A FIGURATIVE MATTER: CONTINUITIES BETWEEN MARGARET CAVENDISH’S THEORY OF DISCOURSE AND HER NATURAL PHILOSOPHY by LENI KATHERINE ROBINSON B.A., The University of British Columbia, 1998 M.A., The University of British Columbia, 2002 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (English) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver) December 2009 © Leni Katherine Robinson, 2009 Abstract This dissertation explicates the natural philosophy of Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle, and develops some source arguments. It concludes that Cavendish’s theory of discourse (which includes music, art, action, speech and reason) is central to her natural philosophy, that discourse as she theorizes it constitutes her natural world. Mathematics and speculative music influence Cavendish’s adoption of animist materialism. The musical genre of playing divisions intersects with her vocabulary for natural processes, her aesthetic descriptions of Nature, and her theory of time. Declamatory song informs the presence of expressiveness and prosody within Nature and the mind. It also provides a model for natural sympathy. Discursive arts surface in Cavendish’s doctrines of “figure” as shape. Figure defines and determines the nature of objects, and physical change is meaningful change of gesture and posture. The matter of the mind and the cosmos is written in a way that enables memory and the conservation of figure. Metaphors from needlework and textiles emphasize aesthetic expression and the significance of lines and surfaces in Nature. Discursive action appears primarily through dance metaphors. The noble style of dance gives Cavendish the category of “figure” in the sense of dance steps performed along a geometrical trajectory. Dance metaphor is gradually naturalized into the language of her mature philosophy. It informs Cavendish’s discussions of causation and free will. Speech production and hearing provide access to Cavendish’s tenets concerning perception. The evolution of her doctrine of visual perception through a trade-based model, to an impact-based one, and finally to a model of “patterning out” represents a change of ii emphasis in a single model which connects perception to the use of the camera obscura by a painter. Finally, mental discourse underlies divine, poetic and natural forms of creation. Sexual generation connects to literary translation, while spontaneous generation parallels poetic creation. Most forms of creation or production involve a tension between unified rational purpose and conversational collaboration. This tension stems from the details of Cavendish’s panpsychism, according to which rational matter never fully coalesces, even in sites of complex higher consciousness. Cavendish’s use of architectural metaphor highlights this tension. iii Table of Contents Abstract. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ii Table of Contents.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iv List of Abbreviations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vi Dedication. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . viii Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Chapter 1. “The Language of the Gods”: Music and the Basic Conditions of Cavendish’s Discursive Natural World. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Speculative Music and the Cosmos. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Divisions and the Natural World. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Curious Variety of Nature.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Eternity and Time.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Declamatory Song and Nature. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sympathy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 26 37 45 52 74 Chapter 2. “Arts Several Languages”: Handwriting, Needlework and Figure as Shape. . . . 81 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 The Art of Handwriting. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81 Natural Writing. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88 Figure and Memory. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99 Figure and Memory in Nature. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106 Text, Textiles, Figure and Needlework. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115 Textiles and Needlework in Nature. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128 Chapter 3. “Lifes Language”: Motion as Figure and Communication.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Motion in Self and Society.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Motion and Life in Nature. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dance and Natural Motion.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Motion, Free Will and Causation.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148 155 165 184 Chapter 4. “The Language of the Senses”: Speech and Perception. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206 4.1 4.2 4.3 Discourse with Words. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207 The Basics of Perception. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218 Trade and Conversation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226 iv 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Perception as Trade. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Perception by Impact. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Perception by “Patterning Out”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Art in Nature and Method. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 234 240 249 258 Chapter 5. “The Souls Language”: Reason and Creation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 266 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Reason and Poetry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Divine Creation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Natural Production. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Architectural Production in Nature and Poetry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 266 273 291 323 Conclusion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 335 Bibliography.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 340 v List of Abbreviations The following abbreviations are used to identify Cavendish’s works: Blazing World The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World 1668 Fancies Philosophicall Fancies 1653 Grounds Grounds of Natural Philosophy 1668 Life of William The Life of the Thrice Noble, High and Puissant Prince, William Cavendishe 1667 Observations Observations upon Experimental Philosophy. To which is Added the Description of a New Blazing World 1666 (On account of this book’s three sequences of pagination, the number prefixed to the page number indicates the section of the book in which that page appears.) Olio 1655, 1671 The Worlds Olio 1655, 1671 Opinions 1655, 1663 The Philosophical and Physical Opinions 1655, 1663 Orations Orations of Divers Sorts, Accommodated to Divers Places 1662 Philosophical Letters Philosophical Letters: Or, Modest Reflections upon Some Opinions in Natural Philosophy, Maintained by Several Famous and Learned Authors of this Age, Expressed by Way of Letters 1664 Picture 1671 Natures Picture Drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life 1671 Pictures 1656 Natures Pictures Drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life 1656 Playes 1662 Playes 1662. Plays 1668 Plays, Never Before Printed 1668 Poems Poems, and Fancies 1653 (Unless stated to be 1664 or 1668) Sociable Letters CCXI Sociable Letters 1664 vi “True Relation” “A True Relation of My Birth, Breeding, and Life.” Paper Bodies: A Margaret Cavendish Reader. Ed. Sylvia Bowerbank and Sara Mendelson. Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2000. 4163. Originally printed in Pictures 1656. vii To Mom and Dad, for all of their love and support, and to Peter, for his faithful friendship. viii Introduction Margaret Cavendish has become the focal point of so much scholarly interest in recent decades that the details of her biographical information need only brief recollection. She was born as Margaret Lucas in 1623, and followed Queen Henrietta Maria into exile in Paris as one of her maids of honour in 1644. There she married William Cavendish, the Marquis, and later the Duke, of Newcastle. This marriage, together with her friendship with her brother inlaw, Charles Cavendish, exposed her to the philosophical ideas and debates of her era. From 1653 until her death twenty years later she published some fourteen works in a broad range of genres. A number of these (the opening section of Poems, and Fancies, Philosophical Fancies, the two versions of the Philosophical and Physical Opinions, Philosophical Letters, Observations upon Experimental Philosophy and Grounds of Natural Philosophy) are devoted to the gradual elaboration, solidification and contextualization of a natural philosophical system. Others (The Worlds Olio, Natures Pictures, CCXI Sociable Letters and even Cavendish’s first collection of plays) include significant portions, sometimes in fictional contexts, addressing natural philosophical matters. This dissertation proceeds with three interrelated goals. First, it seeks to thoroughly explicate the tenets of Margaret Cavendish’s natural philosophy while taking into account their development and coherence over time. Second, it suggests some new historical contexts and sources for these tenets, and it attempts to lay out some previously recognized ones in greater detail than has been done before. Finally, it uses its detailed understanding of Cavendish’s natural philosophy to argue that this philosophy is inseparable from her theorization of “discourse,” that the natural world as she imagines it behaves discursively, and 1 often linguistically. Several scholars, beginning with Robert Kargon and his Atomism in England from Hariot to Newton (1966), have presented expositions of Cavendish’s natural philosophical doctrines.1 Stephen Clucas has provided a nuanced revision of Kargon’s piece in his article “The Atomism of the Cavendish Circle: A Reappraisal.”2 Eileen O’Neill has written the most systematic of these expositions in her introduction to the Cambridge University Press edition of Cavendish’s Observations upon Experimental Philosophy. O’Neill identifies five key doctrines in Cavendish’s mature natural philosophy: “Materialism,” a “Stoic-like theory of complete blending,” “Pan-Organicism and pan-psychism,” a “Continuum theory of matter,” and “Non-mechanical natural change.”3 Susan James has written a more extended description of Cavendish’s natural philosophy which includes discussions of her doctrines of perception and generation, all in relation to Cavendish’s rejection of mechanism and the connections of her ideas to those of many contemporary philosophers.4 The present dissertation embraces and seeks to build on these earlier accounts. It selects as the five main categories of its exposition of Cavendish’s doctrines the basic conditions of her universe (mathematicalness, variety and sentience), the significance of 1. Robert Hugh Kargon, Atomism in England from Hariot to Newton (Oxford: Clarendon, 1966) 7376. Eric Lewis appropriately comments that Kargon overplays the atomistic aspects of Cavendish’s philosophy. See Eric Lewis, “The Legacy of Margaret Cavendish,” Perspectives on Science 9.3 (2001) 343. 2. Stephen Clucas, “The Atomism of the Cavendish Circle: A Reappraisal,” The Seventeenth Century 9 (1994) 259-64. 3. Eileen O’Neill, introduction, Observations upon Experimental Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001) 21-35. 4. Susan James, “The Philosophical Innovations of Margaret Cavendish,” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 7(1999): 219-44. 2 “figure” in the sense of shape to this universe, the role of figured motion (and related doctrines of causation), processes of perception, and processes of generation. Ordered in this way, these categories provide an ascent from the most elementary to the most complex attributes and behaviours of the natural world as Cavendish understands it. Because the dissertation emphasizes the exposition of Cavendish’s philosophical doctrines, it pays less attention than most literary criticism to the genres and structures of Cavendish’s works as wholes, and more to the collation and analysis of passages on related topics from across her writings. In some respects, Cavendish makes the second goal of this dissertation, the furthering of source arguments about her natural philosophical ideas, an easy one. In the Philosophical Letters she explicitly responds at length to texts by René Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, Henry More and J. B. Van Helmont. In the Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, she critiques Robert Hooke’s Micrographia and comments on the relationship of her philosophy to those of ancient philosophers described in Thomas Stanley’s History of Philosophy. In short, she provides ample contexts in contrast with which she refines her mature philosophical ideas. These contexts have been examined in articles by scholars such as Anna Battigelli, Sarah Hutton, Lisa Sarasohn and Jo Wallwork.5 What is lacking in the scholarship on Cavendish’s natural philosophy is a sustained discussion of the sources that contributed in a 5. Sarah Hutton, “In Dialogue with Thomas Hobbes: Margaret Cavendish’s Natural Philosophy,” Women’s Writing 4 (1997): 421-32; Sarah Hutton, “Margaret Cavendish and Henry More,” A Princely Brave Woman: Essays on Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, ed. Stephen Clucas (Aldershot, Eng.: Ashgate, 2003) 185-98; Lisa T. Sarasohn, “Leviathan and the Lady: Cavendish’s Critique of Hobbes in the Philosophical Letters,” Authorial Conquests: Essays on Genre in the Writings of Margaret Cavendish, ed. Line Cottegnies and Nancy Weitz (London: Associated UPs, 2003) 40-58; Jo Wallwork, “Old Worlds and New: Margaret Cavendish’s Response to Robert Hooke’s Micrographia,” Women Writing, 1550-1750, ed. Jo Wallwork and Peter Salzman (Bundoora, Austral.: Meridian, 2001) 191-200. 3 positive way to Cavendish’s system. The sources against which she formulated her ideas are well-known, but those which contribute to her ideas are not. Admittedly, identifying these is a much more difficult task. Cavendish does after all argue, “[I]f my Readers will take the paines to compare my writings to others, and throughly examine them, they will I make no question, finde great difference,”6 and she claims that her ideas are “New Opinions, never Broached but by Me.”7 Despite these claims to difference and originality, Cavendish inhabited a real historical milieu that had an effect on the natural philosophy she devised. Some of this effect came through reading, some was mediated by discussion with her husband and brother-in-law, some came from apparently unrelated historical phenomena such as the fine arts. This dissertation attempts to point out a few such influences on Cavendish’s ideas as it journeys through its exposition of her ideas and its literary argument. The literary aspect of the dissertation, the argument that language and representation are intrinsic to Cavendish’s natural world, does have precursors in Cavendish scholarship. Jay Stevenson has described how Cavendish’s writing “performs” her “psychic materialism,” and therefore becomes evidence for her natural philosophical beliefs at least with regard to psychology.8 Stephen Clucas has described the emergence of Cavendish’s “probabilism and limited scepticism” from her natural philosophical doctrines, and he has indicated that these doctrines lead to Nature becoming for Cavendish “the foundation of a copious rhetorical 6. Opinions 1655, B4r. 7. Opinions 1663, b1v. 8. Jay Stevenson, “Physical Fictions: Margaret Cavendish and Her Material Soul,” diss., State U of New Jersey, 1997, 33. 4 discourse, in the Erasmian sense.”9 Elizabeth Spiller has commented on Cavendish’s use of “a decidedly unmechanical image of art, ‘patterning’ and ‘tracing,’” in the context of her mature doctrine of perception. This dissertation aims to show more comprehensively that language and representation are at the very heart of all of Cavendish’s natural philosophy. The dissertation considers language and representation in terms of Cavendish’s own theorization of “discourse.” In her play The Female Academy, a group of young women periodically give semi-public displays where they speak extemporaneously on a theme announced by their matron.10 One theme is explored twice: discourse.11 The first lady to speak declares, there are two sorts of discourses, or manner of ways of discoursings, as there is a discoursing in the mind, it is to discourse to a mans self, as if they were discoursing to others, making Questions or Propositions, Syllogisms and Conclusions to himself. . . . As for discoursing with words, it is more difficult than to discourse with thoughts: for though words are as high and substantial as thoughts, yet the Mouth is not so ready in speaking, as the Brain in thinking, and the Brain can present more thoughts at one time, than the Mouth can deliver words at one time.12 The second lady whom the matron commands, “[L]et the Theam of your discourse be of Discourse,” elaborates the definition of the first speaker, claiming, As for Discourse, there is of four sorts; the first is discoursing in the mind, which is reasoning. The second is discoursing with words, which is speaking, The third is discoursing by signs, which is action or acting. 9. Stephen Clucas, “Variation, Irregularity and Probabilism: Margaret Cavendish and Natural Philosophy as Rhetoric,” A Princely Brave Woman 205, 206. 10. Playes 1662, 653. 11. Jeffrey Masten considers these two passages in relation to the tensions inherent in conflicting patterns of gender relations and authorial collaboration in “Material Cavendish: Paper, Performance, ‘Sociable Virginity,’” Modern Language Quarterly 65.1 (2004): 65-67. 12. Playes 1662, 368. 5 The last is discoursing by Figures, which is by Letters and Hieroglyphics, which is by Printing, Writing, Painting, and the like.13 When she expands upon her definition she adds music as a fifth form of discourse, and in the end she concludes that “reasoning is the Souls Language, words the Language of the Senses, action the Lifes Language, Writing, Printing, Painting, Carving and Molding, are Arts several Languages, but Musick is the Language of the Gods.”14 Cavendish’s notion of discourse is apt for my purposes because the five forms that the second Academy Lady enumerates are all related to language, but they exceed verbal expression and representation. They include the mental and logical reasoning which “is a discourse with things, not with words,”15 the concatenation of phonetic bits into words and of words into syntax and rhetoric, the gestural narration that is acting, the gestural intercommunication that is basic to conversation, and finally, the various forms of expression and representation in which both practical and fine arts engage. The notion of discourse includes the horizontal, sequential phenomena of logic and articulatory phonetics, and it also includes the depth-related phenomena of verbal, written and artistic representation. Therefore, discourse, in Cavendish’s use of the term, refers to a much broader range of phenomena than it would in the context of linguistic pragmatics. In Geoffrey Leech’s Principles of Pragmatics, for example, discourse is an “interpersonal transaction” which subsumes “ideational” and “textual” transactions.16 In my use of the term in relation to 13. Playes 1662. 666. 14. Playes 1662, 667. 15. Playes 1662, 666. 16. Geoffrey N. Leech, Principles of Pragmatics, Longman Linguistics Lib. 30 (London: Longman, 1983) 59. 6 Cavendish’s thought, discourse is “interpersonal” in that it always takes place within a structure of communication between pieces of animate matter, even if, in a given manifestation of discourse, only the expression of this communication, and not its reception, is emphasized. Moreover, in the usage of the term that I have derived from Cavendish, discourse always subsumes “ideational content” or meaning (that is, discourse always encodes and involves the expression and transmission of meaning). However, the definition of discourse that I have derived from Cavendish differs from Leech’s definition with respect to the “textual” function of discourse. For Cavendish, and for the purposes of this dissertation, although discourse involves a form of “encoding,” this encoding need not be strictly linguistic. The subcategories of discourse as they are defined in Cavendish by the Academy Ladies are suitable for drawing connections between Cavendish’s natural philosophy and her discourse theory. This is because these subcategories roughly align with the major elements of her natural philosophy. Music, “the Language of the Gods,” shares both in the mathematical qualities of Cavendish’s universe and in its relationship to affect. In Cavendish’s philosophy, Nature’s use of figure is an employment of “Arts several Languages.” “Lifes Language,” particularly the subcategory of this language constituted by dance, informs the prevalence of figured motion and occasional causation in Cavendish’s world. Speech, the “Language of the Senses,” is an inextricable part of Cavendish’s doctrines of perception. Finally, “the Souls Language,” reasoning, governs processes of generation, while rational processes in general parallel them. The dissertation’s very central use of the passages on discourse from The Female 7 Academy involves the somewhat troubling assumption that the words of fictional characters articulate the author’s own philosophical doctrines. There is a class of characters in Cavendish’s works for whom this assumption seems relatively unproblematic. These characters are invariably female like their author. They, like her, present themselves sometimes as students of philosophy, but more often as teachers thereof.17 Whether by choice or fate, they have generally found themselves devoted at least for a time to a solitary life of contemplation. They are often victims of misfortune who heroically rise above their circumstances by means of courage, virtue and philosophical wisdom. They are idealized selfdramatizations of Cavendish, and, at least when they give philosophical speeches, they are quite straightforward mouthpieces for her developing philosophy. The Academy Ladies in The Female Academy, the Lady Sanspareille in Youths Glory, and Death’s Banquet, Travelia/Affectionata in “Assaulted and Pursued Chastity,” the She-Anchoret in her “Description of her Life in Prose,” and of course the Empress and Duchess in the BlazingWorld are among such characters whose natural philosophy is as credible as their moral philosophy.18 There are other instances where the identification of a character’s opinions with Cavendish’s own is much more problematic. In “The Dialogue of the Wise Lady, the Learned 17. On Cavendish’s self-presentation as a teacher, see Peter Dear, “A Philosophical Duchess: Understanding Margaret Cavendish and the Royal Society,” Science, Literature and Rhetoric in Early Modern England, ed. Juliet Cummins and David Burchell, Literary and Scientific Cultures of Early Modernity (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007) 131. 18. These characters and their stories are found in Plays 1662, 653-79; Plays 1662, 121-80; Picture 1671, 395-514; Picture 1671, 544-706; The Blazing World. I simply do not see in these characters the kind of ambiguity and irony that Jay Stevenson detects in these characters when he argues that they are “analogous to the ‘rake heros’ of restoration drama” (Stevenson 3). 8 Lady, and the Witty Lady,” for example, the characters speak in accordance with Cavendish’s more explicit philosophy as long as they address matters related to their own respective domains of moral wisdom, natural philosophical learning and poetic invention. When they range onto each other’s territory, for example when the Witty Lady says that the “The mind is, like a God, an Incorporeal thing,” they no longer speak in accordance with Cavendish’s philosophy. This criterion, harmony with Cavendish’s straightforwardly philosophical works, is the one that I have applied when deciding whether or not to use a fictional character’s words as evidence for Cavendish’s actual philosophy. In The Blazing-World, where dramatic, structural and verbal forms of irony abound, this decision becomes even more complex. Would Cavendish really put genuine authorial opinions in the mouths of “immaterial spirits” whose very voice and behaviour are for her the height of absurdity? From the evidence of context, I would argue that she does. When I do use words from such dubious sources in my argument, I am careful to highlight the fact that my supporting evidence is complex and even ambivalent on account of its origins. Finally, there are many instances where Cavendish or her characters present contrasting points of view and do not altogether resolve these. When, for example in the Grounds of Natural Philosophy, Cavendish portrays arguments between the various parts of her mind, I have used the conclusions drawn by the “Major Parts” as the evidence for her philosophy, and I have generally disregarded the opinions of the “Minor Parts.”19 To do so is to impoverish the complexity of Cavendish’s opinions over the course of their development, but it is also to attempt to acknowledge the synthesis of ideas at which she arrives by the end 19. See Grounds 311. 9 of each of her published works. Particularly in her Orations, there are instances where no synthesis is offered, only the clash of contrasting opinions. I have occasionally used supporting evidence even from these orations when the choice to do so seems reinforced by the similarity of specific opinions to Cavendish’s doctrines in her overtly natural philosophical works. Before I enter into the substance of my argument, I would like to comment on Cavendish’s understanding of God, Nature and their relation to one another. Since Robert Kargon’s remark that Cavendish “evinced a tenderness towards atheism which was dangerous for one so closely tied to the suspect atomic philosophy,”20 scholars have frequently suggested that her natural philosophy leans in the direction of atheism. Even Katie Whitaker argues in her biography of Cavendish, “When other philosophers wanted to use the argument from design as proof of the Christian religion, Margaret’s opinion that the order and beauty of the world, and the origin of all the species, derived not from God’s ‘divine counsel and prudence’ but from ‘the wisdom of nature or infinite matter’ could only be seen as an encouragement to atheism.”21 Whitaker further argues that if Cavendish “had any strong religious feeling, it was towards the natural world and its manifold wonders, rather than towards a distant, invisible God.”22 This statement is demonstrably untrue. Why, for example, would Cavendish end the Philosophical Letters with a prayer: 20. Kargon 75. 21. Katie Whitaker, Mad Madge: The Extraordinary Life of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, the First Woman to Live by Her Pen (New York: Basic Books, 2002) 317. 22. Whitaker 317. 10 Eternal god, Infinite Deity, Thy Servant, Nature, humbly prays to Thee, That thou wilt please to favour Her, and give Her parts, which are Her Creatures, leave to live, That in their shapes and forms, what e’re they be, And all their actions they may worship thee: ......................... Then let thy Servant Nature mediate Between thy Justice, Mercy, and our state, That thou may’st bless all Parts, and ever be Our Gracious God to all Eternity.23 Here Cavendish, as a part of Nature, prays to God in the name of Nature, much as Christians traditionally pray in the name of Jesus Christ. She prays that Nature might maintain her mediatory role between her creatures and the God who is ultimately Lord over all things including Nature. This prayer supports the conclusion that Cavendish’s religious sensibility is unorthodox, but not that it tends towards atheism. It also supports the conclusion that Cavendish is working within traditional Pythagorean and Platonic frameworks while resisting many of the trends of the natural theology of her day. For Cavendish as for the ancient Platonists and Pythagoreans as they were understood in the seventeenth century, there is a radical discontinuity between the divine and the material. According to the seventeenth-century historian of philosophy Thomas Stanley, Plato embraced three principles: matter, Idea, and God. God can be understood only by “abstraction” or by “Analogie;” “He . . . is neither genus nor species, nor difference, neither can any accident be applyed to him.”24 Cavendish is utterly opposed to the Cambridge Platonist Henry More’s idea that “the Idea or notion of God is as easie, as any notion else whatsoever, and that we may 23. Philosophical Letters 543. 24. Thomas Stanley, A History of Philosophy 1687, Facsim. ed. British Philosophers and Theologians of the 17th & 18th Centuries (New York: Garland, 1978) 187, 186. 11 know as much of him as of any thing else in the world.”25 At the same time that God is inaccessible to human reason, however, there is a mediating entity between matter and God. In the poem at the conclusion of the Philosophical Letters, this entity is the nebulous “Nature” in whose name the writer prays. In Stanley’s account of Pythagorean doctrine, “there is a Soul intent, and commeant through the whole Nature of things, from which our Souls are pluck’d. She is immortal, because that, from which she is taken, is immortal; yet not a God, but the work of the eternal God.”26 In Stanley’s account of Platonic doctrine, The parts of the World are all things therein, kept together by a Sensitive nature, wherein is likewise perfect reason; It is also sempiternal, for there is nothing more strong whereby it may be dissolved: This power they call the Soul of the World, God, a certain providence over all things subjected to him.27 The World Soul surfaces in another form in Henry More’s Cambridge Platonism. More argues for the existence of an “Immaterial Principle, (call it the Spirit of Nature or what you will) which is the Vicarious Power of God upon this great Automaton, the World.”28 25. Quoted by Cavendish from More’s Immortality of the Soul in Philosophical Letters 140. The worlds of reason and faith are for Cavendish utterly incommensurable; “Faith and Reason are two contrary things, and cannot fit together; according to the Proverb, Where Reason ends, Faith begins.” Natural theology, Henry More’s whole agenda of demonstrating God’s existing by rational argument based in part on empirical observation of the world, actually weakens faith, and contributes to schisms in the church and to enthusiasm. Cavendish writes that, “proving Christian Religion by Natural Philosophy . . . is the way to destroy them both.” As a genre, natural theology undermines its own legitimacy and becomes “meer Poetical Fictions, and Romancical expressions,” and “is nothing else but Moral Philosophy.” See Philosophical Letters 210-11, 220-21, 221, 13, 481. 26. Stanley 553. 27. Stanley 163. 28. Henry More, Antidote against Atheisme, A Collection of Several Philosophical Writings 1662, Facsim. ed., British Philosophers and Theologians of the 17th & 18th Centuries (New York: Garland, 1978) 46. 12 While Cavendish vigorously mocks this intermediary entity of More’s,29 she does nonetheless transform the traditional Platonic entity into the altogether material and yet also sentient and rational entity that she calls Nature. “Nature,” she explains, “is Infinite, and the Eternal Servant of God: Next . . . she is Corporeal, and partly self-moving, dividable and composable; that all and every particular Creature, as also all perception and variety in Nature, is made by corporeal self-motion, which I name sensitive and rational matter, which is life and knowledg, sense, and reason.”30 Cavendish’s natural philosophy is no more atheistical than those of Plato or Pythagoras or the Cambridge Platonists. Her Christianity is simply unorthodox because she raises Nature to the position of an intermediary, quasi-divine figure like a world soul, or even like Jesus Christ. The theme of Cavendish’s opinions on divinity will arise in connection with the discussion of speculative music and reason in the first chapter, and in connection with creation and reason in the final one. Despite the silence on the matter for much of the dissertation, Cavendish’s sense of awe for God and for Nature underlies her philosophy as a whole. 29. More’s doctrine, she exclaims, “will at last bring in again the Heathen Religion.” She explains that the Spirit of Nature resembles an absurd, gnostic demiurge, has no suitable means of interacting with matter, and worst of all, is an insult to women because it implies that Nature, which is female for Cavendish, is not self-sufficient and self-responsible. See Philosophical Letters 145, 195, 149-50. 30. Philosophical Letters b2v. 13 Chapter 1 “The Language of the Gods”: Music and the Basic Conditions of Cavendish’s Discursive Natural World The second speaker on discourse in Cavendish’s play The Female Academy adds music to her list of categories of discourse almost as an afterthought. The Lady Speaker refers specifically to music that recounts a narrative, but Cavendish’s writings and her historical context treat other musical genres as discursive as well, and these genres contribute significantly to the language and structures of Cavendish’s natural philosophy. Musical theory, which was called speculative music, informs the basic principles of this natural philosophy, while terminology and concepts associated with the musical genres of playing divisions and declamatory song influence her descriptions of variety and sentience in Nature. 1.1 Speculative Music and the Cosmos Seventeenth-century writers divide music into the speculative and the practical. Near the beginning of the century, the composer Thomas Morley defines speculative music as “that kind of music which by Mathematical helps, seeketh out the causes, properties, and natures of soundes by themselues, & compared with others,” and he offers Saint Augustine’s definition of music as “A science of wel doing by time, tune, or number.”31 The same year that Cavendish published her first works of natural philosophy, René Descartes’s Excellent Compendium of Musick appeared in English. In it the stationer calls mathematics “the Melody 31. Thomas Morley, A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practical Music (London, 1608) q1r. 14 of Numbers,”32 and claims that a theorist of music must be An Arithmetician, to be able to explaine the Causes of Motions Harmonical, by Numbers, and declare the Mysteries of the new Algebraical Musick. A Geometrician; to evince, in great variety, the Original of Intervalls Consonodissonant, by the Geometrical, Algebraical, Mechanical Division of a Monochord.33 Cavendish too emphasizes the mathematical aspects of music. Although she usually does so in metaphorical contexts rather than in literal ones, an exception occurs in her chapter heading, “Musick is Number with Sound, as Opticks are Lines with Light.”34 The peculiarity of this heading lies in Cavendish’s failure to follow it with any explanation of the statement. Instead, she alludes indirectly to Pythagorean notions of pitch and harmony by comparing the human vocal and articulatory apparatus to a forge.35 An important historical context for Cavendish’s association of music and mathematics appears in the writings of Christopher Simpson. During Cavendish’s writing career, Simpson codified the art of the musical genre of playing divisions in The Division-Violist: Or an Introduction to Playing upon a Ground. In 1667 he dedicated an edition of A Compendium of Practical Musick to William Cavendish, praising “The Benign aspect which Your Grace [William Cavendish] doth cast upon this Science, by cherishing and maintaining such as are excellent in it; as also, your particular favours to my self, and your being pleased with some 32. René Descartes, Excellent Compendium of Musick: With Necessary and Judicious Animadversions Thereupon (London, 1653) a2r. 33. Descartes a4v-b1r. 34. Olio 1671, 51. 35. According to legend, Pythagoras began to explore harmonics, because “As he past by a Smith’s shop, by a happy chance he heard the Iron Hammers striking upon the Anvile, and rendring sounds most consonant one to another in all combinations except one” (Stanley 532). 15 things which I formerly composed for your Grace’s recreation.”36 Simpson professes a spiritual appreciation of the mystical and mathematical unities that underlie the “science” of music. At the conclusion to the very practical and didactic Part I of The Division-Violist, Simpson pauses to ponder the scale and its connections to the structure of the cosmos.37 He provides a circular diagram where the circumference represents the zodiac and the diameter represents the musical octave, and he shows that the two coincide at geometrically and mathematically significant points. He exclaims that harmonic thirds are “a Significant Embleme of that Supreme, and Incomprehensible Three in one, Governing, Composing, and Disposing the whole Machine of the World, with all its included Parts in a Perfect Harmony.”38 Simpson’s sensibility involves a Christianization of Pythagorean ideas. It is a sensibility that also appears, albeit without the mystical overtones, in Cavendish. Although Cavendish repeatedly professes a lack of mathematical knowledge, she does, perhaps under the influence of her mathematician brother-in-law and good friend, Charles Cavendish, express considerable admiration for and interest in the discipline.39 In a defense of her choice to pursue natural philosophy, after dismissing a series of other disciplines, Cavendish uses syntax that leads the reader to expect that she will find cause to dismiss 36. Christopher Simpson, A Compendium of Practical Musick (London, 1667) A2r-v. 37. Christopher Simpson, The Division-Violist: Or an Introduction to the Playing upon a Ground (London, 1659) 17. 38. Simpson, Division-Violist 17. 39. One of the instances in which Margaret expresses both her personal and intellectual admiration of her brother-in-law appears in the Life of William 74. She also dedicates the Philosophical Fancies to him. B. J. Sokol has argued that her relationship with Charles Cavendish, who transcribed Thomas Harriot’s mathematical works on infinity, led her to address ideas from these works in her Poems, and Fancies (“Margaret Cavendish’s Poems and Fancies and Thomas Harriot’s Treatise on Infinity,” A Princely Brave Woman, 156-70). 16 mathematics as well. Instead, she simply proceeds to her next comment: Indeed the Mathematicks brings both profit and pleasure to the life of man, it gives just measure and equal weight, it makes all odd reckonings even, it sets all musical notes, it brings concord out of discord, it gives diminution and extention; But as I said before, few or none but Monastical men . . . seek to be acquainted with nature, and to observe the course of her works.40 Mathematics allows for fair trade and accurate accounting, and also produces the aesthetic order and harmony both of music and the material world. Mathematics even produces the acoustic and dimensional potential that allow for musical and material being. For Cavendish, mathematics underpins reality. In Cavendish’s romance “Assaulted and Pursed Chastity,” the beautiful young protagonist, Affectionata, beseeches the “old Bawd” who holds her captive to bring her “PlayBooks, or Mathematical ones.”41 She offers a three-fold explanation for her desire for mathematical works: first, mathematics inculcates good moral judgement by means of the cognitive skills it requires and the resources of analogy that it provides; second, mathematics teaches “all Arts useful and pleasant for the life of Man, as Musick, Architecture, Navigation, Fortification, Water-works, Fireworks; all Engines, Instruments, Wheels, and many such like, which are useful;” and third, mathematics shows how “to measure the Earth, to reach the Heavens, to number the Starrs, to know the Motions of the Planets, to divide Time, and to compass the whole World.” Moral life, the practical arts, and the most abstruse sciences are all mathematically structured. In a culture that considered Nature God’s second book, Cavendish considers 40. Opinions 1655, a2r. 41. The quotations in this paragraph are from Picture 1671, 397 and 408. 17 mathematics Nature’s second book. In a society that thought of the human body as a microcosm of the universe, Cavendish thinks of mathematical theory as a similar kind of microcosm. Affectionata explains, Mathematicks is a Candle of Truth, whereby I may peep into the Works of Nature, to imitate her in little: It comprises all that Truth can challenge: All other Books disturb the Life of Man; this only settles it, and composes it in sweet Delight. Nothing in the scene of the story in which this quotation appears suggests that there is a concrete book present which the protagonist indicates when she says “this only settles it.” The demonstrative pronoun, whether “Books” is taken as its antecedent or “Mathematicks,” must indicate a unitary body of mathematical theory, and this unitary body of theory has the very musical effect of inducing tranquillity and delight.42 Cavendish’s natural philosophy is musical in part because of the influence upon it of mathematically concerned Pythagorean and Platonic thought.43 By the time of the 1666 42. To point out the reverence that Cavendish expresses for mathematics is not to overlook her statements of personal mathematical incompetence or her ridicule of attempts to use mathematics reductively in relation to natural phenomena. Roberto Bertuol offers an informative account of Cavendish’s use of mathematical metaphor in a critique of using mathematics reductively. “The Square Circle of Margaret Cavendish: The 17th-Century Conceptualization of Mind by Means of Mathematics,” Language and Literature 10:1 (2001): 21-39. 43. Lest it be objected that in her Observations Upon Experimental Philosophy she offers critiques of both Plato and Pythagoras (3.6-20) and that in the Blazing World the Duchess gives up trying to create mental worlds based on the doctrines of these philosophers (98), in neither case do her critiques eliminate the possibility of such influence. For example, her objections to Pythagorean thought centre not around the importance of number, proportion and harmony to the world, but rather around whether or not such things may be termed “principles” of the cosmos. In the Blazing World, her objections to Pythagoras, if the Duchess is indeed one of Cavendish’s self-incarnations in the story, are really about her own lack of mathematical skill. Her objections to Platonic philosophy focus on the concepts of Idea and Form, and their relationship to matter. Cavendish demonstrates her appreciation for Platonic and Pythagorean thought when, in the Blazing World, the Empress asks the immaterial spirits for “the Soul of some ancient famous Writer, either of Aristotle, Plato, Epicurus, or the like,” and the spirits reply, “That those famous Men were very learned, subtile, and ingenious Writers” (88-89). Moreover, in Picture 1671, when the gods “purge and cleanse their Library” the 18 publication of Observations Upon Experimental Philosophy, Cavendish had read Thomas Stanley’s History of Philosophy.44 In Stanley’s depiction of the genealogy of classical philosophies, there may be close ties between Pythagorean and Platonic thought. Stanley quotes Cicero as writing that Plato went to Italy, “where he addicted himself to the discipline of Pythagoras.”45 This report of a connection between the two schools of philosophy is not confined to Stanley. It also appears in other writers with whom Cavendish was familiar. Henry More, the Cambridge Platonist who is one of the four principal writers whose ideas Cavendish sets out to confute in her Philosophical Letters,46 dwells upon the connection between Plato and Pythagoras in his Conjectura Cabbalistica, which first came out towards the beginning of Cavendish’s writing career, and which she alludes to in the Blazing World. After a vindication of the “dignity” of Pythagoras, More writes, “And now I have said thus much of Pythagoras . . . there will be lesse need to insist upon Plato and Plotinus, their Philosophy being the same that Pythagoras’s was, and so alike applicable to Moses his Text.”47 Even more to the point of the influence of Pythagorean and Platonic thought upon Cavendish’s philosophy is More’s argument that Pythagoras had a strong intuition of the atomic nature of matter that descended through his followers into the thought of Democritus. This genealogy could have sanctioned first two philosophers named whose works will be kept are Plato and Pythagoras (709, 710). 44. In the Observations, Cavendish writes, “I gave my self to the perusing of the works of that learned Author Mr. Stanly, wherein he describes the lives and opinions of the ancient Philosophers” (3.1). 45. Stanley 159. See also Stanley 160, 62, 584, 586 and 548. 46. Philosophical Letters 1. 47. Henry More, Conjectura Cabbalistica. Or, A Conjectural Essay of Interpreting the Mind of Moses in the Three First Chapters of Genesis, According to a Threefold Cabbala: Viz. Literal, Philosophical, Mystical, or, Divinely Moral, A Collection of Several Philosophical Writings 1662, 101. 19 Cavendish’s combination of Pythagorean and Platonic ideas with her own flirtations with different forms of corpuscularism.48 True to the spirit of Affectionata who requests mathematical books and to others amongst Cavendish’s female protagonists who are similarly virtuous and devoted to philosophy, Thomas Stanley’s Pythagoras and Plato associate the pursuit of mathematics and music with self-purification. For Pythagoras, the objects of mathematical study are intermediary between corporeal and incorporeal things, and therefore mathematics leads the student away from that which is bodily.49 According to a traditional story that Cavendish mentions in the CCXI Sociable Letters,50 part of this purificatory process for Pythagoras’s students involved observing a five year long period of silence following which they would graduate from being acousmatici (mere hearers of the more general doctrines of the philosopher) to mathematici (privileged learners of the complete doctrines).51 Stanley’s Plato holds that “the way to prepare [for godlike beatitude], and, as it were, to cleanse the Demon that is in us, is to initiate our selves into higher Disciplines, which is done by Musick, Arithmetick, Astronomy and Geometry.”52 For Cavendish as for the ancient philosophers, those who seek to understand mathematics and speculative music have a particular kind of sanctity. 48. According to Stanley, Pythagorean doctrine held that, “They who maintain Atoms, or Homoiomeria’s or bulks, or intelligible bodies, to be the principles of all things, were partly in the right, partly not: As conceiving the principles to be unapparent, they are in the right; as holding them to be corporeal, they err” (548). 49. Stanley 522. 50. Sociable Letters 299. 51. Stanley 518. 52. Stanley 193. “Sphærick” is astronomy. 20 Stanley’s Proclus explains the connection among the four “higher Disciplines”: “The whole science of Mathematicks, the Pythagoreans divided into four parts. . . . Arithmetic contemplates Multitude in itself: Music with respect to another: Geometry, unmoveable magnitude; Sphærick, moveable.”53 “Music,” by which Proclus means “harmonics” or “speculative music,” concerns the mathematical relations between things, and this is how many of Cavendish’s contemporaries likewise interpret it. Consequently, “Proportion” and its derivatives are important terms in the musical texts of the period. Descartes’s Compendium opens with a series of propositions related to proportion in music. These assert the importance of simple mathematical proportion between the object of sense perception and the sensitive faculties, as well as between the parts of the object of sense, in this case, the elements of the music.54 From these aesthetic propositions Descartes proceeds to deduce rules for the numerous aspects of music that involve proportion. This kind of understanding of music allows the cosmos to be spoken of as literally musical. The same arithmetic and harmonic means that govern musical harmony likewise describe the quantifiable spatial relationships between the celestial bodies. In Cavendish’s Poems, and Fancies, when the Earth cries out concerning her ravaged state, she contrasts her lot with that of the celestial bodies which dance and make music through their dances: The Sun just in the Center sits, as King, The Planets round about incircle him. The slowest Orbes over his Head turne slow, And underneath, the swiftest Planets go. Each several Planet, several measures take, 53. Stanley 522. 54. Descartes 2. 21 And with their Motions they sweet Musick make. Thus all the Planets round about him move, And he returnes them Light for their kind Love.55 A few pages later, Cavendish again articulates this Pythagorean or Platonic conception of the celestial music in a personification of Nature as an aristocratic woman who attends balls as a pastime: “The Spheres her Musick, and the Milkie way / Is, where she dances, whilst those Spheares do play.”56 The planets and the spheres in which they, according to Aristotelian doctrine, move are a consort of chamber musicians. Although this celestial music may not play an essential role in Cavendish’s philosophy, it does inform her aesthetic understanding of Nature. Over the course of Cavendish’s writing career, her interest in “the wonderful order and harmony that is in Nature, and all her parts”57 does not diminish, but it does refocus on the harmonies of microcosms. For example, Cavendish teaches that in the human mind, “Musick hath a sympathie to the rational motions, because the rational spirits move in number and in measure, as musical instruments do.”58 Moreover, music does not only influence the mind. Rather, the mind itself continually functions according to musical patterns. The rational matter dances. It moves rhythmically, intricately and in an ordered fashion.59 As it moves “in number and in measure” it produces a “harmony” that is as much a quality of the horizontal dimensions of the unfolding of music and poetry in time (rhythm and melody in music, metre 55. Poems 106. 56. Poems 139. 57. Observations 3.25. 58. Opinions 1655, 168. 59. Opinions 1655, 107. 22 and euphony in poetry) as it is one of the vertical concord of simultaneous sounds.60 Just as there is a harmony of the mind in Cavendish’s natural philosophy, so in and among the more obviously physical parts of the body and the medications that doctors use to influence them there is a melody-like patterning through time and a harmony-like patterning through space. Thus Cavendish, after the longest and most detailed chapter on music in her entire philosophical corpus, offers in an apparent non-sequitur a chapter on “The knowledge of diseases.” The connection between the chapters only becomes apparent when she argues, [B]ut certain if Physitians would take pains to study the several motions of the diseases, and also of the drugs, and medicines they give, and would do as skilful musitians, which make a consort, where although every one plaies upon a several instrument, yet they all make their notes agree, there would follow a harmony of health in the body, as well as a harmony of musick in these consorts.61 Because Cavendish teaches that three degrees of matter, the rational, sensitive and inanimate, are everywhere intermixed, movement in number and measure occurs both in the mind and in the coarser matter of the body. The presence of harmony in the world becomes the premise from which Cavendish argues for the omnipresence of divine and material reason, and from which Cavendish reworks Platonic conceptions of a World Soul to arrive at her distinct form of materialist animism. The philosophically inquisitive and morally pure characters into whose mouths Cavendish frequently places natural philosophical opinions are fond of making the traditional 60. Thomas Blount’s Glossographia (London, 1656) attests to this horizontal and sequential dimension of “harmony” when he defines “Harmonical” as “melodious, harmonious, musical, proportionate,” and “Symphony” as “consent in tune or time, as tuneable singing without jarring, harmony.” Blount does not directly offer definitions for “harmony” or “harmonious.” 61. Opinions 1655, 169-70. 23 natural theological argument that asserts that natural harmonies demonstrate the existence of God. Mademoiselle Grand Esprit declares in her first speech in the play The First Part of Natures Three Daughters, Beauty, Love, and Wit, [B]y the distinct degrees, qualities, properties, places and motions of all things, and to, and in every thing, by the exact form of this World; by the prudent seperations, and situations of the Heavens and Earth; by the Circumferent lines, and poyzing of Centers; by their bounds and limits; by their orderly, and timely motions; by their assigned tracts, constant Journies, convenient distances; by their intermixing, and well tempering of the Elements; by the profitable Commerce, betwixt the Heavens and the Earth; by the different kinds, several sorts, various Natures, by their Sympathies, and Antipathies; by their warrs and parties; by the Harmony that is made out of discord, shews that there is onely one absolute power, and wise disposer, that cannot be opposed, having no Copartners, produces all things, being not produced by any thing, wherefore must be Eternall, and consequently infinite; this absolute, wise, and Eternal power Man calls God.62 The She-Anchoret makes a similar argument when the theological scholars approach her. “All that is good,” she teaches them, “is caused by Jove’s wise ordering and composing harmoniously”: As for Life, said she, it is an Evil, were it not ordered wisely by Jove; and would be a perpetual torment, did not Jove by his Wisdom order Nature so, as to ease it with that we call Death; which is only as a change in Notes in Musick, or Harmonious Measures: and the several Measures Life danceth, are several Transmigrations, which Jove orders as it moves; and the Notes are the several Creatures that are made, which Jove’s Wisdom sets; and Health is the Cords that Jove’s Wisdom tunes; and the several Pleasures are the several Lessons that Jove’s Wisdom causeth Nature to play; and Peace is the Harmony that Jove’s Wisdom makes.63 The harmony of the natural world manifests God’s presence. In a twist of this conventional argument, for Cavendish natural harmonies also 62. Playes 1662, 496-97. 63. Picture 1671, 618. 24 manifest the immanence of natural reason to the world. In her response to Stanley’s account of the Pythagorean teaching that “intellectual number” is “the principle, fountain, and root of all things, and . . . that which before all things exists in the Divine mind; from which and out of which all things are digested into order, and remain numbred by an indissoluble series,”64 Cavendish, like Reuchlin in the “Explication of the Pythagorick Doctrine” that Stanley includes, asserts that mind, not number alone, must be the principle of all things.65 “‘Tis true,” she writes, “regular compositions and divisions are made by consent of parts, and presuppose number and harmony; but number and harmony cannot be the cause of any orderly productions, without sense and reason.”66 A little before this she reasons, [T]here can be no order, method, or harmony, especially such as appears in the actions of Nature, without there be reason to cause that order and harmony. And thus motion argues sense, and the well-ordered motion argues Reason in Nature, and in every part and particle thereof, without which Nature could not subsist, but would be as a dull indigested and unformed heap and Chaos.67 Accordingly, “[S]ense and reason” are ubiquitous and they are the “Principles and Grounds”68 of Cavendish’s whole natural philosophy. She has come to this conclusion through a consideration of the presence of speculative music in Nature. Other parallels with Pythagorean and Platonic doctrines connected to speculative music may be read into Cavendish’s theories. These surface in her discussions of the tension and equilibrium between principles of unity and difference in matter, and in the evolution of 64. Stanley 523. 65. Stanley 571. 66. Observations 3.15-16. 67. Observations 2.21-22. 68. Observations 2.23. 25 her doctrine of a plenist cosmos. They surface in her notion of “degree” and in her doctrine of a tripartite matter. However, the strongest parallels between the basic conditions of Cavendish’s universe and music relate not to speculative music, but to practical music. 1.2 Divisions and the Natural World Cavendish’s natural world exhibits interconnections with the musical genre known as “playing divisions.” This genre, which is also called “breaking a ground,” surfaces repeatedly both in Cavendish’s explicit references to music and in the metaphors that she uses in her natural philosophy. In her biography of her husband, Cavendish writes that aside from “the Exercise of Mannage and Weapons . . . . The rest of his time he spends in Musick, Poetry, Architecture and the like.”69 Lynn Hulse has analyzed an inventory of William Cavendish’s collection of music and musical instruments that was made in 1636 by his secretary.70 The inventory contains a number of items which suggest his interest in playing divisions. These include, “One large booke, haueing a leather-couer guild: with diuers loose papers in itt, containeing, Pauans: fantasies, Grownds, &c with Deuisions vpon them, by Mr Webbster, Mr Nurcom, Alfonso ferabasco:, and others;” two additional books “of Mr Websters”with “deuisions vpon grounds;” and “one booke with some pauans of Mr George pearsons and wayes vpon them.”71 69. Life of William 1667, 152. 70. Lynn Hulse, “Apollo’s Whirligig,” The Seventeenth Century 9 (1994): 213-45; Hulse, “The Duke of Newcastle and the English Viol,” Chelys 29 (2001): 28-43. 71. Quoted from the transcription in Hulse, “Apollo’s Whirligig” 234. The composers named include Maurice Webster, Daniel Norcombe and Alphonso Ferrabosco II (ibid. 225-26). Hulse details the association between William Cavendish and Christopher Simpson on pages 226-27. 26 With Christopher Simpson’s indication that William Cavendish played in “his younger years,”72 the latter’s engagement with the genre of divisions may be assumed. Simpson describes the practice of playing divisions in the following way: Diminution, or Division to a Ground, is the Concordance of quick and slow Notes. The Manner of expressing it is thus. A Ground, Subject, or Basse, (call it which you please,) is prickt down in two severall Papers: One, for him who is to Play the Ground (upon an Organ, Harpsecord, or what other Instruments may be apt for that purpose;) the Other, for him who Playes upon the Viol: who, having the said Ground before his Eye; (as his Theme, or Subject;) Playes such variety of Descant, and Division, thereupon; as his Skill, and present Invention, do then suggest unto him. In this Manner of Play, (which is the Perfection of the Viol, or any other Instrument; it be exactly performed;) a Man may shew, the dexterity, and excellency, both, of his Hand, and Invention; to the Delight, and Admiration, of those that hear him.73 A standard configuration for playing divisions involved one or two bass viols74 accompanied by an organ or harpsichord. Simpson identifies three kinds of division: “Breaking the Ground, [which] is the dividing its Notes into more diminute Notes,” “Descant-Diminution, or, Division, . . . which maketh another distinct, and concording Part unto the Ground,” and a combination of the two.75 Ideally, divisions were improvised by players with sufficient skill, inventiveness and familiarity with their fellow players to do so, but as William Cavendish’s music collection and Simpson’s book attest, amateurs often played from scores. Divisions are improvised or composed against the backdrop of “Rules so perfect, that ‘twill be / Stil’d Simpson’s Grammar unto Harmony,”76 but they emphasize variety. Frank 72. Simpson, Compendium A2v. 73. Simpson, Division-Violist 21. 74. Simpson’s preferred instrument is a “Division-Viol,” which closely resembles the bass viol (Simpson, Division-Violist 1). 75. Simpson, Division-Violist 1, 21, 28. 76. John Jenkins, “To his Excellent Friend,” in Simpson, Division-Violist A3v. 27 Traficante’s article on “Division” in Grove Music Online points to the closely related terms of “diminution,” “diferencia” (Spanish) and “breaking.”77 All three relate to the production of variety. Simpson “cannot choose but wonder, even to amazement; that from no more then Three Concords, and a few intervening Discords; there should proceed such an infinite Variety; as all the Musick that ever hath, or shall be composed, in Concordance of diverse Parts.”78 He writes, “This Breaking, or Dividing a Note, admits Diverse Wayes of expression: according to the diverse ordering, and disposing, the Minute Parts thereof.”79 Throughout his instructions he emphasizes the importance of variety. Simpson suggests that after the initial repetition of the ground by the players and the successive divisions of its notes into more elaborate rhythms, the players “begin to Play some Skipping Division, or Points, or Tripla’s, or what your present Fancy, or Invension shall prompt you to; changing still frome one Variety to another: for Variety it is, which chiefly pleaseth.” The musicians must change “from This, to That Sort of Division, as may best produce Variety.” They may carry on a kind of conversational exchange of rhythmic patterns within the ground itself “so long as they please; which done, they may take themselves to Another Point, of a different Length, which will produce a New Variety.” Sometimes the players may join one another “Both together; sometimes in Slow, sometimes in Quick Motions; such, as may best produce Variety.”80 Simpson’s teachings on divisions connect explicitly with language through that 77. Frank Traficante, “Division,” Grove Music Online, Oxford UP, 15 May 2006 <www.grovemusic.com>. 78. Simpson, Division-Violist 16-17. 79. Simpson, Division-Violist 21. 80. Simpson, Division-Violist 47-49. 28 conversational exchange of rhythmic patterns. When a piece involves more than one player, the musicians “vie” with one another in variations of increasing complexity each of which “answers” that which precedes. Then the conversational exchange accelerates: “C. may begin some Point of Division, of the lenghth of a Breve, or Semibreve, naming the word Breve, or Semibreve, by which B. may know his Intention: which ended; let B. answer the same, upon the succeeding Note, or Notes, to the like quantity of Time; taking it in that Manner, One after Another, so long as they please.”81 The pace shifts from one of oratorical display to repartee. This “contest” is reminiscent of Cavendish’s descriptions of conversation. “Discourse,” she writes, “should be like Musick in parts.”82 In the CCXI Sociable Letters, Cavendish tells her imaginary correspondent: I have several times conversed with Mrs. R. E. and I find her Wit runs in Parts, like as Musick, where there must be several Parties to Play or Sing several Parts; she is not a whole Consort her self, neither can she Play the grounds of Wit, but yet she can make a shift to fill up a Note; . . . few have general Wits, as to Play Musically upon every Subject, especially without making a Fault.83 Mrs. R. E.’s conversational ability is superficial in that she can handle the accelerated exchange of rhythmic patterns, but cannot manage the more sustained displays of division of the “subject” or “ground” that ought to precede it. Elsewhere in the same work Cavendish describes “a Consort of Learning and Wit” whose “Discourse was their Music, the Philosophers were the Bass, the Theologers the Tenor, and the Poets the Treble, all which made an Harmony wherein was Variety and Delight.”84 81. Simpson, Division-Violist 48. 82. Olio 1671, 41. 83. Sociable Letters 92. 84. Sociable Letters 153. 29 Aside from conversational exchange, the practice of playing divisions intersects with language through the notion of rhetorical figure. In playing divisions, a musical counterpart of rhetorical figure is part of the display of technical virtuosity. Christopher Simpson defines “Figurate Descant,” the subject of the fourth book of his Compendium of Musick, as follows: “And, as we termed Plain Descant, (in which was taught the use of the Concords) The Groundwork or Grammar of Musical Composition, so may we as properly nominate This [figurate descant], the Ornament or Rhetorical Part of Music. For, in This are introduced all the varieties of Points, Fuges, Syncope’s or Bindings, Diversities of Measures, Intermixtures of discording Sounds; or what else Art and Fancy can exhibit; which, as different Flowers and Figures, do set forth and adorn the Composition; whence it is named Melothesa florida vel figurata, Florid or Figurate Descant.”85 The practice of playing divisions and the themes of language associated with this practice enter Cavendish’s natural philosophy most conspicuously through her emphasis on the concept of material division and divisibility. In Cavendish’s earliest works, she already teaches the infinite divisibility of matter, but she is unclear about the precise characteristics of this divisibility. At this stage, infinite divisibility clearly pertains to infinitely extended substance and its ability to divide in an outwards direction an endless number of times. What is not as clear is whether or not the theory includes the division of segments of matter into infinitesimal pieces. In the Philosophicall Fancies, Cavendish hypothesizes concerning the division of matter “to an Atome”86 in terms that suggest that she embraces the etymological 85. Simpson, Compendium 85-86. Michael Tilmouth’s article, “Figural, figurate, figured” in Grove Music Online pointed me towards this passage. 86. Fancies 2. 30 sense of the word “atom.” However, she also writes that “division is as infinite as the Matter divided,”87 and this “division” may or may not include that of moving in an inward direction. In the Philosophical Letters, Cavendish’s position on the subject is perhaps still evolving. She emphasizes the endlessness of division in the outwards direction, writing, “this Onely matter, because it is Infinite in bulk, must of necessity be divisible into infinite Parts, that is infinite in number.”88 She also suggests that she accepts at least the theoretical infiniteness of division proceeding inward when she states, “Concerning his [Walter Charleton’s] argument of Divisibility of Parts, my opinion is, That there is no Part in Nature Individable, no not that so small a part, which the Epicureans name an Atome.”89 The latter statement, however, appears contradicted in the middle of the work where Cavendish explains, [F]or each part having its proper figure different from the other, which is circumscribed and limited, it is called a finite single part; and such a part cannot be said Infinitely dividable, for infinite composition and division belong onely to the Infinite body of Nature, which being infinite in substance may also be infinitely divided, but not a finite and single part.90 Actual, figured parts are not infinitely divisible, but theoretical, non-differentiated pieces of “the Infinite body of Nature” are.91 In Cavendish’s later works, she firmly resolves the issue in favour of infinite divisibility proceeding in both outwards and inwards directions. She decides, “there is no such thing as a single or individeable part in Nature,”92 “there can be no Atome, 87. Fancies 4; Opinions 1655, 2. 88. Philosophical Letters 6. 89. Philosophical Letters 455. 90. Philosophical Letters 158. Cf. the similar passage on 457. 91. Of course, Cavendish’s use of the verbs “called” and “said” suggest that the integrity of real figures is a matter of theoretical discourse rather than fact. 92. Observations 132. 31 that is, an individeable body in nature, because whatsoever has body, or is material, has quantity, and what has quantity is divideable,”93 and “there is no such thing as a Single Part in Nature: for Matter, or Body, cannot be so divided, but that it will remain Matter, which is divisible.”94 For Cavendish, divisibility defines the natural and the material, and it distinguishes them from the supernatural or spiritual.95 The divisibility of matter connects to Cavendish’s use of terminology from the musical genre of divisions because it provides the logical basis for her innumerable references to processes of composition and division in nature. For Cavendish, composition and division are fundamental material phenomena. She asserts, “for if all parts in nature be corporeal, they are dividable, composable, and intermixable,” and again, “Nature being Material, is composable and dividable.”96 In Cavendish’s “brief repetition of those few Notes concerning the principles” of her natural philosophy at the conclusion of the first section of her Observations, the third to fifth principles concern division and composition: 3. The chief and general actions of Nature, are division and composition of parts, both which are done but by one act; for at the same time, when parts separate themselves from such parts, they join to other parts; and this is the cause there can be no Vacuum, nor so single parts in Nature. 4. Every particular part or figure is infinitely divided and composed from and with other parts. 5. The infinite divisions and compositions hinder, that Nature cannot run into extreams in her particulars, but keep the parts and actions of Nature in an equal ballance.97 93. Observations 135. 94. Grounds 5. 95. For statements concerning the indivisibility of spirit and of God, see Blazing World 81; Grounds 12, 241; Philosophical Letters 186; Observations p2v, 2.38. 96. Philosophical Letters 108, 144. See also Observations 1.124, 1.135. 97. Observations 1666, 1.246. 32 Composition and division are inseparable processes at the heart of Cavendish’s explanation for the unfeasibility of an Epicurean cosmos. They are responsible for the tension, balance, interdependence and proportions of a social and aesthetic Nature. They are also the essence of innumerable chemical, physical and mental processes. That Cavendish conceives of composition and division not only as material processes, but also as musical ones becomes clear through her discussions of the engagement of the rational matter in these processes. For example, Cavendish attributes the lack of consciousness of an animal during gestation and its possession of minimal knowledge at birth to the fact that the rational matter has “not so much company, as to make so much change, as to take parts, like Instruments of Musick, which cannot make so much Division upon few strings as upon more.”98 In the same way that a ten or more course lute is more suitable for playing the elaborate divisions of the mid seventeenth century than the eight course Renaissance lute, so a greater number of rational spirits is more apt to produce the elaborate patterns that underpin sensation and knowledge. For Cavendish, the human mind is always engaged in division, “but when the rationall innate matter moves in a regular division, and the measures of time, and the notes of motions skilfully set, and rightfully kept, that is curiously or neatly, and carefully ordered; then there is a harmony.”99 The mind plays pleasurable music only when the rational matter displays regularity, skill and ingenuity in its divisions. The virtuosity of the rational matter appears in its speed of division, its “nimbleness” that flows from the habit of 98. Fancies 46. 99. Opinions 1655, 107. 33 perpetually moving “onely in number and measure.”100 In one account of the process of hearing, the sensitive matter actually produces a musical score of what it hears and then the rational matter uses the score to reproduce the external “wayes of division” in its own matter: [T]he sensitive innated matter, sets, or pricks down notes, and draws lines on the drum of the ear, as musicians do upon paper, or the like; . . . but for the verbal, it is writ, or printed on the drum of the ear in letters, for words, and the knowledg the animal figure takes, is when the rational innated matter moves according to those letters or notes, or wayes of division.101 The generalization of the musical aspects of these processes to Nature as a whole occurs in passages such as where Cavendish affirms, “[T]here are Contraries in Natures actions, which are Corporeal motions, which cause mixtures, qualities, degrees, discords, as also harmonious conjunctions and concords, compositions, divisions, and the like effects whatsoever.” Processes of composition and division are concrete, but they are also processes of creating and elaborating musical patterns. As in the musical genre of playing divisions, processes of division in Cavendish’s natural world are always in tension with a “ground.”102 As Cavendish explains, “although 100. Opinions 1655, 109. 101. Opinions 1655, 123. 102. Cavendish also uses the term “ground” frequently in contexts not immediately related to natural philosophy. She uses it in the sense of “principle” in the title Grounds of Natural Philosophy and in phrases such as “the Ground of my Opinions” (Philosophical Letters a1r, c1r, 3, 5). In rhetorical and literary contexts, she uses it in the sense of the “subject matter which a speaker or writer expands upon” (Picture 1671, 30; Olio 1655, 72, 115; Philosophical Letters 47; Playes 1662, 678). She most clearly conflates the rhetorical, literary and musical aspects of the term in an analogy “Similizing the Heart to a Harp, the Head to an Organ, the Tongue to a Lute, to make a Consort of Musick”: The Tongue a Lute, the Breath, are Strings strung strong, The Teeth are Pegs, Words, Fingers play thereon. These moving all, a sweet soft Musick make, Wise Sentences, as grounds of Musick take. (Poems 137) Words play the articulatory apparatus like an instrument, and the sentences that emerge are akin to 34 Nature delights in variety, yet she is constant in her groundworks.”103 Early in her writing career she teaches, Nature is more various in the Shapes, Thoughts, and Colours, than in the Substance, or Kind of Things; yet for Shapes there are but four grounds, as High, Low, Thick, and Thin; of Quality, or Essences, she hath but four, as Fire, Water, Air, and Earth; and for Colours, the ground is onely Light.104 Shape, substance and colour are but variations produced from a limited number of “grounds.” “We find,” writes Cavendish, “that Nature is stinted her self, as well as Man is stinted by her, for she cannot go beyond such Rules and Principles”105: and we Find by her Acts past, that all was begot from the first-grounded Principles; Variation indeed there may be, but not any thing entirely new: And that there have been as good, if not better, in the same kind before. . . . But we find, that Nature hath a constant and setled course in all she doth; and whatsoever she works, are but Patterns from her old Samplers. But the several Stiches, which are the several Motions, are the same; and the Stuff, which she worketh upon, which is the Matter, is the same; and the Figures she makes, are after the same kind; and we find, through many Ages since, that it is the same, as Salomon saith, Nothing is new, &c.106 The limited number of motions, substances and shapes with which Nature has to work, lead her to repeat patterns, albeit in ingenious ways, much as a woman might repeat the patterns from an embroidery or quilting sampler made in her youth, or as a musician might apply the conventional rules of division in order to break a ground. Cavendish’s use of the term “ground” in her natural philosophy accelerates in the musical grounds. 103. Observations 2.15. 104. Olio 1655, 162. 105. Olio 1655, 174. 106. Olio 1655, 174-75. 35 Philosophical Letters and Observations Upon Experimental Philosophy. In the first of these works, Cavendish explains, But Wise Nature’s Ground or Fundamental actions are very Regular, as you may observe in the several and distinct kinds, sorts and particulars of her Creatures, and in their distinct Proprieties, Qualities, and Faculties, belonging not onely to each kind and sort, but to each particular Creature.107 She also teaches that although there are three degrees of matter, yet, “in all those degrees it remains the same onely or meer Matter, that is, it is nothing else but Matter, and the onely ground in which all changes are made.”108 Again, she writes that “self-motion, sense, life, and reason, are the grounds and principles of Nature, without which no Creature could subsist,”109 and that “the perceptive corporeal motions are the ground-motions in Nature, which make, rule, and govern all the parts of Nature, as to move to Production, or Generation, Transformation, and the like.”110 Nature’s grounds are regular. Her grounds are the malleable substance in which variation is made. They are the sine qua non of the being both of individual creatures, and, by extension, of the cosmos as whole. Finally, they both impel and constrain all creativity within Nature’s purview.111 Natural grounds have the same function as musical ones. 107. Philosophical Letters 161-62. 108. Philosophical Letters 250. 109. Philosophical Letters 306. 110. Philosophical Letters 513. 111. For similar examples in Observations, see 1.163, 1.195, 1.203, 1.206, 4.52. 36 1.3 The Curious Variety of Nature Recall that according to Simpson, the chief aesthetic goal of a musician who is breaking a ground is variety. Particularly in Cavendish’s Philosophical Letters and Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, variety is also the foremost aesthetic effect of natural composition and division.112 The two books contain numerous sweeping statements to this end. For instance, “[H]uman sense and reason may well perceive that Nature is active, and full of variety; and action, and variety cannot be without motion, division, and composition,” and “[T]he chief actions of Nature are composition and division, which produce all the variety in Nature.”113 Nature, like a division violist, uses composition and division to produce an aesthetic display. Much as the complexity of a musician’s divisions might display her ingenuity and virtuosity, so the variety of the natural world expresses the wisdom and method of Nature. Cavendish discusses the things that people make in a comparison of Nature and Art: [T]hey [these products of art] are but Natures bastards or changelings, if I may so call them; and though Nature takes so much delight in variety, that she is pleased with them, yet they are not to be compared to her wise and fundamental actions; for Nature, being a wise and provident Lady, governs her parts very wisely, methodically and orderly; also she is very industrious, and hates to be idle, which makes her imploy her time as a good Huswife doth, in Brewing, Baking, Churning, Spinning, Sowing &c. as also in Preserving for those that love Sweet-meats, and in Distilling for those that take delight in Cordials; for she has numerous imployments, and being infinitely self-moving, never wants 112. Composition and division create variety in motions, figures, creatures, knowledge and perceptions. See for example the following passages: Philosophical Letters 62, 101; Philosophical Letters 108, 144, Observations 24, 136; Philosophical Letters 144, 521, Observations 69-70; Philosophical Letters 172, Observations 188, 201, 211, 224. 113. Philosophical Letters 434, Observations 1.161. Cf. Philosophical Letters 39, 421; Observations g2r, 1.69, 1.124. 37 work, but her artificial works are her works of delight, pleasure and pastime.114 The personification here is not so extreme as it might superficially appear, since Cavendish’s Nature possesses literal consciousness, perception and foresight, albeit perhaps not such a unitary consciousness as the extended metaphor suggests. In the domain of such a housewifely economy, natural processes are full of intention. They take place to preserve the order and the pleasantness of a well-provided for home, an order that balances the delight of novelty and variety with stability. In less colourful passages, the theme of Nature expressing her wisdom through variety sometimes occurs in relation to biodiversity and its effects. Cavendish writes, I only treat of Natural Productions, which are so various, that it is a wonder if any two Creatures are just alike; by which we may perceive, that not only in several kinds and sorts, but in Particulars of every kind, or sort, there is some difference, so as to be distinguished from each other, and yet the species of some Creatures are like to their kind, and sort, but not all; and the reason that most Creatures are in Species, according to their sort, and kind, is not only, that Nature’s Wisdom orders and regulates her Corporeal Figurative Motions, into kinds and sorts of Societies and Conjunctions; but, those Societies cause a perceptive Acquaintance, and an united Love, and good liking of the Compositions or Productions: and not only a love to their Figurative Compositions, but to all that are of the same sort, or kind.115 Nature’s wisdom leads her to order the animal kingdom through variety in such a way as to produce social and sexual relationships. She desires such relationships on account of the knowledge and the love that exists within them. She is indeed like a housewife shaping the most pleasant domicile possible, and her personal joy is contagious; “[W]ise Nature taking 114. Observations 1.101-2. 115. Grounds 31-32. Similar passages occur in Grounds 166-67, Philosophical Letters 173-74, 416. A passage which deals with the matter in relation to God’s wisdom instead of Nature’s occurs in Playes 1662, 496-97. 38 delight in variety, her parts, which are her Creatures, must of necessity do so too.”116 Moreover, like the ideal housewife or the musical virtuoso displaying her brilliance, her wisdom even allows her to conceal the effort that she invests through the ease of her overt behaviour: Nature is wiser than any of her Creatures can conceive; for she knows how to make, and how to dissolve, form, and transform, with facility and ease, without any difficulty; for her actions are all easie and free, yet so subtil, curious and various, as not any part or creature of Nature can exactly or throughly trace her ways, or know her wisdom.117 Nature’s sprezzatura leaves observers only with amazement. Cavendish’s housewifely Nature is far from selfless. Self-interest and self-love drive her impulse towards variety. For Cavendish, self-love provides the basis for most natural and moral action, and it is not vicious or even amoral in the way that self-interest is for her acquaintance Thomas Hobbes. Consequently, Cavendish unhesitatingly depicts Nature basking in her own self-indulgence in variety: And since Nature is but one body [not separated by vacuum], it is intirely wise and knowing, ordering her self-moving parts with all facility and ease, without any disturbance, living in pleasure and delight, with infinite varieties and curiosities, such as no single Part or Creature of hers can ever attain to.118 Nature’s indulgence in variety is sometimes benign, and even benevolent, for instance when she produces distinctions between species and individuals, causes creatures to need sleep, or 116. Observations 1.13. 117. Philosophical Letters 476-77. 118. Observations 1.4. The shift from the impersonal pronoun, “it,” back to the personal one, “her,” suggests the literary tensions involved in writing in a scholarly genre with content that pulls conventional metaphors–in this case that of a personified, female Nature–persistently in the direction of literal exposition of fact. 39 simply avoids repeating certain transformations in favour of novelty instead.119 On the other hand, Nature’s delight in variety does lead her in more puckish and sinister directions. For example, Nature alone, apart from any specific decree from God, disallows unity of religion simply because she is “Variable, taking delight in variety.”120 Nature also intentionally deludes her observers through their use of scientific instruments, “for Nature is pleased with variety, and so doth make numerous absurdities, doubts, opinions, disputations, objections, and the like.”121 Nature’s pleasure in variety leads her to sometimes impede the usual smooth and efficient communication between parts of matter, to manifest the kind of “unusual effects or apparitions” that people ascribe to supernatural activity, to cause humans and other creatures to desire objects that are less beautiful or healthy than other equally available objects, and even to cause serious birth defects.122 Although Cavendish does not condemn Nature for activities such as these, or even judge these natural effects apart from labeling them “irregular,” they do suggest that Nature’s creation of variety is morally complex.123 119. Grounds 166, Philosophical Letters 416; Grounds 272; Philosophical Letters 53. 120. Grounds 245. 121. Philosophical Letters 365. A rather abstract passage later in the same work declares, “And as for delusion, it is part of Natures delight, causing the more variety” (365). 122. Philosophical Letters 152, 228, 294, 391. 123. The association of Nature with variety provides a rich mine of evidence for literary critics interested in gender. Suffice it to say that although Nature is associated with a trait connected to stereotypical female fickleness and inconstancy (see Blazing World 120; Picture 1671, 188; Poems 56; Sociable Letters 392; Playes 1662, 330-31, 654, 656, for some instances in which Cavendish describes her own sex according to the stereotype), Cavendish frequently rehabilitates the notion of variety by associating it with cleverness, beauty and something like “creativity” in the modern, popular sense of the word (Picture 1671, 227; Olio 1655, 87; Poems A3r, 56). She occasionally depicts delight in variety as a weapon that women employ in order to extricate themselves from subjugation to men (Picture 1671, 208; Playes 1662, 453, 485), and she very frequently condemns men for their love of variety, particularly variety of sexual partners (Picture 1671, 86, 130, 180, 217; Olio 1655, 82, 82; Playes 1662, 190, 505). 40 The terms in which Cavendish describes natural variety and the numerous occasions upon which it is an object of creaturely awe highlight its aesthetic significance. In her works, variety is connected first and foremost with ideas of number (infiniteness, numberlessness, numerousness, abundance) and difference (diversity, separateness, alteration, change and inconstancy), but it also has recurrent associations with more descriptive terms. Cavendish exclaims in frustration, And I cannot enough admire the strange conceits of some men, who perceiving and believing such a curious variety and various curiosity of Nature in the parts of her body, and that she is in a perpetual motion, and knows best her own Laws, and the several proprieties of bodies, and how to adapt and fit them to her designed ends, nay, that God hath implanted a faculty of knowing in every Creature, do yet deny, nay, rail against Natures self-moving power, condemning her as a dull, inanimate, senseless and irrational body, as if a rational man could conceive, that such a curious variety and contrivance of natural works should be produced by a senseless and irational motion.124 The chiasmic structure of the phrase “curious variety and various curiosity of Nature” itself enacts the phrase’s content. The “curious variety” of Nature is variety “Made with care or art; skilfully, elaborately or beautifully wrought”125–qualities that appear in the quotation above through Nature’s self-knowledge and her capacity to “adapt” and “fit” particular creatures into her own design. Nature’s variety is also “Intricate, abstruse, subtle”: [F]or she [Nature] is wiser then any of her Creatures can conceive; for she knows how to make, and how to dissolve, form and transform, with facility and ease, without any difficulty; for her actions are all easie and free, yet so subtil, curious and various, as not any part or creature of Nature can exactly or 124. Observations 1.44. 125. The definitions in this paragraph are from the following locations: “Curious,” Def. 2.7.a, 2.10.b, 2.12; “Curiosity,” Def. 1.1-4, 1.6, OED Online, Oxford UP, 29 Sept. 2007 <http://dictionary.oed.com>. 41 throughly trace her ways, or know her wisdom.126 Nature’s ways are too intricate, too “finely woven” (this is an etymological sense of “subtle”) to be traced and understood. Nature’s subtle variety is, furthermore, “Fine” and “delicate”; it is produced by the most tenuous of the three degrees of matter, the rational matter, which can move “more subtilly, and more variously than the sensitive, and make such figures as the sensitive cannot.”127 Another aspect of the subtlety of the rational matter is its capacity for swiftness; speed, at times under the guise of wildness, is a quality that appears alongside variety in Cavendish’s writings.128 Not only Nature’s productions, however, are “curious”; she herself subjectively possesses a “various curiosity.” This various “curiosity” may simply be a manifold care and attention to detail and ingenuity, but perhaps it may also be something akin to “Scientific or artistic interest; the quality of a curioso or virtuoso; connoisseurship.” In any case, there are well over twenty instances in Cavendish’s oeuvre in which the notions of curiosity and variety are closely linked,129 and the linkage reflects her aesthetic appreciation of the cosmos. Further intimations of the aesthetic effects of natural variety come from Cavendish’s many statements of awe and amazement about the “Miraculous variety in Nature.”130 The discontinuity between the immense diversity of Nature and the limited perceptual abilities and 126. Philosophical Letters 476-77. 127. Philosophical Letters 173. 128. Philosophical Letters 516; Fancies 71; Picture 1671 232, 323; Playes 1662, 656. 129. See, for example, Blazing World 100; Philosophical Letters 199, 281, 344, 360, 362, 414, 477, 515; Picture 1671, 111, 117, 206, 244, 272, 516, 516; Observations 1.4, 1.44, 1.45, 1.139; Olio 1655, 6, 116; Poems A3r; Playes 1662, 303, 441, 658. 130. Observations 1.124. 42 understandings of creatures appears in the convocation of the birdmen in the Blazing World. The birdmen are able to report on the celestial bodies, but unable to give an account of the substance of air because they only perceive it “by their own Respiration”: For, said they, some bodies are onely subject to touch, others onely to sight, and others onely to smell; but some are subject to none of our exterior Senses: For Nature is so full of variety, that our weak Senses cannot perceive all the various sorts of her Creatures; neither is there any one object perceptible by all our Senses, no more then several objects are by one sense.131 Nature, like God, defies creaturely comprehension to such a degree that when the Empress, who has found her self whisked into the fantastic lands of the Blazing World, learns of the gum which dissolved in oil and taken as medicine “could renew old Age, and render it beautiful, vigorous and strong,” she “did not so much scruple at it; for she knew that Nature’s Works are so various and wonderful that no particular Creature is able to trace her ways.”132 The natural emergence of a technology sought for by Renaissance alchemists is simply a matter of course. When the fictional Duchess creates an imagined world according to the precepts of Cavendish’s own natural philosophy, this world “appear’d so curious and full of variety, so well order’d and wisely govern’d, that it cannot possibly be expressed by words, nor the delight and pleasure which the Duchess took in making this World-of-her-own.”133 Here the Duchess’s delight and pleasure parallel those of Nature, who similarly rejoices in the aesthetics of her creations. Nature’s transcendence of creaturely sense and reason is a refrain particularly in the 131. Blazing World 22-23. 132. Blazing World 51. 133. Blazing World 100-101. 43 Philosophical Letters where it appears at the end of several of the letters and functions almost as a blessing or a statement of worship like Saint John’s parting comment in his gospel: “and there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”134 Thus Cavendish writes to her imagined correspondent at the end of one letter, In short, there is so much variety in Nature, proceeding from the self-motion of Matter, as not possible to be numbred, nor thorowly known by any Creature: Wherefore I should labour in vain, if I endeavoured to express any more thereof; and this is the cause that I break off here, and onely subscribe my self, MADAM, Your faithful Friend and Servant.135 At the end of another letter, she writes, But the curiosity and variety in Nature is unconceivable by any particular Creature; and so leaving it, I rest, MADAM, Your faithful Friend and Servant.136 At the end of a third letter, . . . for her [Nature’s] actions are all easie and free, yet so subtil, curious and various, as not any part or creature of Nature can exactly or throughly trace her ways, or know her wisdom. And thus leaving her, I rest, MADAM, Your faithful Friend and Servant.137 The occurrence of these statements at the conclusions of the letters or at important junctures within them is in part an expression of Cavendish’s embracing of a discourse of Erasmian 134. John 21:25, 1611 Authorized Version. 135. Philosophical Letters 200. 136. Philosophical Letters 360. 137. Philosophical Letters 476-77. 44 copia,138 but it is equally an almost liturgical profession of awe at the beauty of Nature. 1.4 Eternity and Time Variety like that in musical divisions not only characterizes Cavendish’s cosmos, but constitutes it as well. This is because in her philosophy, variety constitutes time. Cavendish’s concept of time emerges against the backdrop of her understanding of eternity. The first level on which eternity exists for Cavendish is that of the divine. Consider the mystic vision of the divine light presented in Poems, and Fancies: This Light had no Dimension, nor Extent, But fil’d all places full, without Circumvent; Alwaies in Motion, yet fixt did prove, Like to the Twinkling Stars which never move. This Motion working, running severall waies, Did seeme a Contradiction for to raise; ............................... Yet at the last, all several Motions run Into the first Prime Motion which begun. In various Formes and Shapes did Life run through, Life from Eternity, but Shapes still new; No sooner made, but quickly pass’d away, Yet while they were, desirous were to stay. ................................ Not like to several Lines drawne to one Point, For what doth meet, may separate, disjoynt. But this a Point, from whence all Lines do flow, Nought can diminish it, or make it grow. Tis its owne Center, and Circumference round, Yet neither has a Limit, nor a Bound. A fixt Eternity, and so will last, All present is, nothing to come, or past. 138. For a discussion of Cavendish in relation to copia see Deborah Taylor Bazeley, “An Early Challenge to the Precepts and Practice of Modern Science: The Fusion of Fact, Fiction, and Feminism in the Works of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1623-1673),” diss., U of California, San Diego, 1990, 143-46. 45 A fixt Perfection nothing can add more, All things is It, and It selfe adore.139 The “fixt Eternity” is the Being without beginning or end, and Being without succession, of the traditional Christian notion of God’s Eternal Now. The fixed point of the Eternal Now radiates continually, and this radiation is the creation of Nature and natural eternity. The “first Prime Motion” suggests a beginning point to Nature. However, Cavendish writes in the Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, “In Infinite and Eternity there is neither first nor last, and therefore Aristotle cannot understand a first mover of Time; and as for motion it self, if all parts move of themselves, as I said before, there is no necessity of an exterior or first Mover.”140 The choice of “Motion” over the conventional “Mover” in the poem is judicious, and that motion is “first” and “Prime” only in terms of a causal hierarchy, not in terms of time.141 The fixed Eternity has always radiated continuously, creating the world and establishing a second level of eternity: that of Nature. Cavendish is adamant throughout her career that Nature has neither beginning nor end. The opening statement of the Philosophicall Fancies reads, “There is no first Matter, nor first Motion; for matter and motion are infinite, and being infinite, must consequently be Eternall.”142 The array of possibility presented by infinite matter and motion necessitates their eternal existence. Natural eternity, existing as it does at the intersection of the divine and of time, is unlike the former but like the latter 139. Poems 40-1. Compare as well the chapter on “The diatical Centers” in Opinions 1655, 172. 140. Observations 3.34-35. 141. Of course, Cavendish may also be engaged in re-interpreting her original positions in light of the increasingly defined ideas that she achieved over the course of her career. 142. Fancies 1653, 1. 46 characterized by succession.143 Nevertheless, it must not be equated with time, for “Eternity depends not on Motion, but of a Being without Beginning, or Ending.”144 Being, not Becoming, characterizes even natural eternity. The relationship between divine eternity, eternal Nature and time in Cavendish’s philosophy bears some similarity to Platonic and Helmontian thought. Cavendish would have read in Stanley’s account of Plato, “Time is an interval of the motion of the World, as an image of eternity, which is the measure of the state of the eternal World.” In Timaeus the Locrian’s “Of the Soul of the World, and of Nature,” she would have read, “This time is the image of that which is ingenerate, called Eternity: for as this Universe was formed after the eternal exemplar of the Ideal World, so was this time ordained together with the World after its pattern, Eternity.”145 Cavendish shares with Platonism the notion that some kind of expression or representation of Eternity, of Being, provides the backdrop against which time unfolds. J. B. Van Helmont reasons that “eternal Duration is Time in created things,” and observes “Time to be in the thrice glorious God, Eminently and Essentially, but in the Creature, Dependently, Subjectively, and from an issuing forth to without, participatively.”146 Although Cavendish objects to what she reads as an equation of time with eternity in Van Helmont,147 she presents a very similar notion of the divine radiating its virtues, including its eternity, into Nature. 143. See Picture 1671, 550. 144. Grounds 16. 145. Stanley 188, 567. 146. John Baptista Van Helmont, “Of Time,” Van Helmont’s Works, trans. John Chandler (London, 1664) 638, 639. 147. Philosophical Letters 304. 47 When she addresses the characteristics of time itself, Cavendish presents her reader with a series of paradoxes. Even though there is succession in eternal Nature, In Nature there is no such thing, as Number, or Quantity; for Number, & Quantity have only reference to division: neither is there any such thing as Time in Eternity; for Time hath no reference but to the Present, if there be any such thing as Present.148 Natural eternity as a whole is not characterized by time. Even the notion of the present is in doubt, perhaps because the continuity of eternity paradoxically implies the possibility of infinitesimal division and thus the infinite diminution and consequent disintegration of Now. Two years later, Cavendish writes that some natural processes are almost inconceivably slow, “for there is no account, nor time in nature infinite.”149 Time as account, measure or number is not natural. It is a technique, an art characteristic only of human reason. In her mature philosophy Cavendish asserts, all is but one thing, that is, a part of Matter moving variously; for there is neither Magnitude, Place, Figure, nor Motion, in Nature, but what is Matter, or Body; Neither is there any such thing as Time: Wherefore it cannot properly be said, There was, and There shall be; but onely, There is.150 Although a succession of material changes may be observed in Nature, the past and future do not have independent ontological status. Only natural eternity, the natural Now, possesses this. Cavendish’s idea that past and future can only be spoken of subjectively and not as absolute philosophical truths reflects the theories of Aristotle and Thomas Hobbes. According 148. Fancies 4. My interpretation of this passages assumes that Cavendish is holding to her word, “I speak not here of Deiaticall Infinites, but of grosse Infinites, such, as Philosophers call Chaos” (Fancies B8v). 149. Opinions 1655, 40. 150. Philosophical Letters 51. 48 to Stanley, Aristotle held that “Time being a numerate number, exists not without a numerant, which is the Soul.”151 Hobbes writes, “TIME is the Phantasme of Before and After in Motion; which agrees with this Definition of Aristotle, Time is the Number of Motion according to Former and Later; for that Numbring is an act of the Mind.”152 With regard to time as a human measuring technique, Cavendish agrees altogether with the Hobbesian and Aristotelian notion of its subjectivity, but with regards to natural eternity she does not: Your Authour says, That things Present onely have a being in Nature, things Past onely a being in the Memory, but things to come have no being at all; Which how it possibly can be, I am not able to conceive; for certainly, if nothing in nature is lost or annihilated, what is past, and what is to come, hath as well a being, as what is present.153 Natural eternity exists objectively. Any segment of it contains within itself the essential Being of all events and things past and future. Natural eternity and doctrines of the conservation of matter, motion and shape guarantee the significance, if not the independent reality, of past and future. Cavendish firmly rejects contemporary opinions that attribute monolithic and unitary characteristics to time. In response to Van Helmont who understands “Time not to be tied up to Place, not to a Body, lastly, not to Motion; but to be a Being separated from the same,”154 she writes, I am not of your Authors opinion, That Time hath no relation to Motion . . . . For, in my opinion, there can be no such thing as Time in Nature, but what Man calls Time, is onely the variation of natural motions; wherefore Time, and 151. Stanley 374. 152. Thomas Hobbes, Elements of Philosophy (London, 1656) 70. 153. Philosophical Letters 34. 154. Van Helmont 634. 49 the alteration of motion, is one and the same thing under two different names; and as Matter, Figure, and Motion are inseparable, so is Time inseparably united, or rather the same thing with them, and not a thing subsisting by it self.155 Time is as multiple and diverse as the moving subjects in which it inheres. In reply to Walter Charleton, for whom time “seems to be the Twin-brother of Space, devoyd of all relation to Corporiety, and absolutely independent on the Existence of any Nature whatever,”156 Cavendish writes, [B]ut if Space be as much as Vacuum, then I say, they are Twin nothings; for there can be no such thing as an empty or immaterial space, but that which man calls space, is onely a distance betwixt several corporeal parts, and time is onely the variation of corporeal motions . . . Neither are Time, Duration, Place, Space, Magnitude, &c. dependents upon corporeal motions, but they are all one and the same thing.157 Instead of the monolithic understandings of time advanced by these philosophers Cavendish advances a concept of time as manifold. Van Helmont reasons, [I]f Time doth inhere in all particular things, as an accident or concomitant; truly besides innumerable Absurdities, there shall be even as many diverse Times, as there are atomes of things: And whosoever doth now subsist at once in the same Duration, shall have as many diverse Essences and Existences of Durations, and Time shall be actually divided into an Infinite.158 Cavendish replies, “To my Reason, there are as many times and durations as there are motions; for neither time nor duration can be separated from motion, no more then motion can be separated from them, being all one.”159 For Cavendish, time only exists in terms of what 155. Philosophical Letters 303. 156. Walter Charleton, Physiologa Epicuro-Gassendo-Charltoniana: Or a Fabrick of Science Natural, Upon the Hypothesis of Atoms (London, 1654) 73. 157. Philosophical Letters 454-55. 158. Van Helmont 641. 159. Philosophical Letters 304. 50 might be called “biological time,”the rhythms of biological development, but because her philosophy is vitalist, biological time pervades the entire cosmos. She explains that she agrees not with Van Helmont, but with Solomon, “who says, that there is a time to be merry, and a time to be sad; a time to mourn, and a time to rejoyce, and so forth: making so many divisions of Time as there are natural actions.”160 There is no objectively existing unified time in Cavendish’s world, and this is precisely the point that makes time another of the musical aspects of her cosmos. It is important to recognize that Cavendish does not simply equate time with motion. On the contrary, she repeatedly defines time as “the variation of corporeal motions”161; time is not motion, instead, time is variation of motion. She expands on the definition as follows: But when I say, Time is the variation of motion, I do not mean the motion of the Sun or Moon, which makes Days, Months, Years, but the general motions or actions of Nature, which are the ground of Time; for were there no Motion, there would be no Time; and since Matter is dividable, and in parts, Time is so too. . . . Wherefore your Author is mistaken, when he says, Motion is made in Time, for Motion makes Time, or rather is one and the same with Time.162 The ground of time is “the general motions or actions of Nature.” The breaking of this ground, its variation through many subtly different repetitions, constitutes the time that is always divided into multiple different times that spread outwards both in series and in parallel. Time, for Cavendish, is like a collection of consorts which are improvising divisions upon their own respective grounds. In the moment when one variation of the ground ends and a new one 160. Philosophical Letters 304-5. 161. Philosophical Letters 454. Cf. Picture 1671, 549; Opinions 1655, 29, 37; Philosophical Letters 203, 303, 304, 454, 514, 529; Grounds 16; Opinions 1663, d3v, 7, 74. 162. Philosophical Letters 304. 51 begins, or in the moment when a single consort divides into multiple distinct acts of improvisation, natural time occurs. 1.5 Declamatory Song and Nature In the English early Baroque period, the disciplines of music, rhetoric and poetry were closely intertwined through the concepts of affect and prosody. Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria, one of the most influential classical works on rhetoric during the early modern period,163 strongly influenced the development of Baroque musical styles. Concerning the emergence of “musical mannerism”on the continent, a phenomenon which repeated itself in England during the mid- to late-seventeenth century, Claude Palisca explains that “there is hardly an author on music in the last half of the sixteenth century who does not dip into Quintilian’s Institutio oratoria. It was one of the first printed books containing a discussion of music. . . . It spread the idea that music is closely allied to oratory and that, like oratory, it has the function of moving listeners to various passions.”164 Quintilian envisions music and poetry as essential to an ideal orator’s education. For him, just as for Cavendish who calls it the “language of the Gods,” music is united with the knowledge even of things divine. If this be admitted, music will be a necessity even for an orator, since those fields of knowledge, which were annexed by philosophy on their abandonment by oratory, once were ours and without the knowledge of all such things there can be no perfect 163. For Quintilian’s importance in the period, see Lee A. Sonnino, introduction, A Handbook to Sixteenth-Century Rhetoric (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968) 1-14; Dietrich Bartel, Musica Poetica: Musical-Rhetorical Figures in German Baroque Music (Lincoln, NE: U of Nebraska P, 1997) 39, and the many more references throughout. 164. Claude V. Palisca, “Ut Oratoria Musica: The Rhetorical Basis of Musical Mannerism,” The Meaning of Mannerism (Hanover, NH: UP of New England, 1972) 39. 52 eloquence.165 He continues by indicating the relationship of music to Pythagoras’s and Plato’s natural philosophies. Aside from the fact that a knowledge of music provides an orator with access to large bodies of thought, an education in music and poetry is essential to him because his discipline is an outgrowth of those disciplines. Originally, “the roles of musician, poet and philosopher” were one in mythical figures such as Orpheus and Linus,166 and “the art of letters [grammaticae] and that of music were once united: indeed Archytas and Euenus held that the former was subordinate to the latter.”167 Moreover, “poetry is song and poets claim to be singers,”168 and two of the most important aspects of the arts of music and poetry–prosodic structure and the capacity to move the emotions of an audience–are equally important to rhetoric. According to Quintilian, the musical theory of rhythm [musica ratio numerorum] determines the value of metrical feet no less for dancing than for tunes. Again, do we not [as orators] adapt our voice and gesture to the nature of the themes on which we are speaking? There is, therefore, all the less reason for wonder that the same is true of the feet employed in prose.169 In words that come to relate to the early modern development of the “affect theory of music,” Quintilian notes, It is by raising, lowering or inflexion of the voice that the orator stirs the emotions of his hearers, and the measure [modulatione], if I may repeat the term, of voice or phrase differs as we wish to rouse the indignation or the pity 165. Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, trans. H. E. Butler, The Loeb Classical Lib. 124-27, 4 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1969) 1.10.10. 166. Quintilian 1.10.9. 167. Quintilian 1.10.17. 168. Quintilian 1.8.2. 169. Quintilian 9.4.139. 53 of the judge. For, as we know, different emotions are roused even by the various musical instruments which are incapable of reproducing speech [quibus sermo exprimi non potest].170 Rhetoric, for Quintilian, and for many of his early modern readers, is inextricable from music and poetry. Seventeenth-century musical developments interwove themselves with the discipline of rhetoric through the conscious employment of rhetorical devices to the end of manipulating the emotions of the audience.171 Works treating of music in the time period, whether they are collections of songs or tunes, or theoretical discussions, often equate music with rhetoric. For example, in an epistle “To all Lovers of Harmony” at the beginning of a book that was first published in 1667 when Cavendish was still writing, Christopher Simpson exclaims, What Tropes and Figures can thy glory reach, That art thy self the Splendor of all Speech! Mysterious Musick!172 The concluding poem to one of John Playford’s mid-century collections of music that includes works by composers with whom the Newcastles were personally acquainted, similarly exclaims, “Musick miraculous Rhetorick! that speak’st Sence / Without a Tongue, excellent 170. Quintilian 1.10.25. 171. See, among other works, McD. Emslie, “Nicholas Lanier’s Innovations in English Song,” Music and Letters 41 (1960): 13-27; Eric Ford Hart, “Introduction to Henry Lawes [I],” Music and Letters 32 (1951): 217-55; Eric Ford Hart, “Introduction to Henry Lawes–II,” Music and Letters 32 (1951): 328-44; R. J. McGrady, “Henry Lawes and the Concept of Just Note and Accent,” Music and Letters 50 (1969): 86-102; Ian Spink, “English Cavalier Songs, 1620-1660,” Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, 86th Session (1959-1960): 61-78. See also W. George Buelow, “Figures, Theory of Musical,” Grove Music Online, 15 May 2006; Owen Jander and Tim Carter, “Declamation,” ibid.; Blake Wilson, George J. Buelow, and Peter A. Hoyt, “Rhetoric and Music,” ibid. Margaret Cavendish was well acquainted with this genre of music. 172. Christopher Simpson, Compendium B2r. 54 Eloquence.”173 Much earlier in the century, Francis Bacon, another author whom Margaret Cavendish read, observes in the Sylva Sylvarum, “There be in music certain figures or tropes, almost agreeing with the figures of rhetoric, and with the affections of the mind, and other senses.” He continues, The sliding from the close or cadence, hath an agreement with the figure in rhetoric which they call praeter expectum; . . . . The reports and fuges have an agreement with the figures in rhetoric of repetition and traduction. The triplas, and change of times, have an agreement with the changes of motions; as when galliard time and measure time are in the measure of one dance.174 For Simpson, Playford and Bacon, music functioned rhetorically. The employment of musical versions of rhetorical devices in both song and instrumental music presupposes a sympathy among music, the mind, and the social and natural world. From the beginning of the Civil War period, Cavendish’s contemporaries envision this sympathy allowing for some degree of healing in the individual, social and political spheres. Simpson writes, He that can Sett and Humour Notes aright, Will move the Soul to Sorrow, to Delight, To Courage, Courtesie, to Consolation, To Love, to Gravity, to Contemplation: It hath been known (by its magnetick motion) To raise Repentance, and advance Devotion. It works on all the Faculties, and why? The very Soul it self is Harmony.175 173. Playford, John, ed. Select Ayres and Dialogues for One, Two, and Three Voyces; to the Theorbo-Lute or Basse-Viol (London, 1659) 114. This work contains pieces by, among others, Henry Lawes and Nicholas Lanier. 174. Francis Bacon, Sylva sylvarum, The Works of Francis Bacon, ed. James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis and Douglas Denon Heath, New ed., vol. 2 (London: Longmans, 1870) 388-89. 175. Simpson, Compendium B2v. 55 For Simpson, the soul sympathizes with music because it is itself inherently musical. A poem that prefaces a 1648 collection of music by the brothers Henry and William Lawes similarly claims, Such numbers does the soul consiste of, where she Meeting a glance of her own harmonie; Moves to those sounds she heares; and goes along With the whole sense and passion of the song; So to an equall height, two strings being wound, This trembles with the others stroke; and th’sound Which stirr’d this first, the other does awake, And the same harmonie they both partake.176 The sympathy between music and the soul is the same phenomenon as that between musical strings tightened to proportional tensions. The effects of music are dependable because they are physical. Elsewhere, a commendatory poet dubs one of Henry Lawes’s books “The Mind’s Physitian.”177 This belief in the efficacy of music in rhetorical persuasion contributed to the flourishing of declamatory song during Cavendish’s lifetime. Cavendish’s own associations with declamatory song are considerable. Scholars of music history agree that the innovator of the style early in the century was Nicholas Lanier.178 A lyric poem (about the tortured mind of a lover during his beloved’s absence) by William Cavendish that was to be set by Lanier has been preserved, and Lanier also worked with William in devising a musical entertainment that the Cavendishes held for King Charles II and 176. Henry Lawes and William Lawes, Choice Psalmes Put into Musick, for Three Voices the Most of which May Properly Enough Be Sung by any Three, with a Thorough Base (London, 1648) a2v. 177. Henry Lawes, The Second Booke of Ayres, and Dialogues, for One, Two, and Three Voyces (London, 1655) b1v. 178. See Gordon Callon, ed. and trans., Nicholas Lanier: The Complete Works. Boethius Editions 11 (Hereford, Eng.: Severinus, 1994) ix; Emslie 25; Ian Spink, “English Cavalier Songs, 1620-1660,” 64; Spink, “Lanier: (2) Nicholas Lanier (ii),” Grove Music Online, 15 May 2006. 56 his court in Antwerp in 1658.179 The two most prominent and prolific composers who wrote in the declamatory style in the middle of the century were Henry and William Lawes. William Lawes set at least one song from William Cavendish’s second play, The Country Captain.180 Margaret Cavendish herself recounts that while she was attempting to compound for her exiled husband’s estate in London in the 1650s, she “went with [her] Lords Brother to hear Musick in one Mr. Lawes his House, three or four times.”181 This was Henry Lawes, who began to work at court in 1631. He set and published a poem entitled “Love and Loyalty” by Charles Lucas, a brother of Margaret Cavendish’s who was executed following the siege of Colchester,182 he collaborated with Milton on Comus, and with Davenant (with whom William Cavendish also collaborated on two of his plays) on several dramatic works,183 and he set music to the lyric poems of poets including Herrick, Carew, Lovelace, Birkenhead, Jonson, Cartwright and Waller.184 In Antwerp during the 1650s, Margaret Cavendish’s acquaintance with declamatory song would also have been fostered through her friendship with the Duarte family. In her biography of her husband she writes, “I desired one Mr. Duart a very worthy Gentleman . . . (to whom and his Sisters, all very Skillful in the Art of Musick, though for their own pastime and Recreation, both my Lord and my self were very much bound for their 179. Hulse, Lynn, intro. and ed., Dramatic Works by William Cavendish, Malone Society Reprints 158 (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996) xv; Whitaker 202, 221. 180. Hulse, “Apollo’s Whirligig” 230. 181. “True Relation” 54. 182. Henry Lawes, Ayres and Dialogues for One, Two, and Three Voyces (London, 1653) 25. 183. Ian Spink, “Lawes, Henry,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004-5, Oxford UP, 27 March 2005 <http://www.oxforddnb.com>. 184. Spink, “List of Works,” Henry Lawes: Cavalier Songwriter (New York: Oxford UP, 2000) 137-56. 57 great civilities) to be my Interpreter.”185 “Mr. Duart” is Diego Duarte, who set a number of poems by William.186 In a letter to “Eleonora Duarti” (Leonora Duarte) which suggests a close friendship between the two women and which was included in the CCXI Sociable Letters, Cavendish recounts her refusal to sing Diego’s settings of William’s poems during a visit with Leonora’s sisters on account of her inability to live up to the combined talent of the poet, the composer, and the usual singer, Leonora herself.187 This letter provides hints at Cavendish’s own understanding of the declamatory musical style. In her account of her refusal to sing, Cavendish explains, [I]f I should offer to Sing any of them, I should so much Disadvantage my Lord’s Poetical Wit, and your Brother’s Musical Composition, as the Fancy would be Obscured in the one, and the Art in the other, nay, instead of Musick, I should make Discord, and instead of Wit, Sing Nonsense, knowing not how to Humour the Words, nor Relish the Notes.188 Declamatory airs require “a Sweet Voice, with Quavers, and Trilloes”189 that knows how to “Humour the Words” or “Relish the Notes.” Other references in Cavendish’s works suggest that either she recognizes a distinction between the English declamatory style and the French and Italian styles of monody that may have contributed to its evolution, or she feels ambivalent about this kind of music. Lady Solitary, a character in The Comical Hash who frequently voices opinions that Cavendish elsewhere expresses, voices disdain for the style: Solitary. For my part, I had rather hear a plain old Song, than any 185. Life of William 87. 186. Unfortunately these settings have all been lost. Rudolph A Rasch, “Duarte, Leonora,” Grove Music Online, 16 May 2006. 187. Sociable Letters 427-28. 188. Sociable Letters 428. 189. Sociable Letters 428 58 Italian, or French Love Songs stuff’d with Trilloes. Censurer. That’s strange, when as in those Harmonious Songs the wisest Poets, and skillfull’st Musicians, are joyned to make up one Song, and the most excellent voices are chosen to sing them.190 In any case, the English style of declamatory settings of Cavalier poetry with which Cavendish was acquainted generally subordinate musical ornament to poetic content and structure, and it is in part by this means that this form of music becomes an apt metaphorical resource for Cavendish’s natural philosophy. In his “Introduction to Henry Lawes,” Eric Ford Hart identifies three “principles” in Lawes’s settings which were applied in the following order of importance: first, “the expression of his poet’s meaning;” second, “the reproduction of the metrical lilt and form of his poem;” and third, “the preservation of the natural speech-rhythms of his words.”191 Another historian of music writes that “The most important features of Caroline lyric poetry–at least from the musician’s point of view–are the emphasis laid upon argument and meaning, which in turn throws great importance upon individual words and grammatical constructions, and the interest shown in ordered poetic structures.”192 At the same time as rhythm and ornamentation illustrate meaning and reflect argument structure, changes in rhythm and melody reflect stanzaic form, and “the length of notes given to syllables” reflects metrical accent.193 Speech rhythms are acknowledged through careful attention to 190. Playes 1662, 574. Lady Solitary’s opinion may also be intended to imply a lack of social and cultural sophistication. 191. Hart, “Introduction to Henry Lawes–II” 331. 192. McGrady 87. 193. Pamela J. Willets, The Henry Lawes Manuscript (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1969) 13-14. 59 punctuation,194 but these “speech-rhythms are those of the orator, not of the conversationalist.”195 These characteristics of the declamatory style give birth to a contemporary set of critical terms. John Milton famously writes in his sonnet, “To my Friend Mr. Henry Lawes”: Harry, whose tunefull and well measur’d song First taught our English Music how to span Words with just note and accent, not to scan With Midas eares, committing short and long, ....................................... That with smooth Aire couldst humour best our tongue. Thou honour’st Verse, and Verse must lend her wing To honour thee, the Priest of Phoebus Quire, That tun’st their happiest Lines in hymne or story.196 Reflecting upon this poem, R. J. McGrady observes, “The terms ‘accent,’ ‘measured,’ ‘sense,’ etc. occur with such regularity in the commendatory poems of the period that it becomes apparent that Milton, in addition to expressing his own appreciation of Lawes’s music, is giving voice to a popular critical concept.”197 Cavendish alludes to the same concept 194. See the quotations in McGrady 89. 195. Hart, “Introduction to Henry Lawes–II” 341. 196. Henry Lawes and William Lawes A1v. 197. McGrady 88. The lexical confusion of poetic and musical terms in the seventeenth century means that poetry simply cannot be discussed but as an “Artem Musicam” [a musical art] that is “tunable and melodious as a kind of Musicke, and therfore may be tearmed a musicall speech or vtterance” (George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie (London, 1589) 5). This confusion is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the complexity of the usage of the term “accent” in the time period. In 1604, Robert Cawdrey, perhaps considering the term in relation to its usage in connection with the Greek language, defines “accent” as “tune, the rising or falling of the voice,” but he also gives “accent” as a definition for “tone.” That is, he connects accent both to the idea of variation of pitch across time, and to the idea of harmonic interval. Seven years later, Randle Cotgrave uses the word “accent” in relation to the diacritics in the French language, and thus in relation to the articulatory position of vowel sounds. By offering the definition of “accent” as “the raising, or letting fall, of the voice in pronunciation” (as opposed to the “rising, or letting fall”), he introduces the notion of volume into accent. Cotgrave also uses the term “accent” with regard to the speech of particular social groups or individuals. In the same year, John Florio alludes to the usage of the term 60 repeatedly in her work. Cavendish’s intellectual investment in this critical idea appears over and over again in her discussions of reading, in particular reading aloud. In an “Advertisement to the Reader” that appears both in the 1655 and 1671 editions of The Worlds Olio, Cavendish gives the reader directions on the pacing with which she would like her to read the book, and then she compares the effect of bad reading on a text with that of a bad musician who puts an instrument out of tune when he plays it.198 She goes on to complain, So some will read with one Tone or Sound of Voice, though the Passions and Numbers are different: and some again, in reading, wind up their Voices to such a passionate scrue, that they whine or squeal, rather than speak or read: others fold up their Voices with such distinctions, that they make that triangular, which is four-square; and that narrow, which should be broad; and that high, which should be low; and low, that should be high: and some again read so fast, that the Sense is lost in the Race.199 Reading aloud is a musical act where the content and prosody of the text should determine pitch, volume, timbre and rhythm. The ability to read aloud well is a musical talent that should “accent” in relation to Latin when he defines “prosodia” as “the arte of accenting or pronouncing words truly, long or [s]hort.” The fact that the early modern pronunciation of Latin accents appears to already have shifted from a distinction of vowel length to one of articulatory position only complicates this definition. Henry Cockeram, in his English Dictionary of 1623, defines “Accent” as “Tune” (difference in pitch), “Accent in tune” as “Tone, Sumphonie” (harmonic interval, general harmoniousness), and “Accent in words” as “Euphonie” (a lack of harshness of sounds, the spoken equivalent of “Sumphonie”). In 1656, Thomas Blount introduces the more general definition of “accent” as “the due sound over any word or letter,” and he also introduces the use of “accent” in the sense of “stress” in connection to the use of enclitics in Latin morphology. Thus by the middle of the century, by the time that Margaret Cavendish is writing, the definition of “accent” has snowballed in such a way that if prosody is, as Elisha Coles writes in 1676, “the Art of accenting aright,” it involves length, pitch variation, intonation patterns, stress, articulatory position and euphony, among other things. See Lexicons of Early Modern English, ed. Ian Lancashire, 2007, U of Toronto Library and U of Toronto P, 4 Jan. 2007 <leme.library.utoronto.ca>. 198. Olio 1671, c1v. 199. Olio c2r. 61 accompany poetic and rhetorical talent in an ideal Cavalier gentleman. In the CCXI Sociable Letters, Cavendish writes, I hear a Man who was a Great Scholar, and Learned Man, having Read much, and one that Pretended to be a Good Poet, and Eloquent Orator, Read Mr W. Ns. Excellent Works quite out of Tune and Time, neither Humouring the Sense nor Words, but alwayes persisting in the same Tune, which was Dull, and Flat, and made my Sense or Hearing as Dull as his Reading.200 She then presents the contrasting example of her husband’s skill in reading: I know my Husband Reads so Well, that he is like Skilful Masters of Musick, which can Sing and Play their Parts at the first Sight, so my Husband at the first Reading will so Humor the Sense and Words of the Work, as if he himself had Made, and Writ it, nay, I have heard him read some Works, that have been but Mean and Plain Pieces, so Well, as to give a Grace to the Author, and to make his Work Sound Harmoniously, like as an Ill Instrument Well Played on, whereas others put Rare Instruments out of Tune.201 Like declamatory song, reading aloud involves both “Tune and Time;” it involves a melody made of pitch contours and prosody or rhythm. Interestingly, the relevant definitions of the verb “to humour” in the Oxford English Dictionary range from “To comply with the peculiar nature or exigencies of (something) . . . ; to fit, suit (with something),” to “To imitate a person’s humour,” and finally, and supported by a 1653 quotation from Isaac Walton concerning a song-writer’s authorship of lyrics, “To give a particular character or style to.”202 To “Humor the Sense and Words of the Work,” therefore, is not only to read in a manner suitable to the semantic and syntactic structures of the text as well as to its more specific 200. Sociable Letters 362. “W. N.” is presumably William Newcastle. When Cavendish later on the same page recounts that her husband says that the best reader he has ever heard is one “B. J.,” I suspect that the allusion is to Ben Jonson, particularly given Katie Whitaker’s report of a twenty-year close friendship between the two men (Whitaker 65). 201. Sociable Letters 363. 202. “Humour, humor v.,” Def. 2, 4, 5a, OED Online, 29 Sept. 2007. 62 diction and use of rhetorical device, but also to imitate and perform the content of the piece according to a particular style. Cavendish’s interest in the concept of “just note and accent” further surfaces in her many references to the musical nature of poetry. In “The Dialogue of the Wise Lady, the Learned Lady, and the Witty Lady,” the Witty Lady states, “In Poetry is included Musick and Rhetorick.”203 In a letter concerning a visit to “Mrs D. Us. house” and the music heard there, the narrator of the CCXI Sociable Letters exclaims, [I]n my Opinion, there is no Musick so Sweet, and Powerful as Oratory, for Sweet Words are better than a Sweet Sound, and when they are Joyned together, it Ravishes the Soul; wherefore Lyrick Poetry hath Advantage of all other Poetry, because both Sound and Sense are Harmonious, . . . Certainly, there is as much Oratory in Elegant Verse as in Elegant Prose. . . . [W]ho can Perswade more Powerfully than Poets?204 Lyric poetry, the kind of poetry set in declamatory song, is the height of both rhetoric and music. The connection between music and lyric verse appears in Cavendish’s allegorical “Banquet of Wit”205 where there is “A Dish of Songs, brought by the Lyricks” that “was very Delicious Meat, and had a most Sweet Relish” and “was Dress’d with a Compounded Sawce of many several Airs, Notes, and Strains.”206 The “Sweet Relish” bespeaks the idea of 203. Picture 1671, 312. 204. The letters in CCXI Sociable Letters have various degrees of fiction in their content. Some are letters that Cavendish actually sent to friends (for example the one to Leonora Duarte from which I quoted earlier), but others may contain initials that are connected to real people and events that may or may not have taken place, and still others appear to be altogether fictional. “Mrs. D.U.” in this passage may be Leonora Duarte, or a fictional personage whom Cavendish associates with her. Note that Cavendish’s statements concerning the degree to which poetry is persuasive vary considerably. For a statement that denies the poetry is rhetorically persuasive, see Olio 1671, 230. 205. Sociable Letters 417. 206. Sociable Letters 419. 63 “relishing the notes” and the whole concept of “just note and accent” in declamatory song. The close association of music with lyric poetry again comes to the fore in a jibe that Cavendish thrusts towards the courtly love motif in declamatory song. She observes that “in the Springtime of Love, the Nightingale-Poets sing Amorous Sonnets in several Notes of Numbers, sometimes in the Dawny Morning of Hopes or in the Evening of Doubts, and sometimes in the Night of Despair, but seldom in the high-noon of Fruition.”207 The phrase “Notes of Numbers” suggests a conflation of prosody with musical rhythm. This conflation appears once again when Cavendish attributes the affective power of music and poetry to “Numbers,” writing, “Thus it is not the Wit or Sense of things [musical or poetic] which moves Passion or Delight, but the Numbers; for Notes which are set, and Numbers that are measured, shall move the Passions as the Musician or Poet pleaseth.”208 Cavendish repeatedly and extensively theorizes the capacity of declamatory song, and of music in all of its forms, to affect the human passions. The stationer’s epistle to the reader at the beginning of Descartes’s Compendium of Musick describes music as a subject “wherewith the Rationall Soule of Man is so Pathetically, and by a kinde of occult Magnetisme, Affected, that even the most Rigid and Barbarous have ever Confest it to be the most potent Charme either to Excite, or Compose the most vehement Passions thereof,” and it speaks of “the Medico-magical Virtues of Harmonious Notes (instanced in the Cure of Sauls Melancholy fitts, and of the prodigious Venome of the Tarantula, &c.).”209 Cavendish writes 207. Olio 1671, 220. 208. Olio 1671, 49. 209. Descartes, Compendium a3r-v, b1v. 64 of the connection of music to mental well-being: There is great reason why Musick should cure madnesse; for this sort of madnesse is no other but the spirits that are in the brain and heart put out of their natural motion, and the spirits having a natural sympathy with Musick, may be composed into their right order; but it must be such Musick, as the number of the notes must goe in such order as the natural motion of the brain, though every brain hath not one and the same motion, but are set like notes to several tunes: wherefore if it were possible, to set notes to the natural motion of the heart, or that brain that is distempered, it might be perfectly cured, but as some notes do compose the brain by a sympathy to the natural motion, so others do make a discord or antipathy, and discompose it, putting the natural motions out of tune.210 There is sympathy between the rational spirits and music. The “order” of the “number of notes,” its “tune,” elicits a kind of imitation from the “tune” of the brain matter. The idea that individuals’ brains should be set to different “tunes” relates to the Galenic theory of the humours and the resulting human temperaments. Charles Butler, another one of Cavendish’s contemporaries, opens his introductory treatise on music with the statement, “MUSICK is the Art of modulating Notes in voice or instrument. The which, having a great power over the affections of the mind, by its various Modes produces in the hearers various effects.”211 Butler proceeds to give an account of the conventional expressive associations of the Doric, Lydian, Aeolic, Phrygian and Ionic modes. “Tune” did not only mean “melody” in this era; among its several other meanings was “mode.”212 Cavendish therefore may mean that people’s minds are set to specific modes, and that for music to successfully operate as a healing technology it must work within the modal parameters set by the patient’s mind. 210. Opinions 1655, 139. 211. Charles Butler, The Principles of Musik (London, 1636) 1. I have transcribed the quotations from Butler from his quasi-phonetic alphabet into conventional spelling. 212. See the Lexicon of Early Modern English. 65 The idea of “patient” is key here. Dietrich Bartel has remarked upon the connection between the terms “affect” and “passion,” writing, “The original Greek term, pathos, was understood as an ailment or malady resulting in a passive condition of the person. The Latin translation of pathos, affectus is rooted in the verb adficere, meaning to work upon, influence, affect.”213 Cavendish emphasizes the passivity of hearers influenced by rhetoric (and therefore by rhetorical music) in a simile reminiscent of an exchange between Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: “But you Orators (said she) are like those that are skilful in playing on a Flute, or Cornet; where the Ears of the Auditors are the holes; and your Tongues, or words, as the Fingers, do make the stops; your Breath gives the sound, and your Wit, your Learning, are the Ayres and Musical Ditties that move their Passions, or rather their Passion: for indeed, there is but one Passion in Nature, or at least in an Animal Figure; which Passion changes into several Forms, according to the several subjects or objects it is placed upon.214 In a gesture parallel to the lists of modes and their affective qualities and influences offered in contemporary treatises of music, Cavendish lists eight different categories of affective qualities of music,215 distinguishing between the categories by means of many different aspects of music including tonality, pitch, volume, melody, rhythm and pace. Her categories do not quite match with those of any other writers on music from her time that I have read, and they presumably derive in part from her own experience of music. She calls her categories “the grounds of musical discourses, or discourses in musick.”216 In the play The Female Academy, one of the characters speaks of “a skilfull and ingenious Musician, which discoursed of a story 213. Bartel 31. 214. Picture 1671, 632. 215. Opinions 1655, 167-69. 216. Opinions 1655, 168. 66 of his Travels, in his playing on a Musical Instrument, namely, the Harpsical.”217 This new “kind, or sort of discoursing, which is hardly learn’d as yet, because newly invented”218 simply transfers the affect theory of music from the more obviously rhetorical context of declamatory song to instrumental music. This transfer makes music a form of discourse, a language, in its own right. The foremost characteristic of declamatory song is the foregrounding of the expression of meaning through attention to the argument structure of the poem set to the music, and the use of the musical counterparts of rhetorical figures to this end. There is a similar foregrounding of the expression of meaning in Cavendish’s natural world–expression in the etymological sense of a pressing outwards, of a flow of meaning, knowledge or intelligence as opposed to a dualistic structure of representation, of sign and thing. To understand how this process of expression works in the macrocosm, the psychology of the microcosm must first be understood. In the Philosophicall Fancies Cavendish writes, Imagine the rationall Essence, or Spirits, like little spherical Bodies of Quicksilver several ways placing themselves in several Figures, sometimes moving in measure, and in order, and sometimes out of order: this Quick-silver to be the Minde, and their severall postures made by Motion, the Passions, and Affections; or all that is moving in a Minde.219 The figures made by the rational matter both constitute and express passions and affections,220 as well as all other kinds of thought. It is only when the mind tries to conceive of the 217. Playes 1662, 666. 218. Playes 1662, 666. 219. Fancies 38-39. 220. Cf. the remark in the epilogue to the Blazing World, where Cavendish imagines having created a different fictional world where “the Rational figures of my Mind might express as much courage to fight, as Hector and Achilles had” (160). 67 inexpressible and inconceivable that instead of a natural flow, expression takes the dualistic form of representation: [F]or when the mind or rational matter conceives any thing that hath not such an exact figure, or is not so perceptible by our senses; then the mind uses art, and makes such figures, which stand like to that; as for example, to express infinite to it self, it dilates it[s] parts without alteration, and without limitation or circumference; Likewise, when it will conceive a constant succession of Time, it draws out its parts into the figure of a line; and if eternity, it figures a line without beginning and end.221 Figures which “stand like to” something else–analogies, models–only appear when the natural flow into the end figure is stopped. When the flow of the rational spirits does work, however, “their motion and figures are like the sound of Musick.”222 On account of the ubiquity of rational matter in Cavendish’s cosmos, expression within the psychology of the microcosm provides the pattern for expression across its boundaries and between all manner of creatures in the world. In the Philosophical Letters, Cavendish critiques a selection of passages from Descartes’s Discourse of a Method. Descartes claims not only “that Beasts have lesse reason than men, but that they have none at all,”223 and offers the example, “that Pyes and Parrots can utter words even as we can, and yet cannot speak like us; that is to say, with evidence that they think what they say.”224 Cavendish calls into question the idea that “one man expressing his mind by speech or words to another” is evidence of a specifically human faculty of reasoning by claiming that most human speech 221. Philosophical Letters 69. 222. Fancies 40. 223. René Descartes, A Discourse of a Method for the Well Guiding of Reason, and the Discovery of Truth in the Sciences (London, 1649) 94. 224. Descartes, Discourse of a Method 93. 68 is itself grounded in ignorance or folly.225 Her point is that the human capacity to speak is really no different from the parrot or magpie’s capacity to speak, that humans express themselves “onely by the disposition of their organs”226 just as Descartes claims animals do. In the context of a belief in a vital and thinking matter, however, to express oneself merely “by the disposition” of matter does not necessarily preclude acting according to knowledge. Consequently, Cavendish argues that the “perceptions and observations” of animals may be “as wise as Men’s, and they may have as much intelligence and commerce betwixt each other, after their own manner and way, as men have after theirs.”227 Later in the Philosophical Letters, in response to Henry More’s mockery of animism, she responds that most parts of Nature find speech altogether unnecessary, that “nature hath infinite more ways to express knowledg then man can imagine,” that “the several parts of Matter have a more easie way of communication, then Mans head hath with his hand, or his hand with pen, ink, and paper, when he is going to write.”228 In the same way that the mind’s motions proceed into the “sensitive” motions of the muscles and then into the “figures” of the letters, words and rhetoric on a piece of paper, in the same way that the motions of the minds of bees proceed into the “sensitive” actions that result in the figure of a cooperatively produced honeycomb, so, but on a much more refined and subtle level, the motions of particles of rational matter express to the sensitive matter the figures which the sensitive 225. Philosophical Letters 113. 226. Descartes, Discourse of a Method 92. 227. Philosophical Letters 114. 228. Philosophical Letters 151, 152. 69 matter in turn expresses through the creation of, for example, a single honeybee.229 Matter expresses itself in its creations; natural processes are a flow of information. In declamatory song, in addition to the emphasis on expression there is a preoccupation with preserving the metrical lilt of the poetry at its core. In “A Waking Oration” to students that praises the contemplative and poetical worlds over the worlds experienced in dreams, Cavendish’s orator claims, “[A]nd as for the Poetical World, it is the most Splendorous World that is, for it is Composed of all Curiosities, Excellencies, Varieties, Numbers, and Unities.”230 In Cavendish’s natural philosophy, this “poetical world” expands to include the entire objectively existing cosmos. I have already discussed the curiosities, varieties and unities of the cosmos, but its numbers, its prosodic and musical structure, merit more attention. The prosodic structure of the natural world surfaces primarily in the conflation of musical and poetic terms in descriptions of the rational matter. In the microcosm, “this Rational matter,” Cavendish writes, “moves not as the Sensitive doth, upon the Inanimate matter, but moves by it Self, and in it Self, in Measure, Number, and Figure.”231 In the Philosophicall Fancies she teaches, These Rationall Spirits, as I may call them, worke not upon dull Matter, as Sensitive Spirits do; but only move in measure, and number, which make Figures; which Figures are Thoughts, as Memory, Understanding, Imaginations, or Fancy, and Remembrance, and Will. Thus these Spirits moving in measure, casting, and placing themselves 229. These examples are all taken from Philosophical Letters 153. 230. Orations 301. 231. Opinions 1663, 43. 70 into Figures make a Consort, and Harmony by Numbers.232 The purity of the rational spirits in the mind, and their tendency to move in regular patterns within a closed system of their own is reminiscent of the Pythagorean harmonies of the celestial motions and of the disconnection between that music and the inhabitants of the sublunary world. In Cavendish, however, the celestial harmonies are located first and foremost within the human mind itself. Disregarding for now the associations with dance in these passages, to move “in measure” may mean to move according to poetic metre, according to musical bar structure, according to musical time-signature, or according to the scale particular to a given mode.233 To move “in number” may mean to move according to the metrical units of poetry, but it may also mean to move according to the similar structures of music, or even to move in “Harmony” or “conformity, in verse or music, to a certain regular beat or measure.”234 The meanings of “figure,” that product of the motions in measure and number also multiply at this point. They may simply mean shape, but given the poetic and musical context, they may also refer to rhetorical figure in poetry and its musical counterparts in declamatory song. The rhythmic structure of the rational matter in human mind extends throughout all aspects of Cavendish’s animate Nature. It is in Nature as a whole that the other part of Animate matter [besides the sensitive], which is the Radical or Rational, is so pure and free, as it cannot be so painfull a Labourer as to work on the gross Unanimate matter, but moveth in numbers, measures, and figures 232. Fancies 30. 233. “Measure, n.,” Def. 16a, 17c, 17a, 17b, OED Online, 29 Sept. 2007. 234. “Number, n.,” Def. 17a, 17b, 14a, OED Online, 29 Sept. 2007. 71 in its own degree of matter.235 The change in motions of the rational matter, for example, may preserve the life or cause the death of an animal, and both the purity and minuteness of this degree of matter, together with its tendency to operate self-reflexively as if it occupied a closed physical system, explains how animals can die without exhibiting obvious physical changes.236 The musical and prosodic qualities of the rational matter provide a rhetorical point of ingress for the theory of “just note and accent” in declamatory song in Cavendish’s physics. One passage crucial in this respect follows upon a description of the rational spirits producing passions in the human mind: [B]esides, their motion and figures are like the sound of Musick; though the Notes differ, the cords agree to make a harmony: so several Symmetries make a perfect Figure, several Figures make a just number, and severall quantities or proportions make a just weight, and several Lines make an even measure: thus equall may be made out of Divisions eternally, and infinitely.237 The passage describes the patterns that the rational matter makes in space, but if the motion and figures are like music, then the “perfect figure” is rhetorical in nature, and several such figures constitute “a just number,” a metrically appropriate line. Severall “quantities or proportions” could refer to syllable quantity or note length, to prosodic feet or to bar length. The “just weight” is again that rhythmically apt line, and several such lines constitute “an even measure,” an aptly paced song. The capacity for equality, for harmony, in Cavendish’s cosmos emerges through its 235. Opinions 1663, 3. 236. Fancies 64. 237. Fancies 40. Cf. Opinions 1655, 16. 72 prosodic tendencies. Within the human mind, when the rationall innate matter moves in a regular division, and the measures of time, and the notes of the motions skilfully set, and rightly kept, that is curiously or neatly, and carefully ordered; then there is a harmony, which harmony is a quiet minde, gentle imaginations, a clear understanding, a solid judgment, elevated fancies, and ready memory.238 The skillful setting and right keeping of notes so as to express the positive feelings that such rhythms literally convey in the materialist psychology is to enact the expression of meaning through “just note and accent.” The prosodic behavior of the rational matter determines physical well-being as well: A healthful temper of the body, is an equal temper of the body, and mixture of humor, well set parts, and justly tuned motions, whereby life dances the true measure of health, making several figures, and changes with the feet of times.239 Furthermore, “A healthful temper of the body” occurs “when the quantity of matter, or humour is proportionable, and the motion moves equally, for though every kind or sort of motion may move evenly, and keep just time, yet not equally or harmoniously.”240 Cavendish even sees the prosodic dimensions of the world, Nature’s “exact rules in the various generations, the distinct kinds and sorts, the several exact measures, times, proportions and motions of all her Creatures,” as Nature’s means of “expressing” her wisdom.241 There is a flow of expression that moves through the patterns of cosmic musical and prosodic structure. 238. Opinions 1655, 107. 239. Opinions 1655, 157. 240. Opinions 1655, 155. 241. Philosophical Letters 174. 73 1.6 Sympathy The affect theory of music which underpins declamatory song is one manifestation of the physical process of sympathy which occurs throughout Cavendish’s cosmos. The very rhetorical persuasive influence of music on the mind is such a privileged example of sympathy in Cavendish’s works, however, that it can be taken as a model for the process in general. The privileging of this model already shows itself through its connection to the bases which cosmic processes of sympathy presuppose. The primary basis of sympathy is likeness between things. As Sir Effeminate Lovely comically says to Poor Virtue in one of Cavendish’s plays, “‘Tis said there is a Sympathy in likeness; if so, you and I should love each other, for we are both beautiful.”242 In a world with particles of rational matter moving in number and measure in all things including those which are not conspicuously animate, there is a shared manner of performance or expression that enables the process of sympathy. On top of this common substratum, just as some minds are more attuned to certain musical modes than others, so there are many other dimensions of likeness between categories, such as those between degrees of matter, between shapes, and between motions. Any of these can be a basis for sympathy as long as a second prerequisite is met: sympathy presupposes some additional form of connection between objects. Cavendish teaches that influence (for her by the time of her later writings simply another word for the process “When as the Corporeal Figurative Motions . . . move sympathetically”) must take place on account of the lack of vacuum in the world.243 This suggests that sympathy involves 242. Playes 1662, 213. 243. Grounds 15-16. 74 either actual proximity between the parties or proximity that is simulated because the motion of any particle necessarily leads to motion in the adjacent particles. The other guise in which the connection between objects may appear is perception. In the same way that the hearing provides the means by which music may alter the motions of the mind, so any form of perception, including forms of perception that are altogether foreign to and even unrecognizable by the human organism, provides the means for other sympathies. Simple magnetism (between a magnet and iron) and terrestrial magnetism (between the compass and the North) are a touchstone for understanding the process of sympathy in Cavendish. In the 1655 and 1663 editions of the Philosophical Opinions, Cavendish offers a mechanical explanation of simple magnetism. Perhaps surprisingly given that she embraces the term “Operative power” earlier in the same work,244 a term which she associates with sympathy and which bears overtones of occult powers within matter rather than of mechanism, Cavendish writes, “it is not the substance of the body that works, or produceth effects, but the agility, subtility, or strength of motion, and advantage of the shape, so that the working power is more in motion and figure, then meerly the matter.”245 Here, simple magnetism is “not so much in sympathy, as supremacy.” Magnets exude or express “beams” or “lines” of “sharp points” that “fasten to iron, drawing it to it” by overpowering the particulate motions of the iron.246 With respect to terrestrial magnetism, however, Cavendish has qualms about a 244. Opinions 1655, 6; Opinions 1663, 70. 245. Opinions 1655, 66; Opinions 1663, 189. 246. Opinions 1655, 66,7; Opinions 1663, 189, 190. 75 mechanical explanation. She suggests that if the compass needle were found to vary in the direction of iron placed next to it, since the “operative power” of the North ought to exceed that of the iron, the agency of the motion would be proven to be located as much in the needle as in the North. In this case, the needle “may receive some refreshments from those raies which stream from the north, for all things turn with self-ends; for certainly every thing hath self-love, even hard stones, although they seem insensible.”247 This shift of agency solidifies in Cavendish’s mature philosophy in the Philosophical Letters where she defines “Sympathy and Antipathy, and attractive or magnetick Inclinations” as nothing else but plain ordinary Passions and Appetites. As for example: I take Sympathy, as also Magnetisme or attractive Power, to be such agreeable Motions in one part or Creature as do cause a Fancy, love and desire to some other part or Creature; and Antipathy, when these motions are disagreeable, and produce contrary effects, as dislike, hate and aversion to some part or Creature.248 She sets aside the mechanistic account of sympathy.249 Subjective desire, although that desire may have been catalyzed by an external object and may or may not be equally shared with that object,250 now constitutes all sympathetic phenomena, from magnetism, to the resonance of eighths on a stringed instrument, to infection, to nourishment, to heliotropism in plants, and to the migratory patterns of animals–not to mention the psychological relationships between animals or people, and mythical phenomena such as the weapon-salve that heals a wound at a 247. Opinions 1655, 68; Opinions 1663, 194. 248. Philosophical Letters 289. 249. Philosophical Letters 291. 250. Philosophical Letters 291. 76 distance and the wine that undergoes a new phase of fermentation every time the vines from which it originated bloom.251 Cavendish repeats three times in the key chapters on sympathy in the Philosophical Letters that sympathy is simply passions and appetites.252 Passions and appetites differ in that the former are made by the rational matter, and the latter by the sensitive matter.253 Otherwise, the two “so resemble each other, as they would puzzle the most wise Philosopher to distinguish them; and there is not onely a Resemblance, but, for the most part, a sympathetical Agreement between the Appetites, and the Passions.”254 The sympathy between the rational passions and the sensitive appetites forms one of the two nexus points in the broad pattern of sympathetic processes in the world. The “stronge Sympathy, and agreement, or Affection”255 between the two parties is not simply a similarity or likeness between them. It is a relationship involving communication, emotion, and shared purpose. The rational and sensitive matter work “Like Fellow-labourers that assist one another, to help to finish their work.”256 There is mutual cooperation between the two, a relationship that flows in both directions. At the same time, there is a hierarchy encoded in their relationship that allows the rational matter to correct the sensitive: [Y]et it is by a loving direction, rather to admonish them by a gentle contrary Motion for them to imitate, and follow in the like Motions; yet it is, as they 251. Philosophical Letters 289-97. 252. Philosophical Letters 289, 293, 297. 253. Grounds 64, Opinions 1655, 107. 254. Grounds 63. 255. Fancies 36. 256. Fancies 36. 77 alwayes agree at last; Like the Father, and the Son. For though the Father rules by command, and the Son obeies through obedience, yet the Father out of love to his Son, as willing to please him, submits to his delight, although it is against his liking. So the rationall spirits oftimes agree with the Motions of the sensitive spirits although they would rather move another way.257 Although the communication, the sympathy, usually flows from the passions to the appetites, the complexity of the motives of each party, of love for the self and love for the other, leads to a kind of conversation or negotiation that allows the flow to proceed in either direction. The relationship between the two degrees of animate matter is the microcosmic parallel of the macrocosmic connection between subject and object which constitutes the second nexus point for sympathetic processes. Given two entities in each of which the relationship between passion and appetite is already in play, the macrocosmic processes of relationship and sympathy unfold at the point of perception or proximity between the two. Any relationship between two people or two things depends upon the setting of two parameters: first, the quality of the sympathy between rational and sensitive matter, and second, the quality of the sympathy between the two people or things. For example, if the sensitive and rational motions sympathize with one another and they “make many and quick repetitions of those sympathetical actions [towards their object], it is Desire and Appetite. When those Parts move variously (as concerning the Object) but yet sympathetically (concerning their own Parts) it is Inconstancy.”258 As on the microcosmic scale, sympathy here may be mutual. In its strongest form, such mutual sympathy may take the form of a “conjunction” between creatures, of a relationship 257. Fancies 36-37. 258. Grounds 72-73. 78 which may be capable of producing a new creature, for instance in procreation, or in the production of a new species by grafting plants or inter-breeding animals.259 Sympathy may also involve hierarchy, with one party reacting to a pattern established by the other, either through “imitation” or contradiction of that pattern in its own particulate motions.260 Finally, sympathy flowing from one subject to another may be an unreciprocated act of “attraction” or “invitation”261 that remains unfulfilled unless the subject is able to compel its object by force. In the end, sympathy may involve love, obedience or rape, but it always involves communication and often involves persuasion. According to the affect theory of music, both music and mind share a similar structure, thus predisposing them to a sympathy, and the one expresses passions which likewise exist in the other. If the music reflects the constitution of a particular individual’s mind, and that mind is receptive to the music through the integrity and assent of its sensitive and rational matter, that mind may, through a “strong conjunction” with the music, become an expression or performance of that music. This is precisely the same process that unfolds, to varying degrees, in the many manifestations of sympathy in the cosmos. If the communicative interplay between perceiving subjects–even if these subjects are not human or animal– negotiates a settlement where one or both parties finds sufficient gratification of its passions and appetites that a “conjunction” results, then one or both subjects (depending on the degree to which the relationship is hierarchical or egalitarian) comes to be so like the other that it expresses and 259. Opinions 1655, 37; Playes 1662, 525. 260. Observations 3.59. 261. Observations 3.56. 79 performs the other. The associations between Cavendish’s natural philosophy and music, which she classifies as a form of discourse, are considerable. On the most rudimentary level, Platonic and Pythagorean thought relating to speculative music in Nature contribute to her conclusion that sentience and reason must be inherent in matter. On a more complex level, the musical genre of divisions connects with her vocabulary for describing natural processes, with her aesthetic descriptions of Nature, and, consequently, with her development of a theory of time. Finally, the genre of declamatory song has even stronger connections with her view of Nature. It not only influences her understanding of Nature’s aesthetic qualities, but also provides a model, the affect theory of music, that is likewise essential to the many natural processes which Cavendish understands as resulting from sympathy. 80 Chapter 2 “Arts Several Languages”: Handwriting, Needlework and Figure as Shape From an account of the relationship between Cavendish’s understanding of music and her description of the aesthetics and basic characteristics of the cosmos, I now turn to the relationship between the fourth form of discourse enumerated by the Lady Speaker in The Female Academy, “Arts several Languages,” and Cavendish’s natural philosophical doctrines which pertain to “figure” or shape. According to the Lady Speaker, “Arts several Languages” involve “discoursing by Figures, which is by Letters and Hieroglyphicks, which is by Printing, Writing, Painting, and the Like.”262 This form of discourse “is by Figures, or Letters, Prints, Hieroglyphicks, and painted Stories, or ingraven in Metal, or cut, or carved in Stone, or molded, or formed in Earth, as clay, or the like.”263 In Cavendish’s philosophy, handwriting, with its conspicuous association of language and shape, stands as the prototype for these various forms of communication. Needlework rivals the role of handwriting on account of its own association with pictorial representation and intricate patterns. Like music, these forms of communication and representation are constitutive of natural processes in Cavendish’s world. 2.1 The Art of Handwriting The English translation of Descartes’s A Discourse of a Method, published at the beginning of Cavendish’s writing career, suggests that “the use of speech” and “of other signes 262. Playes 1662, 666. 263. Playes 1662, 667. 81 in framing it” constitutes incontrovertible proof of the presence of reason.264 In contrast, Cavendish’s philosophy as a whole downplays the significance of speech and writing in this respect, arguing that it is prideful to assume that “man’s” ability to “give marks to things to distinguish them to himself”265 defines a difference from and superiority to all other living creatures. She opens a somewhat ironic poem entitled “A Discourse of Pride” with the lines, What Creature in the World, besides Man-kind, That can such Arts, and new Inventions find? ............................... And by his Wit he can his Mind indite, As Numbers set, and subtle Letters write. What Creature else, but Man, can speak true sense? At distance give, and take Intelligence? ............................... What else, but Man, can Nature imitate, With Pen, and Pencill can new Worlds create?266 Although Cavendish does not reject the idea that the capacity for language and writing sets humanity apart from other creatures,267 the poem suggests that it is the possession of language and writing as “Arts” and “Inventions” that really distinguishes humanity. In Cavendish’s philosophy as a whole, these arts and inventions tend to distinguish humanity only from other creatures, from other limited and bounded entities, not from over-arching “Nature.” Therefore, people do not only imitate Nature in the content of the written and drawn images that they produce. Rather, the act of producing such images is itself an imitation of a natural process. In 264. Descartes, Discourse of a Method 91. 265. Olio 1655, 24. 266. Poems 93. 267. She writes, for instance, “[T]he difference betwixt man and beast, to speak naturally, and onely according to her [Nature’s] works without any Divine influence, is, that dead men live in living men, where beasts die without Record of beasts” (Olio 1655, 2). Writing allows people an afterlife unavailable to animals. 82 other words, Nature already possesses forms of representation and expression, and humans seek to emulate her by devising comparable arts. As I have already shown, for example, Cavendish’s Nature does regularly give and take intelligence at a distance (a frequently cited function of writing in discussions of handwriting and cryptography in the period268) by means of sympathy.269 For Cavendish, and even for her contemporaries who teach that speech and writing give intimations of what is taking place in an individual’s immortal soul rather than in a mortal and material brain, writing is a strikingly material and even mechanical medium. David Browne, the author of the most detailed treatise on penmanship published in the British Isles in the era, compares the operation of thinking, speaking and writing to a clock mechanism, the final element of which is “the Dyall that declareth both what is meant & spoken, [which] signifieth writing.”270 The philosophers John Wilkins and Géraud de Cordemoy have a more pessimistic opinion of speech and writing. For them, linguistic signs are appurtenances of clumsy corporeality that are altogether unnecessary for spirits.271 Cavendish dramatizes a similar view in her satire of immaterial spirits in the Blazing World. When the Empress announces to the spirits attending her that she would like to write a cabala and they ask if she 268. Cf. Billingsley, Martin, The Pen’s Excellencie, or, the Secretaries Delighte (London, 1625) C2v; David Browne, The New Invention Intituled, Calligraphia: Or, the Arte of Faire Writing (Saint Andrews, Scot., 1622) ¶¶2v; Géraud de Cordemoy, A Philosophicall Discourse Concerning Speech, Conformable to the Cartesian Principles (London, 1668) 80; Edward Cocker, Arts Glory, or, the Pen-Mans Treasury (London, 1669) A2r; John Wilkins, Mercury, or the Secret and Swift Messenger (London, 1641) 4. 269. See the discussion on sympathy in section 1.6. 270. Browne 53. 271. Wilkins, Mercury 1-3; de Cordemoy A10v, 89. 83 would like a scribe, “The Empress . . . told them, that she desired a Spiritual Scribe. The Spirits answer’d, That they could dictate, but not write, except they put on a hand or arm, or else the whole body of Man.”272 In this passage, the failure of the spirits is a facetious intimation of the absurdity of such entities, not a critique of writing. In Cavendish’s view, the emphatic materiality of writing is not a sign of clumsiness; it is an indication of the ability of the written word to intervene productively in the objective world in a way in which imagined spirits cannot. Part of the concreteness of handwriting in Cavendish’s thought and that of her contemporaries abides in its connection to painting and drawing, in its creative distance from the bare instrumental function of symbolizing sound. The copy-books of the time imply that with the range of scripts available for use in different contexts, with the opportunity for writers to choose from a variety of recipes for ink of different colours and qualities and to prepare them at home, and finally with the need for each individual to select and himself carve appropriate quills for the kind of writing he intended to produce, every literate person was a calligrapher. A scribe like David Browne sees himself as an artist.273 Browne explains the derivation of his book’s title, Calligraphia, from the Greek êáëëéãñáöïò (calligraphos), which 272. Blazing World 88. 273. “I haue spent (yea, rather mispent) much precious time, not onelie upon olde Capitall letters, both curiouslie made, and filled up, with Portraites, and all sortes of small Draughtes; but upon painting and inventing of new Capitall Letters, diverse formes of curious Writ and Comparthementes: likewise, in writing of Testificates, with Golde, Silver, diverse coloures of Inke, and sortes of Writ; and both of Great Evidences and Small, belonging unto Clerkeship and Notarie, with one fayre and legeable Hand: as also in writing oftentimes both of Compts of great Revenewes, and of extraordinarie small and compact writ, . . . and manie other such needelesse curiosities” (Browne 79-80). 84 he defines as “qui eleganter scribit aut pingit,”274 that is, one who writes or paints (or draws) elegantly. Cavendish’s contemporaries foreground the idea of pictorial representation even when they consider writing in terms of its relationship to voice. “Letters painte the Voyce, or demonstrate the minde,” according to Browne.275 For Wilkins, “The Written word is the figure or picture of . . . Sound.”276 The notions of figure and of picture are important here. Part of this emphasis may be attributed to the taxonomies of handwriting put forward by contemporary theorists of universal languages. One such theorist, Francis Lodowyck, provides one of the most succinct of these: The expression by the Pen is either real representations of things, or notionall, or accidentall. Real, is when to expresse a man, we draw the picture of a man, &c. Notionall or Relative [that is, metonymic], when we represent fiercenesse by the figure of a Lion, Watchfulnesse by a Dog, &c. Accidental, is by figures stated at pleasure, to signifie such things as the figures thereof have no relation thereto.277 Most contemporary discussions of universal writing hint at the desirability, but also the impracticality, of a “real” relationship between sign and signified,278 and the slide from imitation, through metonymy, and finally to arbitrary convention which occurs in universal writing schemes speaks to the relevance of all three concepts to writing in general. 274. Browne ¶¶¶2v. 275. Browne 178. 276. Wilkins, An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language (London, 1668) 18, 20. 277. Francis Lodowyck, The Ground-Work, or Foundation Laid, (or So Intended) for the Framing of a New Perfect Language: And an Vniversall or Common Writing (London, 1652) 2. 278. I am not simply using twentieth-century terminology here. “Sign” is used by most theorists of the era, and “signified” appears as “signatum” in George Dalgarno’s Didascalocophus, or the Deaf and Dumb Mans Tutor (Oxford, 1680) 20. 85 Real representation is thematic in Cavendish’s works. Scattered throughout her writings are references to the pictorial elements of writing being a very material kind of real, natural and imitative representation of the sense of the words and also of the circumstances surrounding them. When a virtuous maiden writes a letter to express her love to a prince who is above her station and apparently unaware of her, the narrator describes a letter-writing process where the black ink bespeaks the maiden’s jealousy for the gentleman’s attention and also highlights the white smoothness of the paper which, when it is bound with “Blushcolour’d Silk” and sealed with “Virgins Wax,” encodes her innocence, honour and truth.279 When the prince reads the letter, he sees a combination of imperiousness and sadness in it. Her lines are “rul’d” with “a Commanding-wit,” her letters are graced with “Heroick Flourishes,” her black script “solemnly doth march in Mourning-trail,” and her tears make the letter glisten as if it has been sprinkled with gold dust.280 Script is intensely pictorial. Another kind of context in which this pictorial quality comes to the fore is Cavendish’s reflections on her own handwriting. She analyzes her own arbitrary symbols as what Lodowyck would identify as “real” or “relative” ones. In the Blazing World, the Empress, one of Cavendish’s fictitious self-incarnations, asks the Duchess, another of those selfincarnations, “whether she could write? Yes, answered the Duchess’s Soul, but not so intelligibly that any Reader whatsoever may understand it, unless he be taught to know my Characters; for my Letters are rather like Characters, then well formed Letters.”281 In her 279. Picture 1671, 19. 280. Picture 1671, 22. 281. Blazing World 90. 86 memoir, Cavendish claims, “some have taken my hand-writing for some strange character,” and “I cannot now write very plain, when I strive to write my best, indeed my ordinary handwriting is so bad as few can read it, so as to write it fair for the Press.”282 Cavendish’s poor handwriting leads to a de-familiarization of the symbols for her, and thence to a figural, and figurative, interpretation of them. When Cavendish releases the pressure of her ideas by writing some of them down, her thoughts proceed like a suddenly uncrowded body of infantry, “in a more methodicall order, marching more regularly with my pen, on the ground of white paper,” but when she looks at the symbols that she has produced, they “seem rather as a ragged rout than a well armed body.”283 In her childhood handwriting, the members of the metaphorical army actually cower from one another and prefer death to being assembled into formation and legibility. The writing becomes a landscape, and reading becomes “almost as great a Journy for your Eyes, as it was for Coriat’s Feet, that Travelled to Mogorr.” There are blots like “Broad Seas, or Vast Mountains,” “Long, Hard Scratches” like “Long, Stony Lanes,” and the whole is “a Vast Wilderness, and Intricate Labyrinth.”284 The author of one of the peritextual poems in a work on cryptography by John Wilkins claims that Wilkins’s “diviner Hieroglyphicks tell / How we may Landskips read, and Pictures 282. “True Relation” 56. Katie Whitaker has recently suggested that the characteristics of Cavendish’s writing and spelling may suggest dyslexia (Whitaker 165-66). It seems to have become fashionable to dismiss the possibility of Cavendish’s writing having any literary merit on the grounds that she claims not to proofread her own work. I have found nowhere where she states this. What she does say is that often she does not proofread the transcriptions (the fair copies) that her secretary makes of her works before sending them to the press (Life of William b1r). 283. “True Relation” 56. 284. Sociable Letters 268. 87 spell.”285 Cavendish, too, presents a cosmic landscape suffused with language, and the pictorial dimensions of writing in her thought contextualize this move. Just as figure is foregrounded in writing when a script is contemplated in its concreteness, so figure is foregrounded in the material world when Nature is considered in terms of the being of things. When the symbol is abstracted from the act of symbolizing, figure remains. 2.2 Natural Writing Throughout Cavendish’s philosophical career, even after she distances herself from other aspects of atomist philosophy,286 the atomist concept of figure remains central to her physics. In her last philosophical work she writes, “All Creatures are Composed Figures, by the consent of Associating Parts; by which Association, they joyn into such, or such a figured Creature.”287 All material things, be they animate or inanimate, are figures. As Thomas Stanley expresses the logic of this Epicurean and Lucretian assumption, “[I]t is generally at least true, that every Body is therefore figured, because it consists of Parts terminate and figurate; for Figure is a Term, or Bound.”288 For Cavendish, figure is so inherent to matter and its processes that she designates Nature itself “a Multiplying Figure,” explaining, “I mean, that Nature makes infinite changes, and so infinite figures.”289 285. Wilkins, Mercury A8v. 286. For Cavendish’s rejection of atomism, see “A Condemning Treatise of Atomes” in the prefatory material to Opinions 1655, a3v, and “Another Epistle to the Reader” in Opinions 1663, c1v-c3r. 287. Grounds 17. 288. Stanley 868. 289. Philosophical Letters 529. The doctrine that Nature is capable of an infinite number of different shapes rather than merely of infinite instances of an indeterminable but not infinite number 88 Cavendish connects figure in the natural world to language. The act of being is an act of meaning. Through its figures and their postures and combinations, Nature is language, alphabet, writing. Contemplating the failure of experimenters to transform gold into another substance by art, Cavendish praises Nature’s sovereign capacity to revise itself: “[C]ertainly, that innated motion that joyns those parts, and so made it in the figure of minerals can dissolve those parts, and make it into some figure else, to expresse an other thing.”290 Figures express things. Lady Sanspareille in the play Youths Glory, and Death’s Banquet preaches that Nature is not only “Mother,” but “tutress” as well, for she, like as a fond parent, leads and directs man to discoveryes, and as it were, points and markes out their wayes, and as a diligent Tutress, explains and expounds her selfe by her works, and her several works, like as several books hath several prints, and are bound in several vollums, and are keept safe in several Libraryes, of several Ages, by Aged time.291 Nature’s own works, the plethora of natural figures, explain themselves and one another. Nature is self-referential and yet linguistic, and this influences Cavendish’s notion of method in natural philosophy. She explains, [F]rom the time of twelve yeers old, I have studied upon observations, and lived up-contemplation [on contemplation?], making the World my Book, striving by joyning every several action, like several words to make a discourse to my self; but I found the World too difficult to be understood by my tender yeers, and weak capacity, that till the time I was married, I could onely read the letters, and joyn the words, but understood nothing of the sense of the World, until my Lord, who was learned by experience, as my Master, instructed me, reading several lectures therof to me, and expounding the hard and obscure passages therein, of which I have learnt so much, as to settle my minde on the of different shapes contradicts standard atomist thought. See Stanley 863 and Charleton 120-21. 290. Opinions 1655, 40. 291. Playes 1662, 138. 89 ground of peace, wherein I have built an house of happinesse.292 Cavendish charges the conventional metaphor of Nature as a book that must be read and interpreted with additional significance. In her philosophy, figures cohere with a selectiveness akin to that of phonetic segments into larger clusters that form “composed figures,” that is, complex beings akin to words which interact in intricate patterns of interdependence like those of syntax and semantics. The elementary interpreter of Nature can pronounce the syllables and words of Nature, can analyze its details, but she must be exposed to the “reading” of “several lectures”–to readings of readings, interpretations of interpretations–in order to learn to think synthetically about the more complex patterns, the semantics, of the world.293 In Cavendish’s world, Nature’s figures express their meaning by determining each thing’s characteristics through its most literally superficial aspects. Just as mere lines determine the sound and meaning that accompany a written symbol, so mere superficies and lines determine the qualities and abilities of things. The determination and definition of a thing by its figure appears many times throughout the entire span of Cavendish’s philosophical career, in contexts ranging from discussions of the simplest of natural entities to discussions of the most complex. To cite only one example, in one of Cavendish’s earliest prose descriptions of the elements, she conceives of the elements not as abstract and ideal entities so much as very palpable lumps of matter. She states that the 292. Olio 1655, H3r. 293. One could argue that the trajectory of Cavendish’s natural philosophical works over the course of her career obeys precisely this pattern. There is a shift in her works from considering Nature analytically (for instance with the extended descriptions of the characteristics of the elements in the Poems (6ff.) and in Pictures 1656 (157-59)), to considering Nature as a pattern of interdependence (for instance, with the emphasis on individual creatures being “societies” that appears throughout the Grounds of Natural Philosophy). 90 figure of water is round. Then she proceeds to interpret the figure as the determining factor of the behaviour of the element. “[T]he round Figure,” she says, “is more apt for motion, by reason the Circumference Lines are smooth and even.” This figure “cannot be fix’d,” since it lacks ends or angles, and has “no Basis, or bottom, to rest on.” A round water particle may accommodate an internal vacuum (it can be hollow), “yet as being an united Figure, as in one Body or Circle, it makes it more weighty than those Spungie substances that are in parts, or several lines [air] or points [fire],” and therefore water “is not apt to move upward.”294 Cavendish believes, like Stanley’s Aristotle, that although there are four elements, “there be but one common matter of them all; for they are made mutually of one another.”295 The basic stuff of the universe may be “metamorphosed” from one element into another by means of gradual alterations of “the Exterior figure” of the particles of matter.296 “Figure” is so essential to Cavendish’s cosmos that it both determines and manifests the various characteristics of all substances.297 It defies classification according to Lodowyck’s conventional categories of representation because it brings what it signifies into being instead of merely reflecting reality. To some extent, however, this structure of simultaneously indicating and constituting 294. Pictures 1656, 158. The statement that water particles are round is ambiguous. At times in Cavendish’s works, round seems to mean “circular,” at other times “spherical.” Perhaps a key insight into the ambiguity lies in “Of Aiery Atomes” in Poems, where she writes of “watry Atomes, Round, and Cimball like” (7). Two cymbals held together would yield an internal hollow while still being more flat than spherical. 295. Stanley 376. 296. Cf. Opinions 1655, 55; Opinions 1663, 209-11. 297. Cf. Stephen Clucas’s discussion of Cavendish’s opinions on the nature of fire in “The Atomism of the Cavendish Circle” (263-64). 91 things does resemble the mechanism of the universal languages sought by Cavendish’s contemporaries. According to Lodowyck, the new universal writing “is not to have relation to sounds but things.”298 This philosophical writing will be universal, because it will eliminate the necessity of speech by employing ideographic “figures” in language acts of pure description, pure delineation.299 If this philosophical writing were carried to its logical extreme, and if it were governed by the “real” or “natural” connection of sign to thing that seventeenth-century philosophers believe eludes practicality in the postlapsarian and post-Babel world, then it would be like ideal hieroglyphs, as they were understood by these philosophers. Wilkins explains, “The word [“Hieroglyphicks”] signifies Sacred Sculptures, which were engraven upon Pillars, Obelisks, Pyramids, and other Monuments before the invention of letters. Thus the Egyptians were wont to express their minds, by the pictures of such Creatures as did bear in them some natural resemblance to the thing intended.”300 When, in Cavendish’s philosophy, the subjectivity expressing itself is located within Nature at large rather than within individual human minds, the philosophical language takes the form of the “Sacred Sculptures” that Nature forms from the “clayie” “Infinite Matter” that Cavendish remarks “is not like a piece of Clay out of which no figure can be made.”301 Cavendish’s infinite matter is predisposed to sculpture. Wilkins elaborates the structure of the universal language in part by emphasizing the role of “notions.” In Wilkins’s opinion, “As men do generally agree in the same Principle of 298. Lodowyck 17. 299. See Lodowyck’s use of the terms “figure” and “describe” (2). 300. Wilkins 101-2. 301. Observations 2.48. 92 Reason, so do they likewise agree in the same Internal Notions or Apprehension of things.”302 Consequently, the goal of his universal writing is to communicate “apprehensions of things,” and the things themselves, without voice. The introduction of mediating “notions” into the process of communication has parallels first in Cavendish’s understanding of psychology, and second, and more significantly, in her understanding of the psychology of the cosmos itself. Cavendish thus continues to develop her theorization of figure in the context of psychology. Much like Wilkins, Cavendish believes in a basic commonality of reason and perception across the human race. She explains, “[I]f they have no Imperfections, all Human Creatures have like Properties, Faculties, and Perceptions: As for example, All Human Eyes may see one and the same Object alike; or hear the same Tune, or Sound; and so of the rest of the Senses.”303 Figure imbues the common human faculties of reason and imagination. Cavendish teaches, “Figures are as Inherent to the Mind as Thoughts; and who can have an Unfigured Thought? for the Mind cannot have Thoughts, but upon some Matter, and there is no Matter but must have some Figure, for who can think of Nothing?”304 A thought, an imagination, is a literal in-formation that at once becomes and signifies the object apprehended by means of shapes, lines, superficies. A repetition or reproduction of these internal figures by an artificial means like drawing or sculpture would constitute a real representation, a philosophical writing, a universal character. “[T]he Mind is like Infinite nature,”305 Cavendish writes, and infinite Nature is also like 302. Wilkins 20. 303. Grounds 81. 304. Opinions 1663, 295. 305. Opinions 1663, 295. 93 the mind. In other words, Cavendish’s psychology repeats itself in Nature at large. I have already indicated that rational matter is ubiquitous in the world as Cavendish describes it,306 and that this means that even inanimate beings like celestial objects “may have as much sensitive and rational life and knowledg as other Creatures, but such as is according to the nature of their figures, and not animal, or vegetable, or mineral sense and knowledg.”307 Figure determines faculties, and within a given set of similar figures (for example, within a given species or within a cluster of parts constituting a single organism) there may very well be a high degree of reciprocal knowledge and intercommunication: “No question but there is Information between all Creatures,” Cavendish states.308 The only problem with intercommunication in Nature concerns quantity, since “it is impossible for any particular sort to know, or have perceptions of the Infinite, or Numberless Informations, between the Infinite and Numberless Parts, or Creatures of Nature.”309 The shape of a given creature makes it liable to be in-formed by another figure, liable to apprehend and iterate within its own structure specific details of its object. This in-formation, this self-sculpture or self-writing, then informs the behaviour of the creature. In other words, in Nature at large there is a hieroglyphic pattern of real representation much like that of Wilkins’s universal character. According to Wilkins, ancient hieroglyphs were “the pictures of such Creatures as did 306. See pp. 24-5. Cf. Philosophical Letters 184: “[N]either doth this sensitive and rational matter remain or act in one place of the Brain, but in every part thereof; and not onely in every part of the Brain, but in every part of the Body; nay, not only in every part of a Mans Body, but in every part of Nature.” 307. Philosophical Letters 184. 308. Grounds 24 309. Grounds 25. 94 bear in them some natural resemblance to the thing intended.”310 They, like some of the emblems of the seventeenth-century and like representational sculpture and drawing, are, for Wilkins, the kinds of signs structured “Ex congruo, when there is some natural resemblance and affinity betwixt the action done, and the thing to be exprest.”311 The ultimate form of ex congruo language or real representation is “all those outward gestures, whereby not only dumb Creatures, but men also do express their inward passions, whether of Joy, Anger, Fear, &c.”312 De Cordemoy writes that natural signs “are those, by which, because of the necessary communion which is between the passions of the soul, and the motions of the body, we know from without the inward different states of the Soul.”313 The consummate “hieroglyph” (in the sense of “ideograph”) transcends the dualism of real representation by means of the flow of expression through gesture and posture. The figures of Cavendish’s cosmos are hieroglyphs of this sort. In an early work, Cavendish claims, “The several figures are the several postures of nature, and the several parts, the several members of nature.”314 Nature is like a body which uses its limbs to express itself, to communicate what is internal to it. And not only does it use gesture, but it uses facial expression as well. Cavendish explains, By Coutenances [sic.], I mean the several exterior postures, motions, or appearances of each part; for as there is difference betwixt a face, and a countenance; (for a face remains constantly the same, when as the countenance 310. Wilkins, Mercury 101. 311. Wilkins, Mercury 111. 312. Wilkins, Mercury 111. 313. De Cordemoy 78. 314. Opinions 1655, 22. 95 of a face may and doth change every moment; as for example, there are smiling, frowning, joyful, sad, angry countenances, &c.) so there is also a difference between the exterior figure or shape of a Creature, and the several and various motions, appearances or postures of the exterior parts of that Creatures exterior figure, whereof the former may be compared to a Face, and the later to a Countenance.315 Countenances of this sort are subtleties of figure more transient than an entity’s basic structure, but still manifesting something internal to the figure. Cavendish teaches this close relationship between the internal and its expression as a “countenance” when she explains that if a disconnection occurs between the internal and external, for instance in the death of an animal, shape is suddenly no longer the determinant of the animal’s faculties and “the exterior cannot be altered, from and to, as to change the countenance or face.”316 In other words, face and countenance, figure and even its most transient subtleties, are expressions of what lies within. Cavendish uses the language of countenance and posture primarily in relation to what would now be called change in the physical state of matter. Concerning the expansion of water during freezing, for example, she claims, Neither doth Expansion alter the interior nature of a body, any more then contraction, but it alters onely the exterior posture; as for example, when a man puts his body into several postures, it doth not alter him from being a man, to some other Creature, for the stretching of his legs, spreading out of his armes, puffing up his cheeks, &c. changes his nature, or natural figure, no more then when he contracts his limbs close together, crumpling up his body, or folding his armes, &c. but his posture is onely changed; the like for the expansions and contractions of other sorts of Creatures.317 315. Observations 1.71. 316. Opinions 1655, 84. The context and sense of the passage as well as the usage of terms elsewhere in Cavendish’s writing suggests that “exterior form” ought to be emended to “interior form.” 317. Observations 1.80-81. 96 As long as the chemical nature, or, in Cavendish’s terminology, the interior nature, of a piece of matter remains stable, only the posture or countenance reveals changes. Therefore “Water may appear in many several Postures of Snow, Ice, Hail, Frost, and the like: . . . when the Water-Circle is Triangular, it is Snow; when the Circle is Square, it is Ice.”318 Again, WATER being of a Circular Figurative Motion, is, as it were, but one Part, having no divisions; and therefore can more easily change and rechange it self into several Postures, viz. into the Posture of a Triangle, or Square; or can be dilated or extended into a larger compass, or contracted into a lesser compass; which is the cause it can turn into Vapour and Vaporous Air; or into Slime, or into some grosser Figure.319 In addressing posture in relation to the simple shapes of elements, Cavendish’s theory encounters the problem of the proximity of transient subtleties of figure with the figure itself. Since, as I have already shown, Cavendish sees the elements as constituted by figural distinction within a single kind of matter,320 change of state (postural change) looks very much like chemical change in the sense of compounds transforming into other compounds. Figure such as that determining chemical identity in Cavendish’s natural philosophy connects with contemporary linguistic interest in real representation through hieroglyphic forms of writing, and with representation ex congruo through communicative gesture and posture. A third intersection between Cavendish’s natural philosophy and the preoccupations of contemporary language theory lies in the theme of combinatory possibility. For instance, passages in the Blazing World suggest on Cavendish’s part both a fascination with and a 318. Grounds 203. 319. Grounds 205. 320. See pp. 90-91. 97 scepticism about cabalism.321 The Empress asks the immaterial spirits who attend her to assist her with writing “The Jews Cabbala,” and in a burlesque of conventional images of inspiration, the spirits promptly vanish, apparently losing their way in the middle of the Earth, while the Empress collapses into a trance. When the spirits return and send the spirit of “the Duchess of Newcastle” to the Empress, the Duchess dissuades her from her original project, as well as from making “a Philosophical Cabbala,” “a Moral Cabbala,” and “a Political Cabbala.” The only project that the Duchess recommends is “a Poetical or Romancical Cabbala, wherein you may use Metaphors, Allegories, Similitudes, &c. and interpret them as you please.”322 The Blazing World itself seems to contain within its own “Poetical or Romancical” structure the sort of interpretation of morals and politics that the Empress may have been interested in producing in the first place. Moreover, despite her skepticism, Cavendish also presents Nature as a sacred text that must be decoded through the analysis of the permutations and combinations of its figures. Her natural philosophical works are, in that sense, first attempts at producing the “Philosophical Cabbala” imagined by the Empress. John Wilkins discusses several forms of cabalistic analysis of texts in relation to their usefulness for writing in code. One of these techniques is “Combinatio, when the letters of the Alphabet are severally transposed, and taken one for another, after any knowne order.”323 The ideas of combination, transposition, order and shifting identities recall the atomist comparison of natural figure to the figures of letters and numbers, and the analogous roles of combinatory 321. This segment of the Blazing World (85-92) satirizes Henry More’s Conjectura Cabbalistica. 322. Blazing World 92. 323. Wilkins, Mercury 69. 98 possibility in the two domains. Discussing the range of characteristics displayed by nature, including characteristics of figure, size and texture, Cavendish marvels, [A]ll those several Infinites conclude in One Infinite, like as several Letters conclude in one Word, several Words in one Line, several Lines in one Speech, and these several Letters, several Words, several Lines in one Chapter, so several Parts, several Figures, several Motions in one Matter, and several Infinites in one Infinite Body.”324 In the next chapter of the Philosophical and Physical Opinions, in a discussion of the limited number of principles responsible for the endless characteristics of beings, Cavendish reinforces the nature of artificial symbolic systems, observing that “as in Nature, so in Arts, as all Musick is from eight Notes, all Language from four and twenty Letters, all Numbers from the Figure of Nine and a Cypher.”325 2.3 Figure and Memory In Nature and as a human art, written language involves structures of combinatory possibility, expression and representation, but it also has a function. For Cavendish, as for 324. Opinions 1663, 7. 325. Opinions 1663, 8. Sources for Cavendish’s analogy may include Stanley’s remarks on Epicurus based on Lucretius’s De rerum natura (Stanley 856). They may also include similar comments by her doctor and friend, Walter Charleton (Physiologia 120). See Whitaker 138, 289, 292, 298 and 308 for references to the relationship between Cavendish and Charleton. Contemporary translations of Lucretius are other likely sources. These include John Evelyn’s An Essay on the First Book of T. Lucretius Carus De rerum natura (London, 1656), especially page 61, and Lucy Hutchinson’s translation of De rerum natura in British Library Additional ms. 19333 (665a), 21v and 23r. The diametrically opposed politics of Cavendish and Hutchinson make it unlikely, in my view, that Hutchinson’s Lucretius ever would have found its way into Cavendish’s hands. Although the historians A. S. Turberville and Geoffrey Trease do describe one conversation between William Cavendish and John Hutchinson in the Restoration period, this conversation involved the Colonel’s arrest and parole (A. S. Turberville, A History of Welbeck Abbey and Its Owners, Vol. 1 (London: Faber and Faber, 1938) 148-49; Geoffrey Trease, Portrait of a Cavalier: William Cavendish, First Duke of Newcastle (London: MacMillan, 1979) 192). 99 many of her contemporaries, the act of writing is fundamentally one of memorializing. Cavendish repeatedly and unabashedly explains that her impulse to write and publish stems from her ambition for lasting recognition, for “an extraordinary fame.”326 She even admits that it is not so much the quality of the fame as its quantity that she seeks.327 Writing and printing are a means of transcending the material and temporal limits of the self. In the peritextual material at the conclusion of her Philosophicall Fancies, after a poem in which she pleads with her friends to remember her after her death, she writes another poem, simply entitled “An Elegy,” in which she imagines the funeral procession of a corpse, presumably her own, that is so enwrapped in objects and beings that are metonymic for writing that it is as though she has been subsumed by another world in which the art of writing is the substantial reality, a reality whose existence continues independently of her own: Her Corps was borne to Church on gray Goose wing, Her Sheet was Paper white to lap her in. And Cotten dyed with Inke, her covering black, With Letters for her Scutcheons print in that. Fancies bound up with Verse, a Garland made, And at the head, upon her Hearse was laid. And Numbers ten did beare her to the Grave, The Muses nine a Monument her gave.328 Goose wings, along with raven wings, were the preferred sources of quills for pens used to write either on paper, or in a small script on parchment. Writers used pieces of cotton or linen 326. Pictures 1656, c1r. 327. “[F]or I had rather be praised in this, by the most, although not the best. For all I desire is Fame, and Fame is nothing but a great noise, and noise lives most in a Multitude; wherefore I wish my Book may set a worke every Tongue” (Poems 1653, A3r). 328. Fancies 84. 100 inside their inkhorns in order to protect the nibs of their pens.329 Whether or not this piece of cloth was actually immersed in the ink, no doubt the ink would have quickly dyed it through repeated collisions with the pen. Carried on a goose wing, lapped in paper, shrouded with black cloth to protect it and carried by the motion of poetic metre, the corpse in this poem has become a pen–a pen that is itself the instrument of the “scutcheons” (the heraldic decorations), of the garland, of the metrical motion of the procession, and even of the monument given by the Muses. The corpse-pen memorializes itself. This act of self-memorializing illustrates that the efficacy of writing in generating memory and fame lies not so much in literary composition, in meaning and style, as it does in the techniques of penmanship, printing and engraving themselves. In the words of an older contemporary of Cavendish, written letters are “so manie strong Holdes, Castles, and Yron coffers” for preserving and protecting things, and a “mortall fame” is “an unwritten fame.”330 In another copybook of the period, writing is deigned “The handmaid to memory” and “The Register and Recorder of all Arts,” and the teaching of handwriting to women in particular is encouraged, because women “commonly hav[e] not the best memories (especially concerning matters of moment).”331 In Cavendish, the association of writing techniques with memory appears in the emphasis on the act of inscription in allegorical descriptions of achieving fame. Thus, in a 329. Browne 2, 11. The reference to cotton may also be to the rag-content of paper. 330. Browne ¶¶5r. Browne distinguishes between the means by which writing and printing each engage with memory and unfolding time. Handwriting “serveth in doing, preserving, and multiplying of anie thing while it is in doing: and the other, but to preserue and multiplie extractes of a thing alreadie done”(¶¶3r). 331. Billingsley C3v, C3r. 101 mock sermon a “Preaching-Lady” exhorts her “beloved Brethren in Poetry” to worship and propitiate the goddess, Fame: [O]ffer up your several Conceptions upon her white Altars (I mean white Paper), sprinkling Golden Letters thereon; and let the Sense be as sweet Incense to her Deity, that the Perfumes of your Renown may be smelt in after-Ages, and your Noble Actions recorded in her ancient Mansion.332 The passage seems at first glance to suggest that the true sacrifice, the “Incense,” lies not in the letters, but in the “Sense,” but it is the letters that are redolent of the perfume of renown, and the perfume only encourages the goddess to allow the worshiper to achieve the state of being “recorded in her ancient Mansion.”333 The goal of writing, in relation to Fame, is quite simply the production and preservation of more written letters. At the outset of the second part of the play Nature’s Three Daughters, Beauty, Love, and Wit, the chaste and philosophically inclined heroine, Grand Esprit, invokes the goddess, Fame: Great Fame, my Prayers I direct to thee, That thou wilt keep me in thy memory; And place my Name in thy large brazen Tower, That neither Spight, nor Time may it devour; And write it plain, that every age may see, My Names inscrib’d to live eternally.334 The trope for preservation in the collective memory of society is inscription, either with letters in gold ink, or, as in this invocation, with engravings in or on Fame’s tower. Fame’s tower is a reversal of the Tower of Babel. If Babel was a locus of univocal progress that became a site of 332. Picture 1671, 279-80. 333. As the Preaching-Lady comments rather deflatingly a few paragraphs before, “Fame’s Mansion is but an old Library, wherein lies ancient Records of Actions, Accidents, Chronologies, Moulds, Medals, Coins, and the like” (Picture 1671, 278). 334. Playes 1662, 509. 102 dispersal and forgetting, Fame’s tower is a site of “uni-scripted” tradition that prompts social coherence and memory.335 The association of memory and writing not only appears in relation to fame, but also in Cavendish’s materialist psychology. In a passage that addresses both fame and psychology, Cavendish explains the actual motions of the rational matter in the brain in terms of this matter’s sympathy with, its appetite for, external objects. When the rational spirits “covet for Fame,” she writes, “they put themselves into such Figures, as Letters do, that expresse words, which words are such praises as they would have, or such Figures as they would have Statues cutt, or Pictures drawne.”336 The mind writes, sculpts or draws what it longs for in the world beyond its limits, and the processes of sympathy are such that these mental, but nonetheless concrete, works of art may hope to bear some organizing power over the objective world. In the allegorical language of another of Cavendish’s philosophically-minded female protagonists, “[Y]oung brains are like plain paper books, where time as a hand, experience as a pen, and practice as Ink, writes therein; and these books conteins several, and divers Chapters.”337 Each chapter has its own distinct language and style of penmanship. Mental knowledge is inscribed in a legible and easily accessible script. Its use of a language pre-dating the fall of Babel and resembling Hebrew suggests that Cavendish embraces the Cartesian idea that true, universal knowledge exists, and that both its incarnation in the objects of the external world and its existence in mental form would be accessible to all if it were not for intervening 335. For additional passages in Cavendish’s works connecting fame to writing in gold or writing in Fame’s tower, see Picture 1671, 706, 714; Playes 1662, 376, 610; Poems 147. 336. Fancies 40. 337. Playes 1662, 146. 103 and confounding sign systems.338 Memory and understanding are written in a smaller and finer script, and with a language derived from the universal language that preceded Babel. These characteristics imply secondariness and derivativeness, but also specialization and individualization. Conception and imagination are inscribed with hieroglyphs and classical Greek, which hint at the naturalness and the freedom of these mental faculties whose content is native to the brain. Finally, remembrance (the faculty of recollecting, as opposed to “memory” which is the faculty of preserving the past) is written in hieroglyphs or “characters” and with Old English. In this context, hieroglyphs suggest antiquity, mysticism, and the heroism of ancient myth. The archaic language of Old English was believed to be compounded of many borrowings, and therefore suggests the act of collection that recollection involves.339 Elsewhere, Cavendish contradicts her character’s notion that a child’s mind is a tabula rasa; she follows Henry More in rejecting the idea that “the Mind of Man can be compared to a Table-book, in which nothing is writ.”340 Instead, they both posit what More calls “an active sagacity of the Soul, or quick recollection.”341 Henry More dismisses two models for this innate 338. De Cordemoy, who claims to be writing in accordance with Cartesian principles, says, for example, “The pains also which every one finds in conversation, and on all occasions where men impart their thoughts by signes or speech, is not to comprehend what another thinketh, but to extricate his Thought from the signes or words, which often agree not with it” (90). John Wilkins argues in the introductory section of An Essay towards a Real Character: “That conceit which men have in their minds concerning a Horse or Tree, is the Notion or mental Image of that Beast, or natural thing, or such a nature, shape and use. The Names given to these in several Languages, are such arbitrary sounds or words, as Nations of men have agreed upon, either casually or designedly, to express their Mental notions of them. The Written word is the figure or picture of that Sound. “So that if men should generally consent upon the same way or manner of Expression, as they do agree in the same Notion, we should then be freed from that Curse in the Confusion of Tongues, with all the unhappy consequences of it” (20). 339. Playes 1662, 146-47. 340. Philosophicall Letters 191. Cf. Henry More, Antidote 17. 341. More, Antidote 17. 104 knowledge out of hand: “I do not mean that there is a certain number of Ideas flaring and shining to the Animadversive Faculty, like so many Torches or Starres in the Firmament to our outward Sight, or that there are any Figures that take their distinct places, and are legibly writ there like the Red Letters or Astronomical Characters in an Almanack.”342 Cavendish, in a work mostly written five years prior to its publication and therefore three years prior to the publication of the first edition of Henry More’s book,343 appears to pick up on both of these models. In the chapter, “Memory is Atoms in the Brain set on fire,” she begins by presenting the book analogy for memory: Some say Memory is the folding of the Brain, like Leaves of a Book, or like Scales of Fishes, which by motion of Wind or Vapours are caused by outward Objects, which heave up their Folds, wherein the Letters or Print of such things as have been represented to it; and those things that have been lost in the Memory, is either by the reason those Folds have never been opened after they were printed, or that the Prints have been worn out, as not being engraven deep enough.344 In this analogy, the brain responds tectonically to material substances entering it by means of perception at the same time as it records the impressions of these substances. It is shaped by external forces into a book fresh from the press. If the pages of the book have not been cut open, the impressions, the memories, are not readily accessible. Cavendish then proceeds not so much to reject this image of combined tectonic response and printing as to transfer the image into another realm of artistic representation. In place of the ideas like torches or stars that More rejects, she envisions flaming “atoms”. The flame increases with the motion of the 342. More, Antidote 17. 343. See her comment in Olio 1655, A3v. 344. Olio 1655, 138. 105 particles of the brain. These particles “take Figures as they receive Objects;” they are not forced into a new construction, but they imitate what is presented to them. The flaming particles provide light that allows for the clarity of the figures, and heat that solidifies them as if they were pottery baked in a kiln.345 As long as the brain is mature and active, the particles flame, and the representations of external things become and continue to be solid, multi-dimensional and accessible memories. 2.4 Figure and Memory in Nature In Cavendish’s thought, techniques of writing, of figuring, function as memorializing processes in both conscious behaviour and the behaviour of consciousness itself. Given her animist natural philosophy, it is unsurprising that the natural world as a whole functions in some ways as a continuum of her materialist psychology, and that processes of writing and of figuring connect to something resembling memory in this domain as well. In Cavendish’s natural world, writing and memory coincide in her important and, by modern standards, peculiar doctrine of the conservation of figure.346 This doctrine in turn provides Cavendish with a means of obliquely approaching the philosophical debate concerning criteria for the determination and continuity of the identity (in the sense of “sameness”) of things. Thomas Hobbes neatly summarizes this debate in his Elements of Philosophy, where he 345. See Olio 1655 (139), where she writes, “Now those Prints or Forms are like Glasses, or several Forms of Pots of Earth; for though they are formed, and figured, yet they are not hardned or perfected until they have been in the Figure; so that the Form may be there, although not kindled: but when they are kindled, they are Thoughts, which are, Memory, Remembrance, Imagination, Conception, Fancy, and the like.” 346. I continue, unsuccessfully, to seek parallels to this doctrine in other early modern writers of natural philosophy. 106 also formulates his own contribution to the discussion. Given his consequent association not only with Cavendish’s doctrine of the preservation of figure, but also with her doctrines concerning motion and causation which will be discussed in the following chapter, a few words should be said about the relationship between the two philosophers. Upon Hobbes’s graduation from Cambridge, he became tutor to the William Cavendish who later became the second Earl of Devonshire. This William Cavendish was the grandson of Sir William Cavendish and Bess of Hardwick, and was a cousin to the William Cavendish who married Margaret. Hobbes served this family until his politically motivated departure for Paris in 1640. By the mid 1630s, Hobbes had developed a strong intellectually-based friendship and regular correspondence with William, Margaret’s future husband. Hobbes even made plans with William to settle in the latter’s household at Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire, although these plans never came to fruition.347 After William’s arrival in Paris in the mid 1640s, the friendship between the two men resumed, and, by Margaret’s own testimony, published in 1655, she has “had the like good fortune to see him [Hobbes] and that very often with my Lord at dinner.”348 Nonetheless, in an effort to assert the originality of her ideas, she claims at this stage, “I never heard Master Hobbes to my best remembrance treat, or discourse of Philosophy, nor I never spake to Master Hobbes twenty words in my life.” With regard to reading his philosophy, she says that she has only encountered “a little book called De Cive.”349 347. Trease 14-15, 73-74; Richard Tuck, “Principal Events in Hobbes’s Life,” Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991) xxxviii-xl. 348. Opinions 1655, B3v. 349. Opinions 1655, B3v. 107 By the time of the Philosophical Letters, however, she has read the first part of the Leviathan and portions of Hobbes’s Elements of Philosophy.350 In her biography of her husband, she is able to recount philosophical discussions between the two men.351 She also shows, as Karen Detlefsen has noted, a knowledge of the “general positions” of the Hobbes-Bramhall debate on free will that took place in her husband’s presence.352 Even if Cavendish’s acquaintance with Hobbes’s philosophy was through his writings and through discussions with her husband and brother-in-law rather than directly from Hobbes himself, Hobbes was a powerful intellectual presence in her life.353 According to Hobbes’s discussion in the Elements of Philosophy of the criteria which establish identity, two bodies differ if they occupy different spaces at the same time.354 The question of identity across time is, however, much more complex. Hobbes mentions three factors that philosophers argue may determine this identity: “Unity of Matter,” “Unity of Form,” and “Unity of the Aggregate of all the Accidents together.”355 Hobbes rejects the first on the grounds that human bodies undergo material changes through time that would disrupt identity. He rejects the second on account of the “Ship of Theseus” argument, according to 350. Philosophical Letters 18-97. 351. Life of William 1667, 143-45. 352. See Karen Detlefsen, “Reason and Freedom: Margaret Cavendish on the Order and Disorder of Nature,” Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 89 (2007): 181, and “Atomism, Monism, and Causation in the Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish,” Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy, Vol. 3, ed. Daniel Garber and Steven Nadler (Oxford: London Press, 2006) 215. 353. For the details of Hobbes’s biography, see A. P. Martinich, Hobbes: A Biography (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999). 354. Hobbes, Elements of Philosophy 97. 355. Hobbes, Elements of Philosophy 99. “Form” in this case means something like “essence”; it means that aspect of a man that remains the same from infancy to old age (ibid. 99). 108 which gradually replacing the parts of a ship and using the original parts to rebuild the ship at another location produces a unity of form between two numerically and spatially distinct bodies. If unity of form alone constituted identity, numerically and spatially distinct entities could paradoxically be one and the same. Hobbes dismisses the third possible factor, because it would mean that identity ceases as frequently as the characteristics of the things in question change. Hobbes’s own contribution to the debate is that identity is a feature of things about which people can speak and reason, and that identity is therefore determined only in relation to the semantic content of words. If a person uses words that denote matter or accidents (which are logically inherent in matter, for Hobbes), then unity of matter determines identity. If a person uses a word naming a “form” in the particular Hobbesian sense of an essence that “is the beginning of Motion”, then unity of form determines identity provided that the motion continues. Like Hobbes, Cavendish shifts the meaning of “form” in this debate. She dislocates the term from its scholastic context, and replaces it with “figure.” She then wrestles with the relationship of the unity of figure, and to a lesser degree, the unity of matter and motion, to determining identity. Unlike Hobbes, she does not relegate the question of identity to the realm of logic and semantics. Figures, for Cavendish, are at once ephemeral and eternal. They emerge, vanish, and sometimes repeat themselves or imitate one another across time, but even when they are unapparent they possess as much being and identity as ever.356 Cavendish explains, “[T]he 356. Susan James discusses the conservation of figure in “The Philosophical Innovations of Margaret Cavendish” (238). 109 former figures have as much a being as the present figures, by reason the matter that was the cause of those figures hath an eternal being, and as long as the cause lasts, the effects cannot be Annihilated.”357 This holds true not only for “former figures,” but for future figures as well. In a poetic account of the creation of the world, the personified principles present from the beginning, before Nature becomes manifest, paradoxically include Nature herself, and her council of Motion, Figure, Matter, and Life;358 “Figure” preexists figures. This may initially seem like an indication of a Platonic dichotomy between abstract or ideal Being and concrete forms of Becoming. The dualistic argument at first seems supported by a passage distinguishing between the “interior” and “exterior” nature of entities with simple geometric figures. Cavendish claims that material manifestations of such shapes may undergo structural changes in their outlines, “and yet keep their own interiour nature intire, that is the nature proper to such a figure.”359 They may change their figure and yet retain it. If a circle “is turned square, or triangular-wayes, or the like,” it becomes “a circle squared, but not a circle broke, for as long as the circle is whole, the interior nature is not dissolved, let the exterior figure be after what manner it will or can.”360 “Interior nature” seems like it could mean “essence,” “ideal nature,” even Platonic “form.” There is another explanation, however. Cavendish makes remarks suggesting that if a figure is broken rather than merely manipulated, it loses its identity or “interior nature.” Given the two-dimensional frame of reference that Cavendish employs in this discussion, she seems 357. Opinions 1655, 39. 358. Poems 1-4. 359. Opinions 1655, 59. 360. Opinions 1655, 59. 110 to conceive of figures in terms of geometrical drawings, in terms of outlines and of place within outlines. “Exterior” figure or nature simply means “outline,” or, conceived in three dimensions, “superficies.” “Interior” figure or nature means “content” (place or substance) within the outline. It cannot mean “area” in the mathematical sense, since Cavendish knows that manipulating the outline in such a way as to contract a figure “flings out the compasse”361 (reduces the area) of the figure, but it can, in particular if the image is shifted from geometrical drawings to actual objects in the world, mean the identity of a thing within the superficies, identity dependent on unity of matter. It makes sense, for example, that a ball that is flattened on one side should have a slightly different “exterior nature,” but the same “interior nature.” This very concrete interpretation of Cavendish’s terminology explains why heterogeneous shape and matter can interrupt the conservation of a figure.362 If the alteration of outlines results in the mixing of components, unity of matter is disrupted, and the identity or “nature” of a thing is bound to quickly become unrecognizable. This interpretation does not account for the passages in her works implying that after the dissolution or decomposition of a complex figure into its components, even widely dispersed matter preserves the memory of that figure within itself in such a way that the figure may be repeated or resurrected. Even an artificial figure, one produced through human manipulation of matter, in some sense endures in its material after the object is dismantled. Cavendish explains, [S]ome will say, when a house: for example, is pull’d down, by taking asunder 361. Opinions 1655, 58. 362. Opinions 1655, 59. 111 the materials, that very figure of that house is annihilated; but my opinion is, that it is not, for that very figure of that house remains in those materials, and shal do eternally although those materials were dissolved into Atoms, and every Atome in a several place, part, or figure & though infinite figures should be made by those materials by several dissolutions and Creations, yet those infinites would remain in those particular materials eternally, and was there from all eternity; And if any of those figures be rebuilt, or Created again, it is the same figure it was.363 The same principle holds even for the figure, the nature, the identity of the human being: [A] man, when his figure is dissolved, his parts dispersed, and joyned with others, we may say his former form or figure of being such a particular man is buried in its dissolution, and yet liveth in the composition of other parts . . . [N]ay, although every particle of his former figure were joyned with several other parts and particles of Nature, and every particle of the dissolved figure were altered from its former figure into several other figures, nevertheless each of these Particles would not onely have life, by reason it has motion, but also the former figure would still remain in all those Particles, though dispersed, and living several sorts of lives, there being nothing in Nature that can be lost or annihilated.364 The dispersed matter that can still be identified with the matter of a particular human body (or of any other figure) contains even within its most minute particles information encoding that figure. It is as if Cavendish theorizes that the matter of all structures, whether those structures existed in the past, exist in the present or will exist in the future, contains something rather like DNA. This conservation of figure becomes a natural philosophical cause of the resurrection of the dead prophesied in Christianity. When Cavendish focuses on the repetition of complex figure in the context of resurrection she voices an awareness of the problems that arise. In the appendix to the Grounds of Natural Philosophy, Cavendish addresses matters of religious 363. Opinions 1655, 31-32. 364. Observations 1.41. There is a very similar passage in Opinions 1655, 37. 112 concern from a rationalistic perspective so speculative that it becomes almost science fiction. She dramatizes a discussion of the parts of her mind over whether the resurrection of a figure whose parts have been dispersed across different worlds is possible, whether a reassembled figure would have the same identity as its predecessor, and whether all of the parts of a figure from all of its stages of development would join this resurrected figure.365 Cavendish assents to these ideas, but only with the “Major” part of her mind.366 “All the Parts” of her mind agree that at the general resurrection, “when all those numerous dissolved and dispersed Parts, did meet and joyn, the World wanting those Parts, could not subsist: for, the Frame, Form, and Uniformity of the World, consisted in Parts.”367 Nature recycles complex figures to such a degree that a general resurrection would mean the dissolution of Nature itself. Positing unity of matter as a source for identity poses problems. Arguably, Cavendish presents ideas that attempt to overcome these difficulties. For example, some passages do suggest that the conservation of figure in matter is a much more abstract phenomenon. She writes, [A]ll particular figures although dissolvable, yet is inherent in the matter, and motion, as for example, if a man can draw the picture of a man, or any thing else, although he never draws it, yet the Art is inherent in the man, and the picture in the Art as long as the man lives, so as long as there is matter, and motion, which was from all Eternity, and shall be eternally; the effect will be so.368 Here particular figures preexist, and even exist independently of, their actual manifestation, but 365. Grounds 256-60. 366. Grounds 256-60. 367. Grounds 260. 368. Opinions 1655, 30. 113 surely the “Art . . . inherent in the man” does not include an encoding of everything that he could possibly draw. Or does it? A further explanation of potential figure may lie in the context of the long passage quoted on page 112. The passage occurs as an illustration of a statement about seeds. It is not, Cavendish claims, “a Paradox to say seeds are buried in life, and yet do live; for what is not in present act, we may call buried, intombed or inurned in the power of life.”369 The seed, or the matter of a dissolved, but not lost, figure of a dead person, contains within itself and is informed of its own formal and efficient and, to some degree, material causes, but its occasional causes and residual material causes remain primarily beyond its limits.370 The boundaries of identity may be unstable. Matter resembles extended brain consisting of clusters of memory that have always been in-formed of and by past, future and possible figures. Pieces of matter are inscribed with figures or information about figures that surrounding causes explicate. This inscription, which is one of the manifestations of “Arts several Languages” in Nature, is “the power of life.”371 369. Observations 1.41. 370. The speculative account of “Restoring-Beds, or Wombs” in the appendix to Grounds of Natural Philosophy (291) shows a similar pattern. There, “the Animal Roots or Seeds” (297), the bones of the dead creature, even if they are scattered, encode within themselves the figure as a whole, and if these are placed in the restoring-beds, the beds will occasion the re-formation of the figure. I turn to the account of the restoring beds in connection with natural production on page 317. 371. The phrase, “the power of life,” sounds like a variation of the Aristotelian and Scholastic concept of potentia materiae (power of matter). William B. Hunter has summarized the concept in relation to Milton’s thought. Hunter stresses that the power of matter is the passive capacity of matter to take on form. This is where Cavendish’s thought differs from the traditional concept. For Cavendish, “the power of life” is an active characteristic of matter even though it requires cooperation with external causes. See Hunter, “Milton’s Power of Matter,” Journal of the History of Ideas 13 (1952): 551-62. 114 2.5 Text, Textiles, Figure and Needlework Recall the association of writing, figure and picture described near the outset of this chapter. I observed that Cavendish’s Scottish contemporary David Browne defines the Greek êáëëéãñáöïò (calligraphos) as “qui eleganter scribit aut pingit.” There I translated the Latin phrase as, “one who writes or paints (or draws) elegantly.” Pingit, however, refers not only to painting and drawing, but to embroidery and other forms of “pictorial representation” as well.372 Cavendish and her contemporaries associated embroidery and tapestry weaving with pictorial representation, narrative and linguistic representation. Embroidery and tapestry weaving are among “Arts several Languages” and language’s several arts. The author of a book of needlework patterns popular in the early and mid seventeenth century prefaces his book with a poem titled “The Prayse of the Needle,” in which he describes the needle’s capacity to imitate nature: For it doth ART, so like to NATVRE frame, As if IT were HER Sister, or the SAME. Flowers, Plants, and Fishes, Beasts, Birds, Flyes, and Bees, Hils, Dales, Plaines, Pastures, Skies, Seas, Rivers, Trees; There’s nothing neare at hand, or farthest sought, But with the Needle may be shap’d and wrought, In clothes of Arras I have often seene Mens figur’d counterfeits so like have beene, That if the parties selfe had beene in place, Yet ART would vye with NATVRE for the grace.373 Although even the most naturalistic designs for insects and flowers in this pattern book are very stylized, other quite realistic images of flowers, fish and especially of birds appear 372. Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short, “Pingo,” A Latin Dictionary (1879, Oxford: Clarendon, n.d.); D. P. Simpson, “Embroider,” “Embroidery,” Cassell’s Latin Dictionary (New York: Wiley, 1968). 373. John Taylor, The Needles Excellency, 10th ed. (London, 1634) A2r-A3r. 115 elsewhere in the pattern books and miscellanies used as pattern books in the period. Scholars have also found that herbals and illustrated natural histories of animals and insects were used as pattern sources.374 The process of transferring pictures from paper to cloth involved pricking the outlines of the paper image with a needle, placing the image on the cloth, rubbing charcoal or a similar substance over the image, and then tracing the marks transferred to the cloth in ink or paint.375 The anonymous 1632 pattern book, A Schole-House for the Needle, has as its final page a grid in two different sizes with directions on how to use such a grid to redraw the patterns in a different size. Careful reproductions were made of images of natural things, images that were often the most realistic ones available in the time period. All of this evidence suggests a connection between needlework and the real representation of natural things. One of Cavendish’s poems concerning “a wrought Carpet, presented to the view of working Ladies” portrays the naturalistic vividness sought in needlework: The Spring doth spin fine grasse-green silk, of which To weave a Carpet (like the Persian rich) And all about the borders there are spread Clusters of Grapes mix’d green, blew, white, and red; And in the mids’t the Gods in sundry shapes, Are curious wrought, divulging all their Rapes, 374. This information on pattern sources has come from Liz Arthur, Embroidery 1600-1700 at the Burrell Collection (London: Murray in assoc. with Glasgow Museums, 1995) 56, and A. F. Kendrick, English Needlework, 2nd ed., rev. by Patricia Wardle, The Lib. of English Art (London: Black, 1967) 122-25. Among the pattern sources suggested that I have examined myself and which contain naturalistic images are: Anon., A Schole-house, for the Needle (London, 1632); John Payne, A Booke of Beast, Birds, Flowers, Fruits, Flies and Warms, Exaclty Drawn with Their Lively Colours Truly Described (London, 1630); William Simpson, The Second Booke of Flowers Fruicts Beastes Birds and Flies Exactly Drawne (London, 1635); Edward Topsell and T. Muffet, The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents . . . Whereunto is Now Added, the Theater of Insects, or, Lesser Living Creatures (London, 1638); John Gerard, The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes (London, 1636). 375. Arthur 55-56. 116 And all the ground with Flowers there are strow’d, As if by Nature they were set, so grow’d. Those Figures all like Sculpture doe beare out, To lye on Flats many will make a doubt. The Dark and Light so intermix’d are laid, For shady Groves that Priest devoutly pray’d. The fruits so hung, as did invite the taste, And small Birds picking seen to make a waste. The ground was wrought like threads drawne from the Sun, Which shin’d so blasing like to a fir’d Gun. And this peice the patterne is of Artfull skil, Art, Imitator is of Nature still.376 This “wrought Carpet” is likely a tapestry for use either as a table carpet (a heavy table covering) or a hanging. It is either embellished with embroidery, or simply interpreted by the embroidery analogies readily coming to the minds of the ladies observing it who, as the poem’s title indicates, are themselves presently engaged in their needlework.377 The embroidering ladies are shown a tapestry with a substantial area woven with a weft of “grass-green silk” reminiscent of springtime.378 This greenery transposes the natural world into the “shady Groves” of exquisitely tempting fruit, flitting birds and abundant flowers that provide a background or internal frame to the central image of the tapestry. The external fr
UBC Theses and Dissertations
A figurative matter : continuities between Margaret Cavendish's theory of discourse and her natural philosophy Robinson, Leni Katherine 2009
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