Biography of Margaret Cavendish

Margaret Cavendish was an English writer, philosopher, and scientist during the seventeenth century. Born Margaret Lucas, she became an attendant to Queen Henrietta Maria (wife of Charles I) and followed her to exile in France during the English Civil Wars. In 1645, she married William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Cavendish and her husband had a famously mutual relationship for the time period. He supported her writing and defended her when rumors began to circulate that he was the true author of her works. Cavendish herself noted that the two shared a creative relationship in which they would frequently rely on one another for writing and publishing ideas. At the time, it was uncommon for a woman writer to publish under her own name, but Cavendish did so for every work she produced, even going so far as to include her engraved portrait on the covers. Cavendish also wrote autobiographies of both her and her husband, entitled A True Relation of my Birth, Breeding, and Life, and The Life of the Thrice Noble, High and Puissant Prince William Cavendish, respectively.

Cavendish's scientific background influenced her literary work, and her poetry and prose is infused with a vitalist philosophy – or the belief that living organisms and non-living entities are fundamentally different due to a governing principle of the universe (at the time, this would have been referred to as the soul). Her utopian novel, The Blazing World, is one of the earliest examples of the science fiction genre. Her work helped support the notion that women were capable of scientific inquiry and discovery, and she frequently argued in favor of women's education. Today, Cavendish is known for her feminist position at a time when "feminism" as we know it had not yet come to the fore. She died in 1673 at the age of 50 and is buried in Westminster Abbey in January of 1674.

Study Guides on Works by Margaret Cavendish

Margaret Cavendish's The Blazing World is thought to have been first published in 1666, and is considered one of the first examples of science fiction novels. The novel follows a young woman named Lady Margaret, who discovers a portal to an...