Gay Icon, Intriguer, Author, Adventuress: The Many Lives of Aphra Behn

Aphra Behn. Neither as dirty nor as sexy as I think she’d have us believe…on grounds it’d get in the way of working.

Dirty, Sexy History

Aphra_Behn

Bit of a mystery, is Aphra – who says that the reinvention of one’s past is an activity reserved to Hollywood starlets?

She kept her early years a closely-guarded secret.

The Histories And Novels of the Late Ingenious Mrs. Behn (1696) states that she was born to Bartholomew Johnson, a barber, and Elizabeth Denham, a wet-nurse. (That story recurs, as a contemporary, Anne Finch, wrote that she was born in Wye in Kent, the “Daughter to a Barber”) However, a contemporary essay by the unidentified “One of the Fair Sex” maintains that Aphra was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Johnson of nearby Canterbury. Johnson was a gentleman related to Lord Willoughby, who appointed him lieutenant-general of Surinam, for which Willoughby was the royal patentee.

Whether Aphra was Johnson’s by-blow or fostered by him is not known, but what has been established with reasonable certainty was that in 1663…

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