Blazing Worlds - Cavendish

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    Womens Studies, 37:441463, 2008Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLCISSN: 0049-7878 print / 1547-7045 online

    DOI: 10.1080/00497870802165429

    GWST0049-78781547-7045Womens Studies, Vol. 37, No. 5, May 2007: pp. 117Womens Studies


    The Power of TransportAnne M. Thell


    Fordham University, New York

    [F]or I had rather die in the adventure of noble atchievements, thenlive in obscure and sluggish security; since by the one, I may live in a

    glorious Fame, and by the other I am buried in oblivion (212).The Duchess

    Margaret Cavendish was ridiculed vehemently in her lifetime.Her tombstone was even defaced to mock and discreditan espe-cially cruel attack that registers the extreme anger and contemptshe elicited from her contemporaries. Such hyperbolic reactionsto this mad, conceited, ridiculous woman (Rees 12), in thenotorious words of Samuel Pepys, seem to stem from her flam-

    boyant public persona, her audacity in writing, and, most promi-nently, her daring to participate in the masculinist intellectualdebates of the day. At the heart of all of these issues lies power,and it is the question of power, too, that motivates and maintainsmuch of her work, particularly The Description of a New World,Called the Blazing World(1666). In this bizarre and brilliant narra-tive, Cavendish sets out not only to construct and dominate anentire literary, metaphoric, and mental world, but also to author

    and control a very real companion to and critique of the worldoutside of the text. She attains her speaking position by locatingthe early modern loci of powernamely, the discourses of impe-rialism, science, religion, discovery, and travelauthorizing her-self through them, and then harnessing them to fuel an absolutetextual conquest. The trope of travel is, in fact, not only one ofthe sources of power she seizes, but also the factor that enablesand maintains her usurpation of all other types of power. Mostimportantly, the Blazing World is not an escapist or separatist

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    442 Anne M. Thell

    world, but a reciprocal or symbiotic world that directly commentson and eventually breaks through into Cavendishs contemporaryreality. Through the purposeful elision of worlds and personas,

    and of text and life, the Empress is ingeniously brought to powerin the Blazing World only so that Cavendish can transfer thispotency back into her own voice.

    In the past two decades, many critics have positioned BlazingWorld within the proto-feminist, female utopic, and/or escapistgenres.1 Such readings register the works prescience and its status asan astute social commentary, but can be limiting in that they oftenconsider Cavendishs fictional world as one that is separate or

    detached from the real world in which she lived. Even more recently,many scholars have raised Cavendish studies to a new level by firmlylocating the author within Restoration scientific and philosophicaldiscourse and investigating how many of Cavendishs works not onlycritique contemporary intellectual debates, but also adumbrate theauthors own multifarious opinions.2 More specifically, many newand exciting studies have focused on Cavendish and the New Sci-ence,3 an area of inquiry that moves even further away from con-

    cepts of Mad Madge to instead portray a savvy rhetorician who isconstantly maneuvering through and wrangling with the political,philosophical, and scientific discourses of her day. Still, though, alltoo often, Blazing Worldis linked to an isolationist or exilic interiority,

    which ultimately detracts from the massive scope of the narrative: itdisallows one from recognizing the complex relationship betweenthe Blazing World and the real world, when they are indeed viscer-ally and crucially linked.

    We see immediately thatBlazing World is sanctioned by thereal world in two ways: by the words of Cavendishs husband, a

    1Sylvia Bowerbank and Sara Mendelson posit thatBlazing Worldis a protoscience fic-

    tion narrative (while also claiming, of course, that the work offers an important critique ofthe New Science). See Paper Bodies151. Emma Rees, too, establishes a convincing argu-ment regarding the theme of the exilic that runs throughout Cavendishs works. See

    Margaret Cavendish: Gender, Genre, Exile.2Namely Hero Chalmers, Sara Mendelson, Lisa T. Sarasohn, Line Cottegnies & Nancy

    Weitz, and Anna Battigelli. See, respectively, Royalist Women Writers: 16501689; The Mental

    World of Stuart Women: Three Studies; Leviathan and the Lady: Cavendishs Critique ofHobbes; Authorial Conquests; and Margaret Cavendish and the Exiles of the Mind.

    3S B i lli M C di h d h E il f h Mi d H A C M

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    male aristocrat, and by the discourse of discovery. The prefatorypoem written by the Duke of Newcastle for his wife reads:

    Our Elder World, with all their Skill and Arts,Could but divide the Worldinto three Parts:Columbusthen for Navigation famd,Found a new World, Americatis namd;Now this one World was found, it was not made,Onely discovered, lying in Times shade.Then what are You, having no ChaosfoundTo make a World, or any such least ground?But your creating Fancy, thought it fit

    To make your World of Nothing, but pure Wit.Your Blazing-world, beyond the Star mounts higher,Enlightens all with a Coelestial Fier. (151-152)

    This poem accomplishes several things: it officially incorporates Mar-garet Cavendish into the patriarchal economy as wife; it sanctionsher work through the patriarchal aristocracy and through the dis-course of discovery; and it sets up the dynamic between the Blazing

    World and real world that will be toyed with and exploited through-out the narrative. The poem posits the Blazing World higher thanother worldslocating it amidst the Stars and Coelestial Fier

    which situates it above, and yet very much relative to, the world fromwhich she writes. The directional cues point above and outwards, butonly in relation to her place in reality. Cavendishs new world ispositioned within and sanctioned by the trope of explorative dis-course, but located higher than others in this trope since it is createdof pure Witbetter, of course, because it is self-fashioned and

    purely rationalist, instead of inherently problematic like worldsfound[,] not made. As in many of her writings, this paratextualdevice is integral to understanding Cavendishs aims and methods.

    We cannot forget, too, thatBlazing World was originallyattached to Observations upon Experimental Philosophy (1666), adecision that Cavendish immediately addresses in her prefaceTo the Reader. She instructs us that we should not see this cou-pling as a disparagement to Philosophy, since philosophy is not

    merely Fiction. She explains, however, that there is but oneTruth in Nature, [and] all those that hit not this Truth, do err

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    444 Anne M. Thell

    all do ground their Opinions upon Reason; that is, upon rationalprobabilities (152). This disclaimer frames Cavendishs entireproject: her narrative, like natural philosophy, is grounded upon

    Reason. Both Fiction and Philosophy, then, have the capacityto be false (to err) or alternately to hit upon the one Truth inNature. To make this point more explicit, she says:

    The end of Reason, is Truth; the end of Fancy, is Fiction: But mistake menot, when I distinguishFancyfrom Reason; I mean not as if Fancy were notmade by the Rational parts of Matter; but byReasonI understand a ratio-nal search and enquiry into the causes of natural effects; and byFancya voluntary creation of production of the Mind, both being effects, orrather reactions of the rational part of Matter; of which, as that is a moreprofitable and useful study then this, so it is also more laborious and diffi-cult, and requires sometimes the help of Fancy, to recreate the Mind, andwithdraw from its more serious contemplations. (15253)

    Cavendish very carefully distinguishes between these two types ofinquiry and claims that while Reason and Fancy have different aims,both spring from the same well, the rational parts of Matter (153).

    While Reason aims at discovering the causes of natural effectsand Fancy is a voluntary production, they are not oppositionalin fact, they are often co-dependent: the more laborious pursuitsof Reason at times need the help of Fancy to recreate theMind; while less serious, Fancy is necessary to tease out intellectualproduce. Besides denoting refreshment, recreation also suggeststhe work Fancy does re-creating or rebuilding the rational partsof Matter in a different, fictional form. (This is reinforced in theEpilogue, where Cavendish says, [T]he Worlds I have made, both

    the Blazing- and the other Philosophical World [. . .] are framedand composed of the most pure, that is, the rational parts of Matter,

    which are the parts of my Mind [250].) These immediate distinc-tions provide solid rational footing for the following narrative: avoluntary creation of the mind, but one that stems from rational-ity and co-exists with Reason. That is to say, the proposals of this new

    world are counterparts to her preceding scientific treatise; they area reconstruction of similar principles in a different form.4

    4C di h d li i l l h h h

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    In fact, the symbiotic relationship between Reason and Fancypresents the same dynamic that exists between the texts ofObservations upon Experimental Philosophyand Blazing World, which

    Cavendish (dizzyingly) illustrates by comparing it to the relation-ship that exists within the narrative between the Empresssformer world and the Blazing World. Directly after defining Rea-son and Fancy, Cavendish says, And this is the reason, why Iadded this Piece of Fancy to my Philosophical Observations, and

    joined them as two Worlds at the ends of their Poles; both for myown sake [. . .] and to delight the Reader with variety (153). Inthis immediate invocation of her most essential travel meta-

    phorjoined [. . . .] as two Worlds at the ends of their PolesCavendish tightly binds the two works and also overtly comparesthe relationship between them to that between her two narrative

    worlds (the Blazing World and the Empresss original world), which are also joined at the ends of their Poles.5 In light ofthese multi-layered correspondences, we should certainly readthe external world and the Blazing Worldas relating to and depen-dent on each other. This, then, immediately collapses distinctions

    between the real and the imaginative, writing and life, and eachof her various worlds, since they have all sprung from reason andare all employed for similar aims: arguably, to rationally investi-gate Cavendishs contemporary reality. Cavendish reiterates soonafter: [L]est my Fancy should stray too much, I chose such a Fic-tion as would be agreeable to the subject I treated of in theformer parts (153). Again, her fictional and actual worlds areagreeable, or complementary. Blazing World, like Observationsupon Experimental Philosophy, is a meditation on the world in whichshe writes. For her, these interconnections are only demonstrablethrough the metaphor of travel, which is, of course, perfectly suit-able to her topic.

    The travel narrative itself provides a source of power forCavendish in two ways. First, as authoress, she realizes and utilizesthe heightened level of control that the genre offers: the travelercontrols her own tale by maintaining an almost unchallengeableposition. No one can genuinely question verisimilitude, since the

    account is largely experiential and only seen through the window

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    446 Anne M. Thell

    that the traveler herself gives (which in most cases is difficult ifnot impossible to verify). This narrative control is multiplied inBlazing World, as the reader cannot dispute or verify anything

    because it is an ostensibly imaginative realm (albeit one posi-tioned to make rational comments on the real world). This placesCavendish always-beyond our grasp by allowing commentary with-out accountability. Second, the travel narrative as a genre con-structs a powerful position outside of ones own society, whichallows the distance of perspectivism and creates a space to cri-tique ones former world. This, too, is magnified in Blazing Worlddue to constant travel. As readers, we are always trying to keep up

    with the continual motion from one place to another, one worldto another, even one soul to anotherthere is constant fluidityor flux. This fluidity is heightened by the fact that the worlds

    within Blazing Worldand Cavendishs external world are continu-ally, intentionally conflated: the physical and the imaginative, theautobiographical and fictional, the textual and corporal all areelided so that her tale implicitly applies to all worlds.

    Once Cavendishs actual narrative begins, the same pole-

    to-pole relationship appears in terms of her metaphoric (andtextual) voyage, which serves to link the real (the Empresss origi-nal home, which is correspondent with Cavendishs real world)and the imaginary (the Blazing World). The Lady was driven

    to the very end or point of the Pole of that World, but even to anotherPole of another World, which joined close to it [. . .] at last, the Boat stillpassing on, was forced into another World; for it is impossible to roundthis Worlds Globe from Pole to Pole, so as we do from East to West;

    because the Poles of the other World, joining to the Poles of this, do notallow any further passage to surround the World that way, but if any onearrives to either of these Poles, he is either forced to return, or to enterinto another World. (156)

    The two worlds are connected through the reciprocal pole-to-pole dynamic, which opens the possibility for endless mirroring:the same phenomenon might occur at the extreme ends of bothof these worlds, allowing an infinite chain of pole-to-pole travel.

    This mirroring again serves to highlight a reciprocal or mutuallyreflective correspondence between worlds. Furthermore, the nau-

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    (and science) sanctions the Blazing World, while at the sametime causing further slippage between Cavendishs actual andimaginative worldsthey are different but not wholly separate,

    obverse but not opposite. This pole-to-pole interface ostensiblyremoves her imaginary world to make it less threatening to thereal, while at the same time firmly basing it in worldly rationalityand references. In addition, the founding of this new intellectualterritory is wrought through and authorized by the discourse ofdiscoveryas well as certain other discoursesthat ensure its

    validity in the real world.In fact, it seems that for Cavendish concepts of narrative and

    travel are linked on an even more fundamental level. She consid-ers language a vehicle for her thoughtsthe locomotion by

    which her ideas travels outwards into the public realm, or themediation between inner and outer (which in Blazing World isespecially dizzying, as topically the narrative travels inwards onlyto discuss and eventually pierce through to the outer world). Inthis sense, her narrative is a voyage in more than one way:language is travel. She says later in Blazing World: [A]lthough

    thoughts are the natural language of souls, yet by reason soulscannot travel without Vehicles, they use such language as thenature and propriety of their Vehicles require, and the Vehiclesof those two souls being made of the purest and finest sort of air,and of a human shape (220). This statement is difficult to parse,as it does not quite work out logically (thoughts are the languageof souls, but souls cannot travel without vehicles, so they use suchlanguage as their vehicles require . . .?). What she is getting at,though, seems to be the idea that thoughts work as the ephem-eral language of souls, but need vehicles of words to enter theouter realm. The idea of language as vehicle was previouslyinstated by Cavendish in A True Relation of My Birth, Breeding,and Life (published a decade earlier in 1656). She says:

    I am forcd many time to express [my thoughts] with the tongue before Ican write them with the pen [. . .] when some of those thoughts are sentout in words, they give the rest more liberty to place themselves, in a more

    methodicall order, marching more regularly with my pen, on the groundof white paper, but [. . .] the brain being quicker in creating, than thehand in writing, or the memory in retaining, many fancies are lost, by rea-

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    This autobiographical passage defines languageboth spokenand writtenas a type of carrier that allows Cavendishs thoughtsto travel out of her mind. The idea of locomotion is fore-

    grounded with terms such as sent out in words, marching,and the Race.6 If language allows her thoughts to travel out-

    wards, it mediates inner and outer. If the trope of travel permitsher to construct her words from an uncontested outside posi-tion, it also allows her to speak from (ostensibly) outside inwards.If imaginative travel allows a voyage into the selfin words, it medi-ates from inwards further in, and then out (words themselves vexany simple definition of imaginative travel as inwards). More than

    trying to unify any theory of terms, here, I only want to point outthat there is a certain play with subjective mediationwith the

    very cusp of inner and outerthat is continually active in BlazingWorld. Toying with subjective boundaries will come to furtherprominence later in this essay, but for now, it is important to real-ize that language and travel are both mediations between the sub-

    jective and external, and thus her form (the travel narrative) andher medium (language) correspond with both her topic (a jour-

    ney) and her project (making subjectivity a valuable positionfrom which to critique the real world).Blazing World is in many ways authorized through travel, in

    terms of both its situation as a place outside (but directlyrelated to) society and its exploitation of the discourse of discov-ery. Travel also provides a forum for a series of gender maneuversthat are staged to naturalize the Empresss coming to power.

    We see these tactics immediately, as the voyage initiates as a quasi-captivity narrative: the Lady is kidnapped by a man who is besot-ted with her (although even here subversive power is insinuated,as the sailor is enslaved by her beauty). The Lady, then, is posed ascompletely powerless: a captive subject. Once kidnapped, however,

    6There is also a type of syntactic travel that is evident in Blazing World: Cavendishs

    infrequent full-stop punctuationor dearth of periodsadds an ever-accelerating pro-

    pulsion to her words. In addition, there is one last way in which Cavendish views languageas a vehicle: her frequent references to her writing as paper bodies or progeny invest-

    ed with the power to carry her after her death. Cavendish says in A True Relation thatshe has recorded her life to divulge, lest after-ages should mistake, in not knowing I wasd h M L f S J h C l h i E d Wif h L d

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    Providence (or more directly Cavendish) takes over by killingthe men in the Icy Sea and favoring this virtuous Lady, who bythe light of her Beauty, the heat of her Youth, and Protection of

    the Gods (154) survives. Her special status is authorized throughher initial lack of agency (making her future conquers fate, notambition), through men (they must abdicate power since they areimmoral, she must accept power since she is moral), and throughProvidence itself. Positioned where it is in the narrative, thismaneuver literally carries the Empress out of the real worldsgender conventions and into newfound power in the Blazing

    World. It is an acknowledgement of conventional standards, but

    these standards are only erected in order to be overcome.We see this savviness again when the king of the new world

    swiftly abdicates his sovereignty. In fact, Cavendish uses preciselythe same dynamic: the Lady is originally taken as a present to theEmperor of [the Bear-mens] world (157). Again, a hostage sub-

    ject becomes suddenly potent:

    No sooner was the Lady brought before the Emperor, but he conceivedher to be some Goddess, and offered to worship her; which she refused,telling him [. . .] that although she came out of another world, yet was shebut a mortal; at which the Emperor rejoycing, made her his Wife, andgave her an absolute power to rule and govern all that World as shepleased. But her subjects, who could hardly be perswaded to believe hermortal, tenderd her all the veneration and worship due to a Deity. (162)

    The incredible power invested in the Empressthat of a Goddess,a Deity, and an absolute ruleris mediated through theEmperor. He recognizes her true worth, her beauty, and her abil-ity to rule and incorporates her into the patriarchal (and herearistocratic) economy of marriage as Wife. Only after she isabsorbed into this ordering system can she come into power; hethen overtly authorizes her by willingly handing over his power.Even here, while the total abnegation of authority is strange andsomewhat suspiciousespecially since he is ultimately displacedand effaced from the narrativethe gesture serves to validate theEmpresss power in the real world, the complementary world

    from which Cavendish writes. Monarchical power is ingeniouslyusurped, aptly demonstrated when the Empress immediately

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    450 Anne M. Thell

    absolute power of kingsmerges with the discourse of domina-tion and colonization to bolster her own power once she takesover. Everything is self-begotten, but erected under the pretenses

    of abnegated male authority.7

    In fact, the discourse of domination, too, fuels and sanctionsthe Empresss conquest. The Empresss mode of operation isone of absolute acquisition, but this acquisition is also natural-ized since it is an almost ubiquitous element of the genre: thetravel narrative. The finders keepers mentality of the Age ofDiscovery figures large in Blazing World, and its power is har-nessed throughout. As mentioned above, the Empress appears in

    full regalia immediately after her accession. Notably, [I]n herleft hand she held a Buckler, to signifie the Defence of herDominions. [. . .] In her right hand she carried a Spear made of

    white Diamond, cut like the tail of a Blazing-star, which signifiedthat she was ready to assault those that proved her Enemies(162). This type of martial and dominative encoding entersdirectly into the discourse of colonization, with the Empressappearing not unlike engravings of Columbus. The image

    appears so suddenly, though, after the Empress has takenwhat sheseeks to defend, there seems a near rupture in the narrativeabreak into raw ambition. Cavendishs own prefatory wordsresound here. She says: For I am not Covetous, but as Ambitiousas ever any of my Sex was, is, or can be; which makes, thatthough I cannot be Henry the Fifth, or Charles the Second, yet

    7This ascension is made even more bold when one realizes that the Emperor is quite

    possibly God, or at the least a god-like figure. As the group traveled towards him, At last [. . .]they went towards Paradise, which was the seat of the Emperor; and coming in sight of it re-

    joyced very much; the Lady could perceive nothing but high Rocks, which seemed totouch the Skies (Blazing World160). The location is overtly named Paradise, the fortressextends into the sky, and the men rejoice upon approachthis is no ordinary island-

    nation. After entering a portal like a Labyrinth and winding through a river lined withseveral Cities, some of Marble, some of Alabaster, some of Agat, some of Amber. . ., theyeventually approach the Imperial City, named Paradise (160). Finally, the Palace it self

    appeard [. . .] like the Isle of a Church, a mile and a half long, and half a mile broad; the

    roof was all arched, and rested upon Pillars (161). All of these majestic details indicatethe realms heavenly status. While this status isnt entirely consistent throughout the narra-

    tive, the idea is reinstated several times, as when the Empress asks the Immaterial Spiritswhether Adam fled or was driven out of Paradise. They respond, Out of this World [. . .]

    E f i h ld f (198) Th E f hi

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    I endeavour to be Margaret the First (153). This admission ofdominative ambitions presents further slippage between real andimaginaryand between the Is of the Empress and Cavendish

    herself. In terms of discursive power, this passage quickly trans-forms the Empress from powerless to omnipotent: herjuro divino(note her newly acquired Imperial Blood [163]) is instituted

    with greater ease than all of the conquests of the New World.The manipulation of imperialist pursuits sanctions and bolstersher rule.8

    The thoroughness of the Empresss conquest is made strik-ingly clear. There is even a harmonious subjugation of various

    species (which of course strongly implies racial subjugation),yet another colonial fantasy:

    [The] ordinary sort of men in that part of the World [. . .] were of severalComplexions; not white, black, tawny, olive- or ash-coloured; but someappeard of an Azure, some of a deep Purple, some of a Grass-green, someof a Scarlet, some of an Orange-colour, &c. Which Colours and Complex-ions, whether they were made by the bare reflection of light, without theassistance of small particles, or by the help of well-ranged and orderd

    Atomes [. . .] I am not able to determine. (163)

    As an imperial force ruling over a rainbow of others even moreforeign than had yet been conquered by Europe, the Empressdisplays her spoils and further reigns in the discursive power ofdomination and discovery. Interestingly, we also see another typeof discursive power emerge here (one that has never actuallybeen separated from the discourse of dominion): Atomes andparticles reveal the scientific claims on the New World as speci-men.9 Science and conquest share more than just metaphors, ofcourse, as these powerful modes so often immediately over-lapped, especially in terms of experimentalism and discovery.Cavendish combines science, travel, and colonization because sherecognizes their inextricability in the early modern constructionof powerand she seeks to harness them all.

    8This irony of this aristocratic, unitarian fantasy is that it inevitably produces factions:there are those who rulethose of Imperial Blood (163)and those who are ruled.

    9I i i C di h d d i h f i 1655 [b ]

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    452 Anne M. Thell

    The extent to which the Blazing Worldis based on and trafficsin the New Science cannot be overemphasized. Its namesakes,indeed, are the Blazing-stars, which were such solid, firm and

    shining bodies as the sun and moon (167). There is also noquestion that within this trope Cavendish has located anothersource of power: knowledge production. The Empress immedi-ately taps into this vein, having quickly erected Schools, andfounded several Societies (163). These schools and societies arethus not only authorized by her, but authored by her. Sheappoints her men to specific positionsthe Bear-men were tobe her Experimental Philosophers, the Bird-men her Astronomers,

    the Fly-Worm and Fish-men her Natural Philosophers, theApe-men her Chymists . . . (163)and controls everything theyproduce. The Empresss brazen, combative badgering of scien-tists belies her dominative spirit, but also exposes Cavendishsown frustration and impatience with the practitioners of the NewScience in her own world. The dialectic she constructs betweenthe scientists and the Empress functions in two ways: first, it seeksto prove Cavendishs own scientific ability in producing new

    knowledge, or showcasing her scientific and philosophical ideas,as there is in the Blazing World much to be taken notice of by[the real worlds] experimental Philosophers (158). This againproves that for her, fancyor imaginative fictionis a legiti-mate way of producing new knowledge. Second, this dialecticserves to critique or satirize the scientists at home. Both of thesefeatures are predicated on travel, which provides a place outsidehome from which to critique while also promising the discoveryof new data.10

    The Empresss interrogation of the scientists undoubtedlyprovides Cavendish a forum from which to critique and satirizethe New Science and the Royal Society, with whom Cavendish isclearly disillusioned (although this was written one year beforeher 1667 visit).11 She fires one inquiry after another: Do sea ani-mals have blood? What causes tides? Do offspring always resembletheir creators? How is frost made upon the Earth? (177). She

    10Both also center on her strange anthropomorphic men, who embody the experi-li i i f h N S i d l bj f i h l

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    continues her questions for over 20 pages, often angered by theresponses, and frequently singling out technology as especiallyproblematic. This takes us back again to Blazing Worlds compan-

    ion piece, Observations upon Experimental Philosophy. As AnnaBattigelli points out:

    [A]lthough the former takes the form of scientific discourse and the latterof romantic fantasy, both are philosophical texts aimed at contesting theRoyal Societys experimental program by specifically targeting Hookescelebration of microscopes and telescopes. Both volumes value rationalistnarrative over inductive observation. [A]ppending a work of fiction toObservationswas also part of a larger strategy aimed at highlighting the

    inner life of the mind and its vagaries, which the experimentalists seemedto overlook. (102)

    Battigellis commentary helps to explain the mixed admirationand condemnation that erupts in this section of the narrative.Cavendishs highly rationalist mindset was disturbed by the seem-ing impracticability and ineffectuality of experimentalists, yet shestill displays the same urge to uncover and examine natures

    secrets and still wants to participate in contemporary intellectualdebates. While the microscope and telescope clearly referenceHooke, the instruments function of distorting (instead of clarify-ing) might not only indict inductive observation, but also theunnecessary exclusivity and ceremony of British scientific dis-course. Her standpoint is thoroughly rationalist, but she also, asBatigelli suggests, wishes to reestablish subjectivity as a valuablecritical position. This is especially interesting because of its pre-science: experimental method was quickly distancing the subjectfrom the object of study, and would eventually call for a hermeticseal between subject and object. Cavendish, by contrast, champi-ons personal rationalism and enacts a science that is wholly sub-

    jective or intuitive: the boundaries between subject/object areespecially blurred in Blazing World, as her experiments occur

    within her own imaginative realm. Scientists might aim for objec-tivity, seeking to escape the subjective mind, but by Cavendishsrationale, this is both undesirable and impossible.

    In an ingenious authorial maneuver, the subjectivity thatthe scientists seek to circumvent through external instruments is

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    454 Anne M. Thell

    divisions amongst them, then ever they had before (169). Theapparatuses do not provide one objective truth, but rather multi-ply responses. The Empress grows angry at their Telescopes, that

    they could give no better Intelligence; for, said she, now I doplainly perceive, that your Glasses are false Informers, andinstead of discovering the Truth, delude your senses (170). Theyare false Informers because they dangerously delude usuallytrustworthy sensesthe tools of rationalism. She orders them tobreak the telescopes, but the Bear-men

    exceedingly troubled, kneeld down, and in the humblest manner peti-

    tioned that they might not be broken; for, said they, we take more delightin Artificial delusions, then in natural truths. Besides we shall wantimployments for our senses, and subject for arguments; for were therenothing but truth, and no falsehood, there would be no occasion for todispute, and by this means we should want to aim and pleasure of ourendeavours in confuting and contradicting each other. (171)

    This passage clearly satirizes what Cavendish considers the futiledebate and ineffectuality of the Royal Society, whose members enjoy

    petty argument more than the pursuit of knowledge and Artificialdelusions more than natural truths. It also addresses power: theall-male team of scientists must beg the Empress to allow their super-ficial pursuit, which she honors as long as they dont interfere withState (171). This self-positioning situates the Empresss (and Cav-endishs) own rationalist system of knowledge as higher, more genu-ine, and more practical than that of the experimentalists, eventhough it exists in a subjective realm. Regardless of Cavendishsextended rationalist critique, however, her extended engagement

    with the scientists proves that she still wishes to participate in con-temporary scientific debates and that she recognizes the subjectsdiscursive power. Once again, discovery, imperialism, science, andtravel tropes are densely intertwined, and Cavendish harnesses theircollective power to fuel her own idiosyncratic, rationalist mode.

    There is yet another locus of power that Cavendish exposesand interweaves with the rest of these potent discourses. Religionin the Blazing Worldis nothing more than an exercise in powera

    matter of dazzling and controlling the masses. The unitarianismof the Blazing World extends to this area, as well: [T]here was no

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    men, yet [they] do but unanimously acknowledg, worship andadore the Onely, Omnipotent, and Eternal God (164). Even theadmirable oneness already evident in the Blazing Worlds reli-

    gion, however, does not allow the Empress total dominion. TheOnely God must be displaced by the Empress herself. Instead ofholding conferences,

    she considered by her self the manner of their Religion, and finding it very defective, was troubled, that so wise and knowing a people shouldhave no more knowledge of the Divine Truth; Wherefore she consultedwith her own thoughts, whether it was possible to convert them all to herown Religion, and to that end she resolved to build Churches. (191)

    The Empress simply finds the current religion defective, since itdoes not correspond to her own version of Divine Truth, anddecides to single-handedly perform a national conversion. Again

    we see types of power bleeding into each other: colonization andconversion, political unitarianism and imperialismall are mani-fest in this decision. The real issue: a true sovereign must controleverything that has the potential for power.12

    The commingling of religion and other discourses of powerbecomes overt when the Empress (conveniently) commands the

    Worm-men to fetch her a special Sun-stone and Star-stone(192), which she uses to build blindingly spectacular chapels.One is lined throughout with Diamonds, with Fire-stone [. . .]placed upon the Diamond-lining so that the Chappel seemd tobe all in a flaming fire (192). In a fascinating twist, the Empresshas manipulated science to create artifice, which has the power to

    delude and dazzle. Thus, the colonial impulse and science fuelher version of religion, which is really nothing but absolute con-trol over her subjects. This maneuver again belies Cavendishsalmost uncanny awareness of the multi-pronged construction ofpower in her own world. She exposes the inner-workings of thespectacle to her readers (not the Empresss subjects) in the veinof scientific inquiry. As the Empress preaches Sermons of terrorto the wicked in one chapel, and Sermons of comfort to repenters

    12This is highly reminiscent of Henrietta Marias disastrous attempts at imposingli i i d h i l ifi h l S H hi h

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    in the other (192), we realize that she has suddenly become aprophet, preacher, deity, and agent of mass control. This incredi-ble act of domination is embodied with tremendous pageantry

    when she appears in her own chapel:

    the other Chappel where the Star-stone was [. . .] cast a great light [. . .]and the Emperess appeard like an Angel in it; and as that Chappel was anembleme ofHell, so this was an embleme ofHeaven. And thus the Emperess,by Art, and her own ingenuity, did not onely convert the Blazing-world toher own Religion, but kept them in a constant belief, without inforcementof blood-shed. (193)

    She appeard like an Angel of truth within the embleme ofHeaven, a manifest deity that thereby performs a mass conver-sion through miraculous spectacle. Yet this is all unabashedlyenforced through pure Art and ingenuity. In fact, the chica-nery is offered up as proof of her own cleverness, albeit also astrange admission that religion is merely a means of effective con-trol. Although the Empress appears omnipotent to her subjects,Cavendish again reveals to the reader the real workings behind

    the miracle, as if to foreground her own ability in effectivelylocating and exploiting sources of powerand her own functionas the Empresss puppeteer.13

    This tampering with religious power reappears when theEmpress decides to fabricate her own Cabbala, which introducesthe Duchess of Newcastle as scribea signal that the fragile divisionbetween the real and imaginary is about to disintegrate completely.

    While a grocery list of eponymous intellectuals are all deemed unfit-

    ting, the Duchess is selected since although she is not one of themost learned, eloquent, witty and ingenious, yet is she a plain andrational Writer, for the principle of her Writings, is Sense andReason (208). This again roots the Blazing World in Reason,rationality, and Cavendishs own reality, intensifying the mirroringand confusion of an already self-referential narrative. Although theDuchess is chosen scribe, she cant write so intelligibly that anyReader whatsoever may understand it, unless he be taught to knowmy Characters (209). Secretaries must learn and cipher her

    13I h hil i id h d i h b li f hi b f d

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    writing, which seems to defeat her purpose entirely. The Duchesssreal function in the text, though, is manifold. Most importantly, thisis yet another way to incorporate a powerful female/self into the

    Blazing World: the Duchess is an intellectual authorityespeciallysince we are supposed to conflate this woman with Cavendish-the-authora powerful advisor that slips into the story in the guise ofmere scribe. In addition, this other Duchess introduces an evenmore dense overlap between the narrative and the external world.Interestingly, Cavendish finds it necessary at this point to addresssame-sex love, or Platonick Lovers (210), a concern that indirectlyaddresses the ongoing narcissism without hitting on the core issue

    of self-referentiality. A spirit informs the Duchess that Husbandshave reason to be jealous of Platonick Lovers, for they are very dan-gerous, as being not onely very intimate and close, but subtil andinsinuating (209). It might be said that this type of closeness is aconstant feature of the text on every level: there is only a thin mem-brane between friends, between Cavendish and her alter-egos,between the real world and the Blazing World, etc. The thinnessthat has been threatening to break all along is finally pierced with

    the appearance of the Duchess, who so closely parallels Cavendishthat it is impossible to distinguish between fact and fiction.The later passages ofBlazing Worldthoroughly rupture any real

    separation between realms through the blatant inclusion of spe-cific autobiographical information,14 which stages drastic slippagebetween the Blazing World, the Empresss former world, theDuchesss world, and Cavendishs world.15 In fact, the most dizzyingaspect is perhaps not the endless mirroring of the self, but insteadthe fact that further one penetrates into this self-referential andimaginative worldi.e., towards the end of the textthe closer one

    14Autobiographical slippage is especially frequent in terms of the recent Civil Wars.

    E.g., even though the Blazing World is composed of diverse species, there is no more butone Emperor, to whom they all submitted with tee greatest duty and obedience, whichmade them live in a continued peace and happiness, not acquainted with other foreign

    wars, or home-bred insurrections (160).15It is unclear whether or not the Empresss original world is the same as that of the

    Duchess. There are several comments, such as when the Duchess refers to the Empresss

    home as your own Native Country, and the World you came from (233), which suggestthey are not (Paper Bodies233). Both of these native worlds, however, are constructed as

    l C di h l ld ( b h h l i d

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    458 Anne M. Thell

    becomes to the external world. The Duchess cannot conquer aworld of her own since none is without Government (212), andtherefore she and the Empress instead undertake making and dis-

    solving several worlds together (215). The fluidity between worlds ismirrored in the crossover of characters: ambition or a will to poweris evident in the Empress, the Duchess, and Cavendish (as clearlystated in her own Preface and Epilogue).16 The two fictional womenthen voyage to the Duchesss real world, which gives occasion for theDuchessand Cavendishto list the Dukes virtues and his recentlosses. In fact, the lengthy dramatization of his dealings with Truth,Folly, Rashness, and Fortune not only reaches into Cavendishs

    recent history for its topic, but also extends out of the narrative as abid for approbation for the real Duke of Newcastle. In addition,since the Duke is the speaker of the prefatory poem, this figure takesus before and outside the text. Although ostensibly played out tofinally offer him vindication, Cavendishs staging of the Dukesordeal is an attempt to gain the power she lacks in the outside worldbyreturningfrom the position of power she has just constructed inthe Blazing World. Or, in another sense, to bring the external world

    into accord with inner ideals (Battigelli 82). She hopes to transferthis alignmentalready enforced in the Blazing Worldinto thereal world. The clear referencing of detailed autobiographical infor-mation finalizes the permeability between text and life.

    The attempt to channel power from the Blazing World in thereal world happens even more flamboyantly when war breaks outin the Empresss former world (calling to mind, of course, thetumultuous recent events of Cavendishs own life). This becomesthe occasion for the Empress (and Cavendish) to wield newlyacquired power in her former real world (a maneuver that ismasterminded by the Duchess), ostensibly stemming from readi-ness to serve [the Empresss] Native Country (231).17 That this

    16The Duchesss admission encapsulates this best: Truly said the Duchess to theEmperess (for between dear friends theres no concealment, they being like several part

    of one united body) my Melancholy proceeds from an extreme ambition (211). This mir-

    rors Cavendishs own words in her Preface and Epilogue.17This is yet another segment of the narrative where is almost impossible to keep the

    Duchess, the Empress, and Cavendish straight. The Empress returns to a world similar toCavendishs real world, wielding newfound power; the Duchess of Newcastle (the charac-

    ) i d h di f i f h l C d

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    triumphant appearance comes late in the narrative is important: it ispredicated on an assumed distance and a return to the world froman already validated, authenticated position of power. The Empress

    saves (or conquers) her former world via dazzling spectacle, which ofcourse recalls her means of effecting religion in the Blazing Worldand also harks back to the power of beauty. She appears in a terribleshew; for it appeard as if all the Air and Sea had been of a flamingFire; and all that were upon the Sea [. . .] did verily believe, the timeof Judgment, or the Last day was come, which made them all falldown, and Pray (236). Amidst this apocalyptic display, she ascends

    in a splendorous Light, surrounded with Fire [. . .] with Garments madeof the Star-stone, and was born or supported above the Water, upon theFish-mens heads and backs, to that she seemed to walk upon the face ofthe Water, and the Bird- and Fish-men carried the Fire-stone, lighted bothin the Air, and above the Waters. Which sight, when her Country-men per-ceived at a distance, their hearts began to tremble; but coming somethingnearer, she left her Torches, and appeared onely in her Garment soLight, like an Angel, or some Deity, and all kneeled down before her, andworshipped her with all submission and reverence. (237)

    In Christ-like majesty, the Empress elicits immediate adulation andsubmission. Yet here again display is created though artifice:science creates spectacle, which dazzles and hypnotizes. It mighteven be said that at this point, all of the various powers she hasharnessedtravel, religion, science, the colonial impulse, andpatriarchal-displacementconverge in a scene of incredible domi-nation. All the while, Cavendish calls attention to the Empresss arti-fice, by divulging that the Empress would not have that of her

    Accoustrements any thing else should be perceived (237). Thisagain highlights the cleverness behind such accoustrements andagain implicitly claims that the effect of power is what matters, how-ever artificial the means.18 The Empress announces that she willindeed save the nation, and All the return I desire, is but yourGrateful acknowledgment, and to declare my Power, Love andLoyalty to my Native Country; for although I am now a great andabsolute Princess and Empress of a whole World, yet I acknowldge

    18Th id f ifi f l d C di h f fi i ll

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    that once I was a Subject of this Kingdom (238). This conquest is sit-uated as heroic martyrdom, with the only return being an admissionof her Power, Love, and Loyaltyin short, the utter submission of

    the real world, which couldnt have been implemented or acceptedearlier in the narrative.

    At this point, the Empress erects absolutism for the kingby which the King of the mentioned nations became absoluteMaster of the Seas, and consequently of the World (240)andthus this dominion is entirely mediated through herself. Thisdirectly answers the powerlessness that initiated the narrative:

    when a Lady, the Emperor gave the Empress his power. Here,

    in a magnificent completion of Cavendishs power cycle, theEmpress bequeaths her recently amassed power to her former

    worlds king. Her return to the (relatively) real world after provingherself in the Blazing World completes her conquest; the narrative

    would be unfinished without addressing both worlds, since twohave been in dialogue all along. In this fully reciprocal ending,

    [T]he Emperess did not onely save her Native Country, but made it theabsolute Monarchy of all that World; and both the effects of her Powerand her Beauty did kindle a great desire in all the greatest Princes to seeher. [. . .] The Emperess sent word, That she should be glad to grant theirRequests; but having no other place of reception for them, she desire thatthey would be pleased to come into the open Seas with their Ships, andmake a Circle of a pretty large compass. (242)

    Thus in one final triumphant gesture, the Empress is deified, wor-shipped for both her power and her beauty, and in great theatri-cal display, controls the gaze, the minds, and the freedom of theentire world of men.19 Since the Empress, the Duchess, andCavendish have lost their individual contours, this final act ofcontrol fixes both the male audiences and the readers admira-tion onto an amalgam of ascendant selfhood.

    19Beauty is often associated with power for Cavendish. She believes that Nature favors

    women in Giving us such Beauties, Features, Shapes, Gracefull Demeanor, and suchInsinuating and Inticing Attractives, as men are forcd to Admire us, Love us, and be

    Desirous of us, in so much as rather than not Have and Injoy us, they will Deliver to ourDisposals, their Power, Persons, and Lives [. . .] and what can we desire more, then to be

    T [ ] d G dd ? (O i 147) Sh li hi

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    Strangely, after finally completing the magnificent cycle ofpower transference, the Empress encounters problems in theBlazing World. She needs Duchesss assistance, who recommends

    that she restore it to its original conditionand this works. Thisabrupt negation of all the Empress has constructed up to this pointseems a total abnegation of her ingeniously gained and demon-strated power. Some critics have argued that this is Cavendishsstudy in the impossibility of ruling by ideals or of maintainingsocial order.20 However, more than anything else, I think thisbizarre back-paddling offers Cavendish a way out of her own text:it is how she draws herself out of the incredible, theatrical display

    of absolute dominion; it is how she gets out of the narrative, whichhas perhaps become too similar to the real world, and out of hercharacter, which has become too similar to the author and toopowerful for her real audience. The Epilogue supports this read-ing, as its haunting call for fame evidences that Cavendishs voicedoes indeed cross with the Duchesss and the Empresss andreminds us that this work ismeant to complement and commenton the real world. She says here, And in the formation of those

    Worlds, I take more delight and glory, then ever Alexander ofCaesar did in conquering this terrestrial world (251). The gloryof Cavendishs I elides with the glory of the Empress in her con-quests. Cavendish continues, But I esteeming Peace before War,

    Wit before Policy, Honesty before Beauty; instead of the figures of Alexander, Caesar, Hector, Achilles, Nestor, Ulysses, Helen, &c.chose rather the figure of Honest Margaret Newcastle, which nowI would not change for all this terrestrial World (251). For thecreating of this worldthe Blazing Worldshe chose HonestMargaret Newcastle, which intentionally conflates the conquista-dor of the narrative and herself. In fact, Cavendish and her envi-ronment have never been absent from this world: sheand herexternal worldhave been part of this imaginative narrativethroughout. This claim signals one last stage in her power cycle:the potency that has slipped away from the Empress at the end ofthe narrative has exited the text altogether and slipped into the

    voice of its creator in the Epilogue. External sources of power

    have been located, interiorized, and exploited only so as to be fun-neled back into Cavendishs outside world and persona.

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    462 Anne M. Thell

    There is no question, in my mind, thatBlazing Worldis a daz-zling meditation on power. Although many consider it to be interi-orized and exilic, we cannot ignore the texts most urgent request:

    constant comparison with the external world. The real world andthe text exist in a continual reciprocal dynamic: the text is a com-mentary on and a companion to Cavendishs contemporary world,a fictional exercise built of purely rational matter that applies toall (imaginative or external) realms. In too decisively disentan-gling the various worlds and personas of this narrative universe,one risks losing the purposeful, consistent, and meaningful eli-sions between life and writing, autobiography and fiction, fact and

    fancy, and mental and external space. This doesnt make the world less real, but instead invests art and subjectivity with thepower to produce real knowledge that is applicable to the external

    world. The travel narrative is the forum for all of this, as the genreprovides Cavendish with a commingling of the subjective andexternal in precisely the right ratios. Cavendishs tactics in self-authorization and self-fashioning are eerily brilliant; she has anuncanny ability to locate and harness contemporary loci of con-

    trolthe discourses of absolutism, monarchism, domination,discovery, science, and patriarchyin order to authorize, consoli-date, and maintain power. In short, Cavendish effectively locatesthe sources of power in her own society; creates a symbiotic

    world where she can effectively control these sources, producenew knowledge, and critique society; and then harnesses all for anaturalized act of total domination, before slipping theEmpresss power back out of the text into her own voice in a mag-nificently intricate cycle. The only testament to such an enterprise,perhaps, is that her adventure of noble atchievments has finallygraced her with glorious Fame (212).

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    Battigelli, Anna. Margaret Cavendish and the Exiles of the Mind. Kentucky: U ofKentucky; 1998.

    Bowerbank, Sylvia, and Sara Mendelson. Introduction and notes. Paper Bodies:

    A Margaret Cavendish Reader. Eds. Sylvia Bowerbank and Sara Mendelson.Toronto: Broadview, 2000, 938.Cavendish, Margaret. A True Relation of My Birth, Breeding, and Life (1656).

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    . The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World (1666).Paper Bodies: A Margaret Cavendish Reader. Eds. Sylvia Bowerbank and SaraMendelson. Toronto: Broadview, 2000. 151251.

    . Female Orations (from Orations of Diverse Sorts) (1662). Paper Bodies:A Margaret Cavendish Reader. Eds. Sylvia Bowerbank and Sara Mendelson.Toronto: Broadview, 2000.

    Chalmers, Hero. Above a Theatre and Beyond a Throne: Cavendish, Philips,and the Potency of Feminized Retreat. Royalist Women Writers: 16501689.Ed. Hero Chalmers. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. 105148.

    Hutton, Sarah. Anne Conway, Margaret Cavendish and Seventeenth-CenturyScientific Thought. Women, Science and Medicine: 15001700. Eds. LynetteHunter and Sarah Hutton. Phoenix Mill: Sutton, 1997. 218234.

    . Science and Satire: The Lucianic Voice of Margaret Cavendishs

    Description of a New World Called the Blazing World. Authorial Conquests: Essayson Genre in the Writings of Margaret Cavendish. Eds. Line Cottegnies and NancyWeitz. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson, 2003. 161178.

    Mendelson, Sara. The Mental World of Stuart Women: Three Studies. Amherst: U ofMassachusetts P, 1987.

    Osler, Margaret J. The Gender of Nature and the Nature of Gender in Early Mod-ern Natural Philosophy. Men, Women, and the Birthing of Early Modern Science. Ed.Judith P. Zinsser. DeKalb: Northern Illinois UP, 2005. 7185.

    Rees, Emma L. E. Margaret Cavendish: Gender, Genre, Exile. Manchester: ManchesterUP, 2003.

    . Triply Bound: Genre and the Exilic Self. Authorial Conquests: Essays onGenre in the Writings of Margaret Cavendish. Eds. Line Cottegnies and NancyWeitz. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson, 2003. 2339.

    Sarasohn, Lisa T. Leviathanand the Lady: Cavendishs Critique of Hobbes inthe Philosophical Letters. Authorial Conquests: Essays on Genre in the Writings ofMargaret Cavendish. Eds. Line Cottegnies and Nancy Weitz. Madison, NJ:Fairleigh Dickinson, 2003. 4058.

    Smith, Hilda L. Though it be the part of every good wife: Margaret Cavendish,Duchess of Newcastle. Women & History: Voices of Early Modern England. Ed.Valerie Frith. Concord, Ontario: Irwin Press, 1995. 119144.

    Whitaker, Katie. Mad Madge: The Extraordinary Life of Margaret Cavendish, Duchessof Newcastle, the First Woman to Live by Her Pen. New York: Basic, 2002.

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