Birth Name: Aphra Johnson
Born: Baptized December 14, 1640 in Canterbury, England
Died: April 16, 1689 in London, England
Time Period: Enlightenment
Expertise: Journalist, Novelist, Playwright, Poet, Secret Service Spy, Short Story Writer, Translator
Known For: Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister, Oroonoko, The Fair Jilt, The Rover
Interesting quotes by Aphra Behn
“There is no sinner like a young saint.”
“Nothing is more capable of troubling our reason, and consuming our health, than secret notions of jealousy in solitude.”
“Faith, sir, we are here today, and gone tomorrow.”
“Money speaks sense in a language all nations understand.”
A brief biography of Aphra Behn
Aphra Behn was born in Canterbury, England. The earliest record of her existence shows she was baptized on December 14, 1640. She was a brave woman who triumphed cultural boundaries through her writing—inspiring many female authors in the centuries to come. Behn was an English playwright, poet, and novelist best known for her work, Oroonoko. Aphra Behn was associated with a circle of writers and well-known Libertines, often using the pseudonym, “Astrea”. Along with her creative writing expertise, she was a translator—translating Abraham Cowley’s concluding book, Six Books of Plants, before she died. She was also one of the first English women to earn her living by writing—second only to John Dryden, whom she was friends with. As such, Behn was regarded as one of the most fruitful writers of the Restoration Era.
Aphra Behn was quite the enigma in her early life. The mystery of her adolescence seems to have been deliberately concealed by her. Through a handful of speculatory books—mainly Charles Gildon’s The Histories And Novels of the Late Ingenious Mrs. Behn (1698)—Gildon asserted they were close friends and that Aphra Behn was born to a barber named Bartholomew Johnson and a wet-nurse, Elizabeth Denham. Born during political stress leading up to the English Civil War, Aphra recounts her family journeying to a minor English colony, Surinam. This is where she met an African slave leader who would later become the model for her well-known short novel, Oroonoko.
When she returned to England in 1664, and supposedly married a tradesperson, Johan Behn. It is unclear if her husband died or if they separated. In 1666, devoted to King Charles II, Aphra Behn was employed as a spy in Antwerp, Belgium. However, she was thrown into a debtor’s prison and that’s when she began to write to support herself. The mass of her poetry was collected in Several Occasions, with A Voyage to the Island of Love. Based on her travels to Surinam, in 1668 Behn wrote her novel, Oroonoko, about the enslaved character of Oroonoko and his love, Imoinda. The novel was adapted for the stage and performed throughout the 18th century. As abolitionism came to the forefront, the work was heralded as the first anti-slavery novel.
Aphra Behn died on April 16, 1689 in London, England and was buried in the East Cloister at Westminster Abbey. Oddly enough, she was not recognized in the Poets’ Corner. Upon her monument it reads: “Here lies a Proof that Wit can never be Defence enough against Mortality.”
Works by Aphra Behn
Download free Aphra Behn books. Listen to Aphra Behn audiobooks.
External Links for Aphra Behn
Aphra Behn on Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aphra_Behn
Aphra Behn on Wikisourcehttps://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Author:Aphra_Behn
See other authors of the Enlightenment period