Aphra Behn eBooks
One of the first English women to earn her livelihood by authorship, Behn's life is difficult to unravel and relate. Information regarding her, especially her early life, is scant, but she was almost certainly born in Wye, near Canterbury, on 10 July 1640 to Bartholomew Johnson, a barber, and Elizabeth Denham. The two were married in 1638 and Aphra, or Eaffry, was baptized on 14 December 1640. Elizabeth Denham was employed as a nurse to the wealthy Colepeper family, who lived locally, which means that it is likely that Aphra grew up with and spent time with the family's children. The younger child, Thomas Colepeper, later described Aphra as his foster sister. In 1663 she visited an English sugar colony on the Suriname River, on the coast east of Venezuela (a region later known as Suriname). During this trip she is supposed to have met an African slave leader, whose story formed the basis for one of her most famous works, Oroonoko, widely credited as the book which first brought home to England a sense of the horrors of slavery. The veracity of her journey to Suriname has often been called into question; however, enough evidence has been found to convince most Behn scholars today that the trip did indeed take place.