- Paperback: 608 pages
- Publisher: Fentum Press; Revised Edition, Fully Revised ed. edition (July 7 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1909572063
- ISBN-13: 978-1909572065
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.2 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 721 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
Aphra Behn: A Secret Life Paperback – Jul 7 2017
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Because of her sensuous writing in the 17th century, wild and wonderful Aphra Behn has been a notorious figure in history. Janet Todd's new biography elaborates on the mysterious Behn and reveals her to be a complex contradiction. Her politics were High Tory, but her language was considered indecent for a woman of her times. She fought against the restraints of a patriarchal world, yet depended upon male approval. She was a lover of the easy life, but risked her life as a spy for England. Todd brings new documents from Holland and England to light, as well as discussions of Behn's entire works, in order to present this in-depth study of a most remarkable writer.
From Library Journal
Aphra Behn, the Restoration poet, playwright, and novelist, is regarded as the first woman in English literature to earn her living as a writer. She may also have engaged in political and sexual intrigue and even acted as a spy for Charles II. Her life is marked by its mystery, masks, and a confusion of fact and fiction. There have been several biographies of this 17th-century figure, including George Woodcock's Aphra Behn: The English Sappho (Consortium, 1989), but Todd's is the first to attempt to sort out the mysteries and erotic dimensions of Behn's life. Todd (English, Univ. of East Anglia) has written many books on women and literature and has edited Behn's works. Her treatment is as engrossing and entertaining as it is thorough and well researched. Highly recommended for public and academic collections.?Thomas L. Cooksey, Armstrong Atlantic State Univ., Savannah, Ga.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Aphra was many things over her years and a study in complete opposites seemed to be the main thing. She wrote plays, translated books, was a spy, loved both men and women, and although she was famous she also wanted her privacy. But the thing I liked the best about her was that she didn’t knuckle down to the critics and the men that expected her to write a specific way just because she was a woman.
Janet Todd does break down Alpha’s plays but I’m sorry to admit that I don’t mind reading things but when you start analyzing them like a high school English class my mind shuts off. I did think this was a well written story of Aphra Behn and it introduced me to an author that I had never heard of before.
I received The Secret Life of Aphra Behn from the publisher for free. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.
Aphra Behn is probably the first woman who actually earned her living via writing. Her literary career, which was indeed the "life" of this amazing woman, began and ended with the Restoration. We have reason to believe she was born around 1640 and died in 1689.
During different times and by different people Aphra has been described as a playwright, political propagandist, authority on love and sex, poet, fictionist, propagandist, spy, whore, smutty writer and other things not so nice. What ever she actually was, and I personally feel that all the above may indeed have some truth to them, she was quite likely one of the most brilliant women in the history of Western Civilization. As has been pointed out by Todd and a number of other biographers, Behn was a study in contradictions. She was a high Tory but disliked traditional power structures. She was an extremely powerful woman; an autonomous woman who depended on men's approval. She was most obviously a woman who desired men and women and one who became involved in very intense political activity, yet she craved and sought out privacy and ease. She was obviously a very sensual and sexual individual but to a certain extent was fettered by her sexuality and the times in which she lived. But above all, she was one heck of a brilliant writer!
After Behn's death her work was, in general, absolutely trashed by the literary, intellectual and political establishment, and all but forgotten by few but moldy academics. During the 1970s we find that she was "rediscovered," and now has become a viable part of any literary education and is receiving the admiration, respect and recognition she so richly deserves.
But still, how to write a biography; a intimate account of a life which was so rich, yet so little was recorded of? (We are not even sure where she was born, who her parents were, when she was born...and the list goes on). Well the answer to that is that fortunately Aphra Behn left a massive volume of work in the form of play, poems, political satire and essays. All has been preserved and all was simply waiting for someone with the talent of Janet Todd to put it all together. And thereby we have not only a wonderful biography (which admittedly is bases somewhat on conjecture, speculation, interpretation, educated conclusions and a knowledge of the era in which the material was written), but we receive an in depth and analytical dissection and interpretation of the work of a literary giant. We also are dished up a wonderful look at the social, political, artistic and thought process of those who lived before and just after the Restoration.
Actually, when you think about it, as to the amount of hard and verifiable information we have on Aphra, it is just about the same information...maybe just a bit more; maybe a bit less, than we have on William Shakespeare.
This biography, while I suppose can sort of be classified as a "popular" biography, is actually more academic than we traditionally see. The author does assume that the reader is somewhat familiar with the culture, politics and literary scene during those times. Fortunately the author has given us wonderful footnotes and an extensive bibliography. I must admit that I found myself reaching for my dictionary more than once while reading this one and/or doing very fast wiki searches.
Everyone has their own method of reading a work such as this. The fortunate reader will be the one who is most familiar with Behn's work...the more the better. I fell a bit short here and while I had read bits and pieces over the years, I was and certainly am not a Behn expert. I did though read more extensively before I began this biography and after I read Todd's work, went back and did a large amount of rereading. I found this to be extremely helpful and with Todd's help I feel I have gained much greater understanding.
Fortunately for us, most of Aphra Behn's work is now readily available, and what us even more fortunate is that much of it is absolutely free or at very little cost. Amazon has quite a large amount of her work that can be downloaded for free and there are numerous web sights where her work can be downloaded to any e-reader. Even printed copies can be picked up for next to nothing.
Women have a lot to thank for women like Aphra Behn who paved the way for so many to come. Actually, come to think of it, we all should have a lot of thanks for her, and while we are at it, should reserve some of that thanks for Janet Todd whose skill and knowledge allowed her to bring us the story of a most fascinating character from our past.
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