Timeline

1640

The Beginning

Eafry Johnson is baptised December 14th 1640 in Harbledown, just outside of Canterbury. Her parents are Bartholomew and Elizabeth Johnson.

Her name will variously be spelt as Eaffrey, Aphara, Aphra and in other ways throughout her life.

© Bildagentur-online: UIG

1640

Aphra's Parents

In the early 1640s, Aphra’s mother was employed as a wet nurse to a rich Canterbury family – the Culpeppers. Aphra’s father begins as a small land-owner/farmer but later becomes a barber working in Canterbury.

© Bildagentur-online: UIG

© Bildagentur-online : UIG

1643

English Civil War

The English Civil War begins in 1643, pitting Roundheads (supporters of the Parliament of English) again Cavaliers (the supporters of King Charles I and later his son, King Charles II).

© Look and Learn : Bridgeman Images

© Look and Learn : Bridgeman Images

1649

Charles I is Executed

Charles I is executed on 30th January 1649.

© Bridgeman Images

© Bridgeman Images

1655

The Johnson family leave Canterbury 

The Johnson family leave Canterbury and move to London in the mid 1650s.

© Bridgeman Images

© Bridgeman Images

1657

Aphra Johnson is Engaged

In August 1657, 16-year-old Aphra Johnson is engaged to a man named John Halse. The Banns for their marriage are read three times at St. Botolph Aldgate, the parish both of them are living in at the time. There is (as yet) no evidence for the actual marriage taking place.

1660

Charles II Returns to England

In May 1660, Charles II returns to England and the English Monarchy is restored.

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

1660

The Cockpit Theatre in London hosts a public performance

19th November 1660, the Cockpit Theatre in London hosts a public performance – The closure of London theatres had been in place since 1642.

© Government Art Collection

© Government Art Collection

1660

Margaret Hughes Steps onto the London Stage

8th December 1660. Margaret Hughes, the first professional actress in England steps onto the London stage, playing Shakespeare’s Desdamona in Othello with The King’s Company.

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

1663

Aphra Sails to Suriname

Around 1663 Aphra sails to Suriname with members of her family, possibly as a spy, possibly with her father who is to be employed to administer the colony. Her father dies at sea on the way there.

© Archives Charmet : Bridgeman Images

© Archives Charmet : Bridgeman Images

1664

Aphra Returns to England

1664-1665 – Aphra Behn returns to England, possibly via America, having married a Johannis (John) Behn. It seems he dies soon afterwards.

© Shutterstock

© Shutterstock

1664

Outbreak of the Great Plague

December 1664 sees the outbreak of the Great Plague in London.

© The Stapleton Collection : Bridgeman Images

© The Stapleton Collection : Bridgeman Images

1666

Aphra is Employed as a Spy by Charles II

July 1666, Aphra Behn is employed as a spy by Charles II. She is sent to Antwerp to seek out information on the Dutch from one of her former lovers.

© Bridgeman Images

© Bridgeman Images

1666

September 1666: The Great Fire of London

After starting in Thomas Fariner's bake-house on Pudding Lane in the early hours of Sunday 2nd September, the Great Fire of London destroyed the old Medieval city that Aphra Behn knew and raged for 5 days burning down an estimated 13,000 houses and 87 churches. Over 70,000 people were left homeless.

© Society of Antiquaries of London

© Society of Antiquaries of London

1667

Aphra Returns to England

May 1667 Aphra Behn returns to England.

© Bequest of Arthur D. Schlechter : Bridgeman Images

© Bequest of Arthur D. Schlechter : Bridgeman Images

1667

John Milton

Paradise Lost by John Milton is published.

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

1670

Aphra Behn’s play is staged

Aphra Behn’s play The Forc’d Marriage, is staged by The Duke’s Company in 1670.

1670

Aphra Behn writes and stages at least 10 plays in London

Between 1670 and 1680 Aphra Behn writes and stages at least 10 plays in London, including what remains her most famous play today, The Rover. Over the years that follow there will be at least another eight plays alongside numerous translations and poems.

© Alastair Muir : ​Shutterstock

© Alastair Muir : Shutterstock

1680

The Earl of Rochester dies

On 26th July 1680 Aphra Behn’s friend, the great libertine, the Earl of Rochester dies. She writes an elegy on his death.

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

1684

Aphra Behn likely travels to Paris

In 1684 Aphra Behn likely travels to Paris, France and watches Arlequin Empereur Dans La Lune by Fantouville. Behn later bases her play The Emperor of the Moon on Fantoville. The play is incredibly popular and is revived regularly in London until the 1740s.

© Shutterstock

© Shutterstock

1685

Charles II dies

Charles II dies on 6th February 1685 and is succeeded by his brother, James II.

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

1688

Aphra Behn’s novel Oroonoko is published

In 1688 Aphra Behn’s novel Oroonoko is published, alongside The Fair Jilt and Agnes de Castro. Any one of these titles can make claim to be the first novel in English.

© Look and Learn

© Look and Learn

1688

John Dryden is made Poet Laureate

On 13th April 1688, John Dryden is made Poet Laureate.

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

1688

James II flees London

11 December 1688. James II flees London. William of Orange becomes de facto King.

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

1689

Aphra Behn dies

16 April 1689 Aphra Behn dies, following a botched operation. Her health had been failing for several years. She is buried in Westminster Abbey, London.

1689

The Widow Ranter performed after Aphra's death

1689 sees Aphra Behn’s play, The Widow Ranter performed after her death. This is the first surviving play to be set in North America.

© Lebrecht History

© Lebrecht History

1692

John Hoyle was stabbed to death

May 1692. Only three years after Aphra Behn's death, her on-off lover John Hoyle was stabbed to death after a brawl over politics that began at the Young Devil Tavern on Fleet Street and ended with John Hoyle stabbed with a sword outside Temple Gate. Letters between Behn and Hoyle suggest that their romance and tumultuous affair lasted (probably) longer than any other romantic relationship of Behn's life.

1830

Oroonoko used by the slavery abolitionist movement

Oroonoko, which has been repeatedly reprinted since Aphra Behn’s death becomes a major text cited and used by the slavery abolitionist movement.

© Michael Graham-Stewart : Bridgeman Images

© Michael Graham-Stewart : Bridgeman Images

1929

Virginia Woolf writes in A Room of One’s Own

In 1929, Virginia Woolf writes in A Room of One’s Own that ‘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.’

© National Portrait Gallery

© National Portrait Gallery

2021

Campaign to get a statue of Aphra Behn is launched

2021, the campaign to finally get a statue of Aphra Behn put up in England is launched.

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