Aphra Behn

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Aphra_Behn.jpg
A sketch of Aphra Behn by George Scharf from a portrait believed to be lost.

Aphra Behn, nee Aphra Johnston (c. 1640April 16 1689) was a prolific dramatist of the Restoration, and considered to be one of the first English professional woman writers.

Few hard facts can be pinned down regarding Behn's life. She may have been born in Wye near Canterbury, on July 10 1640, daughter of a barber named Johnston. In the 1660's she may have travelled to an English sugar colony on the Surinam River, on the coast east of Venezuela, a region later known as Dutch Guiana, a trip that is often said to have inspired her novel of the celebrated slave Oronoko. However it is far from certain whether she indeed visited Surinam.

In 1658 she married a Mr. Behn, a Dutch merchant, but was a widow in 1666 at the age of 26. She then became attached to the Court, and it has been suggested she was dispatched as a political spy to Antwerp by Charles II. Her code name for her exploits is said to have been Astrea, a name under which she subsequently published much of her writings. The Second Anglo-Dutch War had broken out between England and the Netherlands in 1665. Her exploits were not profitable, however, as Charles was slow paying for her services, leading her to return to London She cultivated the friendship of various playwrights, and starting 1670 she produced many plays and novels, also poems and pamphlets. She died on April 16, 1689, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Her other major work was The Rover; or The Banish'd Cavaliers.

Some of Aphra Behn's less-known works are available from the Women Writers Project.

Plays


and posthumously performed:

  • The Widow Ranter (1689)
  • The Younger Brother (1696)

Novels

External links

eo:Aphra BEHN sl:Aphra Behn

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