excerpt from a review by Catherine Lee
If, in September 1666, the English King Charles II had acted upon intelligence he received from his secret agent in Holland, Mrs. Aphra Behn, his naval fleet would not have been burned at its moorings far up the Thames in June 1667 by the Dutch colluding with exiled British dissidents.
But no, the king and his ministers were preoccupied with wining, dining, wenching, and other such expressions of their divine right. As Behn later reported to her biographer, “all the encouragement [I] met with, was to be laughed at by the Minister [I] wrote to, and [my] letter showed by way of a contempt.”
Behn had to borrow money to return to England, as her expense reimbursement cheques never appeared despite repeated desperate entreaties to her royal employers. She reportedly spent time in debtor’s prison as a result of the crown’s negligence.
But Aphra went on to write and produce 17 hit plays. As the author of poetry, translations, and 13 novels, Behn may have a claim to being the first English woman to earn her living by writing.
Find out more about Aphra Behn in the upcoming S/tick Issue 4.2!
And in the meantime, check out Catherine Lee’s multimedia pieces archived on Soundcloud/jazz-cat-lee and VIMEO/jazzovation, as well as her two handmade, signed, limited edition poetry chapbooks augmented with music for sale at Etsy/JazzOvationInn.