Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Margaret Cavendish, duchess of Newcastle, left many folio volumes in various prose genres. Natures Pictures contains a group of stories in prose and verse told around a winter fire; they are romantic and moralistic (disguises, abductions, wanderings, battles, reunions). The second part, a miscellaneous group of tales, has no framing device. Grounds of Natural Philosophy (1668) reworks her views regarding physics and medicine developed in Philosophicall Fancies. Philosophical Letters (1664) analyzesThomas Hobbes, René Descartes, and Thomas More. Several romantic comedies, published in Plays (1662), have plot elements similar to the tales. The duchess herself appears in such figures as “Lady Contemplation” and “Lady Sanspariel.” The duchess’s most effective prose, and one of the century’s finest biographical works, is The Life of William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle (1667). Equally lively and clearly written is “A True Relation of the Birth, Breeding and Life of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, Written by Herself,” included in Natures Pictures. The Worlds Olio (1655) contains epistles on the branches of learning and the pleasures of reading, on the passions, fame, and education. CCXI Sociable Letters (1664) contains many interesting observations on manners and literary taste.