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The Blazing World and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) Paperback – October 1, 1994


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The Blazing World and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) + Three Early Modern Utopias: Thomas More: Utopia / Francis Bacon: New Atlantis / Henry Neville: The Isle of Pines (Oxford World's Classics)
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (October 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140433724
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140433722
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Margaret Lucas Cavendish Duchess of Newcastle (1623-73), was the youngest and minimally educated child of a wealthy Essex family. In 1643, the year after the outbreak of the English Civil War, she became a Maid of Honour to Queen Henrietta Maria, travelling with her into Parisian exile in 1644. There, in 1645, she married the widowed William Cavendish, Marquis (later Duke) of Newcastle (1593-1676), who had been commander of Charles I's forces in the north, and a well-known patron of arts and letters. The Newcastles lived lavishly on credit in Antwerp from 1648 until the Restoration allowed their return to England in 1660. Between 1653 and 1668 Margaret Cavendish published a dozen substantial books including poetry, moral tales, speculative fiction, romance, scientific treatises, natural philosophy, familiar letters, closet drama, orations, an autobiographical memoir and a biography of her husband. The sheer quantity and variety of Cavendish's published writing was unprecedented amongst earlier English women. These publications, and her cultivation of personal singularity, made her an infamous figure both in her own lifetime and since, subverting patriarchal codes of feminiity while championing the legitimacy of monarchy. She appears in theatrical cameos in the writings of contemporaries like Pepys and Dorothy Osborne, and in subsequent accounts of maverick women by such writers as Charles Lamb and Virginia Woolf. Through her generically experimental and diverse writings, Margaret Cavendish emerges as an ironically self-designated spectacle, and as the self-proclaimed producer of hybrid creation and inimitable discourses, which are finally beginning to receive the attention that her life has rarely lacked.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Fredric Jameson on July 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
Margaret Cavendish was the first woman to publish prolifically under her own name, but has been largely forgotten until very recently, with certain of her works coming back in to print for almost the first time since their release in the 17th century. Among them is The Blazing World, one of the most diverse works I have ever read, especially from a 17th century writer. Cavendish throws in practically every genre of her day into one book (barring drama and poetry), making for a unique read. Adventure/sci fi blends into a scientific Utopia a la Francis Bacon's New Atlantis, and moves further into classical and modern philosophy before finally returning to adventure/fantasy, and even autobiography as the author introduces herself as a character. Some of these concepts work better than others, with the more scientific sections being quite tedious at times (again a la Bacon), but also makes for interesting combinations, as she explores Neo Platonism in a fantasy context, with the souls of "Platonic friends" travelling freely of their bodies to visit friends in other worlds, a la Obi Wan Kenobi in The Empire Strikes Back. Most of Cavendish's ideas on their own are not particularly original, but come together in entertaining ways in this book. Perhaps the concept that worked best here is the overall theme of writing as wish fulfillment, as Cavendish creates a world where her personal wishes and fantasies come true in a light hearted way. This is the earliest novel in which I have felt a great sense of the author looking back out at the reader in a Ferris Bueller, tongue in cheek fashion, much like Virginia Woolf's Orlando, a novel written by an author who was certainly familiar with, and influenced by, Cavendish's work. And yes, this is definitely a novel, just as much as Defoe's dreary Robinson Crusoe is a novel, if not more so. And a much wittier novel at that.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By William Barker on August 23, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is specifically a reaction to the Kindle edition of Cavendish, which I just purchased (23 August 2011). Two obvious typos in my first 30 seconds of reading (locations 193, 2794). Come on Penguin! If you are going to be a serious leader in ebooks, clean things up. You are doing better than most, but your work is still sub-standard. Etexts should now be of the same quality as print. This is no reflection on the work of Kate Lilley the editor, or on the fascinating concoction of Margaret Cavendish's Blazing World, but on the sloppy conversion of this text. For prospective purchasers of this Kindle texts, I think despite my complaint you can go ahead. The book is readable, despite a few font errors and some obvious typos. It's not as bad as the Penguin Chaucer and some of the other poetry texts. My complaint is directly to the publisher, and I am probably wasting my time. Yet, without criticism, there will be no improvement.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nikita Mehta on July 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Reading any type of 17th century literature in the 21st century creates a unique perspective. In particular, The Description of a New World allows for appreciation for Margaret Cavendish’s bold attempt to empower women and set precedent for female writers to be creative. It is a story that starts somewhat romantically: a merchant kidnaps a lady he is in love with, but progresses to the merchant dying whilst doing so, only for the lady to be shipwrecked to another world. Quickly made Empress of this “blazing world”, she is able to engage in philosophical and intellectual discourse with the new world’s inhabitants. Throughout the story, you are able to identify the symbolic importance of this science fiction utopian society and its connection to Cavendish’s realistic hopes of encouraging creativity among women. By explaining this other world with utmost detail she is able to give a plausible outlook on a society where a woman is respected and trusted with power.
It is helpful to understand a little biographical information about Margaret Cavendish. She lived through the civil war in England, and was eventually separated from her family—which gives an interesting perspective of how the heroine in The Description of a New World was stripped from her home and family, stranded to an unfamiliar world. Although often criticized for her work, she wrote true to her beliefs and interests. She was fascinated with science, believed in a monarchy (evident also through this piece of literature), and most importantly believed in her potential as a woman to be regarded as an intellectual. With interesting opening remarks from her husband, William Newcastle, and Cavendish herself, it is evident that although her world is fictional, it is one where women can relate to and even strive for.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephan Dowless on July 30, 2014
Format: Paperback
Margaret Cavendish was an influential female author of the 17th century, whose literal works were a means of conveying not just her aspiration for fame and power, but her desire for the betterment of female standing in a male dominated society. In The Blazing World, we are presented with an interesting combination of themes, of which include science, discovery and exploration, imperialism and more. Cavendish creates a utopian society with interesting characteristics that reflect upon how she think the world should work, using elements of fantasy and realism to do so, which makes the reading both interesting and thought provoking.
It is easy however to become frustrated with the reading, and at times uninterested. It is written in Old English, and it goes without saying that not all things translate well to contemporary languages. This convolutes some of the ideas the author tries to get across, and makes the reading somewhat difficult. It is however worth pushing through, as the book is eloquently written, and has a way of charming the reader with its fantastic elements and intelligent metaphors. The author’s emphasis of the importance and power of imagination over the simplicity of tangible and material things is even inspiring. It relates well to real world issues and presents logical and intriguing ideas for how a society could potentially work. In addition, her use of science and objectivity help to keep the text from straying too far from reason, and strengthens the points made by the author, as they are essentially unbiased and logical. Given the time period and existing gender roles of women, subtlety was imperative. Cavendish does a wonderful job in conveying her aspirations for the betterment of women through the cover of a utopian society and imaginary figures.
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