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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 AphraBehn’s life not ‘Birth’ but ‘“Birth” ’. She turns out, however, not to be disputing that AphraBehn 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 ...

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: AphraBehn, 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 ...

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 AphraBehn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds,’ Virginia Woolf asserted. AphraBehn (c. 1640-89) was the first Englishwoman to make her living ‘by her pen’, as we used to say. Now, nobody makes her – or his – living by the phallic and virile pen. Linguistic and cultural ...

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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... reasons rather than out of regard for her modesty. Greer also claims that Phillips’s high birth was a fiction: she was an ingenious social climber. The salient case of a faked biography is that of AphraBehn. 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 ...
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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...  Written by the Bishop of Exeter to the tawdry Ten Tragical Histories, Containing Gods Revenge against the Sin of Adultery, Illustrated with Cuts. He also sought out drama, printing several of AphraBehn’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 ...

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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... or ‘By a Lady’ or some such; the preface could have carried initials or even a signature. Norbrook asks: ‘Why … did she not put her name proudly on the title page, like her contemporaries AphraBehn, 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 ...

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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... to which Backscheider’s study might be read as a prequel, Virginia Woolf acknowledges a crucial debt – the birth of the possibility of £500 a year and the freedom to write for oneself – to AphraBehn, 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 ...
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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... Ms Greer from developing self-criticism? I cannot believe she does not know that it is more than a hundred years since George Eliot set off to earn her fortune and more than three hundred since AphraBehn 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 ...
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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... hegemony of the ruling class Laura Brown’s essay on Oroonoko, ‘The Romance of Empire’, is a splendid example of the kind of study which this volume is designed to foster. Written by a woman – AphraBehn – 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 ...

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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... Mme de Lafayette’s La Princesse de Clèves. Indeed, all of Montagu’s fiction seems to belong more to the French line than the English – even if one can see the influence of English writers like AphraBehn, 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 ...

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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... certainties, he will go no further than ‘certainly the first great woman writer in English’, an assertion in which he has pusillanimously so broadened the ground that he does injustice to AphraBehn. 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 ...

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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... informs his chapter on the purpose of marriage. If marriage was the crucial decision of the two partners, both might be expected to have views on its function. But after a preliminary comment from AphraBehn 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 ...

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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... taboos, like sexual ones, are curiously unstable between generations, and sometimes even within the same generation. Sir Walter Scott’s aged aunt was ashamed to read, even in private, the novels of AphraBehn 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 ...

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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... was already in place among the middle classes, as well as the poor, by 1800. There is no way around the fact that the novels of Jane Austen were free from the coarse sexual innuendoes of AphraBehn, 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 ...

Working under Covers

Paul Laity: Mata Hari

8 January 2004
Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War 
by Tammy Proctor.
New York, 205 pp., $27, June 2003, 0 8147 6693 5
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... list – soldiers were beans, horses were chicory, cannons were coffee. The lists were stashed in a hollow broom handle. Thanks to books like this one, the history of female espionage – from AphraBehn to Elizabeth Van Lew to Lotus Blossom to Stella Rimington – is slowly being filled out. Proctor believes, however, that female intelligence work is even now generally regarded as ‘exceptional ...

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