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Aphra Behn

", Sir, we are here to Day, and gone to Morrow."
-Aphra Behn, "The Lucky Chance"

Aphra Behn was born Aphra Johnson in 1640 in England, and much of what is known about her is a guess on the exact year or time period that each occurrence happened. When she was around 23, she lived in Suriname for about a year and then in 1664 married her Dutch husband, which gave her the last name Behn. It is thought that he died when they had been married only about a year.

In 1667, Aphra became Agent 160 for Charles II in Antwerp, but in 1668 she was imprisoned. Then, in 1670, Aphra began writing plays and books. Her first was a play called "The Forced Marriage" and it was performed at Lincoln's Inn Fields. After that point, she wrote at least one play/book per year.

In February 1671, Aphra published The Amourous Prince, and she edited and published Covent Garden Drollery in 1672. She produced "The Dutch Lover" in 1673 and completed "The Revenge: Or a Match in Newgate" and "The Woman Turned Bully" in 1675.

In the summer of 1676, Aphra produced her sole tragedy "Abdelazer" and also another play called "The Town Fop." She was very busy in 1677, producing and publishing The Rover, producing "The Debauchee" in February and "The Counterfeit Bridegroom" in September. Then came "Sir Patient Fancy" (January 1678), "The Feigned Courtesans" (1679), "The Young King" (1679), "The City Heiress" (1682) and "Like Father, Like Son" (1682). However, unlike most of the others, "Like Father, Like Son" did not do very well as a play and flopped. Following this decline, Aphra stopped writing plays for a short period of time.

In 1683, Aphra published the first epistolary novel in English literature - "Love Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister." She also wrote two books of poems, Poems on Several Occasions in 1684 and Miscellany in 1685. In 1686, Aphra published The Lover's Watch and produced "The Lucky Chance." Then, in 1687, she produced "The Emperor of the Moon."

In 1688, she wrote her three fiction novels: The Fair Jilt, Agnes de Castro, and Oroonoke. Oroonoke was a study of racism and slavery, and although she never directly criticized slavery as the narrator (unlike Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom's Cabin), her protagonist does criticize it.

Aphra Behn died on April 16, 1689, and she was buried in Westminster Abbey. She was the first professional woman writer, a forerunner to English literature, and an important novel innovator.

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