My intent is to allow the reader to walk down the lanes of old London (before it burned to the ground in the Great Fire of 1666) and feel as if you are actually there. You can smell and touch the nuances of London. You'll know what it's like to work your way through the City and its the conflicting laws where religion played in important part of everyday life. So sit back and enjoy the ride.

Oh, and then there's my French Revolution novel.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Margaret Cavendish, the Renaissance Woman

While researching for my next novel, I realized science had come to the forefront for many great minds of this time. It also will be the core for my new work in progress. It will take place in London 1663.

It took a few years for everyone to settle down between the collapse of the Commonwealth and the Restoration of the king. Religious views switched, then switched again. Plots against the king were everywhere, which is discussed in my newest release Of Carrion Feathers (release June 1st).

By 1663, the good folk of England began to see the rewards of their monarchy. Charles' marriage to the Infanta brought new ports of call in the South Seas. Goods from all over the world were making their way to English markets at reasonable prices. People brought beauty into their homes in the way of new fabrics, materials. Literacy was up, religious fervor down. Folk gave little mind to nonconformist plots. Unless they came to people's doors, or were pleasantly notorious, it was the king's problem.

Men and women played more. They had more time to read and reflect. The latter half of the 17th century brought some great minds to the forefront of the pack. They discussed astronomy, physics, mathematics, microscopes, astronomy, and entertained other worlds beyond our own. The Royal Society was established for these discussions and experiments.

Even King Charles II had a study below his private closet where he could conduct experiments. One day, he performed an autopsy on a baby born dead.

One of the
best examples of this new thought is found in Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle. She was born into a wealthy family who allowed their daughters to study as did their sons. She was tutored in several subjects that ran the gamut of how a wife and mother should run her household to reading and writing, but her mind went beyond these mundane subjects. She was enamored with science and philosophies. While in France as lady in waiting to Queen Henrietta (Charles I's wife), she appreciated the pleasure of intellectual discussions with members of both sexes. She spent a great deal of time studying the latest scientific abstractions.

She came to understand atoms, and what they meant, what they entailed. She turned agnostic that God seemed 'unnecessary if all atoms have an intellect of their own and are individually animate.' This set her apart from her peers. She considered the sciences of 'unobservable nature', delving into the ethereal of atoms and what they represent.

Margaret's novel The Blazing World sends her heroine through a portal in the north pole and into a new world where all people and manner of thought explain how science works. This novel is the first known feminine science fiction. In it, Margaret discusses almost everything you can think of, from vacuums to reflection of light vs absorption of light.

In another piece, she wrote of a separate world in an earring. Her command of thought and philosophies were quiet amazing.

Even though she professed to follow her husband in all things, she was a feminist. She wrote of freedom and the liberation of women, but only obtained if women could sway men to their way of thinking.

She was the only woman of her time to be invited to the Royal Society, located at Gresham College in London. It was granted a formal institution by King Charles II in 1660, and a man's club of high thought. Isaac Newton was a member later in the century. Some big names of the Royal Society were: Robert Boyle, John Dryden, Robert Hooke (who created his special microscope), John Locke, philosopher, academic and medical researcher, John Wilkins, one of the founders of the Royal Society.

Margaret Cavendish died in 1673 at age 50.

I want to thank:
Martin Griffiths' In a man's world, The feminism, fiction, science and philosophy of Margaret Cavendish, August 2008
The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle

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