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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $14.00
  • January 1997
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-97014-2
  • 288 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide


Norton Critical Editions


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Aphra Behn (Author), Joanna Lipking (Editor, Northwestern University)


This long-awaited Norton Critical Edition of Aphra Behn’s best-known and most influential work makes available the original 1688 text, the only text published in her lifetime.

The editor supplies explanatory annotations and textual notes.

"Historical Backgrounds" is an especially rich collection of seventeenth-and eighteenth-century documents about colonizers and slaves in the new world. Topically arranged-"Montaigne on America," "The Settling of Surinam," "Observers of Slavery, 1654–1712," "After Oroonoko: Noble Africans in Europe," and "Opinions on Slavery"-these selections create a revealing context for Behn’s unusual story. Illustrations and maps are also included.

"Criticism" begins with an overview of responses to Behn and Oroonoko, from learned and popular writers of her time to Sir Walter Scott and Virginia Woolf, among others. Current critical interpretations are by William C. Spengemann, Jane Spencer, Robert L. Chibka, Laura Brown, Charlotte Sussman, and Mary Beth Rose.

A Chronology of Behn’s life and a Selected Bibliography are included.


    The Text of Oroonoko, or The Royal Slave: A True History

    Textual Notes

    Historical Backgrounds

    1. Joanna Lipking, The New World of Slavery-An Introduction


    1. [Montaigne on America]
      1. From Of Cannibals
      2. From Of Coaches
    2. [The Settling of Surinam]
      1. Lord Willoughby to Lady Willoughby (1651)
      2. [Lord Willoughby’s Prospectus for Settlers to Surinam]
      3. [The Company of Royal Adventurers to Lord Willoughby (1663)]

    OBSERVER’S OF SLAVERY, 1654–1712

    1. Antoine Biet, [They Came Here in Order to Become Wealthy]
    2. Henry Whistler, [They and Their Seed]
    3. Jean Baptiste Du Tertre, [A Servitude for Life]
    4. From The Great News from the Barbadoes [Fatal Conspiracy]
    5. Hans Sloane, [A Very Perverse Generation]
    6. Christopher Codrington, [All Born Heroes]
      1. [Mr. Gamble to Governor Codrington]
      2. [Governor Codrington to the Council of Trade and Plantations]
    7. Jean Barbot, [Three Accounts]
      1. [A Wholly Remarkable Meeting]
      2. [Sharing the Hardship]
      3. [Together Again, tho’ in Bondage]


    1. Thomas Southerne, From Oroonoko: The Tragedy
    2. Richard Steele, The Lover, No. 36
    3. [Captain Tom, or Adorno Oroonoko Tomo]
      1. [Tomo at Theater and Court (1731)]
      2. [Investigation: Commissioners for Trade and Plantations]
      3. [Captain William Snelgrave’s Account (1734)]
      4. [Archibald Dalzel’s Summation (1793)]
    4. John Whaley, On a Young Lady’s Weeping at Oroonoko
    5. [Oroonoko in France: The La Place Adaptation]
    6. [“The Prince” and the Play]
      1. [From The Gentleman’s Magazine, February 1749]
      2. [Wylie Sypher on the Prince and Zara]
      3. [Horace Walpole to Horace Mann]


    1. [A Declaration by the Barbados Colonists (1651)]
    2. John Locke, From Two Treatises of Government (1690)
      1. From The First Treatise
      2. From The Second Treatise: Of Civil Government
    3. Opinion in Periodicals (1735)
      1. The Speech of Moses Bon S·am
      2. The Answer of Caribeus to Moses Bon S·am
    4. Samuel Johnson, [To Boswell: Dictated Brief to Free a Slave (1777)]
    5. Olaudah Equiano, From The Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789)



    1. Bishop Burnet, [To Anne Wharton, December 9, 1682]
    2. Charles Cotton, “To the Admir’d Astrea” (1686)
    3. From A Miscellany of New Poems (1688), “A Pindarick to Mrs. Behn on her Poem on the Coronation,” Written by a Lady
    4. [A Session of Poets (ca. 1688)]
    5. The Athenian Mercury, [The “Athenian Society” to a Woman’s LoveQuery (1694)]
    6. Thomas Southerne, Dedication to Oroonoko (1696)
    7. “Memoirs on the Life of Mrs. Behn,” Written by a Gentlewoman of Her Acquaintance (1696)
    8. Theophilus Cibber, et al., From Lives of the Poets (1753)
    9. Andrew Kippis, From Biographia Britannica (1780)
    10. Clara Reeve, From The Progress of Romance (1785)
    11. Sir Walter Scott, From Lockhart’s Life of Scott (1837)
    12. The Saturday Review, “Literary Garbage” (1872)
    13. Algernon Swinburne, [“Impassioned Protest” (1894)]
    14. George Saintsbury, [“A Very Inflammable Disposition” (1913)]
    15. V. Sackville-West, [“A Born Bohemian” (1927)]
    16. Virginia Woolf, [“The Freedom of the Mind” (1929)]
    17. George Sherburn, [“An Astonishing Masterpiece” (1948)]

    CRITICAL ESSAYS, 1984–1996

    1. William C. Spengemann, The Earliest American Novel: Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko
    2. Jane Spencer, The Woman Novelist as Heroine
    3. Robert L. Chibka, [Truth, Falsehood, and Fiction in Oroonoko]
    4. Laura Brown, The Romance of Empire: Oroonoko and the Trade in Slaves
    5. Charlotte Sussman, The Other Problem with Women: Reproduction and Slave Culture in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko
    6. Mary Beth Rose, Gender and the Heroics of Endurance in Oroonoko

    Aphra Behn: A Chronology

    Selected Bibliography