Aphra Behn

Standard Name: Behn, Aphra
Birth Name: Aphra Johnson
Married Name: Aphra Behn
Pseudonym: Astrea
Used Form: A. B.
Used Form: Mrs A. Behn
Used Form: Mrs Behn
Used Form: Mrs A. Behn, the author of the Rover
Used Form: author of the Voyage to the Isle of Love
Used Form: by the Same Hand
It is difficult to summarise AB '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.
Engraving of Aphra Behn circa 1675, after a portrait by Mary Beale. Seated, she is wearing a pearl necklace and a voluminous            gown.
"Aphra Behn" by J Fitter, 1754-01-02. Retrieved from https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/circa-1675-english-dramatist-novelist-and-poet-aphra-behn-news-photo/51242118. This image is licensed under the GETTY IMAGES CONTENT LICENCE AGREEMENT.


Connections Sort descending Author name Excerpt
Anthologization Jane Wiseman
Also in 1701, before JW 's the play appeared, Abel Boyer included in his Letters of Wit, Politicks and Morality several writings by her: letters (under the name of Daphne) to George Farquhar and...
Anthologization Catharine Trotter
The ascription has been subject to some question, since the formerly accepted birthdate for CT made her only fourteen at the time; the date established by more recent scholarship makes her approaching twenty.
Matthew, Henry Colin Gray, Brian Harrison, and Lawrence Goldman, editors. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
The volume,...
Education Elizabeth Boyd
EB says nothing about how she learned the things she knew—an acquaintance with English literature, some history, and at least a smattering of French and Latin—but she may well have been largely self-taught. She often...
Family and Intimate relationships Lady Mary Wroth
LMW seems to have borne this lover two children, William and Katherine Herbert, both of whom survived to adulthood. William may be the origin of the mysterious young knight, Fair Designe, in the second part...
Family and Intimate relationships Elizabeth Singer Rowe
Thomas Rowe's writing expresses political attitudes which were not uncommon amongst the dissenting community. He wrote against tyrants, and against servility towards tyrants. He also wrote poetry.
Stecher, Henry F. Elizabeth Singer Rowe, the Poetess of Frome: A Study in Eighteenth-Century English Pietism. Herbert Lang, 1973.
110, 113ff
It may have been the poet...
Friends, Associates Jane Wiseman
She was a friend and correspondent of George Farquhar and the future Susanna Centlivre ; the fact that she addressed a poem to Aphra Behn and that Abel Boyer published letters by her may indicate...
Friends, Associates Ephelia
If Ephelia's poems of compliment are taken to imply personal friendship, she may have been a friend of Aphra Behn , whom she praises warmly and with polite humility about her own abilities in her...
Intertextuality and Influence Ariadne
Ariadne says she is a young lady, who has had an Inclination . . . for Scribling from my Childhood.
Blain, Virginia, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy, editors. The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present. Yale University Press; Batsford, 1990.
Her preface invokes both Behn and Philips . The play was published in 1696. In...
Intertextuality and Influence Catharine Trotter
It was published the same year, dedicated to Lord Halifax . Like Fatal Friendship, it carried commendatory verses by Lady Piers which situate Trotter as an heir to both Behn and Philips .
Intertextuality and Influence Penelope Aubin
Having related his marriage in Lady Lucy, PA is forced (rather like Behn opening The Second Part of the Rover or Defoe opening Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe) to begin her sequel with...
Intertextuality and Influence Mary Russell Mitford
MRM said her work was modelled not on the tragedy by Catharine Trotter (later Cockburn)—in which Trotter in turn had drawn on a story by Aphra Behn —but on an old Portuguese chronicle
Mitford, Mary Russell. The Life of Mary Russell Mitford: Told by Herself in Letters To Her Friends. L’Estrange, Alfred Guy KinghamEditor , Harper and Brothers, 1870.
2: 68
Intertextuality and Influence Susanna Centlivre
The allusion to Aphra Behn is deliberate. SC 's correspondents included George Farquhar .
Bowyer, John Wilson. The Celebrated Mrs Centlivre. Duke University Press, 1952.
19, 24ff
Intertextuality and Influence Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
They include a novel in five letters (Indamora to Lindamira), a verse-and-prose romance (The Adventurer), and poems in various pastoral and classical modes—epistles, lyrics, etc. The novel gives a voice to...
Intertextuality and Influence Susanna Centlivre
This play owes something to Behn 's The Feigned Courtesans, 1679. Its action is supposed to be taking place during a single night, entirely in the dark. It abounds, even beyond what was common...
Intertextuality and Influence Sappho
Sappho 's name was an honorific for women writers for generations. George Puttenham may have been the first to use it to compliment a writing woman: in Parthienades, 1579, he said that Queen Elizabeth


30 March 1638
John Wilkins entered in the Stationers' RegisterDiscovery of a World in the Moone, an early fictional response to features of the moon's surface newly made visible by telescopes; it was printed this year.
Abraham Cowley published Poems; this volume, which included his Pindaric Odes and Miscellanies, confirmed his stature as the leading poet of the day.
Sarah Jinner , Student in Astrology, published An Almanack or Prognostication for the Year of our Lord 1658 being the second after bissextile or leap year: calculated for the meridian of London, and may...
François de La Rochefoucauld published Réflexions, Sentences, et Maximes Morales.
After 7 April 1668
On the death of Sir William Davenant , his widow took over the running of Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre; she managed it until the 1670s, and therefore presided over the debut of Aphra Behn .
John Dryden , with others, published a collaborative versetranslation of Ovid 's Epistles (or Heroides).
6 February 1685
King Charles II died and his brother James II (who was also James VII of Scotland) assumed the throne.
8 January 1689
Robert Gould licensed his Poems, Chiefly Consisting of Satyrs and Satyrical Epistles: it included The Poetess, aimed primarily at Aphra Behn .
27 July 1689
John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee , led a force of Scottish Highlanders loyal to James II against William ite English soldiers in the pass of Killiecrankie.
John Dryden published his edition of Juvenal 's Satires, translated into English poetry by various hands, including that of Aphra Behn .
October 1693
The Gentleman's Diary; or, The Monthly Miscellany (edited by Motteux ) put out an issue devoted to women, entitled The Lady's Journal.
February 1694
The Fatal Marriage: or The Innocent Adultery by Thomas Southerne (or Southern), a tragedy based on Aphra Behn 's novel The History of the Nun: or, the Fair Vow-Breaker, probably had its first performance this month.
By November 1695
Thomas Southerne (or Southern)'s Oroonoko, a tragedy adapted for the stage from Aphra Behn 's novel of the same title (his second recent stage adaptation of Behn), had its first performance.
John Evelyn included in his Numismata. A Discourse of Medals, Ancient and Modern a list of women famed for writing: Margaret Cavendish , Katherine Philips , Aphra Behn , Bathsua Makin , and Mary Astell .
The worthy authors chosen for a miscellany entitled The Agreeable Variety by its female editor included Behn , Philips , Chudleigh , and Finch .