gentlemen, for so they seemed, who came in only as it were to bait and refresh a little, for they gave their horse to be held! in readiness against they came out. And presently I heard the door of the next room, where they were let in, and called about them briskly; and as soon as they were served, I could just hear that they shut and fastened the door on the inside.

A spirit of curiosity, far from sudden, since I do not know when I was without it, prompted me, without any particular suspicion, or other drift or view, to see what they were, and examine their persons and behaviour. The partition of our rooms was one of those moveable ones that, when taken down, served occasionally to lay them into one, for the conveniency of as larger company; and now, my nicest search could not shew me the shadow of a peep-hole, a circumstance which probably had not escaped the review of the parties on the other side, whom much it stood upon not to be deceived in it; but at length I observed a paper patch of the same colour as the wainscot, which I took to conceal some flaw; but then it was so high, that I was obliged to stand upon a chair to reach it, which I did as soft as possible, and, with a point of a bodkin, soon pierced it, and opened myself espial room sufficient. And now, applying my eye close, I commanded the room perfectly, and could see my two young sparks romping and pulling one another about, entirely, to my imagination, in frolic and innocent play.
The eldes might be, on my nearest guess, towards nineteen, a tall comely young man, in a white fustian frock, with a green velvet cape, and cut bob-wig.

The youngest could not be above seventeen, fair, ruddy, completely well made, and to say the truth, a sweet pretty stripling: he was too, I fancy, a country lad, by his dress, which was a green plush frock, and breeches of the same, white waistcoat and stockings, a jockey cap, with his fellowish hair, long and loose, in natural curls.

But after a look of circumspection, which I saw the eldest cast every way round the room, probably in too much hurry and heat not to overlook the very small opening I was posted at, especially at the height it was, whilst my eye close to it kept the light from shining through and betraying it, he said something to his companion that presently changed the face of things.

For now the elder began to embrace, to press and kiss the younger, to put his hands into his bosom, and give him such manifest signs of an amorous intention, as made me conclude the other to be a girl in disguise: a mistake that nature kept me in countenance for, for she had certainly made one, when she gave him the made stamp.

In the rashness then of their age, and bent as they were to accomplish their project of preposterous pleasure, at the risk of the very worst of consequences, where a discovery was nothing less than improbable, they now proceeded to such lengths as soon satisfied me what they were.

For presently the eldest unbuttoned the other’s breeches, and removing the linen barrier, brought out to view a white shaft, middle sized, and scarce fledged, when after handling and playing with it a little, with other dalliance, all received by the boy without other opposition than certain wayward coyness, ten times-more alluring than repulsive, he got him so turned round, with his face from him, to a chair that stood hard by; when knowing, I suppose, his office, the Ganymede now obsequiously leaned his head against the back of it, and projecting his body, made a fair mark, still covered with his shirt. As he thus stood in a side view to me, but fronting his companion, who, presently unmasking his battery, produced an engine that certainly deserved to be put to a better use, and very fit to confirm me in my disbelief of the possibility of things; being pushed to odious extremities, which I had built on the disproportion of parts; but this disbelief I was now cured of, as by my consent all young men should likewise be, that their innocence may not be betrayed into such snares, for want of knowing the extent of their danger: for nothing is more certain than that ignorance of advice is by no means a guard against it.

Slipping, then, aside the young lad’s shirt, and tucking it up under his clothes behind, he shewed to the open air those globular fleshy eminences that compose the Mount Peasants of Rome, and which now, with all the narrow vale that intersects them, stood displayed and exposed to his attack; nor could I without a shudder behold the dispositions he made for it. First, then, moistening well with spittle his instrument, obviously to make it glib, he pointed, he introduced it, as I could plainly discern, not only from its direction and my losing sight of it, but by the writhing, twisting and soft murmured complaints of the young sufferer; but at length, the first straits of entrance being pretty well go through, every thing seemed to move and go pretty currently on, as on a carpet road, without much rub or resistance; and now, passing one hand round his minions’ hips, he got hold of his red-topped ivory toy, that stood perfectly stiff, and shewed, that if he was like his mother behind, he was like his father before; this he diverted himself with, whilst, with the other he wantoned with his hair, and leaning forward over his back, drew his face, from which the boy shook the loose curls that fell over it, in the posture he stood him in, and brought him towards his, so as to receive a long breathed kiss; after which, renewing his driving, and thus continuing to harass his rear, the height of the fist came on with its usual symptoms, and dismissed the action.

The criminal scene they acted, I had the patience to see to an end, purely that I might gather more facts and certainty against them in my design to do their deserts instant justice; and accordingly, when they had re-adjusted themselves; and were preparing to go out, burning as I was with rage and indignation, I jumped down from the chair, in order to raise the house upon them, but with such an unlucky impetuosity, that some nail or ruggedness in the floor caught my foot, and flung me on my face with such violence, that I fell senseless on the ground, and lay there some time before any one came to my relief: so that they, alarmed, I suppose, by the noise of my fall, had more than the necessary time to make a safe retreat. This they effected, as I learnt, with a precipitation nobody could account for, until, when come to myself, and composed enough to speak, I acquainted those of the house with the whole transaction I had been evidence to.

When I came home again, and told Mrs. Cole this adventure, she very sensibly observed to me, that "there was no doubt of the due vengeance one time or other overtaking these miscreants, however they might escape for the present; and that, had I been the temporal instrument of it, I should have been put to a great deal more trouble and confusion than I imagined; that, as to the thing itself, the less said of it was the better; but that though she might be suspected of partiality, from its being the common cause of womankind, out of whose mouths this practice tended to take something more than bread, yet she protested against any mixture of passion, with a declaration extorted from her by pure regard to truth; which was, that whatever effect this infamous passion had in other ages and other countries, it seemed a peculiar blessing on our air and climate, that there was a plaguespot visibly imprinted on all that are tainted with it, in this nation at least, for that among numbers of that stamp whom she had known, or at least were universally under the scandalous suspicion of it, she would not name an exception hardly to one of them, whose character was not, in all other respects, the most worthless and despicable that could be; stript of all the manly virtues of their own sex, and filled up with only the worst vices and follies of ours; that, in fine, they were scarce less execrable than ridiculous in their monstrous inconsistence, of loathing and contemning women, and at the same time apeing all their manners, airs, lisps, scuttle, and, in general, all their little modes of affectation, which become them at least better, than they do these unsexed, male misses."

View online : Good-natured Dick and last adventures with Louisa and Emily
Second Letter - Part VII



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