Aphra Behn's “Mistake” Novels:
The Unhappy Mistake; or, The Impious
Vow Punish'd and The Lucky Mistake:
A New Novel
AS GEORGE MACAULEY TREVELYAN EXPLAINS, “FOR MANY GENERAtions to come the revolution of 1688–89 was spoken of by our ancestors as 'the glorious revolution'.” It is accepted as such because “the true 'glory' of the British Revolution lay in the fact that it was bloodless … and above all that a settlement by consent was reached of the religious and political differences that had so long and so fiercely divided men and parties.”1 In this situation a new atmosphere was appearing: the Whigs were in power; the Restoration wits were outmoded; the theater was declining; and Aphra Behn was responding to this new world by actively writing novels. Unfortunately, she was not feeling well, as she pathetically explains in the dedicatory epistle to The Lucky Mistake: A New Novel, “I must own, Sir, the Obligations I have to you, deserves a greater testimony of my respect, than this little piece … but my increasing Indisposition makes me fear I shall not have many opportunities of this Kind, and shou'd be loath to leave this ungrateful World, without acknowledging my Gratitude more signally than barely by word of Mouth” (5:352).
Behn's novels of this sad period in her life are highly dialogized because she unites the received Spanish, the prevailing English, and her feminine voices, optimistic in spite of it all. Her practice is consistent with how M. M. Bakhtin defines the novel: a mixture of types of speech, sometimes from different languages, and of individual utterances that combine into one artistic unity or process. Differences among these kinds of utterances are subdivided by social class, special interest group, professional and technical