Aphra Behn - give her the recognition she deserves in Canterbury!
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Aphra Behn was a British playwright, poet, translator and fiction writer from the Restoration era. She was born in Canterbury or Sturry. As one of the first English women to earn her living by her writing, she broke cultural barriers and served as a literary role model for later generations of women authors. Rising from obscurity, she came to the notice of Charles II, who employed her as a spy in Antwerp. Upon her return to London and a probable brief stay in debtors' prison, she began writing for the stage. She belonged to a coterie of poets and famous libertines such as John Wilmot, Lord Rochester. She wrote under the pastoral pseudonym Astrea. During the turbulent political times of the Exclusion Crisis, she wrote an epilogue and prologue that brought her into legal trouble; she thereafter devoted most of her writing to prose genres and translations. A staunch supporter of the Stuart line, she declined an invitation from Bishop Burnet to write a welcoming poem to the new king William III. She died shortly after
She is famously remembered in Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own: "All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds." Her grave is not included in the Poets' Corner but lies in the East Cloister near the steps to the church.
It is scandalous that she is forgotten in Canterbury. Christopher Marlowe was born in Canterbury and widely recognised in the city. Geoffrey Chaucer was born and died in London - yet he is celebrated in Canterbury - and yet Aphra Behn - the first woman who earned her living by her writing - languishes in obscurity. Please sign this petition to give Aphra Behn the acknowledgement she deserves!
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