Margaret Cavendish Criticism - Essay

Virginia Woolf (essay date 1925)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Duchess of Newcastle," in Collected Essays, Vol. III, Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1925, pp. 51-8.

[A British novelist, essayist, and short story writer, Woolf is considered one of the most prominent literary figures of twentieth-century English literature. Concerned primarily with depicting the life of the mind, she revolted against traditional narrative techniques and developed her own highly individualized style. In the following essay, Woolf paints a sympathetic portrait of Margaret Cavendish as an intelligent though untutored woman attempting to leave a mark in a world that mocked any display of intellectual activity by women.]

' … All I desire is...

(The entire section is 3182 words.)

B. G. MacCarthy (essay date 1944)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Biography," in Women Writers: Their Contribution to the English Novel, 1621-1744, Third Impression, Cork University Press, 1946, pp. 70-121.

[In the following excerpt from an essay first published in 1944, MacCarthy traces the conflicting opinions about Cavendish's literary abilities and contends that her genius, evident in her biographical works, was unappreciated by her contemporaries.]

Of the many women whose intellectual powers were rendered ineffectual by a want of education, the Duchess of Newcastle is an outstanding example. Like other well-bred women, she had had her tutors, who were paid to give a semblance of schooling, but who were not even supposed...

(The entire section is 1599 words.)

Douglas Grant (essay date 1957)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Voyage of Fancy," in Margaret the First: A Biography of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, 1623-1673, Rupert Hart-Davis, 1957, pp. 151-70.

[Below, Grant focuses on Cavendish's early works written during the years of her exile, emphasizing the broad range of Cavendish's literary output and tracing the source of her highly imaginative literary creations to her own life experiences and aspirations.]

I desire all my readers and acquaintance to believe, though my words run stumbling out of my mouth, and my pen draws roughly on my paper, yet my thoughts move regular in my brain.

One of the...

(The entire section is 7130 words.)

Patricia A. Sullivan (essay date 1980)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Female Writing Beside the Rhetorical Tradition: Seventeenth Century British Biography and a Female Tradition in Rhetoric," in International Journal of Women's Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2, March/April, 1980, pp. 143-60.

[In this essay, Sullivan compares Cavendish's Life of William Cavendish with Thomas Sprat's "Life of Cowley, " highlighting the influence of gender on the form and style of biographical writing. She asserts that Cavendish's use of extensive detail, heightened emotional pitch, and temporally sequenced narrative creates a human "life story " that contrasts with Sprat's objective analysis of his subject's contribution to society.]

The historical...

(The entire section is 7610 words.)

Sylvia Bowerbank (essay date 1984)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Spider's Delight: Margaret Cavendish and the 'Female' Imagination," in English Literary Renaissance, Vol. 14, No. 3, Autumn, 1984, pp. 392-408.

[In the following essay, Bowerbank views the controversial "eccentricities" of Cavendish's literary productions as reflections of what the author considered to be her "true wit," her femininity, and her philosophy of nature.]

The world arose from an infinite spider who spun this whole complicated mass from his bowels.

(Brahmin Teaching)

Recently Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1623-1673), was remembered in the popular [The...

(The entire section is 5730 words.)

Lisa T. Sarasohn (essay date 1984)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "A Science Turned Upside Down: Feminism and the Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish," in The Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 47, No. 4, Autumn, 1984, pp. 289-307.

[In this essay, Sarasohn discusses Cavendish's writings on atomistic cosmology and natural philosophy, and her development of an original speculative philosophy, which Sarasohn associates with Cavendish's feminism.]

In Margaret Cavendish's play Love's Adventures, the heroine dons male clothes, saves her intended and the Republic of Venice from the Turks, and lectures the College of Cardinals on theology to universal acclaim. This literary echo of the famous "world turned upside down"...

(The entire section is 5917 words.)

Sidonie Smith (essay date 1987)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Ragged Rout of Self: Margaret Cavendish's True Relation and the Heroics of Self-Disclosure," in A Poetics of Women's Autobiography: Marginality and the Fictions of Self-Representation, Indiana University Press, 1987, pp. 84-101.

[In the following essay, Smith traces Cavendish's conflicting depictions of herself in her autobiography to the tension between the traditional ideal of feminine silence and Cavendish's desire to give voice to her own life-story.]

When the rumour spread that the crazy Duchess was coming up from Welbeck to pay her respects at Court, people crowded the streets to look at her, and the curiosity of Mr. Pepys...

(The entire section is 8211 words.)

Sophia B. Blaydes (essay date 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Nature is a Woman: The Duchess of Newcastle and Seventeenth-Century Philosophy," in Man, God, and Nature in the Enlightenment, Donald C. Mell, Jr., Theodore E. D. Braun, and Lucia M. Palmer, eds., Colleagues Press, 1988, pp. 51-64.

[Here, Blaydes reacts against the dismissal of Cavendish's philosophical works as eccentric and fanciful, emphasizing their importance to the history of philosophy, and placing her in the tradition of rational materialism proclaimed by such eminent philosophers as Descartes and Locke.]

Margaret Lucas Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle (1623?-73), often reminded her readers that women were part of God's creation. On one occasion,...

(The entire section is 5541 words.)

Linda R. Payne (essay date 1991)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "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, 1660-1820, edited by Mary Anne Schofield and Cecilia Macheski, Ohio University Press, 1991, pp. 18-33.

[In this essay, Payne argues that Cavendish's flouting of the rules of dramatic composition in her plays is a deliberate rejection of masculine structures rather than a failure of her artistic talent. She also contends that Cavendish 's portrayal of modest and dutiful women illustrates the conflict she faced between social expectations and her own aspirations.]

Margaret Lucas Cavendish,...

(The entire section is 5232 words.)

Rachel Trubowitz (essay date 1992)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Reenchantment of Utopia and the Female Monarchical Self: Margaret Cavendish's Blazing World" in Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, Vol. 11, No. 2, Fall, 1992, pp. 229-45.

[In the following essay, Trubowitz views Cavendish's Blazing World as an attempt to redefine the conventions of the Utopian genre from a female perspective.]

Margaret Cavendish, the first Duchess of Newcastle, stands out in English literary history as the first woman author not only to write but to publish profusely. In the tumultuous fifteen years between 1653 and 1668 Cavendish published (in folio) thirteen strikingly eclectic volumes of fiction, poetry, plays, essays,...

(The entire section is 5627 words.)