A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Behn, Aphra

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Behn, Aphra (Johnston) (1640-1689). -- Novelist and dramatist, dau. of a barber named Johnston, but went with a relative whom she called father to Surinam, of which he had been appointed Governor. He, however, d. on the passage thither, and her childhood and youth were passed there. She became acquainted with the celebrated slave Oronoko, afterwards the hero of one of her novels. Returning to England in 1658 she m. Behn, a Dutch merchant, but was a widow at the age of 26. She then became attached to the Court, and was employed as a political spy at Antwerp. Leaving that city she cultivated the friendship of various playwrights, and produced many plays and novels, also poems and pamphlets. The former are extremely gross, and are now happily little known. She was the first English professional authoress. Among her plays are The Forced Marriage, Abdelazer, The Rover, The Debauchee, etc., and her novels include Oronoko and The Nun. The former of these was the first book to bring home to the country a sense of the horrors of slavery, for which let her have credit.