Mad Madge: Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, Royalist, Writer and Romantic

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9780099284840: Mad Madge: Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, Royalist, Writer and Romantic

Mad Madge designed her own clothes and her coach was black with silver decoration. As John Evelyn wrote, gentlemen visitors were 'much pleased by the extraordinary fanciful habit, garb and discourse of the Duchess'. Born into an East Anglian royalist family in 1623, young Margaret Lucas went into Court service, accompanying the Queen, Henrietta Maria, to Oxford during the Civil War and sharing her hair-raising escape to France in 1644. In Paris, she met and married William Cavendish, Marquis of Newcastle, a great horseman. They lived together in exile for 10 years, as part of the -migr- royalist circle that included aristocrats and the intellectual giants of the day, such as Descartes and Hobbes. Margaret had always loved poetry and philosophy - and now she became a writer. Plays, short fiction, fantasies, 'science fiction' and verse, orations, letters, essays, an autobiography and a biography, six philosophical treatises and one utopia - She made her mark as one of the most determined and prolific of female writers in an age when less than one per cent of published work was by women and society was shocked that she dared to publish under her own name.

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This is the story of Margaret Cavendish, 17th century lady of letters. She is mentioned in Pepys' diary and, as a Royalist, lived in exile with her husband William Cavendish, Marquis of Newcastle, for 10 years. What makes her so unusual is her association with so many of the intellectual giants of the period (notably Descartes and Hobbes), and her own prolific literary output, which encompassed plays, poems, essays and studies in natural philosophy, the proto-science of the 17th century. Not many women played a part in the Scientific Revolution, the crucible of the modern worldview, and a full biography of Mad Madge is long overdue. There is also considerable general interest these days in the early history of science. The author, a young academic who writes well, could have a surprise bestseller on her hands.

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