Admired and Understood: The Poetry of Aphra Behn

Admired and Understood: The Poetry of Aphra Behn

Admired and Understood: The Poetry of Aphra Behn

Admired and Understood: The Poetry of Aphra Behn


M. L. Stapleton is Professor of English and teaches courses in Shakespeare and Renaissance literature, bibliography and methods, and the civilizations and cultures of the ancient world at Stephen F. Austin State University.


there is no Poetical Volume, be it never so small, but it requires some pains to bring it forth, or else a notable fluent knack of Riming or Versifying; and how small a matter is it for never so trivial a Work, before it comes to be condemn'd to the drudgery of the Chandler or Tobacco Man, after the double expence of Brain to bring it forth and of purse to publish it to the World, to have this small Memorial, Such a one wrote such a thing.

—Edward Phillips, Preface to Theatrum Poetarum, 1675 (2:262–63)

What monstrous, leud, and irreligious Books of Poems, as they are call'd, have been of late days published, and what is the greater wonder, receiv'd in a Civiliz'dand Christian Kingdom with Applause and Reputation? The sweetness of the Wit makes the Poison go down with Pleasure, and the Contagion spreads without Opposition. Young Gentlemen and Ladies are generally pleas'd and diverted with Poetry more than by any other way of Writing; but there are few Poems they can fixonbutthey are like to pay too dear for their Entertainment. Their Fancies are like to be fill'd with impure Ideas, and their Minds engag'din hurtful Passions, which are the more lasting by being convey'd in lively Expressions and all the Address of an artful Poet.

—Sir Richard Blackmore, Preface to Prince Arthur, 1695 (CE 3:233–34)

MILTON'S NEPHEW AND BIOGRAPHER, PERHAPS MINDFUL OF the stress under which his uncle produced Paradise Lost (as well as its initial cool reception), aptly describes the ago-

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