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The power of euphemism --- John Cleveland's Fanny Hill

John Cleveland's Fanny Hill, published in 1749, has been billed as the first work of modern pornography. Thence, of course, you had to watch your mouth, and there's not a single obscene expression in the entire book. Instead, it's a euphemistic feast of the English language. John W. King lifted the relevant euphemisms from the work, and condensed them into a semi-poetic text. Here's Part I:


It is the character of lust to be impatient,
Assuming master-ship of the main avenue,
Unbuttoning, the sturdy stallion,
And produce it naked, stiff, erect,
That wonderful machine,
Which we have never seen before.

I stared with all the eyes I had,
To take it in,
That instrument,
That part.

I stole my hand upon my drawers,
And with my fingers on fire,
Seized and yet inflamed that center of all my senses,
Brought on a last critical ecstasy,
The melting flow,
Into which nature,
Spent with excess of pleasure,
Dissolves and dies away.


He draws out his affair,
So shrunk and diminished,
Crest-fallen, just faintly lifting its head.
Chaffing it with his hands,
He brings it to swell,
To that size and erection,
We had seen before.

That capital part of man,
The flaming red head as it stands uncapt,
The whiteness of the shaft,
The shrub of curling hair at its foot,
The roundish bag dangling down from it,
All commanded my eager attention,
And renewed my flame.

But, as the main affair was now at the point,
The point we had hard-labored to bring it to,
We were in no humour to put off the payments of our pains,
But laying us down,
We thus finished,
In the same manner as before,
The old last act.


Having insisted on being his taster,
Joining and ardently wishing,
And requiring any means,
To rekindle the rage and tumult,
Of my desires,
Which all pointed strongly to their pole:

His grand movement,
Rising from a thicket of curling hair,
Stood stiff and upright,
Of a size to frighten me,
The red-centered cleft of flesh,
Whose lips vermillion inward,
Along a ruby line in sweet miniature.

A side view of that fierce erect machine of his,
Which threatened no less than splitting the tender victim,
Who lay smiling at each uplifting stroke,
Not seeming to decline it.

He looked upon his weapon himself with some pleasure,
And lodged it,
After some thrusts,
But there it stuck.
And just wetting it with spittle,
He re-enters,
And with ease sheathes it up to the hilt,
At which his victim gave a deep sight,
Which was quite another tone,
Than that of pain.

He thrusts,
He heaves,
At first gently,
And in regular cadence;
But presently,
The transport came to be too violent,
To observe any order or measure.

Oh, I can’t bear it,
It is too much.
I die,
I’m going.

At length a dispatching thrust,
All shewed,
The die-away moment was come upon him,
In which he seemed to expire in an agony of bliss.

A kind of white liquid,
Like froth,
Hung about the outward lips,
Of his machine,
Its head now glowing with a deeper red.

That part of me,
Where I was perfectly sick,
And ready to die with desire,
At the bare touch of his fingers,
In that critical place,
He brought me again to the crevice.

John W. King teaches forensics and negotiation at San Francisco State University. He's infamous.


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