In March 2020, the first volume of the Cambridge Edition of the Works of Aphra Behn was published. To celebrate the completion of Volume 4: Plays 1682-96, the project team and editors held an online launch, and whilst we weren’t able to share stories, beverages and biscuits in person, it was great to see so many faces from around the world.
But Behn wrote far more than the (excellent) six plays included in this first-to-appear volume. Questions of attribution, collation, print history, biography and literary import preside over the remaining seven volumes of the edition. The next volume to appear will be Volume 2 Plays 1676-78, containing new editions of The Town-Fopp, The Rover, Sir Patient Fancy, The Counterfeit Bridegroom and The Debauchee, edited by Elaine Hobby, Claire Bowditch and Jennie Challinor.
Fancy a closer look at this work in progress? See the video below for a short trailer (created by Claire Bowditch):
Work continues apace on this volume, as well as the other six volumes, and we are excited to see what discoveries and insights the next stages of the project will bring.
The two-day conference was thought-provoking and wide-ranging in its topics and approaches.
There are now plans afoot for a potential special issue of the Huntington Library Quarterly on Restoration women’s writing and its readers. More updates when we have them!
Elaine Hobby is also leading a course on Aphra Behn – information can be found at the Huntington website.
Some of the Behn team’s best times have been spent at The Huntington Library in southern California, which has a truly wonderful collection of Behn first editions. The library itself is surrounded by botanical gardens, and we have spent many happy hours exploring those in between close work in the reading rooms. Claire Bowditch and Elaine Hobby were at The Huntington for three months collating in 2015-16, and returned again in 2018 when Claire was awarded an International Placement by AHRC. Elaine is now there – or sort of there – again on a Behn mission, teaching a six-week Adult Education class at The Huntington entitled ‘Aphra Behn: Playwright, Poet, Novelist, Spy’. By all reports the classroom discussions are lively, passionate and full of laughter in a group where half of the participants say they had never heard of Behn before signing up for the course. The problem? In these pandemic times, Elaine is teaching from her desk at home in Loughborough. No botanical gardens, and no Californian sunshine. But the input from Huntington colleagues – both those who organise Huntington events and specialist curators – is full of The Huntington’s characteristic collegiality, and we are hopeful that yet more good for Behn will follow long after the students have stopped wondering why Angellica Bianca goes to bed with Willmore.
Professor Elaine Hobby recently gave the International Women’s Day guest lecture at the English and Creative Writing department at Lancaster University. Elaine discusses four works from the end of Behn’s career: A Discovery of New Worlds, The Emperor of the Moon, Oroonoko and The Widdow Ranter.