“All I ask, is the privilege for my masculine part the poet in me…If I must not, because of my sex, have this freedom…I lay down my quill and you shall hear no more of me. “- Aphra Behn
Aphra Johnson was born near Canterbury in 1640, and baptised on 14 December of that year. She is thought to have spent some of her youth in Dutch Guiana in the West Indies. In 1664, she married Johan Behn a merchant of Dutch or German parentage, but the marriage is not thought to have lasted very long. She is known to have acted as a British spy in Antwerp in 1666. Imprisonment for debt led her to write for an income.
Behn wrote a series of successful plays. Her first, ‘The Forc’d Marriage’ was produced in 1671. ‘The Rover’ (1681), her most successful, was produced in two parts and included in its cast Nell Gwyn, mistress of Charles II. Among Behn’s sources was the Italian commedia dell’arte (improvised comedy), which she used in her farce ‘The Emperor of the Moon’ (1687), forerunner of the modern-day pantomime.
Behn’s novel ‘Oroonoko’ B(1688) was the story of an enslaved African prince and is now considered a foundation stone in the development of the English novel. As well as plays and prose Behn wrote poetry and translated works from French and Latin. In her time she was a celebrity, unusual for her independence as a professional writer and her concern for equality between the sexes.
Behn died on 16 April 1689 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Articles about Behn
Other Works by Behn
Works of Aphra Behn part 1 including: MEMOIRS OF APHRA BEHN, THE ROVER(original version), THE DUTCH LOVER, and THE ROUNDHEADS, or, THE GOOD OLD CLAUSE.
Works of Aphra Behn part 2 including: ABDELAZER or THE MOOR’S REVENGE, THE YOUNG KING or THE MISTAKE, THE CITY HEIRESS or SIR TIMOTHY TREAT-ALL, THE FEIGN’D CURTEZANS or A NIGHT’S INTRIGUE NOTES
Works of Aphra Behn part 3 including: THE TOWN-FOP; OR, SIR TIMOTHY TAWDREY THE FALSE COUNT THE LUCKY CHANCE, AN ALDERMAN’S BARGAIN THE FORC’D MARRIAGE, THE JEALOUS BRIDEGROOM THE EMPEROR OF THE MOON NOTES
Works of Aphra Behn part 4 including: SIR PATIENT FANCY, THE AMOROUS PRINCE, THE WIDOW RANTER, THE YOUNGER BROTHER OR THE AMOROUS JILT
Works of Aphra Behn part 5 including: THE ADVENTURE OF THE BLACK LADY, THE COURT OF THE KING OF BANTAM, THE UNFORTUNATE HAPPY LADY: A TRUE HISTORY, THE FAIR JILT, OROONOKO; OR, THE ROYAL SLAVE, AGNES DE CASTRO, THE HISTORY OF THE NUN; OR, THE FAIR VOW-BREAKER, THE NUN; OR, THE PERJUR’D BEAUTY, THE LUCKY MISTAKE, THE UNFORTUNATE BRIDE; OR, THE BLIND LADY A BEAUTY, THE DUMB VIRGIN; OR, THE FORCE OF IMAGINATION, THE WANDERING BEAUTY, THE UNHAPPY MISTAKE; OR, THE IMPIOUS VOW PUNISH’D
Works of Aphra Behn part 6 including: THE LOVER’S WATCH, POEMS UPON SEVERAL OCCASIONS (1684), A VOYAGE TO THE ISLE OF LOVE, LYCIDUS; OR, THE LOVER IN FASHION (1688), POEMS APPENDED TO LYCIDUS, WESTMINSTER DROLLERY (1671), MISCELLANY (1685), GILDON’S MISCELLANY (1692), GILDON’S CHORUS POETARUM (1694) , MUSES MERCURY (1707) , FAMILIAR LETTERS (1718), PROLOGUE TO ROMULUS, EPILOGUE TO ROMULUS, SATYR ON DRYDEN, PROLOGUE TO VALENTINIAN, TO HENRY HIGDEN, ON THE DEATH OF E. WALLER, A PINDARIC POEM TO DR. BURNET