Political Writings, Margaret Cavendish (Susan James, ed.),
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. xxxix, 298.
The publication of Margaret Cavendish's Political
Writings is part of a recent effort to make Cavendish's
seventeenth-century works more accessible to students and scholars alike.
Political Writings is a particularly significant addition to this
effort in that it contains two of Cavendish's most explicitly
political texts, A Description of a New World called the Blazing
World (1666), Cavendish's best-known endeavour in utopian
fiction, along with the first modern edition of Orations of Divers
Sorts (1662). Combined with a concise introduction by the
volume's editor, philosopher Susan James, who expertly navigates
Cavendish's many influences and references—ancient and
modern—the book effectively puts Cavendish on the map as a political
thinker. Although the most published Englishwoman of her period, and now
the subject of a veritable growth industry in the fields of early modern
literary and gender history, Margaret Cavendish has received virtually no
attention in the field of political thought. With her inclusion in the
Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought series, there is hope
that Cavendish will now be treated and analyzed, not just as the prolific
writer of drama, poetry and natural philosophy that she was, but as an
incisive thinker who engaged with, and published on, the most vital
political questions facing Civil War and Restoration England.