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Aphra Behn's Afterlife$
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Jane Spencer

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198184942

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198184942.001.0001

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The Dramatist and the Novelist

The Dramatist and the Novelist

(p.62) 2 The Dramatist and the Novelist
Aphra Behn's Afterlife

Jane Spencer

Oxford University Press

This chapter traces the different trajectories of Aphra Behn's 18th-century life as a dramatist and as a writer of fiction. Behn's fiction remained current in the later 18th century, with editions of Love-Letters between a Nobleman and his Sister being published up to the 1760s and of Oroonoko up until 1800. The decisive shift in Behn's reputation as a novelist came with the novel's rise in status in the middle years of the century. In particular, the moralization of popular fiction, already under way with Penelope Aubin's work in the 1720s and consolidated by Samuel Richardson in the 1740s, led to new and unfavourable assessments of her novels. The chapter argues that the era of stage-reform, far from ruining her dramatic reputation, actually helped Behn to achieve the status of the first woman dramatist to become a long-running success on the London stage.

Keywords:   Aphra Behn, dramatist, writer, Oroonoko, novelist, moralization, fiction, Penelope Aubin, Samuel Richardson, stage

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