Pure Wit

The Revolutionary Life of Margaret Cavendish

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Pub Date 14 Sep 2023 | Archive Date 14 Sep 2023

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Description

A biography of the remarkable, and in her time scandalous, seventeenth-century writer Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle.

'My ambition is not only to be Empress, but Authoress of a whole world'

Margaret Cavendish, then Lucas, was born in 1623 to an aristocratic family. In 1644, as England descended into civil war, she joined the court of the formidable Queen Henrietta Maria at Oxford. With the rest of the court she went into self-imposed exile in France. Her family's wealth and lands were forfeited by Parliament. It was in France that she met her much older partner, William Cavendish, Marquess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a marriage that would remain at the heart of both her life and career.

Cavendish was a passionate writer. She wrote extensively on gender, science, philosophy, and published under her own name at a time when women simply did not do so. Her greatest work was Blazing World, published in 1666, a utopian proto-novel that is thought to be one of the earliest works of science fiction. Yet hers is a legacy that divides opinion. And history has largely forgotten her, an undeserved fate for a brilliant, courageous proto-feminist.

In Pure Wit, Francesca Peacock shines a spotlight on the fascinating, pioneering, yet often complex and controversial life of Margaret Cavendish.

A biography of the remarkable, and in her time scandalous, seventeenth-century writer Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle.

'My ambition is not only to be Empress, but Authoress of a whole world'

...


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ISBN 9781837930142
PRICE £9.99 (GBP)
PAGES 320

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Featured Reviews

Pure Wit by Francesca Peacock is an example of when a writer takes on a subject perfectly suited to their skills. Pure Wit is about the life of Margaret Cavendish, a noblewoman and writer in England during the years before and after the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Needless to say, this time period is full of interesting events, but the fact that Cavendish was a women and a writer is the story here. I cannot, unless I make this review excessively long, sum up Cavendish appropriately. She was an early feminist but also not really. Her books are both deeply thoughtful and a bit ridiculous. She defies a short description.

Luckily, Peacock is up to the task and then some. The book is mostly a high level overview of the time period Cavendish lived, plus a short biography, plus literary criticism. Many authors would end up with an absolute mess of tangents and bungled narrative. Peacock's ability to balance many different tones is key to why this book is so readable. Peacock knows when to take her subject seriously, but also will lighten the mood and poke fun at things which are patently ridiculous, including Cavendish herself. The key here is that Peacock clearly has affection for Cavendish, but is not above criticizing her when necessary. I had no idea what to expect when I opened the book, but I didn't need to worry. This is a fun read.

(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and Head of Zeus books.)

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A very interesting book on a very brave and interesting and important lady.
This book gives a very thorough and detailed view of Margaret and her life as well as the backdrop of the era.
Highly recommended reading!

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Before writing a review,
I am delighted to say I am very thankful to Head of Zeus for sending me an e-copy for an honest review!

Margaret Cavendish, later Lucas, was born into an affluent family in 1623. As England fell into civil war in 1644, she went to the court of the formidable Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of the King Charles I, in Oxford. She went into self-imposed exile in France with the rest of the court. Parliament confiscated her family's fortune and properties. She met her much older lover, William Cavendish, Marquess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in France, and the marriage would become essential to both her life and career.

Cavendish was an ardent writer. She published widely on gender, science, and philosophy under her own name at a time when women just did not. Blazing World, a utopian proto-novel written in 1666, is regarded to be one of the earliest works of science fiction. Nonetheless, her legacy remains divisive. And history has mostly forgotten her, which is an unjust destiny for a clever, gutsy proto-feminist.

Francesca Peacock wrote a very brilliant book which informs us about Margaret Cavendish in a very detailed way, and I want to say she did this very neatly and professionally! I am very thankful to her for writing a good book like this!

'My ambition is not only to be Empress, but Authoress of a whole world' —Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle.

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