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taking a pinch whenever her husband regaled himself with one. As the snuffy husband could not endure seeing his wife take “ high-dried Scotch," so the filthy play-wrights were shocked by a woman imitating them. That the beautiful, witty Aphara, gentle and refined in appearance as she was generous at heart, could put her signature to ribald comedies, and that she was only a pupil painting after a copy, were truths that wounded and humiliated the wits of the theatres. Pope lashed the offender
The stage how loosely does Astrca
more obliging is the fiction-writer of Bulwer's dynasty, who not only tells his readers what to think about, but all but thinks for them!
If Aphara's novels are open to censure on the score of their indelicacy, her plays are yet more so, and may moreover be sentenced as stupid. Her dramatic works did not escape severe reflections from her contemporaries. Still they did not sin so much against the laws of propriety, as the comedies of the great poets of that era. Dryden, Wycherley, Southerne, Etherege, and a score other men, were applauded for compositions which no one can now read without disgust; but Astrea, who only imitated the men, called down upon herself vehement reproof. How came this? She answered the question in her way, in the preface to The Lucky Chance. “ But I make a challenge to any person of common sense and reasonthat is not wilfully bent on ill-nature, and will, in spite of sense, wrest a double entendre from every thing, lying upon the catch for a jest or quibble, like a rook for a cully, but any unprejudiced person that knows not the author-to read one of my comedies, and compare 'em with others of this age, and if they can find one word that can offend the chastest ear, I will submit to all their peevish cavills; but, right or wrong, they must be criminal because a woman's. . . . . And this thing I venture to say, though against my nature, because it has a vanity in it, that, had the plays I have writ come forth under any man's name, and never known to have been mine, I appeal to all unbyast judges of sense, if they had not said that person had made as many good comedies as any one man that has writ in our age; but a devil on't, the woman damns the poet."
In part, Aphara was right. The abuse she was favoured with she would not, in all probability, have received had she not been a woman. For though the age saw nothing unfit in men's writing immoral plays, and acting them in the presence of ladies, its taste revolted from the sight of a female author for the stage. We all know how an ingenious lady cured her husband of the reprehensible habit of snuff-taking, by starting a peculiar snuff-box of her own, and
and dedicated his greatest work to Mr. Congreve, whose comedies, though brilliant as wit can make them, are certainly not free from impurity.
When the first stone had been thrown at poor Astrea, the number of her accusers became numerous. Her own sex was especially severe on her. Virtuous “ ladies," as the victim herself said, “ taking up the scandal from some conceited sparks who would in spite of nature be wits and beaus," cried fie in most edifying tones, and then retired to their closets to enjoy the songs of D'Urfey, and the satires of Wilmot. Men, too, who were her personal friends, played her false. w I cannot omit to tell you," she writes, “that a wit of the town, a friend of mine, at Will's coffee-house, the first night of the play, cry'd it down as much as in him lay, who before had read it, and assured me he never saw a prettier comedy. So complaisant one pestilent wit will be to another, and in the full cry make his noise too." Poor Aphara! what great pain can a little, mean heart, and a smooth tongue work! Let us hope that to balance against this mortification, she had the joy of having repeated to her the praises poured on her in her absence, by some blunt, rugged friend, who could not applaud her to her face.
She fought a brave fight with her enemies. The men were astonished at finding her strong enough to hurl them down. The ladies, although she was fighting their battle as well as her own, were jealous of a sister so superior to themselves. It was, indeed, a novel contest. Hitherto it had been received as a fact not to be questioned, that any woman was the inferior of almost every man; and any weaker vessel who took it upon herself to figure in literature, was to be very modest in her manner of doing
-to depreciate the powers of her sex-to "invoke the muse" with a confession of her utter unworthiness -and to take every opportunity to exalt the lords of the creation. The delightful Duchess of Newcastle could never allude to women in general, without attacking their ignorance and mean tempers, and calling them “a kind of mountebanks." Katherine Philips, the chaste Orinda, who had been formed by a strict Presbyterian education, to whom Cowley wrote
We allowed you beanty, and we did
in wit? produced a very meagre poetry, and made humble apologies to the mennot for her innumerable sins against the laws of grammar, but for writing at all--being only a woman! The same timidity characterized nearly all the female writers of the close of the seventeenth and opening of the eighteenth centuries. Lady Mary Wortley Montague certainly had no diffidence; and some of her verses would make a shoe-black blush ; but she was a woman of the world and of rank, and naturally courageous.
It was Astrea who first refused to be bound by any flimsy distinctions, and said boldly-" Whatever it is right for you men to do, it is right for me to attempt.” The challenge was answered, the conflict began, and lasted long ;-the lady returned, and usually with interest, every blow she received. Her power of raillery and her spirit were admitted. “ She was of a generous and open temper, some thing passionate, very serviceable to her friends in all that was in her power, and could sooner forgive an injury than do one. She had wit,
dehumour, and judgment. She was mistress of all the pleasing arts of conversation, but used them not to any one but those who loved plain - dealing.” This is the testimony of her most intimate female companion,
It would be difficult to give any
thing like an accurate picture of Astrea's daily life, that would not horrify modern refinement. No imputation, approaching dishonour, rests on her name; but her amusements and tastes were those of her age. In Charles's Court, “ladies highly born, highly bred, and naturally quick wit. ted, were unable to write a line in their mother tongue without solecisms and faults of spelling, such as a charity girl would now be ashamed to commit.” In the public promenades of the capital, they would grimace, ogle, and Hirt with strangers : at the theatres they would call out in a loud voice to their own acquaintance, and bandy jokes with them : at balls they romped and rollicked with the sparks, pouring forth badinage which a maidservant in any reputable household would now be ashamed to utter : their habitual discourse was garnished with a disgusting imprecation which would not now be heard from the lips of the most debased, and was on topics most displeasing to feminine delicacy, Satirists and grave chroniclers agree in their accounts, when describing the manners of the period. In such a society as Evelyn, Pepys, and Grammont delineate, à lady might live the pace, and yet cause no scandal. Aphara availed herself of the license in such manner as suited her temperament, She encouraged the addresses of young noodles, conceited enough to think no woman safe against their attacks ; and when their impertinences became dangerous, she had them unceremoniously kicked out of her house.
In such amusements, when she had not passed the middle age, and when she was still young in the buoyancy of her spirits, she died on the 16th of April, 1689. Her death, we are informed, was occasioned by an unskilful physician-a fact which seems to strike her biographer, whom we have often quoted, as singular ! She was interred in Westminster Abbey. Gerard Langbaine, the second, gives, in his “ Account of English Dramatic Poets,” the following as the inscrip tion on her tablet, beneath her name and the date of her death :
Here lies a proof that wit can be,
Defence enough against mortalitie. Another biographical work has the following lame, though more orthodox, version of the foregoing lines :
honour, good-humour, plaasing
and the date of her death
IIcre lies a proof that wit can never be
Aphara's last achievement was the translation of the sixth book of Cowley's “ Plants." Westley makes her exertions on this work the cause of her death :But why should the soft sex be rolb'd of thee?
Why should not England know
How much she does to Cowley owe? How much to Boscobel's ever sacred tree ?
The hills, the grores, the plains, the woods,
To court a mortal or a muse?
So rast a toil to undergo,
Thy strength, and their own weakness show?
Soft Afra, who had led our shepherds long,
Who long the nymphs and swains did guide,
sho'd try'd, She strain'd awhile to reach the inimitable
Let us now say farewell to Aphara Behn. Her dust is mingled with the ashes of kings, bards, and patriots, in that noble temple in which our Byron has no statue, --in that temple, the walls of which, it was once said, would be profaned should they be inscribed with the name of him who sungO, welcome, pure-eyed faith, white-handed
hope, Thou hovering angel, girt with golden wings; And thou, unblemish'd form of chastity!
KADISHA ; OR, THE FIRST JEALOUSY,
AN EASTERN LEGEND,
There is a curious legend as to the origin of jealousy. When Adam and Eve were in Paradise, the former was accustomed to retire at eventide to the recesses of the garden, for the purpose of prayer. On one of these occasions the devil appeared to Ere, and informed her that her solitude was to be accounted for by the attractions of another fair one. Eve replied that it could not be so, as she was the only woman in existence, “If I show you another, will you believe me?" returned the evil one, and produced a mirror, in which she saw her own reflection, and mistook it for her rival. See “ Life in Abyssinia," by Mr. Parkyns; Murray, Albemarle-street. The Kadisha, flowing to the south of Lebanon, is called "the holy river," as having been a minor stream of Paradise.
'Tis said that love is ne'er complete
A woman's heart already knew
And stars looked down on Paradise,
And murmuring prayer :
When every flower was in its hood,
(By clasps of diamond dew retained)
In solitude :
The citron, and the damask rose,
Pomegranates, camphor, argentine,
And ivory-sceptred aloe Quoen,
When rivulets were loth to creep,
Except unto the pillow moss,
The eyes of sleep:
When nightingales, in the sycamore,
Sang low and soft, as an echo dreaming ; And slept the moon upon heaven's shore, The tidal shore of heaven, beaming
With lazuled ore :
When new-born earth was fain to lean
In Summer's arms, recovering
The unaccustomed toil of spring,
She sat, and watched the wicket-gate,
Though all alone;
For having spread her simple board
With grapes, and peaches, milk, and flowers, She strewed sweet mastic o'er the sward, And waited through the darkening hours
Step of her lord.
Such innocence around her breathed,
And freshness of young nature's play,
The sensitive plant shrunk not away, And cactus' swords were sheathed.
Like music on a moonlight place,
On childhood's spell :
The grace that wandered free of laws,
The look that lit the heart's confession,
Is beauty's cause :
No more that unenquiring heart
Perused the sweet home of her breast,
Than turtle doves unline their nest
Although, in all that garden fair
Whate'er delight abode or grew,
Beyond compare ;
And grown more varied by combining,
His several debt:
And yet she nursed one joy above
Her thousand charms, nor born of them,
But blooming on a single stem-
And though, before she heard his foot,
The moon had climbed the homestead palm, Flinging to her the shadowed fruit, And tree-frogs ceased to break the calm,
And woods were mute, With sudden transport ever new,
She blushed, and sprang from forth the bower, Her eyes as bright as moon-lit dew, Her bosom glad as snow-veiled flower
When sun shines through ;
He, with a natural dignity
Untaught self-consciousness by harm,
Along the walks of Paradise,
(Too rich a loan)
Fair Eve was in her bower of ease,
A cool arcade of fruit and flowers,
And Southern breeze.
Her favourites' simple needs attending,
And singing soft, above them bending,
In evening's calm, she walked between
The tints and shades of rich delight, While overhead came arching green Many a shrub and parasite,
To crown their Queen;