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Aphra Behn (1640 - 1689)

Books by this author: Selected Poems
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  •    Aphra Behn was born in 1640 in Canterbury, and seems to have been adopted into the family of Sir Thomas Culpeper, where her mother served as a wet-nurse. As a young woman she travelled to Surinam with the Culpeper family, an experience that gave her the material for her novel Oroonoko. She married, either a Dutch sea captain who died at sea or a Dutch merchant who died of the plague of 1665. Behn became involved in espionage, and was sent on a spying mission to Antwerp in 1666, but she was never paid and was threatened with debtors prison on her return to London in 1667. She may have turned to prostitution to survive at this time, but she also began to write for her living. Her first play was produced in 1670, and the publication of her three collections of poetry date from the 1680s. A warrant was issued for her arrest in 1682, following a satire on the Monmouth rebellion, and she may have travelled abroad for a time to escape prison. She found it difficult to get her plays performed in her late years, and became increasingly impoverished. Aphra Behn died in 1689 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.
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