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Her Life

                           Margaret Cavendish was born in 1623 to Thomas and Elizabeth            Lucas. She was the youngest of eight children, but was loved just as            dearly. Although her father died when she was only two, Margaret            retained many happy memories and a very strong sense of family. In            addition to the customary learning of needlework, singing, dancing            and the like, the Lucas children received rudimentary teaching in            reading and writing from an elderly gentlewoman. Margaret was            encouraged to learn and to be inquisitive, lessons which would serve            to mold her into the woman she would become. Her first attempts at            writing produced what Margaret called her "baby books". During her            childhood, she wrote of total of 16 these books.

               In 1643, Margaret travelled to London to become a Maid of            Honor to Queen Henrietta Maria, a post complicated by her intense            shyness and lack of proper "court etiquette". With the eruption of the            Civil War, Margaret fled to Paris with Quenn Henrietta Maria            and her court. It was during that time in Paris that her modesty and            shyness attracted the attention of a reputed womanizer,            William Cavendish, Marquis of Newcastle.

               Newcastle was well known for heading one of the twenty richest            families in England, raising an army for Charles 1 (a task that            earned him the title of Marquis), and acting as govenor to Prince            Charles for three years. Despite Margaret's lack of social skills,            and the fact that she was thirty years his junior, Newcastle fell            completely in love with her. They married in 1645.

               Due to their being strong Royalists during a time that was not            conducive for them to be so, the first seventeen years of Margaret and            William's marriage was spent in exile. It was during this time that            Margaret received informal lessons in science from her husband and            his brother, Sir Charles Cavendish. In 1651, Margaret            accompanied William to London and while there, she published her            first book, the 1653 edition of Poems and Fancies. The book received            mixed reviews, some praising Margaret for her originality and some            criticizing the numerous spelling and grammatical errors. Yet,            Margaret was no stranger to criticism, as she was often ridiculed for            her acts of personal excess and her extravagance of dress that caused            crowds to form whenever she ventured out in public.

               Undaunted by the criticism, Margaret said "I endeavor to be as            singular as I can; for it argues but a mean nature to imitate others".            Between the years 1653 and 1671, Margaret published fourteen            works, including poems, plays, orations, as well as a very popular            autobiography. Despite her limited education, Margaret published            many volumes, proving to the unbelievers that lacking great education            does not necessarily mean having intelligence.

               In 1665, William was awarded a dukedom (Margaret became the            Duchess of Newcastle) for the services he rendered to the King,            resulting in the restoration of his estates and his fortune. It was at            this time that he and Margaret retired to the country, immersing            themselves in their writing (William published a book on            horsemanship; Margaret, new "lavish" editions of her previous            works), their home and their happy marriage.

               During the last years of her life, Margaret suffered from the            conditions amenorrhea and melancholy (conditions that we would now            combine to call menopause), and going against her doctor's wishes,            she self-medicated by bleeding herself. This habit could have            weakened her and been the cause of her abrubt and unexpected death.

               Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, died in December of            1673, at the age of fifty. She was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey.            Three years later, she was joined by her beloved William.

Margaret Lucas & Family

         Information on this page was compiled          from the following webpages:

Seventeenth Century Women Poets


Margaret Cavendish