“This is a true Story, of a Man Gallant enough to merit your Protection; and, had he always been so Fortunate, he had not made so Inglorious an end: The Royal Slave I had the Honour to know in my Travels to the other World; and though I had none above me in that Country, yet I wanted power to preserve this Great Man. If there be any thing that seems Romantick, I beseech your Lordship to consider, these Countries do, in all things, so far differ from ours, that they produce unconceivable Wonders; at least, they appear so to us, because New and Strange. What I have mention’d I have taken care shou’d be Truth, let the Critical Reader judge as he pleases. ’Twill be no Commendation to the Book, to assure your Lordship I writ it in a few Hours, though it may serve to Excuse some of its Faults of Connexion; for I never rested my Pen a Moment for Thought.”
—From the Epistle Dedicatory
Famous wit, notorious libertine, mystery woman, spy, the ingenious Mrs. Aphra Behn may also have been the first woman in history to make her living as a professional writer. Of all her works, this romantic tragedy of the enslaved African prince is the one best known today—a tale as mysterious as the woman who wrote it. Is it a novel? Is it a true story? Or is it, as H. Albertus Boli argues in his new introduction, a mixture of both?