Monday, 14 December 2009
On this day...
One of the first English professional female writers, Aphra Behn, was baptised in 1640. Her early life was not one which indicated great writing potential; she married an English merchant and visited sugar plantations in Suriname. Following the death of her husband several years later, Behn embarked on a more ambitious career path, becoming a spy for the recently restored monarch, King Charles II, in the Anglo-Dutch War of 1665. Yet despite Behn obtaining political secrets for England by being the lover of a prominent royal, Charles failed to pay her, and she ended up in debtors' prison. In 1669, an anonymous benefactor paid for her release, and it was from then that she started to write. As well as a prolific dramatist, Behn is said to have written both the first epistolary novel, 'Love Letters Between a Nobleman and his Sister', and the first anti-colonial novel, 'Oroonoko'. Buried in Westminster Abbey, Behn's grave stone reads; 'Here lies a Proof that Wit can never be / Defence enough against Mortality'.