In 1908 Avril was commissioned to illustrate a French edition of the British novelist John Cleland’s Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, which was first published in England in 1748. More popularly known as Fanny Hill (the name of the novel’s female protagonist), due to its sexual content the book came to be one of the most controversial and banned books in the history of literature, a revelation in that it incorporated pornographic scenes in a novelistic form, a feat never previously undertaken in English literature. Following the young Fanny Hill from her village home to London, the novel depicts her sexual undoing.

The two-volume French edition featuring Avril’s illustrations, Mémoires de Fanny Hill, was very successful, so much so that the twelve illustrations were also issued separately in a discrete folder, to fulfil demand from a discerning readership. We have included both versions here, together with the two chapter head illustrations used in the book. The translation used is that of 1887 by Isidore Liseux.

The Avril-illustrated edition of Fanny Hill was published anonymously, the only indication being ‘Paris’; the edition was small, probably less than 500 copies.