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Aphra Behn 1640?- 1689, poet, playwright; novelist, traveller, and spy, was the first woman to earn her living as a writer. Myths held her to be the illegitimate daughter of Lady Mary Wroth or an American courtesan. Janet Todd's definitive literary biography, using recently discovered documents in England and The Netherlands, firmly establishes Behn as a English-woman of humble beginnings who transformed herself into one of most prominent Restoration playwrights.
Behn's works, of which Oroonoko and The Rover remain the most well known, are openly erotic, with much political critique and an understanding of the complexities of race. Behn's daring writing and relationships with Nell Gwyn, the Stuart kings, and the Duchess of Mazarine made her a byword for sexual licence.
The Secret Life of Aphra Behn, a history of the Restoration and valuable critical analysis of the literature, reveals a free-thinking writer whose work is as radical and relevant for modern times as it was contentious and revolutionary in her own.