Her LifeMargaret 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
Seventeenth Century Women Poets