London, South Kensington
19 March 2008
BEHN, Aphra (1640-89). Poems upon Several Occasions: with a Voyage to the Island of Love. London: Printed for R. Tonson and J. Tonson, 1684. 8°. (Marginal rustholes in b5 and F8, small piece torn away from margin of E3, stained and spotted mainly at margins.) Contemporary speckled calf (joints split, upper cover nearly detached, rubbed and scuffed). Provenance: Sir James Mackintosh (armorial bookplate). FIRST EDITION. Grolier Wither to Prior 38; Lowndes I, 147; Wing B1757.
Aphra Behn was England's first major professional woman writer. After John Dryden she was the most prolific playwright of the Restoration, but she also wrote poetry and short stories, one of which, Oroonoko (1688), in addition to its importance as a pioneering anti-slavery tract, is often cited as a foundation stone in the development of the English novel. A controversial celebrity in her own time, an outspoken advocate of the equality of the sexes, she was largely neglected in later years until Virginia Woolf championed her writing in A Room of One's Own (1929): "All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn ... for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds".
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