The Intellectual and Literary Courtship of Margaret Cavendish
James Fitzmaurice
Northern Arizona University

Fitzmaurice, James. "The Intellectual and Literary Courtship of Margaret Cavendish." Early Modern Literary Studies Special Issue 14 (May, 2004): 7.1-16 <URL:

  1. In The Common Reader, Virginia Woolf suggests that the marriage of Margaret and William Cavendish involved a powerful intellectual and literary affinity that was characterized by amateurish ineptitude as well as isolation from the mainstream. The following passage from Woolf refers to the period between 1660 and 1673, when the two lived mostly in rural Nottinghamshire and presumably not to the decade or so that they spent in the city of Antwerp or to briefer periods in Paris and Rotterdam. Be this as it may, early readers of Woolf tended to generalize her assessment and to say that the intellectual and literary lives of the Cavendishes were spent as isolated, inept amateurs. The only exception to the rule of isolation, these readers believed, occurred when William asked James Shirley or Richard Flecknoe to revise his plays for the stage. [1]

    [Margaret and William] lived together in the depths of the country in the greatest seclusion and perfect contentment, scribbling plays, poems, philosophies, greeting each other's works with raptures of delight. They were laughed at by their contemporaries. . . . but there can be no doubt that they were perfectly happy. (102 and 103)

  2. Much recent criticism has worked against Woolf and her early readers by placing Margaret's scientific thinking well within the main currents of seventeenth-century natural philosophy while also crediting her with originality of approach. Likewise, few today would accuse Margaret of being guilty of "scribbling" plays. Nobody, however, has looked carefully at the way in which Margaret and William interacted as thinkers and writers. [2] Did each greet what the other wrote "with raptures of delight," and, if that is the case, to what extent might they have been justified in doing so either for personal reasons or because the writing was worth reading? In this essay, I hope to show that the two were indeed involved in an intellectual and literary dialogue that began during the time of their courtship. Intellectually, they were both interested in a number of topics including the connections that might be made between painting and poetry. As writers of literature, they explored the style that we today associate with metaphysical poetry, still a powerful force among English poets during the 1640s. [3]


  3. In Paris sometime in 1645, perhaps during the summer, Margaret wrote to William to thank him for sending her verses and a portrait miniature of himself. Together with her thanks, she returned his favour and gave him a portrait miniature of herself. An extract from her letter is as follows. [4]

    Your verses are more like you than your picture, though it [the picture] resembles you very much. But here [in a likeness of her accompanying her letter] art has not been so good a courtier as it used to be. (103)

    Margaret makes an interesting assertion. She can see more of William in his poem than in the portrait that has been painted of him. She then characterizes the portrait of herself in a very different way. Its function is to flatter, in the manner of a courtier, and it has failed at that task. Obviously this is a joke, but it is a joke that touches on an interesting problem. Should art seek to accurately represent its subject or should it produce beauty, which then influences the viewer's feelings for that subject? [5]

  4. The poem that Margaret finds to be a good likeness of its author is probably "The Universal Confest Beauty," which is the first poem in Douglas Grant's collection, The Phanseys of the Marquis of Newcastle Addressed to Margaret Lucas and Her Letters in Reply. William's poem is a classic example of the male gaze in operation, and it opens as follows. [6]

    I will not say that love in you discloses
    A mingl'd bath of lilies and of roses
    In either cheek. Or else so lovely born
    For conquering hearts all other beauties scorn.
    Or that your all-well-shapt and even length
    Converts love's infidels beyond their strength. (1)

    William's "bath of lilies and of roses," together with his invocation of the inability topos, is conventional and elevated enough, while his interest in Margaret's well-shaped and even length is perhaps a little more down to earth and original in expression. He goes on, however, to create an image that is not easy to understand and that is even metaphysical in expression.

    At your sacred altar's lips lovers kneeling,
    Offering thoughts, kisses, for prayers without feeling.
    All these you know too well yourself is true
    But I must tell you something more of you.

    Lovers kneeling at the lips of altars? It may well be that altars of the time had some sort of ridges or lintels called lips, but "kneeling" to "lips" is a metaphysical sort of catachresis, an intentional jostling together of metaphors for shocking or, in this case, comic effect. William, as is widely known these days, had the reputation of being a ladies man during the 1640s. The earl of Clarendon famously accused him of indulging in "softer pleasures," and one Parliamentary pamphlet suggested that he was guilty of "fornicating with the Nine Muses, or the Dean of York's daughters." [7] With this sort of reputation, a reputation William never tried to correct, it would seem possible that he might have intended a Donnean sexual pun in the passage just quoted -- if the word "altar" is read so as to refer to genitalia. [8] Is it any wonder, then, that Margaret would have understood the poem to be a portrait of its author's love of the sensual, rather than praise for herself?

  5. The poem goes on to consider Cupid's blindness. Love was called blind, William says, because people once found different individuals attractive. With the advent of Margaret, all men find only her attractive, so Love can now see. One sight, that of Margaret, is the object of all male adoration.

    Confessing you love's center without sin,
    Mankind enamour'd, circling, you within.
    How can you 'scape? Not impudence denies
    Where all agrees, you've given Cupid's eyes
    A perfect sight. (2)

    In what may be for us living today a chilling image, all of mankind surrounds Margaret and looks at her in adoration.

  6. The letter in which Margaret says that this poem on her beauty is a good portrait of William is number six in Grant's collection. The next letter, number seven, does not mention painting or poetry and rather discusses the impending marriage of Marie-Louise de Gonsague-Nevers to Vladislav of Poland. At the bottom of the letter on Marie-Louise, is a completely nonsequitur postscript, which I believe does connect to the topic of poetry and painting from the preceding letter. Margaret writes as follows in the postscript: "My lord, let your eye lemet your poetry" (104). According to the OED, the verb "leam," from which "lemet" derives, meant "to shine" or "gleam" at the time that Margaret and William were living. Margaret seems to be saying, "Let your eye gleam on your own poetry and not on my body." [9] I doubt that she was much offended by William's physical interest in her, but that interest may have grown to be a bit tedious.

  7. The second poem by William in Grant's collection is on the subject of the portrait miniature that Margaret gave to William. William begins, once again, by praising Margaret's beauty, but this time as found in the portrait.

    When view'd your picture, so divine,
    And did consider every line,
    The figure and each mingl'd color,
    That life itself could not be fuller
    So pencil'd by the painter's art
    That at my eyes it struck my heart. (3)

    Interestingly, William does not comment on the trueness to life of the portrait of Margaret but rather on its painterly qualities, line and color. He ends the stanza with a reference to the complicated and highly conventionalized poetic notion that the image of the mistress makes its entry into the lover by way of the eye and then takes up residence in the heart. Sir Philip Sidney's famous admonition, "look in thy heart and write," as William Ringler has shown us, does not mean that the male poet finds inspiration in his own feelings but rather in the image of the woman he loves that is held in his heart. William Cavendish's gleaming eye is directed not towards the beloved herself but towards her image within himself.

  8. As the poem continues, William Cavendish, or perhaps his speaker, considers kissing the portrait but dismisses this action as "a sin," a Donnean sort of idolatry. Instead, William turns "all to eyes," but that approach brings its own difficulties.

    The more I look't, that urg'd each thought
    To think a kiss now not a fault,
    Nor rudeness in my lips at all
    On your twins tempting lips to fall,
    Since their magnetic power did draw
    Mine to them by love's, Nature's, law. (3)

    Again there is a Donnean sexual pun, for the fourth line can refer to "twin tempting lips" or to "twins," Margaret's breasts. William goes on to kiss the picture and is disappointed, not because he only feels dry oil paint on his mouth but because the picture that he was trying to kiss exists inside himself. Its location within him, however, is not in his heart at this point but in his brain. William next invokes a Hobbesean, mechanist explanation for thought, that all mental activity and the imagination in particular are simply matter in motion in the brain. [10] Oddly, at the same time William creates overtones of the supernatural when he writes of mental images which are "species." "Species" were "spirits" or "ghosts."

    Those species cousining, gliding pass,
    Like Sisyphus in his water glass.
    But truly all things do obtain
    Nothing but motion in our brain.
    Since touch not pleas'd but only sight,
    I'll wink, so please my touch delight. (4)

    Presumably William means Tantalus of classical myth when he writes of Sisyphus. William certainly manages a strained, metaphysical image when he places his classical figure not in a river but in a glass of water. In any event, William is once again the roué, for he says that the image of Margaret will dance in his head as an erotic dream while he "winks." William, as he presents himself here, is a more worldly version of Edmund Spenser's Redcross Knight in the episode of the erotic dream from Faerie Queene, book I. Redcross is appalled by the dream fetched from Morpheus by a sprite belonging to Archimago (book I, canto i, stanza 47). William seeks such a dream, in which the image of Margaret will provide him with satisfaction. For all of William's levity regarding dreaming, the subject was seriously considered by Hobbes, who wrote about the activities of "phantasms" in the sleeping brain. [11]

  9. Margaret appears to have replied to William's poem on her picture in letter eight of Grant's collection. She echoes his word "species," but her meaning for much of the letter is not immediately clear.

    As grace draws the soul to life, so nature, the pencil of God, has drawn your wit to the birth, as may be seen by your verses . . . . The medium and species of my sight and understanding are flatted to all things in respect of what comes from you, and more united and contracted than is represented from your lordship. I should be sorry [if] your affection should be as broken as the case of your picture. It can be no ill omen of my part. I know not what it may be of yours. I hope it is not ravenlike to give warning of death. But I wish life only to be still, my lord, your humble servant. (105)

    As I understand the situation, Margaret says that William is a man whose wit, and hence skill at writing, is generated by nature. Nature, itself, she implies must be good because it is a creation of God. Although Margaret does not say so explicitly in this letter, she may have in mind the libertine idea that nature requires all people, men and women, to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. Such was William's view. In any event, many years after the letter was written, in The Convent of Pleasure, Margaret more clearly takes this position. Although Lady Happy in The Convent stresses aesthetic and intellectual pleasures, she strongly implies the desirability of physical pleasure by condemning those who pursue physical plain, particularly in fasting and wearing hair shirts (99 and 100). So, when William writes about the physical pleasure that is connected with the image of Margaret in his brain, he is merely following nature, which has given him these "species" and which is, itself, good. Since the physical pleasure that William experiences does not involve his actually touching Margaret, she remains uncompromised and he, in this instance, is no more than a mental libertine. Her own mental activity, she asserts, is quite tame, that is "flatted" or "dull" by comparison with his, and certainly she has no interest in trying to match his erotic dreams. But since those dreams contain "cousining" spirits, she cannot help but make a joke based on the broken picture case and, it would seem, its glass cover. If he believes in the supernatural world of spirits, which she does not, then the broken glass may seem to him to be an omen of death. She, however, turns away from death and embraces life, but only to be his servant. "Thy humble servant" is, of course, a highly conventional closing rather than a literal pledge and functions here as a bit of a joke.

  10. It seems doubtful that Margaret really believed that her mental life was any less interesting than William's, though he, at the time of their courtship, had the greater experience in expressing in poetry what he saw with his mind's eye than she did with hers. Certainly, Margaret did not abstain from a few metaphysical flourishes of her own as may be seen from her letter thirteen.

    I wonder not at my love but at yours, because the object of mine is good. I wish the object of yours were so, yet me thinks you should love nothing that were ill. Therefore if I have any part of good 'tis your love makes me so. But loved I nothing else but you, I love all that is good, and, loving nothing above you, I have love's recompense. My lord I have not had much experience of the world, yet I have found it such as I could willingly part with it. But since I knew you, I fear I shall love it too well because you are in it. And yet methinks you are not in it because you are not of it. So I am both in it and out of it, a strange enchantment. But pray love so as you may love me long, for I shall ever be, my lord your most humble servant, Margaret. (110)

    Margaret piles paradox upon paradox, producing in the end a "strange enchantment." Margaret, of course, is not generally known for being metaphysical, but she did not entirely abandon this style as she grew older. In 1656 -- a little more than ten years after her marriage -- she published Nature's Pictures, in which there is the story of a young widow. The widow remains true to the memory of her husband, but the way in which that memory is preserved and displayed is quite odd, if not downright metaphysical.

    Here, Dear [dead husband], I cancel all self-love and make
    A bond thy loving memory to take,
    And in my soul always adore the same.
    My thoughts shall build up altars to thy name.
    Thy image in my heart shall fixed be.
    My tears from thence shall copies take of thee,
    And on my cheeks those tears as pictures plac't,
    Or like thy carved statue, ne'r shall waste. (2 and 3) [12]

    The widow's tears will stand on her cheeks as portrait miniatures or tiny statues of her dead husband. This pair of images is nothing if not strained, and one wonders whether Margaret knew Richard Crashaw's poem "The Weeper," where some of Mary Magdalene's tears weep other tears and still other tears fall up to heaven. Crashaw has been taken to be the most extreme of the metaphysical poets, and Margaret, as she developed as a writer, may have admired his daring imagery. To use her own words, she may have grown less "united and compacted."

  11. Margaret's interest in the world of the visual arts, so apparent in her written exchanges with William, continued for the remainder of her life. The word "picture," which she often uses to mean "image" or "mental image," appears in her published work more than a hundred times, and nearly a third of the occurrences are to be found in Observations Upon Experimental Philosophy (1666), in which she deals with optics. In Observations, she is much concerned with what she takes to be the unnecessarily distorted images that are produced by microscopes, while at the same time she acknowledges that even the most undistorted "picture" only describes externals and not the essence of the thing itself. She goes on to comment on the difficulty of accurately reproducing an image of an object.

    But mistake me not. I do not say that no glass presents the true picture of an object, but only that magnifying, multiplying, and the like optic glasses may and do oftentimes present falsely the picture of an exterior object. I say the picture because it is not the real body of the object which the glass presents, but the glass only figures or patterns out the picture presented in and by the glass, and there may easily mistakes be committed in taking copies from copies. Nay, artists do confess themselves that flies and the like will appear of several figures or shapes according to the several reflections, refractions, mediums and positions of several lights, which if so, how can they tell or judge which is the truest light, position, or medium, that doth present the object naturally as it is? (9) [13]

    It is often said that Margaret used Observations to attack Robert Hooke's Micrographia (1665), and here she seems to develop some his own caveats so as to undermine his project. She may, in fact, have the following passage from Micrographia in mind.

    There is much more difficulty to discover the true shape [of an object under a microscope] than of those [objects] visible to the naked eye, the same [microscopic] object seeming quite differing in one position to the light from what it really is and may be discovered in another. . . . The eyes of a fly in one kind of light appear almost like a lattice, drilled through with abundance of small holes. . . In the sunshine they look like a surface covered with golden nails. [14]

    Hook admits that different images of the same object are to be found in a lens, and Margaret goes him a step further by remarking that a copy of a copy is liable to be seriously distorted. The unstated implication is that the remarkable illustrations in Micrographia are distorted distortions. What is most interesting about the passage from Micrographia, however, is how much it owes to the world of visual arts. Engravers, of course, used crosshatching, that is lattices, to achieve shading, a technique that may have been employed in producing Hooke's volume. Painters rely heavily on colors such as gold, and Hooke may have wished that his illustrations were not limited to black and white. It might be argued that the interaction between Margaret Cavendish and Robert Hooke was as much about art as about science, and the dialogue with Hooke continues some of what was discussed by her and William Cavendish.

  12. An exchange between Lady Self-conceit and Lady Quick-wit in Margaret's play The Presence (1668) demonstrates that Margaret even many years later did not forget the poetic blazon that William wrote for her during their courtship in 1645. The exchange involves a light-hearted and self-mocking treatment of the relationship between painting and poetry.

    Enter Lady Self-conceit, with her portrait.
    Self. Quick-wit, I have been seeking you to show you my portrait
    Quick. What painter drew it?
    Self. A Painter did not draw it, but a poetical lord did write it.
    Quick. So I perceive a portrait is a mode phrase for a character or a description and a portrait, character, and description of particulars signifies one and the same thing.
    Self. Yes, but characters and descriptions have been so often used, writ, and named that the readers are so wearied with those old fashioned names as it keeps them all from reading the matter or subject of such writings.
    Quick. So, then the word portrait is to invite the readers to read it.
    Self. No doubt of that and well if the word portrait will persuade them to read it. But shall I read my portrait to you?
    Quick. Yes, I desire to hear a portrait, for though I have seen many portraits, yet I have never heard them speak. (20) [15]

    The lord's verse is a terrible piece of doggerel, and it shows that Margaret wanted to gently tease William as well as mock herself. He corresponds, in a twisted sort of way, to the poetaster lord and she may be seen, also in a twisted view, in Self-conceit.

    Your curls of hair like clouds, yet black as night,
    Your eyes as stars do give a sparkling light,
    Your forehead like the heavens' milky way,
    Your nose a hill of snow in valley lay.
    Your lips like rosy morn when th' sun doth rise
    Shine on your chin, as bright as he i'th' skies
    From whence the beams dilated on your breast
    Do make a torrid zone 'tween east and west.
    And those that do this heav'nly picture view
    Must needs confess 'twas only made for you. (21)

    Clearly this poem was made for the recipient and not about her, because it is thoroughly generalized -- except for the black hair. The poet's slip in language is reminiscent of Hamlet's beautified for beautiful found in letter read by Polonius to Claudius in Hamlet.

  13. The dialogue between Self-conceit and Quick-wit continues with a comic reference to the problem of accuracy versus flattery in painting and in poetry. The lord, Quick-Wit suggests, is mainly interested in duping Self-conceit in the hope that she might satisfy his sensual appetite.

    Quick. Faith, this [the poem] is like the painter that drew a rose for a woodcock.
    Self. What, do you call me a woodcock?
    Quick. Why, a woodcock is a fine bird and good meat. (21)

    A woodcock was a notoriously stupid bird, one that was easily tricked. It was, however, considered a delicacy.


  14. Did Margaret and William, when living in Paris in 1645, greet what each other wrote with raptures of delight, as Virginia Woolf suggested was the case when they lived in Nottinghamshire some twenty years later? "Raptures of delight" is the wrong phrase, but each, without a doubt, did deeply admire the other's writing. Indeed, both had good personal reasons for feeling very happy in what was a highly rewarding intellectual and literary relationship. William came to France in the spring of 1645 carrying what we today would call "a large amount of emotional baggage." He had been the losing commander at the Battle of Marston Moor the preceding August, though his command had been undermined by orders imposed on him by Charles I. Those orders, some say, helped to turn a victory into a defeat. Clarendon, writing in The History of the Great Rebellion, felt that William should have reorganized his army so as to fight another day. Such reorganization did not happen, Clarendon asserts, because William was consumed "with passion and despair" (259). [16] While we might quibble about William's state of mind when he met Margaret for the first time, he clearly was still shaken by the experience of the battle that had taken place the year before. After he had spent time with Margaret, he seems to have shrugged off many of the old ghosts of Marston Moore. The joy of reading her letters and, no doubt, of conversing with her on intellectual and literary subjects cleared his mind of another worry: court politics. [17]

    All my misfortunes they are gone
    Now we are one.
    Despise the greatest monarchs' frowns
    And all their crowns,
    And trifling of all. What's mankind?
    Like various wind.
    Like boys that feathers blow, these be
    Compared to thee.

    What's court's dissembling? Let them lie.
    Or what's Digby?
    Or greatness of our great French Queen?
    Or Mazarin?
    Or our Queen? Do all she can,
    Jermyn's Jermyn.
    Not picking straws, he, she, or he,
    Compared to thee. (22)

    William's misfortunes were to continue for another fifteen years, that is until the Restoration, but Margaret's company and conversation made those years much more enjoyable than they would have been otherwise.

  15. Margaret also had endured much. She probably was present when her home was ransacked by a mob in August of 1642. If so, she might have seen her mother attacked by one of the rabble with a sword. Someone with a halberd intervened and prevented what would have been murder, but the escape was narrowly achieved. On the same occasion, her sister-in-law was confronted in a bedroom, also with a sword, and the family tombs were broken open, the coffins being set upon with swords and guns. [18] Margaret and William both had seen much that would make a person lose hope and joy. It appears by their joking and flashes of wit that they found these in each other. Margaret may or may not have had William's poem on the court in mind as she wrote the following letter, which wryly sums up the world around Queen Henrietta Maria in the Paris suburb of St. Germain. That letter, the first written to William in Grant's collections, ends thus.

    For the King and Queen's favour, my lord [William], I think you will never be in danger of losing it, for I never heard that anybody perfectly had it. For my lord Jermyn, I think you know yourself too well to seek so low, though I will not say but policy sometimes makes use of inferiors. But it is the glory of the inferiors to neglect when they get the advantage of their superiors. They that told you of my mother has better intelligence than I. And sure, my lord, I threw not myself away when I gave myself to you, for I never did any act [so] worthy of praise before. But 'tis the nature of those that cannot be happy to desire none else should be so, as I shall be in having you and will be so in spite of all malice in being, my lord, your most humble servant,
                    Margaret Lucas (98)

    If Margaret and William delighted in conversation and in the writing that they received from one other while in Paris in 1645, they had good reason to do so.

  16. Clearly the letters and poems that passed between Margaret and William are of sufficient merit to be worth reading. Although they are highly occasional and often difficult to understand because they are part of an interaction that also involved face-to-face conversation, they have wonderful moments of wit and banter. Rather than suggesting isolation from current intellectual and literary trends, they are thoroughly au courrant. Their sense of a common understanding of the world helps to explain the fact that Margaret included so many of William's songs in her plays and that he contributed long poems to Nature's Pictures. Her writing was sometimes, but by no means always, a dialogue with him. She ended the section of narrative poetry in Nature's Pictures with his grotesque and bawdy verse tale of a pair of beggars, I think, to remind her readers that she valued her marriage highly, even if it was to a silly old roué. Samuel Pepys might have thought that she abused the institution of marriage by writing and publishing, but she boldly asserted that what she wrote existed within a healthy, if not exactly typical, union. [19] Margaret's letters, if nothing else, help us to understand the now famous poem that she wrote on the subject of her husband, for Poems and Fancies (1653).

    A poet I am neither born nor bred,
    But to a witty poet married,
    Whose brain is fresh and pleasant as the spring
    Where fancies grow and where the muses sing.
    There oft I lean my head, and list'ning hark,
    To hear his words and all his fancies mark.
    And from that garden flowers of fancies take,
    Whereof a posie up in verse I make.
    Thus I, that have no garden of mine own,
    There gather flowers that are newly blown. (214) [20]

    This, too, is a last poem, but it would be a mistake to think that Margaret really believed that she had no poetic powers beyond what she derived from her husband. It would also be wrong to think that she felt that she had to lie about the source of her inspiration in order to avoid general opprobrium. It helped her public image, of course, for her to praise her husband in print, but she knew that their intellectual and literary interactions were a matter of mutual exchange. She praised him as an equal rather than as a woman who was merely a wife. Perhaps that is what bothered Peyps.


1. For many years, there was a tendency to credit James Shirley with those aspects of William's early plays that were admirable. At the same time, William was given credit for what was perceived to be less than terrible in Margaret's comedies. Margaret is now given proper credit for writing her plays and for their quality, but the view that William was no more than an amateur in need of help has persisted, despite Anne Barton's praise of William's The Variety for having "social implications more complex than Every Man in His Humour" (Ben Jonson, Dramatist, 301). For a survey of Williams reputation, see Fitzmaurice, "William Cavendish and Two Entertainments by Ben Jonson."

2. Margaret seems to have used references to her marriage in her printed works as a means to gain the sympathy of her readers. See Lilley.

3. In 1649, Dryden wrote "Upon the Death of the Lord Hastings," a poem in which the lesions of smallpox are compared to rose-buds "i'th'lily skin." Hastings, he says earlier, in death exchanged "wedding sheets" for "winding sheets" (Dryden: A Selection, 4).

4. All quotation from the love letters of Margaret to William comes from Grant's edition. I have modernized spelling and punctuation.

5. In the portrait of William now displayed for the public at Welbeck Abbey, accurate representation is strikingly ignored. The painting, probably executed by Sir Peter Lely in 1665 when William was 72 years old, depicts its subject in newly acquired ducal robes but copies the head from a likeness done when William was considerably younger. It seems to me that William probably had in mind the fact that the portrait was liable to be viewed by his descendents far into the future. These people would know him as a duke, his final and highest title, but think of him at his prime. This portrait squares with that sort of understanding of the man.

6. All quotation from the poems of William comes from Grant's edition. I have modernized spelling and punctuation.

7. Grant quotes Clarendon, who wrote of William's "softer pleasures, to which he was so indulgent, and his . . . ease" (Grant, Margaret the First, 61). The Parliamentary pamphlet is British Library, Thomason Tracts E279 (6), 26 April, 1645, London. (See Hulse.)

8. Geoffrey Trease finds evidence of adultery in William's first marriage (Trease 55 and 56). See also Fitzmaurice, "The Cavendishes, The Evelyns, and Teasing in Verse and Prose," for William's flirtations with various women in the 1630s.

9. It was suggested at the Cavendish Conference in Chester in 2003 that "lemet" could be glossed as "limit." The thought was that William's eye should be less excited in view of the weak subject of his poetry, Margaret. This interpretation would fit with actual or comic modesty on the part of Margaret. Nevertheless, an electronic search reveals that "lemet" is nowhere found in the text of OED as a form of "limit," while "lemet" as a form of "leam" is to be seen three times. "Leam" is now obsolete as a noun and a verb but was much in use as both parts of speech at the time that Margaret was writing.

10. According to The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (4: 37), Hobbes's account of the "imagination was explicitly a deduction from the law of inertia. 'When a body is once in motion, it moveth, unless something else hinder it, eternally . . . so also it happeneth in that motion which is made in the internal parts of a man when he sees, dreams, etc. For, after the object is removed or the eye shut, we still retain an image of the thing seen."

11. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy asserts that "Dreams fascinated Hobbes. He attempted to determine what distinguishes them from waking thoughts and to develop a mechanical theory to explain them" (37).

12. Quoted from Renaissance Women Online.

13. Quoted from Renaissance Women Online.

14. Quoted from O'Neill's edition, 51, note 24.

15. Quoted from Renaissance Women Online.

16. Clarendon goes on to foreground his view of Newcastle's diminished mental state: "He was so utterly tired with a condition and employment so contrary to his humour, nature, and education, that he did not at all consider the means, or the way. . . . he sustained the vexation and fatigue of it so long."

17. Lucy Hutchinson wrote that "a foolish ambition of glorious slavery carried [William] to court, where he ran himself into debt, to purchase the neglect of the king and queen, and scorns of the proud courtiers" (Grant, 60). The emotional strain that William felt regarding the court on an earlier occasion is to be seen in a letter that he wrote to his first wife, Elizabeth, on the subject of his hopes to become Governor to Prince Charles, later Charles I: "There is nothing I either say or do or hear but it is a crime, and I find a great deal of venom against me, but both the King and King have used me very graciously. Now they [the court] cry me down more than ever they cried me up, and so think me a lost man. They say absolutely another shall be for the Prince" (Trease, 71).

18. "The people lay hands on Sir John Lucas, his lady, and sister, and carry them attended with swords, guns, and halberds to the common jail. Last of all they bring forth his mother with the like or greater insolency . . . . A countryman whom the alarm had summoned to this work espies her and pressing with his horse through the crowd struck at her head with his sword so heartily that if a halberd had not crossed the blow, both her sorrows and her journey had there found an end." Bruno Ryves, Mercurius Rusticus, 2. Ryves was not a disinterested observer, but his tendency was to attribute vicious intentions to people, in particular the civil authorities of Colchester, rather than to fabricate the details of actual incidents.

19. "Thence home and there, in favour to my eyes, stayed at home reading the ridiculous history of my Lord Newcastle wrote by his wife, which shows her to be a mad, conceited ridiculous woman and he an ass to suffer her to write what she writes to and of him" (The Diary of Samuel Pepys, 9:123).

20. Quoted from Renaissance Women Online.

Works Cited

Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at M.Steggle@shu.ac.uk.

© 2004-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).