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His only success was as a political writer making scathing attacks on the government of the day, dismissed tellingly by Boswell as being the rantings of a 'sly malcontent'.He died in his lodgings in Petty France in London, a crusty old bachelor, in 1789, aged 79.On that, he was absolutely right, as under-the-counter sales for two centuries would show.Fanny continued to prosper, while Cleland was doomed to a life of poverty and disappointment.His payout was nowhere near enough to have paid off his debts and thus secure his release from jail. Out of prison at last, Cleland would do or say anything to stop himself being sent back when the king's officers came for him as Fanny's notoriety spread. He regretted every word, and the offence it had caused.

The eminent American scientist and politician Benjamin Franklin had one, too.He took many secrets to his death, not least where he had come upon all that intimate knowledge of the whore's world to write such a convincing narrative.Here was a novel written from the woman's point of view, and in which he portrayed the sexual feelings of a woman in eye-watering detail - an unusual accomplishment, presumably only made possible by ample research and experience in the field.With the openly bawdy Fanny Hill - 'So perfect for me!' - he has not needed to stray far from the text to make the sexual impact he delights in. The TV version, for all its effrontery, is tame in its shockingness compared with the original words, set down more than two centuries ago in circumstances that are still as mysterious as they are intriguing.

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He said it was really the work of an unnamed 'young nobleman', and that he had just polished it up a bit and prepared it for the printer. In old age, he told the diarist James Boswell that he had written it when he was just a youth, then 25 years later had revived it for publication when he was in prison and desperately needed money. The book certainly made a profit, but most of it - £10,000, a life-changing sum in those days - went to the publisher.

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