Judge me for my own merits, or lack of them, but do not look upon me as a mere appendage to this great general or that great scholar, this star that shines at the court of France or that famed author. I am in my own right a whole person, responsible to myself alone for all that I am, all that I say, all that I do. it may be that there are metaphysicians and philosophers whose learning is greater than mine, although I have not met them. Yet, they are but frail humans, too, and have their faults; so, when I add the sum total of my graces, I confess I am inferior to no one… Gabrielle Emilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil


Mad Madge : the extraordinary life of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, the first woman to live by her pen  Katie Whitaker  New York : Basic Books, c 2002  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xv, 416 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 393-406) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

For a seventeenth-century Englishwoman, Margaret (Lucas) Cavendish did the unprecedented – she published her writing. Her extraordinary life unfolded during the English Civil Wars, when she was exiled to Paris and Antwerp as a Royalist seeking refuge from Cromwell’s England, and later as mistress of her husband’s estate in Newcastle after the restoration of the monarchy.

In exile, she began to write and publish her poetry and essays, influenced by a Royalist cultural world that included Hobbes and Descartes. Despite the scandal her writing life caused, she eventually brought out thirteen books, ranging from Poems and Fancies, the first book of poetry published by a woman under her own name, to Blazing World, the first science fiction by a woman.

A lively biography and a window on the tumultuous cultural life of the seventeenth century, Mad Madge reveals there may well have been a “Judith Shakespeare” centuries before Virginia Woolf exhorted women to find “a room of one’s own.” Whitaker draws on the extensive collection of Margaret’s letters and legal papers to draw a vibrant and complete picture of the pioneering “Mad Madge.”

La dame d’esprit : a biography of the Marquise Du Chatelet  Judith P. Zinsser  New York : Viking, c 2006  Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. viii, 376 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [352]-365) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

In the early 1600s, Francis Bacon could encompass all knowledge of both the physical and the metaphysical in a single term: natural philosophy. Over the next two hundred years, however, natural philosophy gradually split into philosophy-the study of first causes and ways of knowing-and science-the study of the material world, based on direct observation and verifiable experiment.

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Science was not initially an exclusively masculine domain. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, women received doctorates in physics and taught at universities. They corresponded with Descartes and dared to question his premises and conclusions. In astronomy, they worked side-by-side with men to make observations and calculate cometary orbits. They not only translated and illustrated scientific works but published original syntheses and reports based on their own research.

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Gabrielle Emilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil was born to the highest circles of the French aristocracy, married a marquis at the age of eighteen, and indulged in all the pleasures of her class. Then at twenty-seven, defying convention, she became the mistress of poet and playwright Voltaire, embarking on an extraordinary and transformative intellectual journey as his patroness, his lover, and his companion. Zinsser vividly explores how the Marquise Du Châtelet transformed herself from courtier, wife, and mother into one of the leading intellects of the French Enlightenment.

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Freed by her wealth and status to pursue a life of the mind, Du Châtelet developed swiftly into an accomplished mathematician, physicist, translator, and author of original works of philosophy and science. At the end of her life, pregnant by a young new lover, she raced to complete her translation and commentary on Newton’s Principia. The only woman of the Enlightenment to be recognized for her genius, Du Châtelet was centuries ahead of her time.

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Comments Off on Judge me for my own merits, or lack of them, but do not look upon me as a mere appendage to this great general or that great scholar, this star that shines at the court of France or that famed author. I am in my own right a whole person, responsible to myself alone for all that I am, all that I say, all that I do. it may be that there are metaphysicians and philosophers whose learning is greater than mine, although I have not met them. Yet, they are but frail humans, too, and have their faults; so, when I add the sum total of my graces, I confess I am inferior to no one… Gabrielle Emilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil

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