Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of
Newcastle (1623 1673)
a prolific writer
Margaret Cavendish was a poet, philosopher, writer of prose romances, essayist, playwright and, some say, a tireless self-publicist, publishing under her own name at a time when most women writers published anonymously. Her romance, The Blazing World, is one of the earliest examples of science fiction. The book is a satirical, imaginative tale of a young noblewoman's journey to a mythic world located deep in the Arctic wilderness. It represents an exposition of the author's own scientific and world-views, and is a wonderfully peculiar work; a blend of science, fantasy, and feminist Utopia. Her supporters called it a manifestation of a female mind frustrated by social mores and strictures. Her critics pointed to a supposed weak narrative style, bad spelling, and poor use of grammar.
Newcastle wrote a total of fourteen works on a broad selection of topics: scientific and philosophical treatises, science fiction, a biography, an autobiography, essays, letters, poetry, "orations", and several plays, including one that featured a lesbian relationship, The Convent of Pleasure. The first aristocratic woman in England to defend the female sex, Newcastle continually reminded her readers that she was a woman and that she was writing about issues from a woman's perspective. Poems and Fancies is a collection of poems, epistles and some prose written by Cavendish on a variety of themes.
She paid a well-documented visit to London in 1667 when she became the first woman invited to visit the Royal Society where she witnessed experiments performed by Boyle and Hooke. But membership would remain closed to her or any other woman for a further three centuries.
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