Rhetorica, Autumn 2001 v19 i4 p403(15)

"Plain arid Vulgarly Express'd": Margaret Cavendish and the Discourse of the New Science.
Nate, Richard.

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2001 University of California Press

Abstract: Although Margaret cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1623-1673), did not belong to the scientific community which after 1660 formed itself around the Royal Society, several of the philosophical issues discussed there are reflected in her writings. Lengthy reflections on language and style which run through her philosophical works provide evidence that the linguistic and rhetorical debates of the early Royal Society also left their mark. The isolation which cavendish faced as a woman writer obliged her to discuss problems of terminology and style even more intensively, thereby adhering to the rhetorical principle of perspicuity which Thomas Sprat demanded in his proposal for a scientific plain style. The influence of the New Science on cavendish's work becomes obvious when her later writings are compared to her earlier ones where traces of a courtly and more elitist understanding of style can still be found. In this paper the development of Cavendish's stylistic attitudes is traced in several of her wo rks, including her Utopian narrative The Blazing World (1666).


Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1623-1673) published a considerable number of tracts in natural philosophy, though she was not a recognised member of the New Science. In France, where she had stayed in the years before the Restoration, she had met among others Rene Descartes, Thomas Hobbes and Jean Baptiste van Helmont. (1) Later on, her brother-in-law Charles introduced her to natural philosophy. In writing about this subject, however, she entered a domain which traditionally had been occupied by men. (2) When she visited the Royal Society in 1667 she was the first woman to do so, (3) but the visit, which took place at her own request, was a social rather than a scientific event. Entertaining the Duchess with the usual visitors' programme for members of the nobility, the Royal Society performed a number of experiments that were, above all, visually attractive. An entry in Samuel Pepys's diary suggests that, as a natural philosopher, Cavendish was hardly taken seriously. Pepys noted: "I do not like her at all, nor did I hear her say any thing that was worth hearing, but that she was full of admiration, all admiration ... After they had shown her many experiments, and she cried still she was full of admiration, she departed." (4) There is reason to suggest that Pepys's disapproval was shared by many of his colleagues.

On account of the Society's lack of interest in Cavendish's work, the relationship between the duchess and the men of science was not reciprocal. An inquiry into Cavendish's relation to the New Science, therefore, has to rely on the evidence that can be found in her work. The picture which emerges from looking at her writings is a complex one. On the one hand Cavendish would often oppose the men of the Society in questions of natural philosophy. (5) Not only did she openly criticize Robert Hooke's prestigious Micrographia (1665) in her Observations on Experimental Philosophy (1666) and paint a satirical picture of the Society in her fictional narrative The Blazing World of the same year, but she also complained about the scientists' unwillingness to take notice of a woman writer in her Philosophical and Physical Opinions. On the other hand some of her works show an affinity with the rhetorical principles of the New Science. When Cavendish professed to express herself "plain and vulgarly" she obviously adher ed to the stylistic programme formulated by authors like Thomas Sprat and Joseph Glanvill. It is important to notice in this respect that Cavendish changed her stylistic views in the course of her career. Before the Restoration she had lived in France where her husband William, Duke of Newcastle, belonged to the exiled court of Charles II. Arguing from this courtly background she would denounce the genus humile as an ill-suited manner of expression. It was only after she had returned to England that a change in her stylistic views occurred. This change corresponded to the emergence of a new linguistic culture which is associated with the foundation of the Royal Society and the standardization of scientific discourse that it brought about. (6) In order to evaluate Cavendish's historical role, therefore, the philosophical contents of her writings and her stylistic views must be considered separately. If Cavendish's works show a critical attitude towards the experimental philosophy, they also reveal that the lin guistic and stylistic norms established by the early Royal Society extended well beyond the boundaries of Gresham College. Before discussing Cavendish's stylistic views in more detail, it seems appropriate to take a closer look at the ideals on which this programme was founded.


Cavendish wrote in a period in which the attitude towards rhetoric changed considerably. This historical development is connected to the emergence of the New Science and the cultural climate which made it possible. Whereas Humanism had celebrated the homo rhetoricus as a cultural model and had propagated the copia rerum ac verborum as a linguistic ideal, in the aftermath of the Restoration scientists would argue for a plain style that was opposed to the "rhetorical flourishes" of Humanism. Equally, the Hermeticists' understanding of metaphors as signs of cosmic correspondences, which had enjoyed a renewed interest during the Interregnum, fell into disrepute after the Restoration. As the Royal Society's attitude towards rhetoric has been dealt with in a number of studies, (7) it will suffice here to point to some major aspects. They are expressed in Thomas Sprat's History of the Royal Society (1667), in a passage on the Society's "Manner of Discourse". Like his contemporaries Joseph Glanvill and Samuel Parker, Sprat defined the plain style ex negativo; in other words, instead of defining its positive characteristics he listed those elements a writer should avoid. Among these he numbered "amplifications, digressions, and swellings of style", (8) phenomena which traditionally had been dealt with in rhetorical elocutio. Because the plain style was marked by the absence of rhetorical figures, it was characterised by its proponents as non-rhetorical. (9) It may thus be described as a further instance of the "rhetoric of anti-rhetoric" that has recurred in European intellectual history time and again since Plato's rhetorically skilful criticism of the Sophists. Furthermore it has to be noted that, in spite of representing a radical departure from the traditional rhetorical paradigm, Sprat's stylistic programme conformed to the principles of classical rhetoric in that it argued for perspicuitas as opposed to obscuritas, and for the genus humile as opposed to the genus grande. The fact that the scientists nevertheless oppose d rhetoric in general can be explained by the lasting impact of the earlier Ramistic reforms in which rhetoric had been reduced to elocutio and thereby had been equated with the use of figurative language. What the members of the Royal Society had in mind when they described the plain style as non-rhetorical was the renunciation of a deliberate use of rhetorical figures.

In addition to its rhetorical aspects, the plain-style idea also had philosophical implications. When Sprat wrote, for instance, that one of the aims of the Society was "to return back to the primitive purity, and shortness, when men deliver'd so many things, almost in an equal number of words",(10) he seemed to recall the idea of a linguistic Eden which had enjoyed a great popularity in the preceding hundred years. (11) Although the majority of the Society did not share the view of the puritan John Webster, who followed the German mystic Jacob Bohme in believing that the prelapsarian "language of nature" still lay hidden beneath the surface of existing languages, many adhered to the ideal of linguistic purity which they defined in terms of an isomorphism between language and reality. Sprat described this isomorphism in logical terms, as a "Mathematical plainness" (12) which was marked by the absence of redundancies and equivocation.

Last, but not least, the plain style was defined with respect to social categories. Sprat made it clear that the members of the Society would prefer the language of "Artizans, Countrymen, and Merchants" to that of "Wits, or Scholars",(13) thereby demonstrating that the model of the plain style would represent a departure from the humanist concept of language that was still being defended at the universities. (14) Sprat pointed to a culture that belonged neither to the universities nor to the court. Particularly, he may have had in mind treatises that usually were addressed to copperplate engravers, mechanics, or seamen who were occupied in their work with optical instruments, the thermometer, the barometer, or the compass. (15) Not only had these groups formed a counterpart to the Latin-based culture of the universities, but they also made use of the practical knowledge that was celebrated by the Royal Society.(16) The plain style was thus defined by three criteria: a rhetorical one (defined negatively), a l ogical one ("primitive purity" and "Mathematical plainness"), and a social one ("the language of Artizans, Countrymen, and Merchants").

There is yet another aspect which has to be considered. It has already been pointed out that the scientific enterprise was considered a masculine undertaking in the seventeenth century. Accordingly, early modem scientific discourse was marked by a gender-biased rhetoric which has attracted the attention of scholars only recently. Although the members of the Royal Society took an anti-rhetorical stance as far as scientific discourse was concerned, they made ample use of figurative language when they wrote about science, i.e. when they explained its advantages to a wider public or defended it against critics.(17) When Sprat outlined the style of science in his History, he described it metaphorically as "close", "naked", "natural", "positive", "clear", "native", as well as "masculine".(18) In the present context the last of these adjectives is of special interest. It should not be considered in isolation but in the context of a whole series of gender-based metaphors. Not only does Sprat contrast the male scienti st's active role with the passive role of female nature, but he also describes the "Masculine Arts of Knowledge" as a positive alternative to the "Feminine Arts of Pleasure".(19) Sprat's choice of metaphors reveals that Cavendish's role as an outsider did not arise only from her seemingly peculiar philosophical opinions but also from her social status as a female author.


The influence of the New Science on Cavendlish's works becomes obvious when her earlier writings are compared to her later ones. Those volumes which Cavendish published between 1653 and 1668 reveal a change in orientation that can be explained by her increasing preoccupation with natural philosophy. In her first published work, Poems and Fancies (1653), she still exhibited a timidity towards this subject. She confessed that she had set her philosophical views to rhyme because these would normally be attributed to poetry rather than philosophy: "the Reason why I write it in Verse, is, because I thought Errours might better passe there, then in Prose; since Poets write most Fiction, and Fiction is not given for Truth, but pastime". (20) In her Philosophical Fancies, which were published in the same year, she referred to natural philosophy as a kind of intellectual sport. She confessed that in writing the book she had merely followed her personal ambition and did not wish to be regarded as a natural philosopher. (21) Similarly, the narratives which make up her Nature's Pictures (1656) may deal with philosophical subjects but they are presented as "Feigned Stories" and thus clearly marked as fiction. (22)

In her later works, however, Cavendish tended to separate philosophy from fiction. More particularly, the works which she published after the Restoration reveal her ambition to participate actively in scientific discourse. In the meantime Cavendish had scrutinized the works of other authors. (23) In her Philosophical Letters (1664) she included critical comments on the works of Thomas Hobbes, Rene Descartes, Henry More and Jean Baptiste van Helmont. Writing retrospectively in 1664, Cavendish confessed that the first edition of her Philosophical and Physical Opinions (1655) was deficient because of its lack of perspicuity and clarity:

I considered with my self, that it would be a great advantage for my Book called Philosophical Opinions, as to make it more perspicuous and intelligible by the opposition of other Opinions, since two opposite things placed near each other, are the better discerned; for I must confess, that when I did put forth my Philosophical Work at first, I was not so well skilled in the Terms of Expressions usual in Natural Philosophy; and therefore for want of their knowledg, I could not declare my meaning so plainly and clearly as I ought to have done ... Wherefore since for want of proper Expressions, my named book of Philosophy was accused of obscurity and intricacy. (24)

The use of adjectives like "perspicuous" and "plain" deserves special attention. Like Sprat, who recommended the language of "Artizans, Countrymen and Merchants" as a stylistic model, Cavendish now argued against a linguistic elitism. The change that must have occurred in her attitude becomes obvious when looking at the The World's Olio, which Cavendish had published nine years before and which was marked by a courtly attitude towards language. Here scholarly disputations would still be characterized as one of three kinds of "bad discourse" . (25) Although in The World's Olio Cavendish dealt with the style of poetry rather than that of science, she clearly propagated the humanist ideal of copiousness. The discourse of the "vulgar" was dismissed because of its lack of linguistic variation:

The reason why the Vulgar hath not such varieties of discourse, is not onely because they have not read, or heard, or seen so much of the world, as the better sort hath: but because they have not so many several words for several things, for that language which is most copious wit flourishes most in, for fancy in Poetry without expression of words is but dead, for that makes a Language full to have many several words for one thing or sense ... where the meaner sort of people are not onely ignorant of the purity of their native Language, but corrupteth what they have, and being always groveling in the dung of the earth, where all their thoughts are employed, which makes their discourse so unsavory. (26)

In Cavendish's later publications this attitude gives way to the new ideal of plainness. The second edition of her Philosophical and Physical Opinions (1663) is preceded by an "Epistle to the Reader" which is intended to correct the deficiencies of the earlier edition. It is here that we find a conversion to the new style. With regard to her own work Cavendish writes: "It is Plain and Vulgarly Express'd as having not so much Learning as to Puzle the Reader with Logistical, Metaphysical, Mathematical, or the like Terms." (27)

There is a passage in Cavendish's fictional narrative The Blazing World (1666) which supports the argument developed so far. In her prose fiction Cavendish depicted herself as the empress of an imaginary world who is also the head of an academy, a fictional counterpart of the Royal Society. Of the several members of this academy the socalled parrot-men represent the orators. One of them delivers an oration before the Empress, but proves to be a failure. Obviously, his failure does not result from a lack of rhetorical skill, but from an adherence to the wrong kind of discourse. Cavendish sketches the parrot-man as a philosopher who falls victim to his own linguistic ideals. Earlier in the century Francis Bacon had classified types of "degenerate learning" and had compared the scholastic philosopher to a spider producing mere "cobwebs of learning, admirable for the fineness of thread and work, but of no substance or profit". (28) With Bacon's categories in mind we can see Cavendish's orator becoming entangled in his own linguistic web:

one of the parrot-men rose with great formality, and endeavoured to make an eloquent speech before her Majesty; but before he had half ended, his arguments and divisions being so many, that they caused a great confusion in his brain, he could not go forward, but was forced to retire backward, with the greatest disgrace both to himself, and the whole society; and although one of his brethren endeavoured to second him by another speech, yet was he as far to seek as the former. (29)

Because the Empress functions as Cavendish's mouthpiece in the narrative, she may be regarded as an authority in linguistic and philosophical matters. It is significant in this respect that in evaluating the parrot-man's speech she summarises the rhetorical ideals of the Royal Society:

the Empress appeared not a little troubled, and told them (the parrot-men], that they followed too much the rules of art, and confounded themselves with too nice formalities and distinctions; but since I know, said she, that you are a people who have naturally voluble tongues, and good memories; I desire you to consider more the subject you speak of, than your artificial periods, connexions and parts of speech, and leave the rest to your natural eloquence; which they did, and so became very eminent orators. (30)

It becomes clear that, although in The Blazing World Cavendish would satirize the Royal Society in other respects, she obviously was not willing to question the new linguistic norms.

In the Observations upon Experimental Philosophy (1666), in which Cavendish criticized Robert Hooke's Micrographia which had been published just a year earlier, Cavendish's comments on her own terminology and style are extended into textualized glossaries. Lengthy reflections on linguistic and rhetorical matters demonstrate how the debates of the early Royal Society had left their mark. The Observations are preceded by an explanatory preface of twelve pages, and followed by an appendix of twenty-three pages which is dedicated to an explanation of terms used in her earlier works. (31) The main text also shows a high frequency of meta-communicative phrases. All this demonstrates that Cavendish tried to adhere to the principle of perspicuity as much as her contemporary scientists. It is probable that the isolation which Cavendish faced as a woman writer obliged her to address problems of terminology and style even more thoroughly. As a result, the problems which are inherent in any uncritical subscription to th e principle of perspicuity can also be noticed in Cavendish's writings. As with other philosophical texts of the seventeenth century, meta-communicative statements occur in such a high frequency that another stylistic virtue, namely brevitas, becomes jeopardized. (32)

The fact that Cavendish's philosophical writings are full of redundancies, however, indicates that brevity was not one of her own stylistic principles.

Falling midway between perspicuity and egotism, Cavendish elaborated on the problems she faced in understanding the works of other authors. She referred, for instance, to the contemporary discussion on hard words which is also discernible in Joseph Glanvill's Essay on Preaching. (33)

when I began to read the Philosophical Works of other Authors, I was so troubled with their hard words and expressions at first, that had they not been explained to me, and had I not found out some of them by the context and connexion of the sense, I should have been far enough to seek; for their hard words did more obstruct, then instruct me. (34)

Taken in isolation, this statement recalls the mode in which members of the New Science would criticize the abstractions of scholasticism and the obscurity of hermeticism. Following Bacon, who had characterized these two traditions as "contentious learning" and "fantastical learning" in The Advancement of Learning (1605), (35) the experimental philosophers had distinguished themselves from these traditions. Cavendish, however, did not name the authors she had in mind when she wrote about the use of hard words, and there is reason to suggest that she may have referred to those modem authors who tried to separate themselves from the traditions of scholasticism and hermeticism. From Cavendish's own isolated position, even the plain style of her contemporaries may have seemed obscure to her. Whatever the truth, Cavendish concluded that the only possible remedy was to strive for an easy and natural way of writing: although I do understand some of their [i.e. other authors'] hard expressions now, yet I shun them as much in my writings as is possible for me to do, and all this, that they may be the better understood by all, learned as well as unlearned; by those that are professed Philosophers as well as by those that are none: And though I could employ some time in studying all the hardest phrases and words in other Authors, and write as learnedly perhaps as they; yet will I not deceive the World, nor trouble my Conscience by being a Mountebanck in learning, but rather prove naturally wise then artificially foolish. (36)

In accordance with the rhetorical programme of the Royal Society, naturalness is here preferred to artificiality. The older ideals of copiousness and variety have given way to perspicuity and clarity: a style that can be "understood by all".


In order to arrive at a more complex view of Cavendish's relationship to the New Science it is appropriate to consider how far her fictional narrative. The Blazing World relates to the issues discussed so far. (37) Although earlier critics were inclined to dismiss the book as having no literary import, (38) The Blazing World is now often regarded as Cavendish's most significant work. It was published in 1666, together with the Observations upon Experimental Philosophy. Unlike other literary works which show a close affinity to the New Science, the most notable example being Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719), the Blazing World is not remarkable for its realistic descriptions but for its preoccupation with the process of poetic creation. In modern terminology, the narrative may be characterized as metafictional. Lacking narrative coherence and being devoid of any fixed point of reference, the narrative stands in sharp contrast to the principle of perspicuity that Cavendish advocated in her philosophical writings. It would be inappropriate, however, to conclude from the obscurity of the narrative that Cavendish's testimonies to the plain style should not be taken at face value. The Blazing World was intended to be a fictional, not a philosophical work. Rather than creating a "counter-rhetoric" to scientific discourse in the Blazing World, as has been suggested, (39) Cavendish employed poetic licence.

It is true that in The World's Oilo Cavendish had stated that natural philosophy should be "used as a Delight and Recreation in Mens Studies, as Poetry is, since they are both but Fictions, and not a Labour in Man's Life". (40) In 1666, however, the boundaries between science and literature had become more stable due to the efforts of the Royal Society, which not only argued against figurative language but also demanded a clear distinction between the products of reason and the products of the imagination. The early modern scientists' distrust of the imagination has almost become a commonplace. (41) When Cavendish argued in the preface to the Blazing World that the simultaneous publication of a philosophical and a fictional text could illustrate the differences between philosophy and poetry rather than their similarities, she did not question the Society's endeavours. Whereas philosophical reason had to agree with the laws of nature, poetical fancy was not bound by any restrictions. As Cavendish remarked, "f ancy creates of its own accord whatsoever it pleases, and delights in its own work". (42) If such a view of poetry conflicted with the emphasis on poetical rules in contemporary neoclassicism, it still conformed with Francis Bacon's creed that poetry is a "luxurious plant ... without any formal seed". (43) Of the Horatian prodesse et delectare, Cavendish retained only the latter. Cavendish denied poetry any didactic or moral purpose; she regarded it as a kind of therapy for those who tired of the works of reason. Fiction had the function "to recreate the mind, and withdraw it from its more serious contemplations". (44)

Cavendish's argument in the preface is structured by dichotomies: reason is contrasted with fancy, truth with fiction, a serious "enquiry of nature" with "voluntary creations of the mind". Considering that the narrative itself is apt to undermine the very validity of these distinctive categories because of its deliberately illogical character, this may seem peculiar. (45) At the same time, however, it perfectly illustrates Cavenclish's definition of poetry. It is only in the realm of fiction that Cavendish playfully invites the reader to exceed the limits of reason. Fiction remains that kind of discourse which is not affected by the restrictions of the New Philosophy. Rather than providing evidence for the claim that Cavendish opposed the rhetorical programme of the Royal Society, the Blazing World can thus be argued to be consistent with Cavendish's support for the new linguistic norms. She differed from her neoclassicist contemporaries, however, in that she refused to transfer the rationalism of the New Sc ience to the realm of poetic literature. In fiction, at least, fancy would remain unaffected by the dictates of reason. (46)


Cavendish's relationship with the discourse of the New Science appears ambivalent. After 1664 her writings exhibit a tension between non-conformity towards the New Science in philosophical matters and conformity in rhetorical matters. When Cavendish criticized the views of the experimental philosophers and accused her male contemporaries of shamelessly ignoring the opinions of a woman writer, she did so within the framework of the new stylistic norms. If she wanted to be heard at all, she had to adhere to the rhetorical norms of the New Science, even if her philosophical views were in conflict with the prevalent opinions of her day. In this respect her writings demonstrate how strong the drift towards a stylistic standardization had become in the 1660s.

When Cavendish decided to dedicate the second edition of her Philosophical and Physical Opinions to the "two Most Famous Universities Of England", this was an ironic, if not sarcastic, gesture. Her remark in the preface ("I am sure to receive so much Courtship from your Sage Society, as to bury me in Silence, and thus I may have a Quiet Grave") shows that she was fairly realistic about the response her work would provoke. However, this remark is followed by another which may strike the modern reader as prophetic. Cavendish wondered: "who knows, but, after my Honourable Burial I may have a Glorious Resurrection in Following Ages, since Time Brings Strange and Unusual things to pass". (47) Due to our contemporary interest in the history of hitherto neglected women's literature, this "Resurrection" has finally taken place. It is, nonetheless, something Cavendish could wish for, but not foresee.

(1.) P. Phillips. The Scientific Lady: A Social History of Women's Scientific Interests 1520-1918 (London. 1990). Cavendish also conferred with Christian Huygens and Joseph Glanvill, see S. H. Mendelson, The Mental World of Stuart Women: Three Studies (Amherst, 1987) pp. 43f. According to S.I. Mintz, "The Duchess of Newcastle's Visit to the Royal Society", Journal of English and Germanic Philology 51 (1952) pp. 168-76 (p. 168), Cavendish may be compared to the seventeenth-century virtuoso who dealt with natural philosophy for reasons of personal curiosity or for the sake of social reputation. For Cavendish's biography see D. Grant, Margaret the First (London, 1957). A more recent biographical account is K. Jones, A Glorious Fame: The Life of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, 1623-1673 (London, 1988).

(2.) As J. Fitzmaurice has observed, Cavendish lived in a society that "tolerated women writing but was deeply suspicious about women publishing", "Fancy and the Family: Self-Characterizations of Margaret Cavendish", Huntington Library Quarterly 53 (1990) pp. 198-209 (p.207).

(3.) M. H. Nicolson, Pepys' Diary and the New Science (Charlottesville, 1965) p. 104. Not until 1923 did the Society grant female membership, see G. S. Rousseau, "Science", in: P. Rogers ed., The Eighteenth Century (London, 1978) pp. 153-207 (p. 156).

(4.) S. Pepys, The Diary of Samuel Pepys, vol. IV, ed. H. B. Wheatley (London, 1895) pp. 343f.

(5.) Studies of Cavendish's philosophical views have remained few, see however L. T. Sarasohn, "A Science Turned Upside Down: Feminism and the Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish", Huntington Library Quarterly 47 (1984) pp. 299-307, and S. B. Blaydes, "Nature is a Woman: The Duchess of Newcastle and Seventeenth-Century Philosophy", in D.C. Mell ed., Man, God, and Nature in the Enlightenment (East Lansing, 1988), pp. 51-64.

(6.) On the linguistic culture of the Royal Society see W. Hullen, "Their Manner of Discourse": Nachdenken uber Sprache in: Umkreis der Royal Society (Tubingen, 1989), on their attitude towards rhetoric, B. Vickers, "The Royal Society and English Prose Style: A Reassessment", in: B. Vickers, N. S. Struever, Rhetoric and the Pursuit of Truth: Language Change in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (Los Angeles, 1985) Pp. 3--76, and R. Nate, "Rhetoric in the Early Royal Society", in: P. L. Oesterreich, T.O. Sloane eds, Rhetorica Movet: Studies in Historical and Modern Rhetoric In Honour of Heinrich F. Plett (Leiden, 1999) Pp. 215-31.

(7.) See n. 6.

(8.) T. Sprat, The History Of The Royal-Society Of London For the Improving of Natural Knowledge (London, 1667, rpt. ed. J. I. Cope and H. W. Jones, St. Louis, MO, 1958) p. 113.

(9.) There has been ample discussion of the alleged non-rhetoricalness of science in recent years; for a survey of different standpoints of. R. Nate, "Rhetorik und der Diskurs der Naturwissenschaften", in H. F. Plett ed., Die Aktualitat der Rhetorik (Munich, 1996) pp. 102-19, and R. Nate, "Rhetorik und Naturphilosophie: Aspekte einer Beziehung", Rhetorik: Ein internationales Jahrbuch 18 (1999) pp. 77-93.

(10.) Sprat, History, p. 113.

(11.) D. S. Katz, "The Language of Adam in Seventeenth-Century England", in H. Lloyd-Jones et al. eds, History and Imagination: Essays in Honour of H. R. Trevor-Roper (London, 1981) pp. 132-45, and R. Nate, Natursprachenmadelle des 17. Jahrhunderts (Munster, 1993) Pp. 97ff.

(12.) Sprat, History, P. 113.

(13.) Sprat, History, p. 113.

(14.) See H. F. Plett, "Rhetorik der Renaissance - Renaissance der Rhetorik", in: H. F. Plett ed., Renaissance-Rhetorik / Renaissance-Rhetoric (Berlin, 1993) PP. 1-20 (P. 12) on the relationship between humanist rhetoric and the plain style.

(15.) For a more detailed account and a number of representative examples from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries cf. W. Hullen, "Mit den gemeinen Leuten-der Aufbruch der Royal Society zu einer neuen Wissenschaftssprache", in H. E. Wiegand ed., Sprache und Sprachen in den Wissenschaften: Geschichte und Gegenwart (Berlin, 1999) pp. 619-37 (p. 630ff.). Hullen concludes: "Sprat hatte also in der Tat schon einen plain style zur Verfugung, auf den er nur zu verweisen brauchte. Neben Baconismus und Puritanismus ist diese Handwerkerkultur der gemeinen Leute eine weitere, in der Historiographie aber ubersehene, Motivation im intellektuellen Wettbewerb des 17. Jahrhunderts." (p. 633)

(16.) Bacon may be cited as a source for these ideas. In the preface to the Instauratio Magna (1920) he had spoken of a "true and lawful marriage between the empirical and rational faculty" by which he meant a fruitful combination of the abstract knowledge that was taught in the universities and the practical knowledge of mechanics, The Works of Francis Bacon, ed. J. Spedding et al. (London, 1858-1874, rpr. Stuttgart, 1961-1963) IV, p. 19.

(17.) This does not necessarily imply a self-contradiction on the side of the advocates of the New Science, see Vickers, "The Royal Society and English Prose Style", cit. in n. 6 above.

(18.) See Hullen, Their Manner of Discourse, cit. inn. 6 above, pp. 107ff. for a detailed analysis of these adjectives. On the metaphor of nakedness see W. G. Muller, "Die traditionelle Rhetorik und einige Stilkonzepte des 20. Jahrhunderts", in H. F. Plett ed., Die Aktualitat der Rhetorik (Munchen, 1996) pp. 160-75 (pp. 164ff.).

(19.) Sprat, History, p. 129.

(20.) M. Cavendish, Poems and Fancies (London, 1653, rpt. Menston, 1972), "To Naturall Philosophers".

(21.) The following sentence may indicate eccentricity as well as caution: "I imagine all those that have read my former Books, will say, that I have writ enough, unless they were better: but say what you will, it pleaseth me, and since my Delights are harmless, I will satisfie my Humour." M. Cavendish, Philosophical Fancies (London, 1653) p. 90.

(22.) The full title of the second edition runs: Natures Picture Drawn by Fancies Pencil To the Life. Being several Feigned Stories, Comical, Tragical, Tragi-comical, Poetical, Romancical, Philosophical, Historical, and Moral: Some in Verse, some in Prose; some Mixt, and some by Dialogues, 2nd edn (London, 1671).

(23.) As Mendelson, The Mental World, p. 44, cit. in n. 1, points out, the Philosophical Letters were preceded by a comprehensive reading programme. Blaydes, "Nature Is a Woman", cit. in n. 5, p. 57, has shown that after the publication of the Philosophical Letters Cavendish's terminology became more standardized.

(24.) M. Cavendish, Philosophical Letters: Or, Modest Reflections Upon some Opinions in Natural Philosophy (London, 1664) p. 2f. A revised edition of the Opinions, which included a glossary, came out in 1663; and a further one in 1668, entitled Grounds of Natural Philosophy. If Cavendish had defended the presentation of philosophical issues in rhyme in Poems and Fancies (1653), it was now considered a hindrance: "by reason it [i.e. the former book] is in Verse, it is not so Clearly or Solidly Expressed, as I might have done it in Prose". M. Cavendish, Philosophical and Physical Opinions, 2nd edn (London, 1663) p.4.

(25.) M. Cavendish, The Worlds Olio (London, 1655) p. 15. The other types are "defaming others" and "forswearing and blasphemy".

(26.) Cavendish, The World's Olio, p. 17f.

(27.) Cavendish, Philosophical and Physical Opinions, p. 7.

(28.) The Works of Francis Bacon, III, pp. 285f.

(29.) M. Cavendish, The Description of a New World Called the Blazing World and Other Writings, ed. K. Lilley (London, 1992) p. 160.

(30.) Cavendish, Blazing World, p. 160.

(31.) See M. Cavendish, "An Explanation Of Some obscure and doubtful passages occuring in the Philosophical Works, hitherto published By The Authoresse", in M. Cavendish, Observations Upon Experimental Philosophy. To which is added, The Description Of A New Blazing World (London, 1666) pp. 45ff.

(32.) On this tendency in seventeenth-century scientific discourse see R. Nate, Wissenchaft und Literatur im England der fruhen Neurzeit (Munich, 2001) pp. 169f.

(33.) Glanvill contrasted the plain style with (1) "hard words", (2) "deep and mysterious notions", (3) "affected Rhetorications", and (4) "Phantastical Phrases", see J. Glanvill, "An Essay Concerning Preaching", in J. E. Spingarn ed., Critical Essays of the Seventeenth Century, II (Bloomington, 1957) pp. 273-77 (P. 273).

(34.) Cavendish, Obseravations, "To the Reader"

(35.) The Works of Francis Bacon, III, P. 282.

(36.) Cavendish, Observations, "To the Reader".

(37.) See Nate, Wissensehaft und Literatur, pp. 201ff., for a more detailed discussion.

(38.) See the harsh criticism in F.E. Manuel and F.P. Manuel, Utopian Thought in the Western World (Oxford, 1979) p.7: "Uncounted utopian worlds of this stripe, many of them highly systematized, are being conjured up every day, in and out of hospitals, though few of them are ever set in print." More benevolent accounts can be found in L. R. Payne, "Dramatic Dreamscape: Women's Dreams and Utopian Vision in the Works of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle", in M. A. Schofield and C. Macheski eds, Curtain Calls: British and American Women and the Theater, 1660-1820 (Athens, 1991), R. Trubowitz, "The Reenchantment of Utopia and the Female Monarchical Self: Margaret Cavendish's Blazing World", Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 11(1992) pp. 229-46, L. C. Khanna, "The Subject of Utopia: Margaret Cavendish and Her Blazing World", in J.L. Donawerth ed., Utopian and Science Fiction by Women: Worlds of Difference (Syracuse, 1994) pp. 15-34, and S. Sherman, "Trembling Texts: Margaret Cavendish and the Dialectic of Authorship", English Literary Renaissance 24 (1994) pp. 184-210.

(39.) D. T. 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. University of California, San Diego, 1990) p. 18 speaks of a "Counter-rhetoric... deliberately sought to challenge and shift Standard Language boundaries".

(40.) Cavendish, The World's Oilo, p. 161.

(41.) See the early account in D. F. Bond, "Distrust of Imagination in English Neo-Classicism", Philological Quarterly 14 (1935) pp. 54--69.

(42.) Cavendish, Blazing World, p. 123.

(43.) The Works of Francis Bacon, 1V p. 443.

(44.) Cavendish Blazing World, pp. 123f.

(45.) See Khanna, "The Subject of Utopia", p. 24: "[The Blazing World] establishes permeability and creativity as textual strategies for empowerment. The principle of permeability blurs those very categories taken as normative in dominant discourse."

(46.) When Cavendish differentiated between the principles of poetic and scientific discourse, this did not mean that the latter was denied any role in fiction. On the contrary, science constitutes an important thematic and structural element of the Blazing World. In the preface Cavendish classified the three parts of her narrative as (1) "romancical", (2) "philosophical", and (3) "fantastical" (p. 124), thereby referring to text forms such as the romance, the disputation, and the fantastic voyage. It is the second part in which questions of natural philosophy are treated at considerable length. As in other seventeenth-century narratives, the themes and modes of scientific discourse are transferred to the realm of fiction. The established boundaries between these types of discourse, however, are not questioned by such a transference.

(47.) Cavendish, Philosophical and Physical Opinions, "Epistle Dedicatory".