Attempts to find connections between Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure and Cleland’s etymological tracts, in which he attempted to recover the ancient Celtic language, have, so far, met with mixed success. The most promising approach is to relate them to their broader contexts, including Cleland’s interests in ancient and medieval history, and their bearing on eighteenth-century culture. Hal Gladfelder’s Fanny Hill in Bombay (2012) has drawn intriguing parallels between Fanny and the empowered Druidesses who occupy Cleland’s idealized Celtic world. Proceeding from this point, I shall discuss eighteenth-century representations of female power in ancient Europe, with the resulting clashes of ideas on sex and gender. I shall proceed to a discussion of dramatic treatments of Druidic wisdom, focusing on Elfrida (1752) and Caractacus (1759) by William Mason (1725–97), and conclude by examining the issues that arose when it was embodied in actresses whose personal lives, especially as mediated by the contemporary press, reflected crucial aspects of Fanny Hill’s.

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