But still the contemporary reader found nothing in their pages to offend his sense of propriety. And Mrs. Behn, who simply put into a literary form ideas and scenes which were common in the society about her, cannot with justice be accused of an intention to pander to the lowest tastes of her readers.
Behn took the hint for this device from L'Ecole des Maris, ii, XIV, where Isabella feigning to embrace Sganarelle gives her hand to Valere to kiss. p. 116 Just-au-corps. 'A sort of jacket called a justacorps came into fashion in Paris about 1650. M. Quicherat informs us that a pretty Parisienne, the wife of a maitre de comptes named Belot, was the first who appeared in it.
This play was altered by Mrs. Behn, and acted under, the title of the Moor's Revenge. Massacre of Paris, with the death of the Duke of Guise, a Tragedy, played by the Right Honourable the Lord Admiral's servants.
Behn, 'produced a very ridiculous scene, for 'my Nestorian lover would not give ground to Albert, but was as high as he, challenged him to sniker-snee for me, and a thousand things as comical; in short nothing but my positive command could satisfy him, and on that he promised no more to trouble me.
The novel was developed, not created; and in that development many minds took part. Short love stories had been made familiar in England by the Italian writers. Such, also, had been produced by Mrs. Behn, Mrs. Manley, and Mrs. Heywood. Defoe had written novels of adventure, in one of which, at least, is found the combination of a character well drawn and a plot well executed.
p. 186 The Maids Tragedy. Mrs. Behn refers to Act ii, I, and Act iii, I. Hart acted Amintor; Mohun, Melantius; Wintershall, the King; Mrs. Marshall, Evadne. Rymer particularly praises Hart and Mohun in this tragedy, saying: 'There we have our Roscius and Aesopus both on the stage together. After 1683 it was differently cast.
Mrs. Behn perhaps, as much as any one, condemned loose scenes, and too warm descriptions; but something must be allowed to human frailty. She herself was of an amorous complexion, she felt the passions intimately which she describes, and this circumstance added to necessity, might be the occasion of her plays being of that cast.
This intimacy between Oroonoko and Mrs. Behn occasioned some reflexions on her conduct, from which the authoress of her life, already quoted, justified her in the following manner; 'Here, says she, I can add nothing to what she has given the world already, but a vindication of her from some unjust aspersions I find are insinuated about this town, in relation to that prince.
Don Carlos, however, claims his mistress by reason of his former contract, which is perforce allowed. Guiliom, masquerading as a Count, is of course directly derived from Les Precieuses Ridicules, first performed 18 November, 1659, and Isabella is a close copy of Cathos and Magdelon. Behn, Shadwell, in his fine comedy, Bury Fair , drew largely from the same source.
Behn prefixed to her lover's watch; among the rest, Mr. Charles Cotton, author of Virgil Travesty, throws in his mite in her praise; though the lines are but poorly writ. But of all her admirers, Mr. Charles Gildon, who was intimately acquainted with our poetess, speaks of her with the highest encomiums. In his epistle dedicatory to her histories and novels, he thus expresses himself.