After Aphra

 By the time of Aphra Behn’s death in 1689, still only in her forties, she was famous, was given the honour of burial in the cloister of Westminster Abbey and, for a few years at least, her plays went on being staged and bringing in the crowds.

But times were changing. Even in her own time, her work had been regarded as inacceptable by some. As the eighteenth century went on, however, theatre audiences began to look askance at the memory of the Restoration. And in particular, subversive women were frowned upon.

Academic commentators denounced her for crudeness, and, probably, immorality. The author of a study of the memorials of Westminster Abbey waxed vitriollc about the very presence of her tomb. Only her novel “Oroonoko” was still considered acceptable in some quarters because it concerned the story of an enslaved African.

It was not until Virginia Woolf made her famous comment in “A Room of One’s Own” that Aphra Behn’s name began, little by little, to become more familiar.

Clio’s Company (registered charity no. 1101853) is grateful for generous financial support for this project from The Portal Trust