Educated at Westminster School, Cleland served as consul at Smyrna and was employed for a time by the East India Company as an agent in Bombay. After this, he seems to have wandered and landed in debtors' prison in England on more than one occasion. His main work, Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1748-49), was written to extricate him from his dire straits, and for this he was paid 20 guineas. A controversial work of pornography, it was immediately suppressed and Cleland had to appear before the Privy Council. Because of his poverty, the council was lenient and he was eventually to receive a pension of £100 a year so that he might put his literary gifts to better use. he devoted the remainder of his time to plays and some novels, which included Titus Vespasian (1755), Memoirs of a Coxcomb (1751) and Surprises of Love (1765). Fanny Hill has continued to be one of the most controversial books of all time and was not cleared in the US until 1966 by a verdict of the Supreme Court.
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