Talk:Aphra Behn

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An Addition[edit]

Aphra Behn was a very important woman in history, something I hope won't get lost in this article. Her novel Oroonoko has been rightly called one of the first anti-slavery works. It's available online and should be read. She was definitely countering a prejudice against Oroonoko's race. Her play The Rover has liveliness and depth. Readers would be interested in what was written of her at Westminster, and it's an honor, one she deserved, that she's there: "She was Mistress of all the pleasing Arts of conversation, but us'd 'em not to any but those who love Plaindealing." That "plaindealing" or honesty should be respected very much now. My source is the Duffy biography, which I value. Nov. 20, 2005 21:20, 20 November 2005 (UTC) amphimacer

Hi, Do please click on this link to Oroonoko, it's a Featured article (=identified as one of Wikipedia's best), written by one of our 18th-century specialists (User:Geogre), and much superior to the Aphra Behn article. Best wishes, Bishonen | talk 22:20, 20 November 2005 (UTC).
Thank you Bishonen! amphimacer 21:54, 21 November 2005 (UTC) P.S. I'm glad that Geogre will be doing the Wikipedia article on Aphra Behn, and I want to add that I have an article which perhaps can be useful. It was originally given as part of public seminar on the subject of love, and in one section I write about what I see as valuable for women today in The Rover, letters of Aphra Behn, and Oroonoko (my source for the letters and certain facts is Maureen Duffy's biography). It's published at [[1]]. Amphimacer 18:18, 25 November 2005 (UTC)
I apologize. I've been so tardy in working on this article as to be unforgiveable. Basically, Behn is one of the most difficult authors to reconstruct. So little is known (especially since Duffy) and so many have an interest in molding her into contemporary clothing that we have our own desires as much as the obscurity of time to battle. I would welcome anything from any quarter to make this present article better. I should go ahead and state my own predilections for writing about Behn: I'm one of those political readers. I see every author of the Restoration and Augustan period as engaging in a rather high stakes bit of cultural warfare. After all, the presses were new, the forms of literature were new, the audiences were new, and no one had been convinced that a novel was "only a novel" and that it wouldn't change the world. Meanwhile, ideas were imbued with such power over lives that there were no innocent words in print. Therefore, I'm apt to read Behn the way Todd does: as a partisan. Calling her a Tory is technically accurate but somewhat misleading. She was not reactionary but activist. She was not in opposition to emergent capitalism but activist for a sort of idealism that we today find alien. At least her public face was: the private woman has remained private after three centuries. Geogre 04:03, 26 November 2005 (UTC)
Dear Geogre, I'm with you politically. If I read you correctly. Aphra Behn was for the monarchy and not against what we call capitalism; that's a hard subject for people to see accurately then or now, and I could say a lot which I won't. Then there is Behn's actual work and I hope I endeavor to know her through it--which is the real test of the scholar. I'm interested in what you say about an "idealism that we today find alien." As I looked at Oroonoko in particular, I saw a very courageous mind at work--at the end Behn describes Oroonoko being tortured, and it's unbearable, unflinching in honesty and I think this part could stand up to any cutting-edge or dark work of our time. But Behn's purpose is important, she's describing the ugliness of the torture so we'll feel it, and see Oroonoko's courage and nobility through it--he didn't give his torturers the satisfaction they wanted of seeing him break down. I want to read her last play 'The Widow Ranter'--I began it once in the library--and would like to see it performed. It's about one of the earliest revolts here, in the 'New World.' I read it was staged after she died and very badly, and I'm hoping its better than its reputation! Well, Wikipedia and you are encouraging me to continue my study of Aphra Behn, one of the most interesting people ever! Amphimacer 21:13, 26 November 2005 (UTC)

Wow I cant belive how amazing her life was. It may seem a little wiered but she is now one of my biggest role models! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:28, 11 October 2010 (UTC)

Factual dispute[edit]

No one owns words on Wikipedia, so I don't want to act like I have a monopoly on Behn truth, but this article is not only inaccurate, but it keeps getting worse rather than better. I do plan to do a complete rewrite as soon as I finish the 2000 rev. of Janet Todd's The Secret Life of Aphra Behn, which is the most recent scholarly biography of her. However, vast tracts of the present article disagrees not only with Todd, but also with Maureen Duffy, whose Passionate Shepherdess was the first truly scholarly biography of Behn's in the 20th c. Instead of trying to give a miniature version of the article as I will rewrite it, I will establish the facts we do know and the untruths that have been exposed so far.

  1. Aphra Behn was probably born to a man named Bartholomew Johnson in Wye, probably in 1640, with a probable sister named Frances and brother named George. Her mother was a distant relation of the Sidneys. Her father was of no family.
  2. Behn probably worked as a copyist.
  3. Behn almost surely performed spy-work long before the 2nd Dutch War. It is most likely that she was a go-between courier for the Royalist court in exile.
  4. She travelled to Suriname in 1663-4, most likely. She might have been there as a mistress, but that's very unlikely. She might have been there as a woman seeking a husband, but that's terribly unlikely. What's most likely is that she was paired with another lady as a travelling companion. There is no historical figure who is "deputy governor" of Suriname except William Byam. There is no father, no sugar daddy, no one who can fill that role.
  5. There is no historical Oroonoko. Scholars have searched night and day for hundreds of years for a likely African. The name is an adaptation of "Oroondates," a Romance hero from novels Behn read, and an obvious homophone/allegory for the river Orinoco itself.
  6. There was no slave rising to match what is described in the novel Oroonoko. For more detailed proof and disproof, see Oroonoko, a featured article.
  7. After her time in Suriname, she is married, whether in Suriname or on ship home. The likely Behn is a Johan Behn of Frankfurt, who was probably a slave trader and a Dutch go-between trader (a literal middleman). He likely died during the plague year of 1665-6.
  8. She was sent to Holland to recruit a double agent. One William Scot was a Puritan who had betrayed Suriname, and Behn was sent to recruit him to betray the Dutch. She was partially successful, but not very.
  9. Behn went to live near the Temple Bar, where she met a great many playwrights.
  10. She appeared to get no pay at all from Charles II. However, she did get her plays read and put on. This, in fact, might have been payment-in-kind, which was common with Charles II.
  11. Her poetry is not indecent. In fact, it was very fine, and it is the basis of her fame in the 18th century -- with admirers including Burns, Blake, and later Wordsworth and Coleridge. It would be the basis of her reputation for the generation after her life.
  12. Her drama was very popular. Only Dryden's plays were staged more often in the 1670's.
  13. She wrote another novel before Oroonoko, so it's not the first novel or the first novel by a woman in English.
  14. She was not the first female professional author in English. She was the first professional woman dramatist, yes, and the first female professional poet and novelist, but women had earlier made their livings by writing cook books.

There are many more facts to come, with citations, but this should be enough to explain why there is a Disputed tag on the article as it stands. Geogre 03:26, 14 May 2005 (UTC)

Original version of the article[edit]

Aphra Behn (1640 ? – 1689)

Aphra Behn was the first English woman, who earned her living by writing. Furthermore, she set the beginning of woman novelists. She was very conscious of her different position as a woman writer. Besides she was known for her free comments on religion, science, philosophy and her aversion to hypocrisy in society.

Because of these facts she earned a great deal of praise by a number of woman writers. For instance, Virginia Woolf wrote about Aphra Behn “All woman together ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.”

She was an excellent play writer. And her first play The Forced Marriage, exposes the bondage of matches arranged for money and status. But when writing for the stage became less profitable, she focused on prose fiction, short tales, prologues, complimentary verses, compilations and she also worked as a translator.

Her best remembered work is Oroonoko (or the History of the Royal Slave). Oroonoko is based on her visit to Surinam. Aphra Behn claims that she is relating to a true history. The main plot is about a love story (Oroonoko, Imoinda) combined with the particular issue of slavery.But as well as the history of Aphra Behn’s own life contains mysteries, also her work Oroonoko provides some difficulties to lay down the type of writing. Even if she claims that her story Oroonoko is a true story, it can not be classified as fact or fiction, realism or romance. Oroonoko is seen as a novel at the end of the 18th century. But even though it can not be defined as a novel, because it does not have the features for a novel in the 18th century. Oroonoko is a memoir (she claims that she is an eyewitness to the story), a travel narrative, and the biography of the main character in the story Oroonoko (a black prince and finally a "royal slave"; Behn sees Oroonoko as a hero and stresses the honor of black men). Aphra Behn’s story Oroonoko helped to teach people, to feel for victims, who were involved in the inhuman commerce of slave trades.

As already mentioned, much of Aphra Behn’s life remains a mystery. So that it is difficult to reconstruct her past. She was probably from East Kent. Regrettably she has not left any record of her date and place of birth, family name or how she grew up. References to nuns and convents give reasons to believe that she was raised as a Catholic. Furthermore particular details in her work Oroonoko show that she probably was in a sugar colony of Surinam in 1664. In London she often took part on public debates and pointed out satire against the Whigs. Aphra Behn was a woman, who spoke out loud, what she had in her mind. For this reason Behn was arrested for abusive reflections on the King’s son (the Whig duke of Monmouth). Aphra Behn passed away in the year 1689, but her fabulous works have honorably still remained in our society.

written by:Mosnik Kerstin

What a heck?[edit]

Met Oroonoko? What? There is no evidence whatsoever that she met a real person by the name of Oroonoko. Scholars have investigated this ad nauseum, and no one has a clue. She says that she met him, but Daniel Defoe claims to have Robinson Crusoe's works at hand. It's a fiction. Furthermore, she didn't idealize the figure "a little." She idealized him entirely. Why? Well, because race was pretty unimportant for her. Black Africans were like Moors or Turks for the 17th c. English: exotic. You could tell any tale you wanted in such a backdrop, and it's my opinion, anyway, that the tale Behn wants to tell is the regicide of Charles I. Remember her patron (possible lover). Remember how hot the debate about monarchy was in the 1670's, with the suspicious James II nearing the throne. Anyway, the article as written seems naive. Passionate Shepherdess is out there, but I've never read it. Anyone interested in Behn would do well to read Duffy. Geogre 20:40, 21 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I'm not an expert on Aphra Benn so I don't feel I should edit this article. However, I do know that not only is the meeting with Oroonoko highly questionable but her whole visit to Suriname is also. The same can be said for much of her life, including being a diplomat. A meeting between an author and the title character of their works was a popular conceit during the period, it is used, amongst others, by the aforementioned Daniel Defoe, and Samuel Richardson with Pamela.
After Behn's death her life was much romanticised and reproduced in largely fictitious biographies, which were based largely on the fictitious "authobiographical" elements within her work, such as "The History of the Life and Memoirs of Mrs. Behn, Written by one of the Fair Sex" which was published by Charles Gildon. Unfortunatly these tales, which at best were only half-truths, went almost unquestioned for over 200 years and they passed into "fact". Professor Ernest Bernbaum was a key figure in highlighting the improbabilities in Behn's life. Rje 23:38, Jan 20, 2005 (UTC)

Good heavens! Gildon? I had no idea that Gildon was a source. (I'm currently (and eternally) working on The Dunciad, where Gildon shows up as a typical Dunce in Book II of both the 1727 and 1742 versions.) N.b. the salacious romanticizing of Behn starts after Giles Jacob begins producing penny biographies of "late writers." He stumbled into a lucrative market, and many flowed like silt into the gap he opened. In fact, Jacob's biographies were farmed out to hired pens, and no one investigated the authors they wrote about. (Jacob prompted John Arbuthnot to say "biography is one of the new terrors of death.") All of this is 1720's. The era is important: practically any biographical source from that decade is suspect to start, for two reasons. The first is the hack bio that was going on then. The other, though, is what had happened to Behn's reputation. In the 1680's to 1700, she was "Astrea," the glorious woman writer. The tenor of the times changed considerably in the later Williamite era, and sexual and gender freedoms chilled a bit. By the 1720's, Pope is calling her licentious. So, if she's no longer remembered as the glorious female wit, but instead as the potty-mouth girl, any biography produced in that decade (and the next) will be all about what a shocking female rake she was -- she becomes Rochester in drag.
My fear is that the folks in the Behn Society now are as apt to inflate her again. She is still the victim of political grave robbing. Now, all her works are about women and women's issues and psychosexual tensions. Well, ok, maybe, but seems to me that she had a lot that was terrifically clear to contemporaries that was just plain political. She was a political radical. There's pretty much no doubt. Her lack of support from the Mary court, if not the reception of her plays, had to do with the fact that London was a city of perhaps 100,000 people, the theater-going public was small, and people knew the playwright's politics. Politics could make a hit of a fair or poor work. Sex could push or kill a novel. (No one talks about Love Letters Between a Nobleman and his Sister.) It's because of the heavy scrum over Behn's corpse that I, at least, have stayed away from the details of her story. There's no way to win, in academe, in trying to write a restrained version. Geogre 13:23, 22 Jan 2005 (UTC)

I believe Janet Todd is unchallenged today as the greatest scholarly authority on Aphra Behn. She has edited the current standard edition of Behn's work, and her biography The Secret Life of Aphra Behn (1996) has superseded earlier work. (Gildon? Charles Gildon? Oh, help. You are of course so right, Geogre. Gildon and Curll and the other Grub Street hacks as "sources" are a complete joke, or one that would be funny if they weren't still misleading people. Thanks for explaining the 18th century context so clearly.) --Bishonen | Talk 14:12, 22 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Aha. I've been away from the ivy covered towers too long, sadly. I'm sure you're right that Janet Todd is the authority: a new authority has been needed for quite some time (Duffy is 1960's, I think), and anyone capable of calm, scholarly, and restrained biography is going to be my hero. I'll see if I can get my hands on her The Secret Life of Aphra Behn. I still scratch my head and chin over the original version of this article. Who could have known enough but nothing and written it? I wonder if it was ported over from one of the public domain (19th c.) reference works? The EB would be more verbose. Geogre 13:43, 23 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Promises, promises[edit]

I'm reading Janet Todd's 2000 The Secret Life of Aphra Behn now. First, Duffy is valuable: she did some of the hardcore scholarship (finding Effrey Johnson (aka Aphry/Aphra Johnson), finding Bartholomew Johnson (father), and Elizabeth Denham Johnson (mother)). I'm taking notes & promise to whip the article into Featured Article shape as soon as I am done. I'll also, of course, read Vita Sackville-West's stuff and skim other biographies of recent vintage to see what I can see. Geogre 02:05, 7 Feb 2005 (UTC)

I'd read Ms. Todd biography on Aphra Behn a year or two ago, while working on a generational project. I should tell you that it's a good read, and that it should help to get the article on Mrs. Behn to be place at a better standard than it is at the present moment. Leoni2 13:15, 3 Feb 2006

I've been reading it, and I got all her material on Oroonoko out for my work on Oroonoko. My problem is the agonizing pace of making a note on every significant fact and then, later, having to cut down all the facts to make it digestible. Geogre 19:41, 3 February 2006 (UTC)

Well, if you look at most scholarly books, they are all heavily footnoted. True, it does slow down the reading, but it is helpfull in your own studies by telling you where the author had gotten his or her information, which you, if you want, can check out on you on own to check on the validity of the author's statement, and if the author is throwing you a bunch of pure bull, you can say why. But I hope that reading Ms. Todd's book is helping you. Leoni2 17:43, 8 February 2006 (UTC)


I know the border of Venezuela once extended into Guyana (British Guiana) -- but I don't think it ever reached as far east as Suriname (Dutch Guiana).

Heaven forefend[edit]

Sheesh. She met Oroonoko, eh? Really? That's astonishing! Of what extraction was he? What historical figure is he based upon? Being naive is no longer acceptable when writing about Aphra Behn, folks, and this article gets worse, rather than better, with time. I'm going to have to raze a lot of what's here when I rewrite, and I just think I'll give notice now that, if you don't have citations to prove what you say, don't say it. If you do have citations, provide them. Aphra Behn was probably only in Suriname (the Surinam river, see Suriname) for a year or so, with half a year in transit both ways. This suggests a mission, not a home. Geogre 21:35, 13 May 2005 (UTC)

Mentions in literature[edit]

I am no expert whatsoever on Aphra Behn, but I happen to know that she is mentioned in "Desolation Island" one of Patrick O'Brian's "Jack Aubrey" novels, on page 44. SHe is mentioned by Maturin's friend, Sir Joseph, and all Maturin can recall of her is as a "lewd woman, who wrote plays in the last age" whereupon Sir Jospeph reveals her role as a spy.

Indeed, O'Brien is winking with that reference. Her plays weren't very much denounced for obscenity (depends on the critic) as much as her poetry was. Her poetry, for example, deals fairly frankly with loss of maidenhead, impotence, and premature ejaculation, whereas her plays just have a few unmarried couplings (something common to Restoration comedy in general). In the Napoleonic age, though, when O'Brien sets his novels, she would have been scandalum magnatum. William Blake regarded her as a guilty pleasure, and so did Byron, but the people of that age who might have defended her would have been offended by her politics. They were doing things she never did, but they didn't like kings, where Behn was 100% royalist, doggedly royalist. Geogre 22:38, 28 December 2005 (UTC)
You probably know, but I think it appropriate that the article (when re-written) include a note that in A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf discusses her influence most postively. That's what brought me here to find out more. [Unsigned comment by User:Jwy on December 29, 2005.]
I entirely agree with Jwy. Woolf's discussion was important in rekindling 20th-century interest in Behn; it's where I first saw her name, too. Bishonen | talk 16:27, 15 January 2006 (UTC)
You guys are right, of course, and this only makes me feel guiltier about not finishing the biography and getting to it. In fact, Woolf is not only the reason for some renewal of interest, but these days people see her as setting things in a very bad course. There is some argument that scholars never forgot her, that before Woolf the dusty pedants knew and read her, and that she had no real impact on the rehabilitation of her career among scholars. There's some truth in that. At the same time, she was responsible for a massive (well, given the scale of these things) influx of interest and a dogged refusal to let her drop. Woolf clearly romanticized Behn, and she ends up rejecting Behn as a sell-out (whereas her friend Sacheverell wouldn't), but she was a high profile mention, no doubt about it. I do intend to mention the pro- and con- of Woolf's discussion, though I have to take care not to repeat Janet Todd's argument too much. Geogre 17:48, 15 January 2006 (UTC)

Opera Libretto[edit]

I was doing some work on John Blow's Venus and Adonis (opera) and found this interesting tidbit in New Grove -

"though there is no record of the venue and the identity of the librettist remains unknown; the suggestion that, because of its feminist overtones, the poem might have been written by Aphra Behn, with whom Blow later collaborated on a play (The Lucky Chance), is intriguing but unproven."

I don't have any access to information about Aphra Behn, I'm just wondering if those who know more about her think it warrants inclusion. Makemi 18:00, 17 January 2006 (UTC)


I am a member of a scholarly Listserve which discusses the Restoration and eighteenth century, and we've been discussing the "value" of Wickpedia as a scholarly source. I have sent them a reference to this article as an example of what serves as scholarship here. I feel sure that Janet Todd would be extremely dismayed to see her "Secret Life" described as a scholarly biography. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs).

Oh, how wonderful. Since I was last a member of C18-L, one must suppose that poles have been liberally distributed for backsides, if you believe that this article is either "what passes for scholarship" at "Wickipedia" (sic) or that your announcement is going to do anything except testify to your own vacuity. Given the fact that the talk page contains liberal complaints that the article is not up to snuff, it will be fascinating to see what a powerful example it will be. Further, if Ms. Todd is of the belief that her biography is unscholarly, then she shall have to do some explaining to the TLS among others. Finally, if your comment is indicative of the tone deafness, ignorance, and blindness now typical of the listserver, I can only rejoice in having gone on to do something useful instead of posting there. If you wish to see something more scholarly pertaining to the 18th century, you should look at one of our other articles. Oh, and it would be generous of you to have the courage of your convictions and indicate your authorship (I recall C18-L being real name only, but perhaps that has changed, too). You can "sign" by simply typing four tildes in a row. Then we can see where your IP resolves. I'm sure that it will show some place truly impressive, like Comcast Cable. I know that the decision to cavil or to help is agonizing, but some of us choose the more difficult course. Geogre 21:45, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

Another C18-L reflection by Linda Payne:

I have not seen every contribution to this thread [Re: "Wikipedia is our friend" [OT]], but if it hasn't been brought up before, you might all enjoy looking at the "Aphra Behn" entry. I was particularly interested in her acquaintance with Oroonoko, marriage to slave trader Johan Behn (under "discussion," in the "addition" section) and her bisexuality which featured stronger feelings for women and men. Looking at the sources, we see first that Janet Todd's Secret Life is cited as a biography, and in the "addiiton" section both Todd's "Secret" work and Duffy's "Passionate Shepherdess" are cited as scholarly biographies. Interestingly enough, Goreau's work is not cited as all. It's been a while since I've read these works, but my recollection is of Goreau's being the least speculative, and the most scholarly in terms of delineating what was known and what it may have implied.

Well, one of them could well rewrite the article. That would be a good thing. Again, though, this article is a disgrace and has been a disgrace for years. The scholarly editors of Wikipedia pretty much haven't touched it (including me). I keep meaning to, but I don't want to get into anything where the silly people of the Behn Society live. The citation is due to a single fact at the outset that was lifted from the better Oroonoko article. The only thing that I, for example, have done with this article is cut its original, even more deluded, text. It used to be lifted from the accounts based on the bizarre Charles Gildon. Further, Duffy and Todd are, in my opinion, scholarly biographies, although both contain speculation and both make assumptions. Duffy is the one who did the leg work to demonstrate the likeliness of her being Aphra Johnson, and Todd unearthed all that stuff about what exactly Behn was doing in her spying years. All the same, there is only one thing that a C18-L reader can do: either help the article or learn to read the talk pages, where they will see complaint after complaint about this article and our being too short-handed to get the work done. Finally, they can realize that Wikipedia is wonderful, and it is awful, depending on the article: it is both, and it would be great if some of my fellow scholars got off of their dusty cushions and started helping. Threatening is of no use. Geogre 11:20, 26 July 2006 (UTC)
agree. (And you know that I will not forget the Gould edition...) Enjoy the marvellous summer. --Olaf Simons 08:29, 27 July 2006 (UTC)


It is good to see this woman get so much attention. I was surprised that she was not mentioned in Feminism, which i have now corrected. Now why are all the citations external? Mgoodyear 21:17, 30 November 2006 (UTC)

!! Can someone please sort out a citation for her place of birth etc, as I have found conflicting information on the web - obviously it's an inferior source. Many thanks, S Johanesen —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:20, 21 October 2007 (UTC)

Did she coin the phrase sick as a parrot? If so, in which play/writing? — Preceding unsigned comment added by UK J12 (talkcontribs) 15:47, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

Still needs to be cleaned up[edit]

This article still needs a lot of work. Quotations like the following, for example: "She has since become a favourite among sexually liberated women, many of bisexual or lesbian orientation, who proclaim her as one of their most positive influences. [9]" ( 11:37, 2 March 2007 (UTC))

It doesn't just need clean up. It needs scourging. I don't think any of our 18th century editors are working on the article. For myself, I don't because of the amount of silliness aimed at Mrs. Behn by published critics, and I don't want to get into it. Anyone else with training and access to a good library who wants to take it on would be doing a serious mitzveh. Geogre 11:51, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
It needs more than just a a little bit of clean up; the article is filled with opinions is scant of citations and has some plain wrong facts. If I was not so busy at the moment I would rewrite the entire thing; I might be able to work on it in a couple months. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:26, 12 February 2009 (UTC)

'"The tag is judgmental, personal, and therefore subject to the next person saying, "No, it isn't."'[2][edit]

Then you better delete it from the 1000+ articles it's tagged to. For the record, Wikipedia:Citing sources recommends "Any style or system is acceptable on Wikipedia so long as articles are internally consistent." So much for personal, it's an explicit Wikipedia style guide recommendaton. And this article is NOT internally consistent, using footnotes AND Harvard referencing in both the ==Early life== and ==Status among other writers throughout history== sections (and the Harvard refs aren't even consistent throughout). C'mon, go! (talk) 22:53, 15 February 2008 (UTC)

Oh, dear! An official recommendation? Wow. Well, everyone had better snap to it and get obedient, then. Where would we be without the effort to have every article look exactly like every other one? That would be anarchy! We need to get rid of the idea that anyone can edit here. Only the obedient should edit. The rest should have tags put up on their articles marking them as the horrid output of the common rabble who have not learned to comply yet. Geogre (talk) 19:11, 5 April 2008 (UTC)

Pope and Behn[edit]

Sure Pope was a precocious child, but considering that hewa s (at most) a year old when Behn died, I think the statement that he was a major critic of hers needs to be better qualified. Specifically, it should say in what works he criticized her, and it should be made clearer that these criticisms took place after her death. ( (talk) 10:33, 4 April 2008 (UTC))

Could you specify where it's said? I still refuse to have anything to do with editing this article, but Pope was a critic of hers, after she was quite dead. In fact, Pope is important in the beginning of the dismissal of her. There is evidence that Behn was enjoyed as late as Blake, and she was really done in by the 19th c. critics more than the Augustans, but Pope's important as the first major voice to make the "dirty girl" charge and have it stick. Please go ahead and make the change, if you see where it should be done; you needn't wait for anyone else. Geogre (talk) 19:09, 5 April 2008 (UTC)


Despite the observations above made over a period of five years that this article is not up to standard, it is still an embarrassment. It reads like a mass up of undergraduate work - some useful stealing and a lot of original idiocy. Tsinfandel (talk) 10:45, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

Deletion of "Bibliography" section[edit]

I went ahead and axed the "Bibliography" section, which was entirely opinion-based, poorly-written, disconnected to the point of incoherence, and not about bibliography at all. I'm only a novice editor, but I think having a blank space is probably better than a string of gibberish? (talk) 02:46, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

Deletion of unencyclopaedic content[edit]

I just axed the entire undergraduate essay that was obviously copy and pasted onto this article. Sample sentence: "The attention shifts from male to female, from penis to vagina." The rest was equally poorly-written, though I'm sure the writer got a passing grade in the Early Modern Lit course for which it was composed.

Behn's birth[edit]

The article as it stands claims that Behn was born July 10, 1640, in Wye, but baptized in December. This is incorrect; it bizarrely confuses and muddles two different and mutually incompatible scholarly identifications of Behn's origins. To sort it out briefly, several decades ago scholars discovered a baptismal (not birth) record of a girl named Afara Amis in Wye dated 7/10/1640 that was for a while considered to be the true Behn. Later, however, a baptism record dated December 14, 1640, in Hambledon for "Eaffry Johnson" was discovered that is now, by scholarly consensus, considered the real Behn, since the details match up better with Anne Finch's statements (maiden name Johnson, father was a barber, etc.). See, for example, Janet Todd's biography The Secret Life of Aphra Behn. I'm going to make the changes that seem to be required. (talk) 20:06, 7 May 2012 (UTC)

Recent edit[edit]

Having read the comments here on the talk page, I flinch at the basicness of my edits to the article, but it seemed in little better shape in April 2013 than it was in July 2006. It was mostly uncited with seemingly strong POV. I have added references and tried at least to get some coherence to the narrative of her life. No doubt, as Geogre says, it would be best to start again using the biographies. A significant section of the article would, it seems, have to be given to the historiography of source texts and researchers - which biographers and scholars say what, where they vary, where they agree, how evidence was discovered. It would great to bring Behn to GA or FA, with scholarly rigour, as she, no doubt, deserves. I hope the current version of the article is a temporary stop gap. Span (talk) 02:26, 15 April 2013 (UTC)

I have added more, with some cites from The Secret Life of Aphra Behn by Todd. I have not come across plaudits from Burns, Blake Wordsworth and Coleridge as mentioned above. Their perspectives would be good to add. In regard to Behn's birth (discussed above) there are any number of theories (and little evidence). I have added an assortment of strong sources and their cites so that readers can investigate each further. Span (talk) 00:16, 4 January 2014 (UTC)

Over-reliance on Todd? / same-sex desire between men[edit]

While I think Todd's biography of Behn is the most reliable source for information about Behn's life, I think this entry relies too heavily on her scholarship—especially when it comes to the discussion of Oroonoko. Other scholars do see the text as "progressive" in its treatment of gender and race and in its possible critique of at least some dimensions of the slave trade. Perhaps the paragraph on Behn's "anti-progressive" views as they surface in Oroonoko should take into account other scholarly views on this matter?

Also, while I am intrigued by the claim that "male to male love" appears in Behn's writing (which I've altered to "same-sex love between men," as I think it is less clunky), I would like to see an example or a citation. I've not read everything she wrote; perhaps this is a reference to Love-Letters Between a Noble-Man and His Sister, which, alas, I haven't yet read, but I can't be sure. — Preceding unsigned comment added by CaptWhiffle (talkcontribs) 01:12, 18 January 2014 (UTC)

There are many other sources given in the article. Todd's critique of Oroonoko is clearly stated as hers, not a general interpretation. Other critiques would be great to add. Regarding same-sex love, the source given goes into some detail, though doesn't give poetic examples. Span (talk) 01:35, 18 January 2014 (UTC)

New Attention to the Behn page[edit]

I have read through the Talk on this page ranging over nearly a decade, and since 1) the page is still in sad shape and 2) it doesn't seem to getting any attention at the moment, I'd like to propose an overhaul. There is much solid work on Behn that can offer a Wikipedia reader useful information on her writings and their reception over the years. The biography seems to have become a quagmire. I wish to rewrite the general introduction to the article to emphasize her major status as a British author and remove extraneous items such as being called a member of the triumverate of wit. In the upcoming weeks, I will then be using the reliable bibliography by Mary Ann O'Donnell (2nd edition 2004) and the expert write up on Behn in Orlando: Women's Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. If anyone would like to help me plan out a way to revise the whole article, I am very happy to learn from and with you. LLRungegordon (talk) 19:59, 6 March 2015 (UTC)

I revised the introduction to be more general and indicate Behn's significance. I am having difficulty with the references. Using visual editor, I thought the references would be assigned to the reference section, but they are appearing below the text that I edited. How do I fix this <<help>>? LLRungegordon (talk) 16:20, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
I am going to add some support citations for the general opening, and then begin to add information on the textual history and literary production, using the ODNB article on Behn, the information from Orlando: Women's Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the End, and Aphra Behn: An Annotated Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources by Mary Ann O'Donnell (second edition 2004)LLRungegordon (talk) 22:41, 18 March 2015 (UTC)
By all means, be wp:BOLD and edit. Don't worry too much about the mechanics of citations, just so long as you make it clear what source supports a statement, others can tidy up the cite formats. In general, we avoid using primary sources, except where reliable secondary sources have shown them to have particularl significance. LeadSongDog come howl! 15:32, 19 March 2015 (UTC)

William Scot - Is there an error with the link; Also play about Behn ("Or," by Liz Duffy Adams[edit]

The article notes Behn's mission to establish intimacy with William Scot. The link to the wikipedia article on Scot lists him as dying in the 1243, centuries before Behn. Is there an error?

Also, there is a witty play about Aphra Behn by Liz Duffy Adams entitled "Or," that may be worth citing. A description of the play is at

Cmalumphy (talk) 13:47, 20 September 2015 (UTC)cmalumphy 9/20/2015