"The Cavaliers in their banishment are a sign of the absent patriarchal in defeat, and the libertine sons at court are a sign of the absence of Charles's patriarchal rule. In Behn's <i>Rover</i>, the patriarchal, royal father is, therefore, doubly absent and only imaged b a fraternal group, in which the mock-heroic is superimposed on the heroic - the past and present banished Cavaliers."
"If a young poet hit your humour right,
You judge him then out of revenge and spite:
So amongst men there are ridiculous elves,
Who monkeys hate for being too like themselves.
So that the reason of the grand debate,
Why with so oft is damned when good plays take,
Is that you censure as you love or hate."
As the political balance shifted to and fro, many dramatists shifted their allegiance with it; but Behn was a more fervent Tory than the rest. So staunch was she, indeed, that in August 1682 a warrant was issued for her arrest for effectively being too vehement in the King's support. She had written an epilogue to the anonymous play <i>Romulus and Hersilia</i> in which she criticized Charles's bastard son, the Duke of Monmouth, for being in league with the Whigs.
Behn wrote a series of successful plays. Her first, <i>The Forc'd Marriage</i> was produced in 1671. <i>The Rover</i> (1681), her most successful, was produced in two parts and included in its cast Nell Gwyn, mistress of Charles II.
"I do not pretend, in giving you the history of this royal slave, to entertain my reader with the adventures of a feigned hero whose life and fortunes fancy may manage at the poet's pleasure; nor in relating the truth, design to adorn it with any accidents but such as arrived in earnest to him."
"Numerous scholars have made claims for <i>Oroonoko</i> as a kind of proto-abolitionist tract, some seeing the novella as a genuinely humanitarian statement of the evils of slavery, while others, more circumspect about casting Behn in the role of abolitionist, have insisted that <i>Oroonoko</i> did make and early contribution to antislavery though, whether through its alleged criticisms of Western civilization or through its ennobling and humanizing of an African."
Behn's novel <i>Oroonoko</i> (1688) was the story of an enslaved African prince and is now considered a foundation stone in the development of the English novel. As well as plays and prose Behn wrote poetry and translated works from French and Latin. In her time she was a celebrity, unusual for her independence as a professional writer and her concern for equality between the sexes.
Her origin remains a mystery, in part because Behn may have deliberately obscured her early life. One tradition identifies Behn as the child known only as Ayfara or Aphra who traveled in the 1650s with a couple named Amis to Suriname, which was then an English possession. She was more likely the daughter of a barber, Bartholomew Johnson, who may or may not have sailed with her and the rest of her family to Suriname in 1663. She returned to England in 1664 and married a merchant named Behn; he died (or the couple separated) soon after.
Her wit and talent having brought her into high esteem, she was employed by King Charles II in secret service in the Netherlands in 1666. Unrewarded and briefly imprisoned for debt, she began to write to support herself.
Aphra Behn was a dramatist, fiction writer and poet of the English Restoration and was the first English woman known to have earned her living by writing.