Introduction:Aphra Behn, Love-Letters (1684-87)

From Marteau

A Note on the Text

The present edition of Aphra Behn's Love-Letters follows the copy of Yale University's Beinecke Library (shelfmark Ij B395 684L). A scan of the three volumes is available on microfilm (Wing-number 82:10). The Marteau html-version offers:

  • scans and transcripts of the individual title pages,
  • the original prefaces (omitted in the uncommented Gutenberg-edition - which seems to be based on a scan of the Virago modern classic edition published in 1987),
  • the original spelling and punctuation with all pecularities and signs of careless work – especially notable where similar sounding words offered alternative spellings,
  • the original capitalisation with its indication of changing emphasis,
  • the original paragraph formatting as far as html allowed a decent reproduction,
  • (in order to allow quotations) page references to the copy texts of the first editions.

Obvious mistakes of the type setting like the occasional n for u have been corrected, yet square brackets indicate these emendations throughout. The original text is otherwise perfectly readable even with its tendency to give words in versions which simply sounded right.

The first volume did sometimes use horizontal rules to seperate passages from each other. The present edition uses these graphical elements throughout with an additional feature: Two horizontal rules open a new letter; one indicates that the next passage was to be read as a letter enclosed within the preceding letter. The design should answer the special problem of the html-edition which cannot produce a segmented text with pages to be turned over and with new events to happen on new pages.

For corrections and for explanations you would like to see inserted leave notes at the discussion page or contact

Explanatory Notes

— appear as marginal notes in the frameset. The present edition is deeply indebted to Janet Todd's edition published with ample commentary, footnotes and documentary materials in 1993 and 1996 – though it does not follow Todd in her broad footnoting of the "real" historical background. One might argue that the additional reading of "the real story" is a possible way to read and understand the novel, yet perhaps just as well a misleading interpretation of what could otherwise be seen as a text of dubious moral standards sold under the cover of anti Whig propaganda. The better solution might in this case be an independent article on the historical background offered together with the novel. The textual commentary is especially indebted to Anton Kirchhofer and John O'Neill who solved some of the factual questions readers might have with individuial words and phrases; it is most of all an invitation: the people behind Marteau will do their best to develop the text and the commentary according to the wishes of those who might work with this text.