Aphra Behn: Contribution as English Playwright

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      Aphra Behn, (1640-1689) often credited with being the first woman writer to earn a living by her pen, she apparently led a most unusual eventful life. Although the details concerning her life are scant and often based on speculation, evidence suggests that in her youth she visited Surinam, where she had an affair with the political radical William Scot. Returning to England, she may have married a "Mr. Behn" in 1664; however, she was probably widowed and penniless by '1665. To earn money, she took employment by the Crown as a spy in Antwerp, but arrived back in England in debt, and in 1668 was thrown in debtor's prison.

      Upon her emergence, Aphra Behn started to support herself by writing plays for the London theater, and later novels for print. She is best known for Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave (1688), the story of a captured African prince who is forced into slavery in Surinam. Oroonoko is at once an adventure narrative and a horrific tale of the African experience in the New World. Overall, Behn composed at least sixteen plays for the stage, and wrote fourteen novels, only six of which were published during her lifetime.

      All the Histories and Novels Written by the Late Ingenious Mrs. A. Behn. London: Printed for the Chapman at the Angel, 1698. Third edition with additions. The volume shown is the only known complete copy of the Chapman third edition with additions.

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