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Aphra Behn

Aphra BehnAKA Aphra Johnson

Born: 10-Jul-1640
Birthplace: Wye, London, England
Died: 16-Apr-1689
Location of death: London, England
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Westminster Abbey, London, England

Gender: Female
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Playwright, Spy

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Oroonoko, the History of the Royal Slave

British dramatist and novelist, baptized at Wye, Kent, in 1640. Her father, John Johnson, was a barber. While still a child she was taken out to Surinam, then an English possession, from which she returned to England in 1658, when it was handed over to the Dutch. In Surinam Aphra learned the history, and acquired a knowledge of the African prince Oroonoko and his beloved Imoinda, whose adventures she has related in her novel, Oroonoko. On her return she married Mr. Behn, a London merchant of Dutch extraction. The wit and abilities of Mrs. Behn brought her into high estimation at court, and her husband having died by this time -- King Charles II employed her on secret service in the Netherlands during the Dutch war. At Antwerp she successfully accomplished the objects of her mission; and in the latter end of 1666 she wormed out of one Van der Aalbert the design formed by De Ruyter, in conjunction with the DeWitts, of sailing up the Thames and burning the English ships in their harbors. This she communicated to the English court, but although the event proved her intelligence to have been well founded, it was at the time disregarded. Disgusted with political service, she returned to England, and from this period she appears to have supported herself by her writings. Among her numerous plays are The Forced Marriage, or the Jealous Bridegroom (1671); The Amorous Prince (1671); The Town Fop (1677); and The Rover, or the Banished Cavalier (in two parts, 1677 and 1681); and The Roundheads (1682). The coarseness that disfigures her plays was the fault of her time; she possessed great ingenuity, and showed an admirable comprehension of stage business, while her wit and vivacity were unfailing. Of her short tales, or novelettes, the best is the story of Oroonoko, which was made the basis of Thomas Southerne's popular tragedy. Mrs. Behn died on the 16th of April 1689, and was buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey.

Father: John Johnson (barber)
Mother: Elizabeth Denham
Husband: Behn (Dutch merchant, m. 1664, d. 1665)

    Debtor's Prison (multiple)



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