Aphra Behn: Contemporary Critical Essays | Sussex …

Aphra Behn's poetry was vibrant and robust, and several poems merit rememberance of her as a poet: "Love Arm'd" is frequently anthologized, "The Disappointment" is often discussed in comparison with Rochester's "The Imperfect Enjoyment", and induced even to praise it and publish it in his , 1680.

Although Aphra Behn's contemporaries, and the prudish eras after, vilified and belittled her accomplishments as a writer due to her rampant and unapologetic use of sexual subjects, current critics can judge her on her merits alone.

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Behn's novel was translated into German in 1709, and even into Russian later in the 18th century. But by far the most influential was Pierre-Antoine de la Place's translation into French in 1745. La Place's translation, however, takes some rather large liberties: it gives the story a happy ending, for one thing. Still, La Place's translation was hugely successful: it went through seven editions in the eighteenth century alone. We also know from contemporary reviews of the work that his played a large role in turning slavery into a topic of public discussion in France. (Some seventy years after Aphra Behn first wrote her story of Oroonoko's enslavement in Surinam, Voltaire has his Candide also make a stop in Surinam, where he meets a slave who informs him, "This is the price you pay for the sugar you eat in Europe.")

Aphra Behn: [contemporary critical essays] - Janet M

Aphra Behn (1640-1689) was a Restoration dramatist and a professional author, one of the first English women ever to earn a living through her writing. We know little of her early life. She was born of obscure, likely lower-class parentage, and probably traveled to the English colony in Surinam for a brief time around 1663. This trip would later provide her with the inspiration for , the longest and most famous of her short tales. On her return to Europe she served for a time as a spy in Antwerp, working for King Charles II and the English Protestants. She later began an outrageous career as a professional writer: at the time, for a woman to sell her own work to the public was highly unusual, and even considered scandalous. That she remained involved in politics all her life (sometimes ending up in jail for it) and wrote erotic poetry as well as bawdy Restoration comedies only added to the many charges of indecency leveled against her by her contemporaries. She was often at the brink of financial disaster, and once stated that she was "forced to write for bread and not ashamed to owne it." Virginia Woolf has said of her, "She had to work on equal terms with men. She made, by working very hard, enough to live on. The importance of that fact outweighs anything that she actually wrote, even the splendid 'A Thousand Martyrs I have made,' or 'Love in Fantastic Triumph Sat,' for here begins the freedom of the mind, or rather the possibility that in the course of time the mind will be free to write what it likes. ... All women together ought to let flowers upon the tomb of Aphra Behn... for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds."

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