Margaret Cavendish, 1623-1673

Portrait

Biographical note

Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne was an English aristocrat, a prolific writer, and a scientist. Born Margaret Lucas, she was the youngest sister of prominent royalists Sir John Lucas and Sir Charles Lucas. She became an attendant of Queen Henrietta Maria and travelled with her into exile in France, living for a time at the court of the young King Louis XIV. She became the second wife of William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1645, when he was a marquess.

Cavendish was a poet, philosopher, writer of prose romances, essayist, and playwright, publishing under her own name at a time when most women writers published anonymously. Her writing addressed a number of topics, including gender, power, manners, scientific method, and animal protection. Her romance, The Blazing World, is one of the earliest examples of science fiction.

She rejected the Aristotelianism and mechanical philosophy of the seventeenth century. She criticized and engaged with the members of the Royal Society of London and the philosophers Thomas Hobbes, René Descartes, and Robert Boyle. She has been claimed as an advocate for animals and as an early opponent of animal testing. Cavendish was the only 17th century woman to publish numerous books on natural philosophy.

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