Dancing all night with Aphra Behn: Jeffrey Boys’s Almanack for 1667

Mike Webb (Bodleian Libraries) and Jennifer Thorp (New College Oxford) contribute to Dancing Lives.

The Bodleian Library has recently acquired a Gallen’s Almanack for 1667 which belonged to Jeffery Boyes of Grays Inn, who has been suggested by Janet Todd as a candidate for the ‘Amyntas’ of Aphra Behn’s poems. In the diary section of the volume Boys records aspects of his social life, including attendance at plays at the theatre and at all-night dance parties with Aphra Behn and other acquaintances whose names throw light on the social and political circles in which he moved.

Aphra Behn by Mary Beale.

At the back of the volume he has written down the titles and figures of nineteen English country dances, seemingly as an aide-memoire from the perspective of the first man in the set which suggests that he himself danced them. Some of them are variant in form from the better-known versions published by Playford between 1651 and 1670, and another may be unique to Boys’s diary. They represent the dances popular with Boys’s circle of friends and at Grays Inn, which as one of the Inns of Court continued a long tradition of dancing at its own masques, revels and other feasts.


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