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In search of Eaffry Johnson

Brigid Brophy, 22 January 1981

Reconstructing Aphra 
by Angeline Goreau.
Oxford, 339 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 19 822663 2
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... Angeline Goreau calls her chapter on the beginning of Aphra Behn’s life not ‘Birth’ but ‘“Birth” ’. She turns out, however, not to be disputing that Aphra Behn was born or even suggesting that she was from her mother’s womb untimely ripped. It’s merely that Ms Goreau is given to an illiterate use of inverted commas and is under the misapprehension that the time and place of her subject’s birth are unknown ...

Shee Spy

Michael Dobson, 8 May 1997

The Secret Life of Aphra Behn 
by Janet Todd.
Deutsch, 545 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 233 98991 9
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... Twenty years ago, when Maureen Duffy first published The Passionate Shepherdess: Aphra Behn, 1640-89, Behn was still known principally as the celebrated but largely unread founder of women’s writing, the figure who had been hymned but effectively dismissed by Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own (1929 ...

Very very she

Margaret Anne Doody, 22 April 1993

The Works of Aphra Behn. Vol. I: Poetry 
edited by Janet Todd.
Pickering & Chatto, 481 pp., £55, September 1992, 1 85196 012 0
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Oroonoko, The Rover and Other Works 
by Aphra Behn, edited by Janet Todd.
Penguin, 385 pp., £6.99, November 1992, 0 14 043338 4
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... All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds,’ Virginia Woolf asserted. Aphra Behn (c. 1640-89) was the first Englishwoman to make her living ‘by her pen’, as we used to say ...

Poxy Doxies

Margaret Anne Doody, 14 December 1995

Slip-Shod Sibyls: Recognition, Rejection and the Woman Poet 
by Germaine Greer.
Viking, 517 pp., £20, September 1995, 0 670 84914 6
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... a fiction: she was an ingenious social climber. The salient case of a faked biography is that of Aphra Behn. Greer energetically deconstructs Behn’s own disguises and fabrications as well as what she sees as the soothing fictions created by modern biographers, misled by Virginia Woolf’s statement that ...

Mastering the Art of Understating Your Wealth

Thomas Keymer: The Tonsons, 4 May 2016

The Literary Correspondences of the Tonsons 
edited by Stephen Bernard.
Oxford, 386 pp., £95, March 2015, 978 0 19 870085 2
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... against the Sin of Adultery, Illustrated with Cuts. He also sought out drama, printing several of Aphra Behn’s best-known comedies: The Feign’d Curtizans, Sir Patient Fancy, part two of The Rover. His first big success came when, after borrowing money to buy the copyright in Dryden’s 1679 version of Troilus and Cressida, he started publishing his ...

Horror like Thunder

Germaine Greer: Lucy Hutchinson, 21 June 2001

Order and Disorder 
by Lucy Hutchinson, edited by David Norbrook.
Blackwell, 272 pp., £55, January 2001, 0 631 22061 5
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... asks: ‘Why … did she not put her name proudly on the title page, like her contemporaries Aphra Behn, Margaret Cavendish and Katherine Philips?’ In fact, the only one of these three who invariably put her name on her title pages was Margaret Cavendish, who preferred to be known as the Duchess of Newcastle and financed the production of her ...

The One-Eyed World of Germaine Greer

Brigid Brophy, 22 November 1979

The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work 
by Germaine Greer.
Secker, 373 pp., £12.50, November 1979, 1 86064 677 8
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... a hundred years since George Eliot set off to earn her fortune and more than three hundred since Aphra Behn did. The convent was probably never ‘the only’ alternative for women. There was being a servant. There was prostitution. If she had the talent, it has been possible for a great deal longer than the past hundred years for a woman to be an ...

Had I been born a hero

Helen Deutsch: Female poets of the eighteenth century, 21 September 2006

Eighteenth-Century Women Poets and Their Poetry: Inventing Agency, Inventing Genre 
by Paula Backscheider.
Johns Hopkins, 514 pp., £43.50, January 2006, 0 8018 8169 2
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... debt – the birth of the possibility of £500 a year and the freedom to write for oneself – to Aphra Behn, the first professional female writer, on whose tomb ‘all women together ought to let flowers fall.’ ‘The extreme activity of mind which showed itself in the later 18th century among women – the talking, and the meeting, the writing of ...

Woman in Love

Brigid Brophy, 7 February 1985

The Life of Jane Austen 
by John Halperin.
Harvester, 400 pp., December 1984, 0 7108 0518 7
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... an assertion in which he has pusillanimously so broadened the ground that he does injustice to Aphra Behn. He repeats the assertion with its concomitant injustice in his Chapter Four. Yet when I had finished his book I wondered what he was praising Jane Austen, albeit in squeaks, for, since the book pivots on the assumption that she was incapable of ...

Tit for Tat

Margaret Anne Doody, 21 December 1989

Eighteenth-Century Women Poets: An Oxford Anthology 
edited by Roger Lonsdale.
Oxford, 555 pp., £20, September 1989, 0 19 811769 8
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... cuts off the vision of connections between the new poets and ‘Orinda’ (Katherine Philips), Aphra Behn and Jane Barker, as well as their connections to the work of Rochester and Dryden. (Women wrote elegies for both of these earlier ‘Augustans’: in 1700 The Nine Muses, a collection of poems entirely by women, laments Dryden’s death.) Not only ...

Enlightenment Erotica

David Nokes, 4 August 1988

Eros Revived: Erotica of the Enlightenment in England and America 
by Peter Wagner.
Secker, 498 pp., £30, March 1988, 0 436 56051 8
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’Tis Nature’s Fault: Unauthorised Sexuality during the Enlightenment 
edited by Robert Purks Maccubin.
Cambridge, 260 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 521 34539 1
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The New Eighteenth Century: Theory, Politics, English Literature 
edited by Felicity Nussbaum and Laura Brown.
Methuen, 320 pp., £28, February 1988, 0 416 01631 6
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... example of the kind of study which this volume is designed to foster. Written by a woman – Aphra Behn – and dealing with the slave-trade, Oroonoko becomes ‘a theoretical test case for the necessary connections of race and gender – a model for the mutual interaction of the positions of the oppressed in the literary discourse of its own ...

Body Parts

Lawrence Stone, 24 November 1994

The Making of Victorian Sexuality 
by Michael Mason.
Oxford, 338 pp., £17.95, April 1994, 0 19 812247 0
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The Making of Victorian Sexual Attitudes 
by Michael Mason.
Oxford, 256 pp., £17.99, October 1994, 0 19 812292 6
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... way around the fact that the novels of Jane Austen were free from the coarse sexual innuendoes of Aphra Behn, Defoe, Fielding or Smollett, while Dickens ignored the subject of sex altogether. Michael Mason’s main problem is to determine how prudery affected behaviour. Was it merely a veneer of hypocrisy, covering up a very different sexual ...

Docility Rampant

Margaret Anne Doody, 31 October 1996

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: Romance Writings 
edited by Isobel Grundy.
Oxford, 276 pp., £14.50, August 1996, 0 19 812288 8
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... to the French line than the English – even if one can see the influence of English writers like Aphra Behn, Mary Davys and Eliza Haywood, with whom she was undoubtedly familiar. She also seems to have read the pious Penelope Aubin – against whom she reacts, as she was to react, in a more complicated manner, against Richardson. Both stylistically and ...

Lamb’s Tails

Christopher Driver, 19 June 1986

All Manners of Food: Eating and Taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the Present 
by Stephen Mennell.
Blackwell, 380 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 631 13244 9
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Curye on Inglysch: English Culinary Manuscripts of the 14th Century including ‘The Forme of Cury’ 
edited by Constance Hieatt and Sharon Butler.
Oxford, for the Early English Text Society, 224 pp., £6.50, April 1985, 0 19 722409 1
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The English Cookbook 
by Victor Gordon.
Cape, 304 pp., £12.50, November 1985, 0 224 02300 4
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... generation. Sir Walter Scott’s aged aunt was ashamed to read, even in private, the novels of Aphra Behn which she had heard read out in polite circles sixty years earlier. Our own green and healthy daughters may yet come to Ambrose Heath’s advice (1939): ‘Lamb’s tails make an extremely delicious if a little muttony pie, and really delicious ...

Man and Wife

Rosalind Mitchison, 22 May 1986

Marriage and Love in England: Modes of Reproduction 1300-1840 
by Alan Macfarlane.
Blackwell, 380 pp., £19.50, January 1986, 0 631 13992 3
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For Better, For Worse: British Marriages 1600 to the Present 
by John Gillis.
Oxford, 417 pp., £19.50, February 1986, 9780195036145
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Labour and Love: Women’s Experience of Home and Family 1850-1940 
edited by Jane Lewis.
Blackwell, 274 pp., £25, February 1986, 0 631 13957 5
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... both might be expected to have views on its function. But after a preliminary comment from Aphra Behn we are off on a purely male itinerary. Man after man records his need of companionship. Women are necessary because ‘man cannot live without their company.’ ‘When we are succourless they comfort us; being melancholy they cheer us ... and ...

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