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Author photo. Portrait by Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680): Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Portrait by Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680): Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (REPRODUCTION NUMBER: LC-USZ62-127791) (cropped)

Aphra Behn (1640–1689)

Author of Oroonoko

Includes the names: A.Behn, Aphra Ben, aphra benn, Behn Aphra, Aphra Behn, Alpha Behn, Mrs Aphra BEHN, Janet M. Aphra; Todd Behn

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Aphra Behn is often considered the first Englishwoman to support herself as a writer. She was unquestionably the leading woman playwright of the Restoration period. Behn is also notable for her poetry and fiction. While still in her twenties, she traveled with her family to Surinam, in South America, where she witnessed a slave insurrection, much like the rebellion that figures prominently in her novel Oroonoko (1688), a work that introduced the character of the noble savage. Behn was well connected at court and for a brief time was sent to Antwerp as a spy. Around 1670, with the help of John Dryden, she established a career in the theater, and, during the following two decades, rarely was her work absent from the London stage. Among the comedies that bear the special stamp of her libertine, feminist, and Tory political views are The Dutch Lover (1673), The Feign'd Curtezans (1679), and her best-known works, The Rover (1677) and The Rover, Part II (1681). Readers seeking an introduction to the skill and sensibility of Aphra Behn will do well to look into her lyric poetry, which is often represented in recent anthologies of women writers. (Bowker Author Biography)
— biography from Oroonoko
… (more)
Oroonoko 1,038 copies, 30 reviews
The Rover 364 copies, 5 reviews
Oroonoko and Other Writings 264 copies, 3 reviews
Five plays 29 copies, 1 review
The Works of Aphra Behn (Author) 25 copies
Selected Poems 13 copies
Oroonoko and other stories 9 copies, 2 reviews
The feigned courtesans 2 copies, 1 review
Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama (Contributor, some editions) 863 copies, 7 reviews
The Penguin Book of Women Poets (Contributor) 279 copies
The Penguin Book of Women's Humour (Contributor) 108 copies
Poems Between Women (Contributor) 87 copies
The Virago Book of Wicked Verse (Contributor) 78 copies, 1 review
Shorter Novels: Seventeenth Century (Contributor) 42 copies
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Short biography
Aphra Behn was one of the first English women to make a living as a writer. She was a popular and prolific Restoration playwright and poet (her pen name was Astrea). She also worked as a spy for King Charles II. Virginia Woolf wrote, "All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds. It is she – shady and amorous as she was – who makes it not quite fantastic for me to say to you tonight: Earn five hundred a year by your wits." Not many facts are known about her personal life. She was born Aphra Johnson, and probably lived in Surinam in 1663–64. She may have married a Mr. Behn in 1664, though some have suggested she took a married name for greater propriety and protection. From 1666–67, she served King Charles II as a spy in Antwerp, incurring debts in her work which went unpaid – Charles II was notoriously slow in paying bills – and then served a stint in debtors' prison. Her first performed play was The Forc'd Marriage (1670), a popular and financial success. Many other successful plays followed. In 1688, Aphra Behn published Oroonoko, a short novel about a noble slave and his tragic love. It was an instant success, going through many reprints, and may be her best-known work today. At her death in 1689, she was buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey, where her stone still rests at Poets' Corner.
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