A "Rather Wonderful Piece of Lewd Trash" - Judith Kegan Gardiner.
[BEHN, Aphra]. Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and his Sister; with the History of their Adventures. London: Printed for D. Brown, J. Tonson, J. Nicholson, B. Tooke and G. Strahan, 1718.
8vo., rebound in 20th century full mottled calf ruled in blind to upper board; five raised bands and gilt devices in compartments; contrasting red morocco label to spine with date direct in gilt to foot; pp. [xiv], 505, [i] (A-U8, X-Z8, Aa-Kk, Kk3 and Kk4 missigned), complete with all corresponding catch-words; title page expertly repaired and reinforced; browned and slightly faded throughout, as is to be expected; ink stain to upper corner of A3-A8, touching the text to some leaves; closely shaved at foot, in places; the odd spot, stain or finger mark, but a pleasing example, and certainly scarce.
Fifth edition of a work originally published in separate volumes between 1684 and 1687. The authorship is attributed to Aphra Behn, although the work has never been published under her name.
The work is based loosely on an affair between Ford, Lord Grey of Werke, and his wife's sister, Lady Henrietta Berkeley, a scandal that broke in London in 1682. It was originally published in three separate parts, Love-Letters Between a Noble-Man and his Sister (1684), Love-Letters from a Noble Man to his Sister: Mixt with the History of Their Adventures. The Second Part by the Same Hand (1685), and The Amours of Philander and Silvia (1687). All three volumes are found here bound together.
Some have argued that the work can be seen as the first novel written in English, and certainly the first to be written by a woman. Behn was an extraordinary figure. She was one of the first English women to earn a living by writing, breaking down cultural barriers and serving as a literary role model for later generations of female authors. She traveled to Surinam in 1663-1664 and married a Dutch merchant who died of the plague in 1665. The following year, she served as a spy under Charles II, gathering information about exiled Cromwellians and relay Dutch military plans back to England. Later, she spent time in prison, becoming such an influential figure as to win herself a plot, upon her death, in Westminster Abbey.
Blain notes: "AB was generous and popular with her peers but often vilified in print. She had more than one lover, some poems hint at love between women. Her works (where sex is as central as in those of her friend Rochester and other contempories) often question expectations about women; the filth so long alleged is not to be found" [Blain. Feminist Companion, p. 78]. Viginia Woolf, wrote of her, in A Room of One's Own: "All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds."