Aphra Behn’s Rare “Lycidus”. With a Poem by Anne Wharton

Behn, Aphra (1640-1689); Tallemant, Paul (1642-1712); Wharton, Anne (1632-1685)

Lycidus: or the lover in fashion. Being an account from Lycidus to Lysander, of his voyage from the Island of Love. From the French. By the same author of the Voyage to the Isle of Love. Together with a miscellany of new poems. By Several hands.

London: printed for Joseph Knight, and Francis Saunders, 1688


Octavo: 18.8 x 11.5 cm. [14], 64, 176, [4] pp. Collation: A8, a-d8, B-M8, [x]2 (Lacking blank leaf A8)


Bound in contemporary mottled calf, light wear, small defects to head of spine and upper corner of rear board, red morocco label, gilt. Contents fine with only the occasional light spot or instance of minor soiling. Short clean tear (no loss) on d1). Edges sprinkled red. The title page is printed in red and black. A nice copy of a scarce book. Provenance: "Lewis Borthwick" signature on title. Notes on the style of Behn and Rochester on the front endpaper, possibly in Borthwick's hand.

This volume –together with “Poems on Several Occasions”(1684) and “Miscellany, being a collection of poems by several hands” (1685)- is one of only three lifetime publications by Behn to include a substantial number of her poems.

The first part of this volume derives from “Le Second voyage de l'Isle d'Amour,” a romance in prose and verse by the Abbé Paul Tallement, first published at Paris in 1664.  A free adaptation in verse of the first part of this romance had already appeared in Mrs. Behn's “Poems on Several Occasions” (1684).  This continuation also differs greatly from the French original.  "Although Behn keeps in this volume the framework of prose and poetry, a framework she discarded in the first ‘Voyage’, she has otherwise rewritten most of the work and changed it to a reply by Lycidus to Lysander, whereas Tallement's work is a second epistle to Lycidus." (O'Donnell)  

The second half of the book is a poetical miscellany, including ten new poems by Aphra Behn (see below for their titles and first verses), and nine others addressed to her, including the poet and physician Daniel Kendrick’s “To Mrs. B on her Poems” in which Aphra Behn is compared to Katherine Philips; “To Mrs. Behn, on her Poem on the Coronation. Written by a Lady”; and “To Mrs. B. from a Lady who had a desire to see her, and who complains on the ingratitude of her fugitive lover.”

Among the other named contributors to this miscellany are Thomas Otway, George Etherege, and Edmund Arwaker. Of particular interest is an exchange of poems between Anne Wharton ("a lady of quality") and Robert Wolseley, relating to the latter's preface to the Earl of Rochester's “Valentinian”, a play printed in 1685. 

The 10 poems by Aphra Behn in this collection (with first verse of each): 1. Song. On occasion (“All Joy to mortals! Joy and mirth”); 2. On the Honourable Sir Francis Fane, on his Pay call’d the Sacrifice. (“Long have our Priests condemn’d a wicked Age,”); 3. To Damon. To inquire of him if he cou’d tell me by the Style, who writ me a Copy of Verses that came to me in an unknown Hand. (“O, Damon, if thou ever wers’t”); 4. To Alexis in Answer to his Poem against Fruition. Ode. (“Ah hapless sex! Who bear no charms,”); 5. To Alexis, On his saying, I lov’d a Man that talk’d much. (“Alexis, since you’l have it so”); 6. A Pastoral Pindarick. On the Marriage of the Right Honourable the Earle of Dorset and Midlesex, to the Lady Mary Compton. A Dialogue Between Damon and Aminta. (“Aminta Whither, young Damon, wither in such hast,”); 7. On Desire. A Pindarick. (“What Art thou, oh! Thou new-found pain?”) 8. To Amintas, Upon reading the Lives of some of the Romans. (“Had’st thou, Amintas, liv’d in that great age,”); 9. On the first discovery of falseness in Amintas. “Make hast! Make hast! My miserable soul!”); 10. To the fair Clarinda, who made Love to me, imagin’d more than Woman. (“Fair lovely Maid, or if that Title be”) 

“In the 1680s Aphra Behn published widely in many genres, including fiction, poetry, and drama; she also edited Miscellany (1685) and Lycidus (1688), two miscellanies which included poetry and poetic translations by a number of contributors. By editing miscellanies, Behn demonstrated her membership in a number of literary circles and her professional investment in literary production. The range of contributors to Behn's volumes, the subjects of the poems included, and their placement in relation to each other in the miscellanies, suggest that Behn was deliberately defining her place in political and literary culture. Behn's selection and arrangement of the contents both construct and reveal relationships between Behn's works and texts by others, indicating the extent to which Behn was an important participant in the political and literary culture of the 1680s…

“As an editor of print miscellanies, Behn reflects on her own position as a playwright, translator, lyric poet, political poet, and editor, presenting herself as a poet who is "friends" with her contributors, who include well-known poets and dramatists. Behn's miscellanies have been significant sources of copytexts for editors of her contemporaries; poems by Rochester, Dorset, George Etherege, Thomas Otway, and Nahum Tate first appeared in print in Behn's miscellanies. Behn also, however, reached outside these literary circles to collect and incorporate works by women other than herself. While emphasizing her own position within a system of professional and public literary production, no matter how tangential, disputed, or insecure it may have been, Behn also opened space in her collection to writers whose works circulated in nonprofessional, more "private" networks. Her miscellanies increasingly placed works by women writers in poetic exchanges in which both men and women take part, and in which women are subjects as well as objects. Some of Behn's own poems take part in poetic dialogues, and their contexts can offer new perspectives for understanding them."(O'Donnell)

O'Donnell “Aphra Behn, an Annotated Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Sources” BA4.1a; Wing T129 (under Tallemant); Case 184; Grolier, Wither to Prior, 42