Behn, Afra (1640-1689)
Behn, Afra, the first English professional authoress and the first literary abolitionist, was born 10th July 1640 at Wye, in Kent, the daughter of one Johnson, a barber. It is doubtful, then, who was the 'father,' lieutenant-governor of Surinam, with whom as a child she sailed for South America. He died on the voyage out, but Afra reached Surinam, and here made the acquaintance of the slave Oroo-noko, the subject afterwards of one of her novels. Returning to England about 1658, she married Mr Behn, a merchant of Dutch extraction, but was a widow by 1666, when Charles II. despatched her as a spy to Antwerp. She sent word of the Dutch expedition up the Thames, but her warning was slighted, and, on her return to England, she had to betake herself to literature. Her plays and some of her poems are better than her novels, but all alike are coarse. Dying in 1689, she was buried in Westminster Abbey. Her Works (6 vols.) were edited by M. Summers (1915).
1. Chamber's Biographical Dictionary, Philadelphia, 1926, page 84.
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