Margaret Cavendish, née Lucas
*1623 (Colchester, United Kingdom)
†December 15, 1673 (Welbeck Abbey, United Kingdom)
Spouse: William Cavendish
Margaret Cavendish was an English polymath whose works span the fields of philosophy, natural science, poetry, play-writing, fiction and autobiography. Cavendish was an early advocate of naturalism and believed that ideas and thoughts, as well as souls, are material. She argued against all forms of tracing bodily actions back to immaterial beings, such as immaterial forms, God or an immaterial mind, and held the view that the causes for bodily actions rest in matter itself. Cavendish believed that we cannot have knowledge of immaterial things. Earlier than Hume, she argued for the idea that knowledge of causal relations rests solely on experience.
Cavendish, like most women of her time, did not receive a formal education. She had access to libraries, which she used enthusiastically. She was the youngest of 8 children and engaged in intellectual conversations with her siblings, especially her middle brother John Lucas, who was very well educated and was to become a founding member of the Royal Society. At a very young age she started to put her ideas into writing. After three years as a maid of honor at the court of Queen Henrietta Maria, who she followed into exile in France, Cavendish married William Cavendish in 1645. Through her husband, Margaret Cavendish mingled with prominent intellectuals of her time such as Thomas Hobbes and René Descartes. Interestingly, Cavendish published in her own name at a time when women often published anonymously. During her lifetime Margaret Cavendish and her works were often criticised as eccentric and “mad” by her male colleagues. It was feminist interest of the 1980ies that revived the reception of her works. Cavendish’s book The Description of a New World Called The Blazing World is regarded as one of the first science-fiction novels in literary history.
Cavendish, Margaret 1653. Poems and Fancies. London: T. Roycroft.
Cavendish, Margaret 1653. Philosophicall Fancies. London: T. Roycroft.
Cavendish, Margaret 1655. The World’s Olio. London: T. Roycroft.
Cavendish, Margaret 1655. Philosophical and Physical Opinions. London: Wilson.
Cavendish, Margaret 1656. Nature’s Pictures drawn by fancies pencil to the life. London.
Cavendish, Margaret 1662. Orations of Divers Sorts, Accommodated to Divers Places. London: W. Wilson.
Cavendish, Margaret 1662. Plays. London: Warren.
Cavendish, Margaret 1662. Bell in Campo. In: Playes. London: John Martyn, James Allestry, and Tho. Dicas.
Cavendish, Margaret 1662. Love’s Adventures. London. Online here: http://digitalcavendish.org/complete-works/playes/loves-adventures/.
Cavendish, Margaret 1663. Philosophical and Physical Opinions. London: Wilson.
Cavendish, Margaret 1664. Poems and Fancies. London: Wilson.
Cavendish, Margaret 1664. Philosophical Letters. London: Wilson/Maxwell?.
Cavendish, Margaret 1664. Sociable Letters. London: Wilson.
Cavendish, Margaret 1666. Observations Upon Experimental Philosophy. Maxwell.
Cavendish, Margaret 1668. Plays Never before Printed. Maxwell.
Cavendish, Margaret 1814 (1656). A True Relation of the birth, breeding and life of Margaret Cavendish Printed at the private press of Lee priory, by Johnson and Warwick.
Cavendish, Margaret 1992. The Description of a New World Called The Blazing World And Other Writings. Kate Lilley (ed.). London: William Pickering.
Cavendish, Margaret 1996 (1668). Grounds of Natural Philosophy. Colette V. Michael, West Cornwall (eds.). CT: Locust Hill Press.
Cavendish, Margaret 1999: The Convent of Pleasure and Other Plays. Anne Shaver (ed.). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press.
Cavendish, Margaret 2000. Paper Bodies: A Margaret Cavendish Reader. Sylvia Bowerbank and Sara Mendelson (eds.). Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press.
Cavendish, Margaret 2001 (1668). Observations upon Experimental Philosophy. Eileen O’Neill (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cavendish, Margaret 2001. Observations upon Experimental Philosophy. Eileen O’Neill (ed.). New York: Cambridge UP.
Cavendish, Margaret 2001. Die gleißende Welt. Virginia Richter (trans. & ed.). München: Scaneg Verlag.
Cavendish, Margaret 2002. Bell in Campo and The Sociable Companions. Alexandra G. Bennett (ed.). Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press.
Cavendish, Margaret 2003 (1666). The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World. In: Margaret Cavendish: Political Writings. Susan James (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cavendish, Margaret 2004. Sociable Letters. James Fitzmaurice (ed.). Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press.
Cavendish, Margaret 2015. The Life of William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle. London: Leopold Classic Library.
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Anscomb, Lisa 2003. Feminine Analogues of Reason: Gendered Figuration in the Writing of Margaret Cavendish, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Sarah Scott. PhD diss., Oxford: University of Oxford.
Apostalova, Iva 2010. Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia and Margaret Cavendish: The Feminine Touch in Seventeenth-Century Epistemology. In Maritain Studies/Etudes Maritainiennes 26, 83-97.
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Bertuol, Roberto 2001. The Square Circle of Margaret Cavendish: The 17th-century Conceptualization of Mind by Means of Mathematics. In Language and Literature: Journal of the Poetics and Linguistics Association 10, 21-39.
Blaydes, Sophia B. 1988. Nature Is a Woman: The Duchess of Newcastle and Seventeenth-Century Philosophy. In Man, God, and Nature in the Enlightenment, Donald C. Mell, Jr. et al. East Lansing. (eds.). MI: Colleagues Press, 51 – 64.
Borcherding, Julia forthcoming. A Most Subtle Matter: Cavendish’s and Conway’s (Im)materialism. Göcke & J. Farris (eds.). The Routledge Handbook on Idealism and Immaterialism.
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Boyle, Deborah 2018. The Well-Ordered Universe: The Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish. New York: Oxford University Press.
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Clucas, Stephen 1994. The Atomism of the Cavendish Circle: A Reappraisal. The Seventeenth Century, 9: 247–273.
Clucas, Stephen (ed.) 2003. A Princely Brave Woman: Essays on Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle. Aldershot: Ashgate.
Clucas, Stephen 2003. Variation, Irregularity and Probabilism: Margaret Cavendish and Natural Philosophy as Rhetoric. In Stephen Clucas (ed.). A Princely Brave Woman: Essays on Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, Hampshire (England) and Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 199–209.
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Science. In In-between: Essays and Studies in Literary Criticism 9, no. 1-2, 147-160.
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Cottegnies, Line, and Weitz, Nancy (eds.) 2003. Authorial Conquests: Essays on Genre in the Writings of Margaret Cavendish. Cranbury, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.
Cottegnies, Line 2010. Utopia, Millenarianism, and the Baconian Programme of Margaret Cavendish’s the Blazing World (1666). In New Worlds Reflected: Travel and Utopia in the Early Modern Period. Chloë Houston and Andrew Hadfield (eds.). Ashgate, 71-91.
Cunning, David, 2006. Cavendish on the Intelligibility of the Prospect of Thinking Matter. History of Philosophy Quarterly, 23: 117–136.
Cunning, David 2015. Cavendish. New York: Routledge.
Dear, Peter 2007. A Philosophical Duchess: Understanding Margaret Cavendish and the Royal Society. In Science, Literature, and Rhetoric in Early Modern England. Juliet Cummins and David Burchell (eds.). Aldershot: Ashgate, 125-144.
Detlefsen, Karen 2006. Atomism, Monism, and Causation in the Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish. In Garber, Daniel and Nadler, Steven (eds.). Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy, 3: 199–240.
Detlefsen, Karen 2007. Reason and Freedom: Margaret Cavendish on the Order and Disorder of Nature. Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, 89: 157–191.
Detlefsen, Karen 2009. Margaret Cavendish on the Relationship Between God and World. Philosophy Compass, 4: 421–438.
Dodds, Lara A. 2013. The Literary Invention of Margaret Cavendish. Pennsylvania State University Press: University Park.
Ferguson, Moira 1989. A ‘Wise, Wittie and Learned Lady’: Margaret Lucas Cavendish. In Women Writers of the Seventeenth Century. Katharina M. Wilson and Frank J. Warnke (eds.). Athens: University of Georgia Press, 305-318.
Fitzmaurice, James 1997. Historical Linguistics, Literary Interpretation, and the Romances of Margaret Cavendish. In Methods in Historical Pragmatics. Susan Fitzmaurice and Irma Taavitsainen (eds.). Berlin: De Gruyter, 267-284.
Fitzmaurice, James 2000. Margaret Cavendish in Antwerp: The Actual and the Imaginary. In In-between: Essays and Studies in Literary Criticism 9, no. 1-2, 29-39.
Fitzmaurice, Susan M. 2000. But, Madam’: The Interlocutor in Margaret Cavendish’s Writing. In Inbetween: Essays and Studies in Literary Criticism 9, no. 1-2, 17-27.
Fowler, Ellayne 1996. Margaret Cavendish and the Ideal Commonwealth. In Utopian Studies: Journal of the Society for Utopian Studies 7, no. 1, 38-48.
Fulton, Alice 2002. Unordinary Passions: Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle. In Green Thoughts, Green Shades: Essays by Contemporary Poets on the Early Modern Lyric. Jonathan F. S. Post (ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press, 191-219.
Gagen, Jean 1959. Honor and Fame in the Works of the Duchess of Newcastle. In Studies in Philology 56, 519-38.
Gardiner, Judith Kegan 1997. ‘Singularity of Self’: Cavendish’s True Relation, Narcissism, and the Gendering of Individualism. In Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700 21, no. 2, 52-65.
Goldberg, Jonathan 2009. Margaret Cavendish, Scribe. In Margaret Cavendish, Sara H. Mendelson (ed.). Farnham, England: Ashgate, 355-374.
Green, Karen 2006. Fictions of a Feminine Philosophical Persona: Christine de Pizan, Margaret Cavendish and Philosophia Lost. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Grant, Douglas 1957. Margaret the First: A Biography of Margaret Cavendish Duchess of Newcastle 1623–1673. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Hair, Christopher 2007. The Flaw in Paradise: The Critique of Idealism in Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World. In Renaissance Papers, 55-67.
Harle, Birgit M. 1991. Writing on the Borderline: Margaret Cavendish’s Double-voiced Discourse. Flagstaff, AZ: Northern Arizona University.
Hill, Melissa 1992.93. ‘A Conversation of Souls’: Community and Subjectivity in Margaret Cavendish’s Sociable Letters. In Proceedings of the PMR Conference: Annual Publication of the International Patristic, Mediaeval and Renaissance Conference 16-17, 139-47.
Hintz, Carrie 1996. ‘But One Opinion’: Fear of Dissent in Cavendish’s New Blazing World. In Utopian Studies: Journal of the Society for Utopian Studies, 7, no.1, 25-37.
Hiscock, Andrew. ‘Here’s No Design, No Plot, nor Any Ground’: The Drama of Margaret Cavendish and the Disorderly Woman. In Women’s Writing, 4, no. 3, 401-20.
Hutton, Sarah 1997. Margaret Cavendish and Henry More. In A Princely Brave Woman: Essays on Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle. Stephen Clucas (ed.). Aldershot: Ashgate, 185-198..
Hutton, Sarah 1997. In Dialogue with Thomas Hobbes: Margaret Cavendish’s natural philosophy. Women’s Writing, 4: 421–432.
James Susan 1999. The Philosophical Innovations of Margaret Cavendish. British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 7: 219–244.
James, Susan 2003. Introduction. In Margaret Cavendish: Political Writings. James, Susan (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge UP (2003).
Jones, Kathleen Jones 1988. Margaret Cavendish: A Glorious Fame. The life of the Duchess of Newcastle. London: Bloomsbury.
Jung, Sandro 2011. Margaret Cavendish’s Mythopoetics: By Way of Introduction. In English Studies: A Journal of English Language and Literature 92, no. 7, 705-10.
Kegl, Rosemary 1996. ‘The World I Have Made’: Margaret Cavendish, Feminism and The Blazing World. In Feminist Readings of Early Modern Culture: Emerging Subjects. Valerie Traub, Lindsay Kaplan and Dympna Callaghan (eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 119-41.
Keller, Eve 1997. Producing Petty Gods: Margaret Cavendish’s Critique of Experimental Science. In English Literary History 64, no. 2, 447-71.
Kellett, Katherine R. 2008. Performance, Performativity, and Identity in Margaret Cavendish’s The Convent of Pleasure. In Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 48, no. 2, 419-442.
Khanna, Lee Cullen 1994. The Subject of Utopia: Margaret Cavendish and Her Blazing-World. In Utopian and Science Fiction by Women: Worlds of Difference. Jane L. Donawerth, Carol A. Kolmerten and Susan Gubar (eds.). Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 15-34.
Khanna, Lee Cullen 2007. Utopian Exchanges: Negotiating Difference in Utopia. In Gender and Utopia in the Eighteenth Century: Essays in English and French Utopian Writing, edited by Nicole Pohl and Brenda Tooley. Burlington: Ashgate, 17-37..
Knowles, James 2006. War is all the World About’: the Cavendishes, Civil War and Culture Wars. In Royalist Refugees: William and Margaret Cavendish in the Rubens House, 1648-1660. Benvan Beneden and Nora de Poorter (eds.). Antwerp: Rubenshuis & Rubenianum, 21-36.
Kroetsch, Cameron 2013. List of Margaret Cavendish’s Texts, Printers, and Booksellers (1653-1675). Digital Cavendish Project. 15 August 2013. http://digitalcavendish.org/original-research/texts-printers-booksellers/.
Lewis, Eric 2001. The Legacy of Margaret Cavendish. Perspective on Science, 9: 341–365.
Leslie, Marina 1996. Gender, Genre and the Utopian Body in Margaret Cavendish’s Blazing World. In Utopian Studies: Journal of the Society for Utopian Studies 7, no.1, 6-24.
Leslie, Marina 1999. Evading Rape and Embracing Empire in Margaret Cavendish’s ‘Assaulted and Pursued Chastity. In Menacing Virgins: Representing Virginity in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Marina Leslie and Kathleen Coyne Kelly (eds.). London: Associated University Press, 179-197.
Lobsien, Verena Olejniczak 1999. Skeptische Phantasie: Eine andere Geschichte der frühneuzeitlichen Literatur: Nikolaus von Kues, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Burton, Herbert, Milton, Marvell, Margaret Cavendish, Aphra Behn, Anne Conway. München: Fink.
Low, Jennifer 1998. Surface and Interiority Self-Creation in Margaret Cavendish’s The Claspe. In Philological Quarterly 77, no. 2, 149-69.
McGuire, Mary Ann 1978. Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, on the Nature and Status of Women. International Journal of Women’s Studies, 1: 193–206.
Mendelson, Sara 2012. The Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish: Reason and Fancy during the Scientific Revolution. In Journal of British Studies 51, no. 1, 206-208.
Michaelian, Kourken 2009. Margaret Cavendish’s Epistemology. British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 17: 31–53.
Nelson, Holly Faith 2002. ‘Worms in the Dull Earth of Ignorance’: Zoosemiotics and Sexual Politics in the Works of Margaret Cavendish. In English Language Notes 39, no. 4, 12-24.
Norbrook, David 2000. Margaret Cavendish and Lucy Hutchinson: Identity, Ideology and Politics. In In-between: Essays and Studies in Literary Criticism 9, no. 1&2, 179-203.
Norbrook, David 2004. Women, the Republic of Letters, and the Public Sphere in the Mid-Seventeenth Century. In Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts 46, no. 2, 223-240.
O’Neill, Eileen 2001. Introduction. In Margaret Cavendish, Observations upon Experimental Philosophy. Eileen O’Neill (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, x-xxxvi.
Ollman, Nadine 1988. The Poet as Mermaid: Images of Self in Margaret Cavendish and Others. In Eighteenth-Century Women and the Arts. F.M. Keener and S.E. Lorsch (eds.). New York: Greenwood Press, 87-92.
Paloma, Dolores 1980. Margaret Cavendish: Defining the female self. Women’s Studies 1980, 7, 55-66.
Payne, Linda R. 1991. Dramatic Dreamscape: Women’s Dreams and Utopian Vision in the Works of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle. In Curtain Calls: British and American Women and the Theater, 1660-1830. Mary Anne Schofield and Cecilia Macheski (eds.). Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 18-33.
Perry, Henry Ten Eyck 1918. The First Duchess of Newcastle and Her Husband as Figures in Literary History.Boston: Ginn and Company.
Price, Bronwen 2002. Journeys Beyond Frontiers: Knowledge, Subjectivity and Outer Space in Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World (1666). In The Arts of 17th-Century Science: Representations of the Natural World in European and North American Culture. Claire Jowitt and Diane Watt (eds.). Aldershot: Ashgate, 127-45.
Raylor, Timothy 2000. Newcastle’s Ghosts: Robert Payne, Ben Jonson, and the ‘Cavendish Circle.’ In Literary Circles and Cultural Communities in Renaissance England. Claude J. Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth (eds.). Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 92-114.
Rees, Emma L. E 2004. Margaret Cavendish: Gender, Genre, Exile. Manchester: Manchester.
Rees, Emma L. E 2000. ‘Sweet Honey of the Muses’: Lucretian Resonance in Poems and Fancies. In In-between: Essays and Studies in Literary Criticism 9, no. 1-2, 3-16.
Rees, Emma L. E 2003. A Well-Spun Yarn: Margaret Cavendish and Homer’s Penelope.” In A Princely Brave Woman: Essays on Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle. Stephen Clucas (ed.), Aldershot: Ashgate, 171-181.
Reeves, Margaret 2011. Writing to Posterity: Margaret Cavendish’s ‘A True Relation of My Birth, Breeding and Life’ (1656) as an ‘Autobiographical Relazione. Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance Et Réforme, 34, 1/2, 183–206.
Romack, Katherine M. 2000. Margaret Cavendish, Shakespeare Critic. In A Feminist Companion to Shakespeare. Malden: Blackwell Publishers, 21-41.
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Sanders, Julie 2003. The Closet Opened: A Reconstruction of Private Space in the Writings of Margaret Cavendish. In A Princely Brave Woman: Essays on Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle. Stephen Clucas (ed.). Aldershot: Ashgate, 126-139.
Sanders, Julie 1998. ‘A Woman Write a Play!’: Jonsonian Strategies and the Dramatic Writings of Margaret Cavendish; Or, Did the Duchess Feel the Anxiety of Influence?” In Readings in Renaissance Women’s Drama: Criticism, History, and Performance, 1594-1998. S. P. Cerasano and Marion Wynne-Davies (eds.). New York: Routledge, 293-305.
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Weitz, Nancy 2003. Romantic Fiction, Moral Anxiety, and Social Capital in Cavendish’s ‘Assaulted and Pursued Chastity.’ In Authorial Conquests: Essays on Genre in the Writings of Margaret Cavendish. Line Cottegnies and Nancy Weitz (eds.). Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 145-60
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“But be it, that there are Immaterial Spirits, yet they are not natural, but supernatural; that is, not substantial parts of Nature; for Nature is material, or corporeal, and so are all her Creatures, and whatsoever is not material is no part of Nature, neither doth it belong any ways to Nature: Wherefore, all that is called Immaterial, is a Natural Nothing, and an Immaterial Natural substance, in my opinion, is non-sense […].”
― Philosophical Letters, XX1
“[N]atural reason cannot know nor have naturally any perception or idea of an Incorporeal being.”
― Cavendish 1668a, 78
“I Here present the sum of my works, not that I think wise School-men, and industrious, laborious students should value my book for any worth, but to receive it without a scorn, for the good incouragement of our sex, lest in time we should grow irrational as idiots, by the 〈◊〉 of our spirits, through the carelesse neglects, and despisements of the masculine sex to the effeminate, thinking it impossible we should have either learning or understanding, wit or judgement, as if we had not rational souls as well as men, and we out of a custom of dejectednesse think so too, which makes us quit all industry towards profitable knowledge being imployed onely in looe, and pettie imployments, which takes away not onely our abilities towards arts, but higher capacities in speculations, so as we are become like worms that onely live in the dull earth of ignorance […]: thus by an opinion, which I hope is but an erronious one in men, we are shut out of all power, and Authority by reason we are never imployed either in civil nor marshall affaires, our counsels are despised, and laught at, the best of our actions are troden down with scorn, by the over-weaning conceit men have of themselves and through a dispisement of us.”