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.