Aphra Behn entry: Overview screen.
Writing and Life
Works By
It is difficult to summarise Aphra Behn's immense and complex importance for the history of women's writing. Virginia Woolf said she deserved from all women a tribute of flowers because she was the first to bring together writing and earning. In fact only two professional (as opposed to amateur) dramatists of either sex (Dryden and Shadwell) emerged before her on the Restoration stage. Theatrical writing (mostly comedy) supported her for the major part of her career as one of the period's most prolific and popular dramatists. Her poems and translations are also significant in the story of those genres. Later she pioneered the important new forms of novella and full-length epistolary novel. She exploited to the full a raunchy period during which social criticism clothed itself naturally in sex comedy; her gender made her a belated partaker in the academic rediscovery and rehabilitation of the Restoration age.
14 December 1640 Eaffrey Johnson, born this day at Harbledown near Canterbury, was probably (not certainly) AB. Bibliographic Citation link.
24 March 1677 AB's greatest stage success, The Rover; or, The Banish't Cavaliers (adapted from Thomas Killigrew), had its probable opening at Dorset Garden. Bibliographic Citation link.
1688 In this staggeringly productive last year AB published at least ten titles. Bibliographic Citation link.
By 13 June 1688 AB had probably completed her short 'novel' Oroonoko, or, The Royal Slave, which was published by William Canning that same year, with a dedication to the Jacobite Lord Lauderdale. Bibliographic Citation link.
16 April 1689 AB died in London after years of poverty and illness. Bibliographic Citation link.
8 March 1790 There opened at Drury Lane Theatre a comedy entitled Love in Many Masks, by John Philip Kemble, which was adapted from AB's The Rover. Bibliographic Citation link.
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