Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, Poems and Fancies with The Animal Parliament

The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series, Vol. 64

Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, Poems and Fancies with The Animal Parliament

Edited by Brandie R. Siegfried
2018 | 462 + xx pp. | 978-0-86698-593-2 | Paperback 6 x 9 in
MRTS 536 | $59.95 |

OVEME v.64. Margaret Cavendish released her Poems and Fancies during a brief reprieve from exile, and at a time when international conversations on questions regarding science, mathematics, and metaphysics significantly advanced the state of knowledge across Britain and Europe despite war and political turmoil. This volume offers the first complete modernized version of the third edition of Cavendish’s book, including prefaces and dedications, all 274 poems on nature’s various avatars, interludes and masques, and the final prose parable, The Animal Parliament. Cavendish offers views on physics, chemistry, algebraic geometry, medicine, political philosophy, ethics, psychology, and animal intelligence, as she develops her own theory of vital matter within the scope of nature’s ordering principles.


Among its many strengths, Siegfried’s edition enriches our understanding of Cavendish’s engagement with contemporary, especially mathematical thought, as well as with ancient Epicureanism. This accomplishment alone is of enormous value to Cavendish, to intellectual history, and to early modern women’s studies. The introduction is written with sufficient clarity to render it accessible to undergraduates as well as with a sophistication guaranteed to appeal to advanced scholars. The presentation of the texts together with the notes makes the volume highly usable to students at every level of expertise. The editor’s knowledge of relevant scholarship is impressive and never tendentious. Scholarship has a tendency to bog down; this volume provides a new, refreshing take on our understanding of the early modern period.

—Reid Barbour
Roy C. Moose Distinguished Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill