Comic Release date: 8 May 2015
Special power: Atomic Kitten
Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673) was a prolific writer who wrote plays, poetry, fiction and philosophy, often subverting norms of the day. She was one of the first British women to publish professionally under her own name. This was quite an achievement given that she received no formal education and most women writers were published either posthumous or in pirated editions of their works.
Margaret was a lady-in-waiting to Charles I's Queen, Henrietta Marie, and accompanied the Queen on her flight from England in 1644 during the English Civil War. She spent 16 years in exile in Europe where she encountered Pierre Le Moyne’s Gallerie des Femmes Fortes, a new movement that idealised strong women in possession of ‘male’ virtues (courage, moral strength) while retaining their femininity (beauty). Paris was also home to the emerging feminine salon culture, which gave her the opportunity and confidence to develop her own works. Margaret was a flamboyant individual and one of the first truly ‘modern’ women. As a poet she never once produced love poetry, deeming it too obvious and “a tree whereon all poets climb” and instead preferred philosophical verse that challenged many materialist assumptions.
Her connection with Nottingham is through her marriage to William Cavendish, the Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire. She would spend the latter years of her life at Bolsover Castle before passing away at Welbeck Abbey.
Margaret Cavendish Facts
1. Margaret was close friends with key intellectual and philosophical figures of the day, including Thomas Hobbes and Rene Descartes.
2. Her "Atomic Poems" sequence published in Poems and Fancies (1653), remark that "Small Atomes of themselves a World may make". This is seen as one of the earliest expressions of the atomic theory of nature, predating William Charleton's work by one year.
3. Not content to go along with the latest trends, Margaret designed her own costumes that strived to symbolise her revolutionary identity as a female intellectual. But diarist Samuel Pepys wasn’t impressed, describing her as “a mad, conceited, ridiculous woman”.
4. Her most famous work is The Blazing World (1666), a kind of Utopian political thriller which is seen as one of the first ever science fiction stories.
5. The Blazing World is referenced in Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen when Christian, an extra-dimensional traveller, visits England in the 1680s.