Born in obscurity, Aphra Behn was a celebrity by the end of her extraordinary life. She lived and
wrote in ways that would not be possible again for centuries, and her memory was soon virtually
obliterated. Behn and her work are only now being rediscovered.
Aphra Behn was the first woman to make her living by writing. The daughter of a Canterbury barber, she had (probably) travelled to South America, served as a spy in the Low Countries and narrowly escaped imprisonment for debt by the time her plays began to be performed.
Restoration London was a ferocious world, and within it, theatre even more so. But these post civil war decades were a time when at least some women could have an independent voice.
In a twenty-year career at least nineteen of Behn’s plays were staged, and she also wrote poetry, novels and translations. Some of her work is highly political in tone, and all of it is very evidently written by an informed and well connected Londoner
For some years after Behn’s death her plays continued to be staged. But times changed and her work began to be regarded as improper. All through the Victorian age she, was virtually unmentionable.
Even now Aphra Behn’s name is less well known than it deserves.
This website is one of the aspects of Clio’s Company’s new project. Over the next three years we will be working with London schools on aspects of Behn’s work, looking at places connected with her, creating a variety of online resources and staging, for the first time since 1690, a production of her final play, “The Widow Ranter”.
Study Resources for the project can be found here.
Clio’s Company (registered charity no. 1101853) is grateful for generous financial support for this project from Sir John Cass’s Foundation