Sanctified Sisters: Aphra Behn and the Culture of Nonconformity

  • Melinda S. Zook
Part of the Early Modern History: Society and Culture book series


Unlike the “religious Mrs. Mary Speke,”2 who sought out conventicles in her native Somerset, the cosmopolitan poet and playwright in London, Aphra Behn was unlikely to have ever attended or observed a Dissenting meeting. Her poem, “On a Conventicle,” derives, it seems, from her own fertile imagination as well as from the rich stock of satiric images of Puritans that harkened back to the time of Elizabeth I. Behn’s poetic pairing of Dissent with treason and civil strife was, of course, very much an outgrowth of the Civil Wars when religious dissidents in large numbers sided with Parliament against the King. Sour memories of the violence and chaos of those years were still fresh during the Restoration and, as we have seen, oppositional politics and religious nonconformity were still intertwined in the years following Charles II’s return. While this linkage was exaggerated in royalist propaganda, it existed nonetheless, and in the very heady years of the 1680s, the visibility of Dissenting politicians and preachers involved in Whig politics, often in its most radical forms, was right before all eyes. Parliamentary politics, street demonstrations, coffee house and tavern talk as well as the press, the pulpit, the court room, and the stage were all filled with the noise of partisan politics.


Woman Writer Partisan Politics Secret Life Coffee House Royalist Opinion 
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Copyright information

© Melinda S. Zook 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melinda S. Zook
    • 1
  1. 1.Purdue UniversityUSA

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