Thursday, March 08, 2012

aphra behn

George Scharf's 1873 sketch of an unidentified painting of Mrs Behn.

I've been reading lots of Aphra Behn recently, an author whose mind was "tainted to the very core" (Julia Kavanagh, 1863), "a mere harlot who danced through uncleanness and dared them [i.e. male authors] to follow" (John Doran, 1864). Obviously this is attractive, though I need to point out that nineteenth-century condemnations of Restoration uncleanness are always grossly overstated.

Besides, she was a fourth-rate dramatist (i.e. according to Harold Bloom) and it's not so often I get a chance to read fourth-rate plays, at least not old ones.

I read The Rover, Part I initially, then The Rover, Part II (conveniently available here).

Blunt. Oh you know not how a Country Justice may be improved by Travel; the Rogue was hedg'd in at home with the Fear of his Neighbours and the Penal Statutes, now he's broke loose, he runs neighing like a Stone-Horse upon the Common.

Then Janet Todd's Penguin selection, e.g.

The Widow Ranter, Aphra Behn's final play, set in Virginia.

Love-Letters to a Gentleman. Personal letters, presumably addressed to Hoyle, published after Behn's death. Not to be confused with Love-Letters Between A Nobleman and His Sister, her multi-part novel.

The Fair Jilt, docufaction about sensational goings-on in Holland.

Oroonoko I reserved for listening to in the car, courtesy of Librivox, and thus had the pleasure of discovering for myself the artistry of the famous Elizabeth Klett.

Sir Peter Lely's portrait of Aphra Behn.

Sarah Belchetz-Swenson has an interesting article about the portraits.

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