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white rock, towards the river, was a walk or grove of orange and lemon trees, about half the length of the mall here, whose flowery fruit-bearing branches met at the top, and hindered the sun, whose rays are very fierce there, from entering a beam into the grove; and the cool air that came from the river made it not only fit to entertain people in, at all the hottest hours of the day, but refreshed the sweet blossoms, and made it always sweet and charming; and, sure, the whole globe of the world cannot show so delightful a place as this grove was ; not all the gardens of boasted Italy can produce a shade to outvie this, which Nature had joined with art to render so exceeding fine; and 'tis a marvel to see how such vast trees, as big as English oaks, can take footing in so solid a rock, and in so little earth as covered that rock. But all things by nature there are delight ful and wonderful.”
In another place, in the same novel, she writes of the country—“Though in a word I must say thus much of it; that certainly had his late Majesty of sacred memory but seen and known what a vast and charming world he had been master of in that continent, he would never have parted so easily with it to the Dutch, "Tis a continent whose vast extent was never yet known, and may contain more noble earth than all the universe besides ; for, they say, it reaches from the east to the west one way as far as China, and another to Peru. It affords all things both for beauty and use; 'tis there eternal spring, always the very months of April, May, and June; the shades are perpetual, the trees bearing at once all degrees of leaves and fruit, from blooming buds to ripe autumn ; groves of oranges, lemons, citrons, figs, nutmegs, and noble aromaticks, continually bearing their fragrancies. The trees appearing all like nosegays adorned with flowers of different kinds, some are all white, some purple, some scarlet, some blue, some yellow; bearing at the same time ripe fruit, and blooming young, or producing every day new. The very wood of all these trees has an intrinsic value above common timber; for they are, when cut, of different colours, glorious to behold, and bear a price considerable, to inlay withal. Besides
this, they yield rieh balm and gums; so that we make our candles of such a rich aromatick substance, as does not only give a sufficient light, but, as they burn, they cast their fumes all about. Cedar is the common firing, and all the houses are built with it. The very meat we eat, when set on the table, if it be native, I mean of the country, perfumes the whole room ; especially a little beast called an armadilly, a thing which I can liken to nothing so well as a rhinoceros; 'tis all in white armour, so jointed, that it moves as well in it as if it had nothing on; this beast is about the bigness of a pig of six weeks old." The reader will admit that Aphara knew well how to place the wonders of her travels before the gaping Londoners !
The young girl, while she was in America, had very delicate health, and was subject to fits of melancholy and sudden fainting. But indisposition did not restrain her from exerting herself in a manner that would astonish young ladies of the present day. She joined in the fierce sport of tiger hunting ; and made expeditions far up the country, for the purpose of becoming acquainted with the native tribes. On one occasion she was introduced to the war-captains of a tribe, whose appearance struck her. “For my part, I took 'em for hobgoblins and fiends, rather than men ; but however their shapes appeared, their souls were very humane and noble; but some wanted their noses, some their lips, some their ears, and others cut through each cheek with long slashes, through which their teeth appeared; they had several other formidable wounds and scars, or rather dismemberings. Cæsar was marvelling as much at their faces, wondering how they should all be so. wounded in war; he was impatient to know how they came by those frightful marks of rage and malice, rather than wounds got in noble battle. They told us by our interpreter, that when any war was waging, two men, chosen out by some old captain whose fighting was past, and who could only teach the theory of war, were to stand in competition for the generalship, or great war-captain ; and being brought before the old judges now past labour, they were asked, what they dare do, to show they were worthy to lead
an army. When he who is first asked, making no reply, cuts off his nose, and throws it contemptibly on the gound; and the other does something to himself that he thinks surpasses him, and perhaps deprives himself of lips and an eye ; so they slash on till one gives out, and many have died in this debate.” There was no routine system, it would appear, in the war-offices of that people.
The Cesar who is mentioned in the preceding extract from Oroonoko was à negro slave on Lord Willoughby's estate, for whom Aphara had conceived a violent passion. He had been a powerful prince and warrior in Africa, and was known and feared as “the brave Oroonoko." Deprived of his liberty by an English slave-merchant, who was an extreme example of the villany of English slave-merchants of that period, the Prince Oroonoko was conveyed to Surinam, and there sold to Lord Willoughby's agent. The misfortunes of this poor fellow aroused the sympathies of the generous Aphara, who exerted herself to her utmost to gain his liberty, and was instrumental in bringing about his marriage with an old love, Imoinda, a beautiful captive, who had been taken from his embraces in Africa, and sent as a slave to South America, luckily to the same colony her lover was to visit in wretched servitude. The end of Oroonoko was heart-rending. He came into contention with the authorities of the colony, and was by them flogged once and again, roasted till he was nearly dead, and then, before life was extinct, was brutally dismembered. Aphara, luckily, did not witness her poor friend's last sufferings, but her mother and sister were present during the perpetration of the atrocity, ineffectually endeavouring to prevent the intentions of Oroonoko's merciless persecutors being carried into effect.
On the return of Mrs. Johnson and her children to England, Aphara made her appearance at court, and told Charles the Second the story of her adventures. She assured him that America contained snakes three score yards long, and I know not what else. The merry monarch was so delighted with her intelligence, and so deeply affected with the narration of Oroonoko's wrongs, that he requested her to pub
lish her account for the benefit of the world. In obedience to the royal request, she wrote and in due time published “ The History of Oroonoko; or, The Royal Slave." This is by far the best of her novels,-full of feeling and generosity, because the affections of the writer were warmly interested in the subject of her story. It had a great success—perhaps a greater for that day than Mrs. Sowe's famous “Uncle Tom's Cabin.” The world went mad on the enormities of slavery. There doubtless would have been public meetings of ladies on the ques. tion, had it then been the custom for ladies to hold parliaments on such matters. Southerne put the great novel on the stage. His tragedy, “Oroonoko”—which is nothing more than a dramatic version of Aphara's novel, and in some respects is not worthy of its original-was received by the play-goers with loud applause. Its author was amply rewarded, as indeed he was for nearly all his literary undertakings, for he once ob tained no less a sum than £700 for a play.
A great literary authority has said that the memory of Southerne should be held sacred, because he was the first English writer who used his pen to expose the injustice and iniquity of the slave-trade. This remark, though made by a justly celebrated man, is erroneous, and does wrong to more than one author besides Aphara Behn.
To those who maintain that humanity moves in a circle, ever in action but never progressing, it may cause the delight of a cynical sneer to know that near two hundred years ago the favourite work of light literature was a “nigger novel.”
Immediately Aphara returned to England, she was besieged by lovers of all degrees in rank and age. Her selection was prudent; Mr. Behn, a rich London merchant, of Dutch extraction, was the suitor so fortunate as to win her. History does not say much of this man, but it would appear that he did not live long after their marriage, for there is good reason to suppose that he died before the close of the year 1666.
In that year Aphara was employed by the king in an important service. Our conflict with the Dutch was then at a most interesting crisis, and Apha
with quick wit, rich and free with her money, a poetess and a travelled personage, soon became the rage of the place. Lovers flocked round her by scores, and good fun she made of the whole of them. One old gentleman, a rich merchant, fat, shortwinded, unwieldy and pompous-a caricature of Dutch awkwardness and
ra was sent abroad to act as a spy on the enemy's movements. Charles himself was the person who named her as the fittest possible agent for such a mission. She prudently fixed her head-quarters at Antwerp, and from that city sent a summons to a former admirer, whom she speaks of as Vander Albert, to hasten and gladden her with a sight of his countenance. Vander Albert was a merchant of Utrecht, of considerable reputation and influence in Holland so much so, that important state secrets were confided to his keeping. Aphara's invitation was not despised; her old admirer (a handsome fellow, thirty-two years of age), quickly appeared before her, was wrought into an ecstacy of bliss by hearing her hint she would one day marry him if he only gave satisfactory proofs of his love, and without much parleying agreed to play his country false, and to communicate to his mistress the plans of De Witt and De Ruyter. He kept his word, and before long apprised Aphara that an expedition was in contemplation to sail up the Thames and destroy the English shipping. Quickly was this news conveyed to London ; but the ministers were incredulous; and Aphara's note was only laughed at, and shown with expressions of derision to some who especially ought not to have seen it. Those clever statesmen! Had they only paid proper attention to a woman's words, the nation might have been saved the humiliation which was consummated while Charles was feasting with the ladies of his seraglio, and was amusing himself with hunting a moth about the supper-room.' Had they only acted with common prudence, Rochester might never have had occasion to write :• Mists, storms, short victuals, adverse winds,
And once the navies' wise Division,
Till he became his Foes' Derision.
bert, implored her to marry him. The letter in which he made this offer is worth the trouble of perusal. The magnificence of thought and diction displayed in this effusion must be accounted for by the fact, that the writer was impressed with the belief that so great a genius as Mrs. Behn would not be gratified by any ordinary epistle. “Most Transcendent Charmer,
“I have strove often to tell you the tempest of my heart, and with my own mo!'th scale the walls of your affections ; but terrified with the strength of your fortifications, I concluded to make more regular approaches, and first attack you at a farther distarce, and try first what a bombardment of letters would do; whether these carcasses of love, thrown into the sconces of your eyes, would break into the midst of your breast, beat down the court of guard of your aversion, and blow up the magazine of your cruelty, that you might be brought to a capitulation and yield upon reasonable terms. Belicre me, I love thee more than money; for indeed thou art more beautiful than the ore of Guinea. * * • Oh! thou art beautiful in every part, as a goodly ship under sail from the Indies; thy hair is like her flowing pennons as she enters the harbour, and thy forehead bold and fair as her prow; thy eyes are bright and terrible as her guns ; thy nose like a rudder that steers my desires; thy mouth like a well-wrought mortar whence the granadoes of thy tongue are shot into the gun-room of my heart and shatter it to pieces; thy teeth are the grappling-irons that fasten me to my ruin, and of which I would wish to get clear in vain ; thy neck is curious and small like the very top-mast head, beneath which thy lovely bosom swells itself like the main-sail before the wind. * * . Oh that I could once see thy keel above water! And is it not a pity that so spruce a ship should be unmanned, should lie in the harbour for want of her crew? Ah! let me be the pilot to steer her by the Cape of Good Hope for the Indies of Love. But oh! fair Englishwoman! thou art a fire-ship gilded and sumptuous without, and driven before the wind to set me on fire; for thy eyes indeed are, like that, destructive, though like brandy bewitching ; alas ! they have grappled my heart, my forecastle's on fire,
Not meeting with the respect due to her from the government at home, Aphara no longer troubled herself about political affairs, but during the remainder of her stay at Antwerp devoted herself to the pleasures of society. The beautiful English woman, mirthful (sometimes boisterously so),
VOL. XLVII.—NO. CCLXXXI.
my upper decks are consumed, and nothing but the water of despair keeps the very hulk from combastion; so you have left it only in my choice to drown or barn. Ob! for pity's sake take some pity, for thy coinpassion is more desirable than a strong gale, when we have got to the wind ward of a Sally-man ; your eyes, I say again and again, like a chain. shot, have brought down the main-inast of my resolution by the board, cut all the rig. ging of my discretion and interest, blown top the powder-room of my affections, and shattered all the bulk of my bosom; so that without the planks of your pity, I must inevitably sink to the bottom. This is the deplorable condition, transcendant beauty of your undone vassal,
“VAN BRUIN." Positively Aphara did not capitulate! She never married again. One rich merchant had given her enough of matrimony.
On quitting Antwerp, Aphara went to Ostend, and from that place she proceeded to Dunkirk where she took ship for England. One of her fellowpassengers was Sir Bernard Gascoign. * Sir Bernard had brought with him from Italy several admirable telescopes and prospective glasses, and looking through one of them, when the day was very calm and clear, espied a strange apparition floating on the water, was also seen by all in their turn that looked through it; which inade them conclude that they were painted glasses that were put at
inted classes that were put åt the ends, on purpose to surprise and amaze them that looked "through 'em ; till after having taken 'em out, rubb'd and put 'em in again, they found the same thing floating toward the ship, and which was now come so near as to be within view without a glass. * * * The figure was this, a four-square floor of various coloured marble, from which ascended rows of fluted and twisted pillars, embossed round with climbing vines and flowers, and waving streamers, that received an easy motion in the air ; upon the pillars a hundred little cupids' clambered with fluttering wings. This strange pageant came almost near enough for one to step out of the ship into it before it vanished ; after which, and a short calm, followed so violent a storm, that having driven the ship upon the coasts, she split in sight of land ; but the people, by the help of the inhabitants and boats from shore, were all saved ; and our Aatroa arrived safe, though tired,
to London from a voyage that gained her more reputation than profit." The marvel of the “ great seaser pent” sinks into insignificance whe compared with this “ strange apparition."
Perhaps the reader wonders what may be the meaning of Astrea in the above passage. It was Aphara Behat nom de plume. It was then much more the fashion, even than now, for ladies stepping out of the usual path and becoming authors or wits to shroud themselves under an assured name. Orinda, Rosania, Leucasia, Ardelia, and scores of like elegant ap pellations, including the ever famous Stella and Vanessa, are as familiar to our ears as Currer Bell.
With the exception of the Duchess of Newcastle, England had never seen 80 voluminous a female writer & Astrea ;-a great lyric Tom-Moorish sort of poem called "a voyage to the Island of Love," and innumerable smaller effusions of a like kind, congratulatory odes to royal personages on the birth or anticipated birth of babies, novels, some taken straight from the French without a profession of alteration, and some the productions of Scarron and other French writers of that date served up with slightly different and perchance stronger spices, and plays which are best described by saying that the age liked them, constitute the works on which she confidently rested her claim to the applause of posterity.
Her “ Pindarick Ode on the Death of our late Majesty," i. e. Charles II. ought no longer to remain in oblivion. She compares his late Majesty to Moses, and James II. to Joshua. On his death-bed Charles
“Blest his stars that in an age so vain, Where jealous mischiefs, frauds, rebellions
reign, Like Moses, he had led the murmuring crowd, Bencath the peaceful rule of his almighty
wand; Pulled down the golden calf to which they
bowed, And left 'em safe, entering the promised land: And to good Joshua now resigns his sway, Joshua, by heaven and nature pointed out to
lead the way.
And now the fatal hour came on,
Like the first sacred infant, this will come, With promise laden from the blessed womb, To call the wand'ring, scattered nations homo. Adoring princes shall arise from far, Inform’d by angels, guided by his star, The new-born wonder to behold, and greet; And kings shall offer incense at his feet.
The poem concludes with this address to James-whilom Joshua :
“Behold with joy three prostrate nations come;
plain, You will, you shall, and must for ever reign. And this was written in 1688 !!!
The reader perhaps thinks this poetry pitiful and impious trash. Our ancestors thought it superior to anything Milton had written !
As a poetess, Astrea was most felicitous in ballad-writing. To col lectors of ballads her sheets in grim black-letter are well known. The following may honestly be praised.
Against Astrea's novels the charge of immorality has been brought, and it is difficult or rather impossible to rebut it. The only defence that can be made for them, is to be found in the fact that they did not run against the taste of the times in which they were written. Indeed, when compared with the indecencies of the pared with the in Italian, Spanish and French novels which were the models of Mrs. Benn's productions, the most objectionable passages in the memoirs of the “Court of King Bantam,” and “ Oroonoko” are very trivial offences. Steele passed sentence on her as one 'who understood the practick part of love better than the speculative.' Still her fictions so little shocked the feelings of our ancestors, that every young lady of fashion who could read read them, and the French editor of “Agnes De Castro" said it was constructed so as to present “le vice sous les traits les plus odieux, et à faire respecter la vertu." But it cannot be denied that no man of common respectability would in our days permit these works to lie on the table of his drawing-room. Their very faults, however, become valuable historical features. Sir Walter Scott in a note
SCOTS SONG. When Jemmy first began to love,
He was tlse gayest swain Tbat ever yet a flock lad drove,
Of danced upon the plain,