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Head of Zeus
Pure Wit: The Revolutionary Life of Margaret Cavendish by Francesca Peacock

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.

Head of Zeus, an Apollo book * Biography
14 Sep 2023 * 320pp * £9.99 * 9781837930142
Francesca Peacock
Francesca Peacock
Francesca Peacock is an arts journalist who writes features, art criticism and book reviews for The Times, Telegraph, FT, Literary Review and a host of other publications. She has appeared on BBC Radio 4 to discuss her writing, and also runs a podcast in which she interviews female writers and artists about who has influenced them. Peacock has an academic background in early modern and eighteenth-century women's writings, and an interest in obscure and hitherto unpublished texts.