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Aphra Behn

Aphra Behn was an English novelist and dramatist. She was probably born in Kent, England, in 1640. Much is unknown about her life.

It is thought that she was taken to live in Suriname, West Indies, as a child. She also served as an English spy in Holland. When she wanted to return to England, and King Charles II refused to pay for her trip home, she was sent to debtor's prison.

When she finally got to return to England, she became a successful London playwright, novelist, and poet. She felt that writing poetry allowed her to express her "masculine" side.

Aphra is considered by many as England's first professional female writer. However, she was accused of lewdness (which was unheard of and unaccepted by women of that time) and plagiarism on account of her gender. People thought that her openness of her lifestyle was unconventional. Her poetry touched topics such as relationships (with both men and women), rape, female sexual pleasure, and eroticism.

Her novel, Oroonoko (1688?), or The Royal Slave, was the first English novel to express sympathy for oppressed Blacks. It is a story of an African prince sold into slavery in Suriname.

Aphra's plays include The Rover (1677; second part in 1681), The City Heiress (1682), The Luck Chance (1686).

She has also used the penname Astrea. Aphra died in 1689.

"All I ask, is the privilege for my masculine part the poet in me… If I must not, because of my sex, have this freedom…I lay down my quill and you shall hear no more of me."--Aphra Behn

From: A Voyage to the Isle of Love
All trembling in my arms Aminta lay,
Defending of the bliss I strove to take;
Raising my rapture by her kind delay,
Her force so charming was and weak.
The soft resistance did betray the grant,
While I pressed on the heaven of my desires;
Her rising breasts with nimbler motions pant;
Her dying eyes assume new fires.
Now to the height of languishment she grows,
And still her looks new charms put on;
- Now the last mystery of Love she knows,
We sigh, and kiss: I waked, and all was done.
'Twas but a dream, yet by my heart I knew,
Which still was panting, part of it was true:
Oh, how I strove the rest to have believed;
Ashamed and angry to be undeceived!

Who made love to me
, Imagin'd more than woman.
Fair lovely Maid, or if that Title be
Too weak, too Feminine for Nobler thee,
Permit a Name that more Approaches Truth:
And let me call thee, Lovely Charming Youth.
This last will justify my soft complaint,
While that may serve to lessen my constraint;
And without Blushes I the Youth pursue,
When so much beauteous Woman is in view.
Against thy Charms we struggle but in vain
With thy deluding Form thou giv'st us pain,
While the bright Nymph betrays us to the Swain.
In pity to our Sex sure thou wert sent,
That we might Love, and yet be Innocent:
For sure no Crime with thee we can commit;
Or if we shou'd - thy Form excuses it.
For who, that gathers fairest Flowers believes
A Snake lies hid beneath the Fragrant Leaves.
Though beauteous Wonder of a different kind,
Soft Cloris with the dear Alexis join'd;
When e'er the Manly part of thee, wou'd plead
Though tempts us with the Image of the Maid,
While we the noblest Passions do extend
The Love to Hermes, Aphrodite the Friend.

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