Mad Science Beyond Flattery:
The Correspondence of Margaret Cavendish and Constantijn Huygens

Nadine Akkerman
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Marguérite Corporaal
University of Groningen

Akkerman, Nadine, and Corporaal, Marguérite. "Mad Science Beyond Flattery: The Correspondence of Margaret Cavendish and Constantijn Huygens." Early Modern Literary Studies Special Issue 14 (May, 2004): 2.1-21 <URL:

  1. The fictional work of Margaret Lucas Cavendish (1623-73) has been anthologised, and the plays of Cavendish have found their way onto the curriculum of university courses on Renaissance drama. Since most of her work was treated with severe disapproval until well into the twentieth century, one could say that literary criticism has come a long way. While her contemporaries appeared to have respected Cavendish, her first critics dismissed and belittled her writings as the ravings of a madwoman by mockingly calling her "Mad Madge." Nevertheless, since the 1980s, a revival of interest in her work has begun the slow process of rehabilitation of the first female author who purposely wrote for publication. With the appearance of scholarly editions of her plays, poetry and prose, and Katie Whitaker's thorough biography, it is beyond question that Cavendish's work is experiencing a renaissance. [1]

  2. Whereas the quality of her literary texts is now widely acknowledged, her philosophical and scientific writings are still looked upon suspiciously. Virginia Woolf has been most influential in criticising Cavendish and her work, disgorging a vision of a "crazy Duchess" who "shut herself up at Welbeck [the Newcastle estate] alone" where she "frittered her time away scribbling nonsense." According to Woolf, Cavendish whose "wits were turned with solitude" could not "reason scientifically," and uneducated, she was not able to control her writings "as if some giant cucumber had spread itself over all the roses and carnations in the garden and choked them to death." [2] Woolf's lasting description of Cavendish as a solitary author, detached from her society, uneducated, not concerned with the revision of her work, and only accepted by other scholars because of the high status of her husband, remains too often unchallenged. Whereas Cavendish's dramatic texts have been considered of scholarly interest, because they can in fact be connected to drama by other seventeenth-century playwrights, her scientific texts still seem to be haunted by distorted views that have dominated critical thinking about Cavendish's life and works for centuries.

  3. Despite the fact that Cavendish wrote an extensive oeuvre on natural science and despite the fact that she was the first woman ever to attend a meeting of the Royal Society in 1667, Cavendish is still not considered to be a true lady of learning: a reputation assigned to Anna Maria van Schurman (1607-78) and Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia (1618-80) whose institutionalisation is primarily established by their epistolary debates with other philosophers. As long as Cavendish continues to be perceived as an isolated eccentric, whose opinions were not taken seriously by her society, attempts to relate her philosophy to that of her contemporaries will only be made hesitantly, and consequently, the institutionalisation of her philosophical work will remain problematic. Admittedly, the representation of Cavendish as a writer and a scientist has become increasingly more balanced over the past decade. However, primary sources that can actually call the Woolfian myths directly into question have still been neglected. We aim to redraw attention to one of those readily available primary sources, namely the correspondence between Cavendish and the Dutch diplomat, composer and writer, Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687), in order to defy some of the prejudices against the most versatile English female author of the seventeenth century.

  4. Constantijn Huygens was a man of influence from a very young age. His father was Secretary to the Raad van State, and between 1618 and 1624 the young Huygens took part in several embassies to England. A meeting with Francis Bacon during one of those trips aroused his interest in philosophy. After his father's death, Huygens was installed as Secretary to the Dutch Stadholder, Frederik Hendrik (1584-1647). His office created the possibility for Huygens to associate with erudite men, diplomats and statesmen from all over Europe, and to broaden his circle of contacts with literary scholars. [3] Through his fluency in several languages such as Latin, French and English, this homo universalis was able to hold, next to his diplomatic epistolary exchange, an intensive correspondence with literary figures, theologians, philosophers, scientists and composers from all over the Continent. For instance, he corresponded extensively with René Descartes (1596-1650), for 122 letters between Descartes and Huygens are still extant. Descartes used his relationship with Huygens in order to appeal to this influential virtuoso to act as a mediator to print several of his works. [4] Huygens's mediation was of crucial importance with the publication of Descartes's most famous publication Discours de la Méthode (1637). After 1650, when Huygens had no employment as a secretary, he completely focused on his literary endeavours. The fame of his son, Christiaan, nevertheless allowed him to hold a position of influence.

  5. In 1998 Anna Battigelli described the letters of courtship between William Cavendish and Margaret Lucas as "the only actual and sustained correspondence of Margaret's career," altogether overlooking Margaret's letters to Huygens. [5] Only eleven letters between Cavendish and Huygens appear to have survived, [6] but the dates indicate that the two corresponded over a period of at least fourteen years: from 1657 until 1671. While, apart from two letters, the entire correspondence between the Duchess and Huygens was included in A.J. Worp's letter edition De Briefwisseling van Constantijn Huygens (1911-17), [7] the letters were never printed completely, and sometimes even translated or summarised in Dutch. As a result, the letters do not render a complete impression of the thoughts exchanged between Cavendish and Huygens. A thorough understanding of their relationship requires a study of the original manuscripts in the collections of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek and the Koninklijk Huisarchief in The Hague, and the British Library in London.

    Rupert's Drops

  6. Cavendish's inability to master French and Latin denied her access to some scholarly circles, but this exclusion from scholarly discussion is only relative. The institutionalisation of Van Schurman and the Princess of Bohemia as scientists is primarily established by their correspondence with Descartes. Realising that Margaret's Philosophical Letters (1664) direct a well-considered criticism unto the ideas of Descartes, one cannot but be disappointed that Cavendish did not correspond with this great philosopher, who was after all a member of the Newcastle circle. [8] The frustrating experience of Margaret's inability to learn French in her long period of exile must have prevented her from establishing a more personal contact with Descartes, but it must also have given her an extra stimulus to remain in contact with an English speaking community. In this respect, it is telling that she did correspond with eminent thinkers to whom she could write in her native tongue: she wrote to Sir Kenelm Digby, Walter Charleton, Joseph Glanville and later John Evelyn. Likewise, it was Constantijn Huygens's fluency in English that made their contact possible.

  7. Huygens and the Duchess met at least twice: once in 1657 and once in February 1658; on both occasions presumably at the family residence of their mutual friends, the Duarte family, whose house in Antwerp was a lively centre of musical and cultural activities. It is important to underline that the Duchess and Huygens maintained intellectual debates on a basis of equality. In other words, it would be a mistake to dismiss his letters to Margaret as mere flattery. His position was already secure and therefore it is not a question of whether he wrote to the Duchess for personal gain, for instance, to obtain patronage from her husband. Huygens had already established himself in the world of letters and he would not have needed William Cavendish's support. Following Huygens's and Margaret's first meeting, it was he who initiated an epistolary continuation of their lively conversation. The letters reveal that the two scientists exchanged ideas about Rupert's Drops, a phenomenon that intrigued Huygens. These drops made of glass are named after the brother of Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia, the military leader and scientist Prince Rupert of the Rhine (1619-82), whom Huygens knew personally, and who had introduced the drops into England in the 1640s.

  8. The drops, which are marked by a peculiar combination of strength and fragility, are formed by dripping molten glass in cold water until it hardens again. The head runs on into a crooked tail, and can resist the blow of a hammer; by contrast, once a piece of the tail is broken off, the drop explodes and is reduced to powder. The accelerated process of decreasing temperature creates tension between the inner and outer layer of the drop. The internal tension fortifies the drop, but when the stress fields, the points where the tension is diverted from the surface of the glass, are interrupted, tension is released at once, so that the entire object explodes. In the seventeenth century the glass teardrops provided for a topical discussion: Louis XIV, King of France had even consulted the Académie Française, but the scientists were unable to come up with a plausible explanation for the paradoxical characteristics of the Rupert's Drops. To this day scientists are still puzzled by these glass teardrops. [9]

  9. Having discussed related subjects with Cavendish during one afternoon, and being impressed by her capacity for reason, Huygens sent her a few Rupert's Drops. As he writes in his letter to the Duchess of 12 March 1657:

    I had the honour to heare so manÿ good solutions given bÿ Yr Excellency upon divers questions mooued in a whole afternoone she was pleased to spent bestowe upon mÿ unworthie conuersation that I am turning to schoole wth ^all speed, humblÿ desiring beseeching Yr Excellency will maÿ bee so bountifull towards mÿ ignorance, as to instruct me about the ^natural reason of these wonderfull glasses.

    Huygens enclosed some epigrams, which do unfortunately no longer exist, in which he praised the Duchess's work. His poetical efforts to make Margaret feel obliged to answer on the issue of the Rupert's Drops were apparently successful: Margaret took on the challenge of explaining the wonders of these enigmatic glasses. The Duchess must have realised that she was entering male territory of science as dominated by the Académie Française and displayed a conventional modesty in her response of 20 March 1657:

    As for yr request concerninge my Opinion, of ye glasses, yu haue done mee ye fauor to sende mee, I know not ciuilly how to deny it, nor prudently to graunt it, nor lernedly to giue itt; for itt were A presumtion to giue any Oppinion, after these famous and lerned phylosophers, as those which are in france; whose braynes Nature haue soe tempred and furnished wth such conceptions reasons, Judgements, & Witt, to find out the truths both of obscure Nature and subtill Arts; that I may rather wounder wth ye ignorant then give my Opinion wth the Lerned.

    In Cavendish's opinion, the heads of the drops contained a fluid, sulphurous substance, functioning as ammunition that could cause an explosion. She argued that the ignition resulted from a direct contact between the fluids inside the drops and the air.

  10. The Duchess's exposition of her theory encouraged Huygens to carry out further experiments. However, on the basis of the results, he came to different conclusions, discovering that the drops lost their characteristics when reheated: "I could breake of the whole taile bÿ peeces euen to the bellÿ without anÿ motion more then y.u would see in an ord ordinarie peece of glasse." (27 March 1657). Yet Huygens reached a deadlock in his argumentation, and was convinced that the Duchess could bring him closer to an analysis of the mystery. Thus, he wrote another letter to her on 27 March 1657:

    But experience hauing carryed me to a new by-waÿ, from whence I do not see how to bring mÿ selfe upon the right path of truth without yr gracious assistance […] If yr Excellency thinketh ^it worth her paynes to consider of these circumstances, It may bee that bÿ degrees she will bring herself to the true notice of the mÿsterie.

    Once again Cavendish expresses her ideas on the drops: she rejects Huygens's experimental methodology, arguing that his experiment of heating the drops will not bring him any closer to the discovery of their true essence. In her view, the extreme heat would make any liquid in the drops evaporate. As she maintains, "it might be wasted before ye truth could possibly be found out."

  11. Not placing her faith in his experiments, Margaret pursues her former line of argumentation. As she writes on 30 March 1657:

    Alsoe yu say you cannot perceiue ye buble to be a Licquer. I answer that it is probable the Licquer, if any be therin was Euaporated out either by ye fire, you applyed or by ye vent of passage, which may soone turne itt into Vapour by reason of ye Litle quantitye yt is in a glasse.

    As Douglas Grant justly observes, the correspondence between the Duchess and Huygens illustrates her supposedly negative attitude towards experiments. [10] Yet Grant fails to elaborate on this point. Cavendish often argues that the best natural philosophers are those whose observation is not distorted by an excess of scientific learning and experiments. As Battigelli notes, Cavendish was clearly in favour of rationalism as opposed to experimentalism: "while she [Cavendish] urged rationalist deduction, they [the Royal Society] focused on induction through experiment and observation." [11] Huygens's approach is undoubtedly more in line with the experimentalism advocated by the Royal Society than Cavendish's insistence on natural reason, but this is not to say that Margaret was against experiments per se.

  12. Lisa T. Sarasohn argues that the Duchess believed that "when modern scholars were so in love with learning and method, they neglected nature." [12] However, it must be stressed that this is merely a clever rhetorical stance. Recent studies have pointed out that Cavendish enjoyed a level of high education from her brother-in-law, Sir Charles Cavendish, and from her husband. Moreover, Cavendish used the family laboratory quite often. In his letter of 9/19 September 1671 Huygens refers to the fact that she ruined "many a white petticoat," which Cavendish presumably wore to protect the fragile fabric of her dress while conducting experiments. But in her argumentation, Margaret takes advantage of the prejudices against women, and turns her supposed lack of education and abstinence from experiments around to her own advantage. In this way she is able to pre-empt criticism of her work as a female writer and scientist.

    Huygens's library

  13. It becomes clear from the auction catalogue of Huygens's library, which was sold in the "Groote Zaal," the grand hall of the court in The Hague in 1688, [13] that Huygens was in particular interested in Cavendish's written works on science. The catalogue indicates that Huygens owned all major works on science by Cavendish, in various editions: The philosophical and physical Opinions of Marchioness of Newcastle (1655, no. 270), The Worlds of Marchioness of Newcastle (1655, no.271), Philosophical Opinions, Marchioness of Newcastle (1663, no.169), Grounds of Natural Philosophy by the Duchesse of Newcastle (1668, no.101), Experimental Philosophy by the Duchesse of Newcastle (1668, no.104) and Philosophical Fancies (no.317). Unfortunately, since the catalogue does not list the buyers, it is unclear where the editions ended up. [14] It may even be possible that the books by Cavendish were not sold at all: even after the auction catalogue had been printed, Constantijn junior and Christiaan decided that it was not appropriate to put those books that their father had received as presents on auction. Cavendish's writings might have been among the withdrawn books. Furthermore, Huygens's library was divided among three sons, and one of them, Lodewijk, did not sell any of the books he had inherited. If there were any books of Cavendish among his share of the library, these would not have come up in the catalogue. [15]

  14. Apart from Cavendish's writings on science, Huygens's library also included her published plays, poetry and prose narratives, such as Poems and Fancies of Margaret Newcastle (1668, no. 103 and 1653, no. 254) and Natures Pictures by the Marchioness of Newcastle (1662, no. 211). Interestingly, science and the natural world also play a significant role in these literary texts. The story "The Travelling Spirit" in Nature's Pictures (1656) is about a man who manages to travel to the centre of the earth through the magical powers offered by a witch. The natural phenomena that can be perceived on the man's journey to the centre are at the same time explained by Cavendish, so that science and fiction intersect. Moreover, in two poems in her Poems and Fancies (1653) Cavendish exposes her view of atoms: "What Atomes Make Change" and "Of Loose Atomes." Both in her own age and in later centuries critics denigrated Cavendish's scientific views because of her presentation of her ideas through genres of fiction. Huygens eagerly incorporated these literary writings in his library, as the letter of 2/12 August reveals. He seems not to have been disturbed by this presentation of her interesting scientific ideas in the form of fiction. Quite the contrary, he felt that her discussions of natural phenomena in fiction inspired the imagination and encouraged further reflection. As he writes about the Poems and Fancies to Cavendish's cousin, Utricia Swann, on 5/15 September 1653: "I am fallen upon this lady by the late lecture of her wonderfulle booke, whose extrauagant atomes kept me from sleeping a great part of last night in this my little solitude."

    Institutional recognition

  15. Following the correspondence on natural science that Cavendish maintained with Huygens, Cavendish regularly sent published editions of her writings to him. In his letter of 2/12 August 1664 to the Duchess, written during his stay in London, Huygens expresses his joy at the treasures awaiting him upon his return home, namely the books of her own hand that Cavendish has sent him. Huygens voices his cordial gratitude to Cavendish for the "new plentifull store of your marvellous productions" that have enriched his library. Margaret often sent her volumes as gifts but her motivations for doing so were never entirely altruistic. In the same manner as she shrewdly used her connections to get her work incorporated in the libraries of Cambridge and Oxford, she used Huygens to aim for a larger scientific audience on the Continent.

  16. As becomes clear from Cavendish's letter to Huygens of 27 October 1658, Cavendish prompted Huygens to act as the intermediary to have her fictional and non-fictional works on the natural world included in the prestigious university library of Leyden, the Netherlands, and thus to become established in the world of science and letters. [16] She insisted that he would keep his "promas which was to fauor my [her] book and so me [her] by it so much as to present it, to the uniuersity liberary of layden" (27 October 1658). Huygens kept his promise. In his letter of 28 November 1658, Huygens writes that he delivered her presentation volume directly into the hands of the Rector Magnificus, who presented it to the Lords Curators in a public meeting of the whole Academic Senate. Their letter of acceptance is printed in William Cavendish's A Collection of Letters and Poems (1676).

  17. Contrary to the customs of the time, Cavendish nearly always employed a clerk for her correspondence. All letters to Huygens except two are written by a secretary and merely signed by Margaret. In a postscript of a letter to Huygens of 30 March 1657, Cavendish states: "Sr I would haue writt my leters to you in my own hand but be reson my hand written is not legabell I though[t] you might rather haue gest up at what I would say then had read what I had writt - this is the reson they wer writt by an other hand". Her letters of request and thanks for Huygens's intermediation with the university library, however, are written in her own hand. Her overcoming her fear of writing illegibly signifies a deep personal engagement. It again exemplifies that the incorporation of her work into the university library was extremely important to the Duchess.

  18. The editor of the Huygens correspondence wrongly concluded that Margaret's presentation volume never reached Leyden. The presentation volume that Cavendish wanted to bestow on the university of Leyden, and that Huygens personally handed over, can still be read in the Leyden university library today. It combines four of her works: Poemarum and Commentorum (Poems and Fancies), Picturarum Naturae (Nature's Pictures), Farragiunis Mundi (The World's Olio) and Opiniorum Philosophicarum & Medicinarum (The Philosophical and Physical Opinions). [17] Although the titles may suggest otherwise, the editions in the volume are in English. The index in Latin is unique, and presumably inserted by Huygens himself, [18] for it is not included in the presentation volumes that Cavendish offered to the universities of Cambridge and Oxford between 1653 and 1666. [19] Probably, the index was added in the Leyden presentation volume to reach a larger audience, and to ensure that the writings would be classified in the appropriate way, considering that few Dutch scholars were familiar with the English language.

  19. Furthermore, the Latin index can be seen as a way to enhance the prestige of the writings. Cavendish was aware that natural philosophy was more widely studied on the Continent than in England. She had shown regret on several occasions that she was unable to reach scholars on the Continent who, she believed, would value her work more than her average English reader. Afraid that her work would have sunk into oblivion, in 1664 she commissioned Oxford scholars to Latinise her philosophical works, but several translators found it impossible to translate her atomist verses and the project was abandoned. [20] The Latin index in Leyden can be seen as the first attempt to Latinise her work in order to reach a continental audience.

  20. It is worth mentioning that a great number of corrections of errata have been written in the margins of the presentation volume. It is almost certain that the handwriting in the Leyden presentation volume is Cavendish's, for the hand is identical to Cavendish's signature of a manuscript in the British Library and the holograph letters in the Koninklijke Huisarchief. Cavendish often complained about the errors made by printers upon the publication of her writings, and as a result, had the errors in copies of her published writings corrected either by a scribe or by herself. [21] James Fitzmaurice notes that Margaret only began "to intercede with her writing after it became piles of print" after the Restoration. The presentation volume in Leyden shows that she corrected the books that were most important to her even before that time. Fitzmaurice writes that "the fact that she did not begin this practice in earnest until after the Restoration may in fact reflect the practicalities of travel between where she lived and the location of her printers." [22] Since her books were printed in London, she must indeed have gone out of her way to present a corrected copy to Leyden. It is evident that Cavendish was obsessed with presenting her works in their correct form to the university of Leyden, also to the extent that she rejected any interference by a clerk.


  21. While Virginia Woolf still thought Cavendish to be a lonely eccentric, disconnected from her society, whose works on science sprang from complete ignorance, today Cavendish criticism increasingly portrays Cavendish as an engaged scholar whose opinions were taken seriously by the scientists of her age. The correspondence between Huygens and Cavendish supports this view. The Duchess and Huygens held intellectual debates on the basis of equality. From their letters on the Rupert's Drops, the auction catalogue of his library, and his intermediation between her and the university of Leyden, one cannot but conclude that he displayed genuine respect for her innovative ideas on natural science. In an active debate on science both learned from one another, Huygens carrying out experiments to test out his and the Duchess's assumptions, and Cavendish using her wit and imagination to propose explanations. Above all, Margaret consciously used her connection to Huygens as a means to draw further public attention to her scientific writings on the Continent and to obtain recognition from the institution from which women were conventionally excluded as scholars: the university. Finally, the presentation volume in Leyden again exemplifies that she took great care that her works reached the universities in perfect condition. She meticulously revised the text herself. The careful corrections written in the margins of the Leyden presentation volume, the Latinised index, and the letters to Huygens in her own hand show that Cavendish sought to control her published writings, and, with this, her public image as a writer and as a scientist in particular. Constantijn Huygens did not think Madge mad; so why should we?


    1. Constantijn Huygens to Utricia Swann.23 KA 48, f. 46r.
    Published with the kind permission of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague.

    To the Ladÿ Copie
    Swann. Hofwÿck
    5/15 Sept. 1653. Madam ;
    I was neuer of the opinion of the ancient Roman poet, [24]
    maintaining that no Woman was euer borne speechlesse, but
    why Utricia Ogle should bee it towards Constantin Huÿgens
    I could not imagine till now, that yr lad.p hath beene pleased
    to awake, and to giue me some reason whÿ she hath slept so long.
    Neither will I bee too inquisitiue about the validitie of that
    reason, y:r and is onelÿ will and pleasure hauing allwaÿes
    beene the rule of mine, and no satisfaction pretended beÿond
    y:r owne: which I hope, Madam, y.u are to find most absolute
    and compleat in the jorney y.u are proposing to the Baths,
    and that there y.u will wash of so well all yr infirmities
    that wee maÿ see yr Lad.p returne prouided of a paire
    of Gelegentheitjes [25] fatt and plumpe, and such as I suppose
    they were a dozen yeares since. In such a case wee will
    all long to see them at the Haghe, though I make no account
    that y.u should bee intended to trimme them up as the dutchesse
    of Lorraine told me, y.r Noble cousine of Newcastle [26] doth
    use to doe, by binding a gentle peece of Ribon at the topp of
    euery one, and so appearing au Tour à la mode. [27] I am
    fallen upon this Ladÿ; by the late lecture of her wonderfull
    Booke, [28] whose extrauagant attomes kept me from sleeping
    a great part of last night, in this mÿ little solitude,
    where, since y.r lad.p hath seene it, I haue built two louelÿ
    glasswindowed cabinets at the waterside, making now more
    use of them, then of the whole castle of Hofwÿck, [29] which
    by this meanes is growen to a mightÿ and statelÿ building,
    as euery thing in this world is great or small onelÿ by comparison.
    I dare not inuite y.r L. to the view of these wonders but
    after yr Bathing, when I hope y.u will stand to y.r word
    and come to informe us, what maÿ bee the reason of y.r famous
    Sibyllas remoouing, [30] and which waÿ she maÿ bee gone, this being
    a most strange kind of newes to us, as neuer hauing heard of it
    before. Certainlÿ the towne of Utrecht is a mightie looser bÿ it,
    and should haue hindred it bÿ all possible violent civilities,
    so that the Ashes of that Phenix had beene preserued where she
    hath so gloriouslÿ spent the best part of her life.
    If it were not too much trouble to y.r L. I could wish
    to heare in general, what maÿ haue occasioned so suddaine
    a resolution. And thus praÿing God allmightÿe, to blesse
    that of y.r L. wth a most prosperous successe, I remaine
    as euer, and for euer Y

    Manÿ a newe Almande, courante, sarabande and such like
    are to waÿte upon yr L.s comming, after I shall haue
    mustered them before little ma soeur Francisque, [31] who, I hope,
    will see us before winter, mon frere diego [32] hauing some occasion
    of his trade to deale wth her Highnesse when she will be here
    from Turnhout againe.

    2. Constantijn Huygens to Margaret Cavendish. KA 48, f. 37r.
    Published with the kind permission of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague.

    To the Ladÿe           Madam; 12 Mart. 1657.
    Marchionesse          I had the honour to heare so manÿ good solutions giuen bÿ
    of Newcastle.          Yr. Excellency upon diuers questions mooued in a whole afternoone she was pleased to spent bestowe upon mÿ unworthie conuersation, [33] that I am turning to schoole wth ^all speed, humblÿ desiring beseeching Y.r Excellency will maÿ bee so bountifull towards mÿ ignorance, as to instruct me about the ^natural reason of these wonderfull glasses, [34] which, as I told y.u ^Madam, will flÿ into powder if one breakes but the least top of their tailes: The King of france where^as without that waÿ theÿ are hardlÿ to be broken by anÿ waight or strength. The King of france [35] is as yet unresolued in the question notwithstanding he hath been curious to mooue it to an assemblie of the best philosophers of his Paris, which the microcosme of his Kingdome. Y.r Excellency hath no cause to apprehend the ^cracking blow of these little innoxious gunnes. If she y.u did, ^Madam, a servant maÿ hold them close in his fist, and yr selfe can break the little end of their taile without the least danger. But, as I was bold to tell y.r Excellency, I should bee loth to xxxx beleeue anÿ female feare should reigne amongst so much ouer-masculine wisdom as we do the world doth admire in her. I praÿ God to blesse
    y.r Excellency wth a dayly increase of it, and herself yr worthie selfe to graunt that amongst those admirers I maÿ striue to deserue by xx waÿ of mÿ humble seruice the honour to be accounted Y

    [page turned 90 degrees and written in the left margin:]

    I am have made bold to joyne unto these a ^couple of poore Epigrammes
    I did meditate in mÿ jorney hither, [36] where Yr Excellencys noble
    Tales were mÿ best entertainment. I hope, Madame,
    y.u will perceiue the intention of them thoroug the mist
    of a language I do but harp ^and ghesse at.

    3. Margaret Cavendish to Constantijn Huygens. G1-9/1.
    Published with the kind permission of the Koninklijk Huisarchief, The Hague.

    Noble S.r
    I receued by mrs de Werts a letter & A Couple
    of Epigrams [37] wherin you haue praised me & my booke [38]
    more then ye Witt, or merrit, of either deserues; which
    exspresseth yo.r ouerflowing generossity that choiceth
    rather ^to giue to much praise then to litle/
    As for yor request concerninge my Opinion, of ye glasses, [39]
    you haue done mee ye fauor to sende mee, I know not
    ciuilly how to deny it, nor prudently to graunt it,
    nor lernedly to giue itt; for itt were A presumtion
    to giue my Oppinion, after these famous and lerned
    phylosophers, as those which are in france; [40] whose
    braynes Nature haue soe tempred and furnished
    wth such conceptions reasons, Judgements, & Witt,
    to find out the truths both of obscure Nature and
    subtill Arts; that I may rather wounder wth ye ignorant
    then giue my Opinion wth the Lerned; but to mye
    Outward sense these glasses doe Appeare to haue in ye
    head ^body or belly A Liquid, & oyly substance, which may be the
    Oyly spirrits or Essences; of Sulpher, alsoe the glasses doe
    Appeare to my senses; Like ye nature, or Arte of guns
    and the spirrit of Sulpher as the powder; where
    Allthough they are charged; yett vntill they bee
    discharged: giues noe report or sound; the discharging
    of these glasses is by ye breakeinge of A piece or part or
    end, of the tailes where the discharging of guns are
    by much, firelockes, serues or ye like, which setts fire
    or giues Vent to ye powder; but these Supherousse
    spirrits, hauing as it seemes A more forceable
    Nature; it doth viollently thrust it selfe out, where
    itt findes Vent, Like as winde, but rather like fire,
    being of A firy Nature, & may haue the Effects of
    bright shineing fire, which when it has noe Vent,
                                 [catchword:] Lyes
    Lyes as dead, but As soone as it can eate out A
    passage or findes A Vent, it breakes forth in A
    violent crack or thundring noisse, I doe not saye
    ye Effects of these spirritts are to flame or to burne
    affter yt way but only it hath ye like Effects, as to
    breake dispersse and Spread abroad as bright shineing
    fire doth, for oylye Sulphur, vittral spirritts &
    the like firy Natures, are those which are called
    A cold dead fire, that is ye exterior parts is colde
    & dull, allthough the interior is hott, & Actiue,
    As for ye wounder how this Liquid matter should be
    putt into this glasse, for itt is Vissible A Liquid
    matter, is therin, which to my senses itt must
    be first putt in, to ye matter or substance ^that makes ye glasses. And
    when ye glasse is blowne the Licquer runs, or crouds
    to ye most hollowest, and Largest place it can get
    into, Like as wind will blow ye Watter into A
    crowd or heape togeither And fill All hollow
    places itt can gett into - as ditches, pitts, or ye Like,
    soe doth ye breath of ye glasse maker, blow that oyly
    essenses, or spirritts into ye belly of ye glasse
    where before it can haue soe much tyme to retire
    backe, the end of ye litle porus taile, is soathred vp;
    Where affterwards when the soadred part is broke of
    the spirritts findeing Vent strugles; & striues to
    gett forth, wherin the strife it breakes the glasse
    to pieces, wherwth itt makes A Noise, or report, Like
    A gun or rather as A fired house, or ye like, I
    meane not for ye Loudenesse of ye sound, for the
    report is small, to such Loud reports, though it be
    great for soe smale a bodye but I compare these
                                        [catchword:] spirritts
    Spirritts like to fire, and the glasse as the house
    wherin the ^firy spirritts Are in as much as when theye
    breake forth, they rend and disperse the materialls
    of theire transparant house seuerall wayes, as alsoe
    the firy oyly xxxxx ^spirritts spreads itt selfe into vapor
    & dyes, for dilation is ye waye to desolation and as this
    glasses breakes when discharged soe, I belieue guns
    at there discharging would breake; if the barrells were
    of glasse, as they are of Iron, and I know nothing
    to ye contrary but this Liquid substance in these
    glasses, may be ye Oyle of saltpietter which is
    flatious, brimstone and charcole, which is hot mixt
    togeither and soe may be A Liquid gunpowder, or
    rather Gunpowder made Liquid, put into ye glasses, as
    for ye sound or report it giues, when discharged by
    giuing ye glasse Vent, may be by ye same cause, and yt
    makes Ayre giue A report for Ayre Allthough it be
    Equall tempred or cold ^yet when it haue ben pent vp
    and afterwards haue Vent, will make a Loud report;
    soe will Watter or Any Liquer for Ayre and wind
    haue Vocall Noisses; but to draw you towards An end
    itt Appeares thus to my senses; that ye strife of ye
    Spirritts or gunpowder Liquer and ye bricklynesse
    of ye Glasse is ye cause of ye breakeinge and powdering
    of ye same, and the spirrits being Ayry; and ye Liquer
    windy, and being first pent vp, and then getts
    Vent is ye cause of yt sound, or Report, and for ye
    inclosure of ye Liquer is done by ye Arte of the
    Artifficiers; which Arte if ye philosophers knewe
    or had ben bound Apprentice to, might soone haue
    satisfyed the King of France's Curiossittye, and
    instructed him in ye knowlledg therof, for these glasses
    more concernes ye Artificiers than ye Naturall philosophers
    or speculators; but Weomen Weares at there Eares ^for pendents as great
                                  [catchword:] Wounders
    Wounders, Allthough they make not soe great
    A Report, which are glasse bobbes, wth Narrowe
    neckes as these glasses haue tailes, and yet is
    filled wth seuerall coullers silkes and coursse
    black cotton-wooll, which to my senses is
    more difficult to putt into these glasse pendants
    then Liquer into these glasse gunnes, but Sr I haue
    made A tedious discource, of what my senses
    haue obserued of these glasses you sent me,
    which discources may tyre or Weary your
    Sense to read itt, but I haue only ^this to excuse
    me that I chose rather to say to much to shew
    or exspresse my Obedience to yor Comands;
    then to say soe litle as itt may be thought
    I was Negligent or idle, but if I haue comitted
    A fault in being ouer dilligent, pray pardon
    me, wherby you will As to those fauors I haue
    receued from you, for which next to your
    Owne Merritts hath obliged me to bee/


    Antwerp 20th March 1657
    Yor humble friend
    & saruant

    4. Constantijn Huygens to Margaret Cavendish. KA 48, f. 36.
    Published with the kind permission of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague.

    To the Marchionesse
    of Newcastle
    27. March. 1657 Madam:
    I have put yr Excellency to a trouble which I did suppose should
    be the last upon this subject. But experience hauing carryed
    me to a new by-waÿ, from whence I do not see how to
    xxx bring mÿ selfe upon the right path of truth without
    y.r gracious assistance, I doe presume this second time to
    make informe yr Excellency of what I haue found out since yu were
    pleased to bestow a most judicious sheete of paper upon
    mÿ ignorant curiositie. In ordre of your Excellencys determination,
    I did conceaue, if the matter inclosed in the hollow parts of
    these bottels [41] should be a sulphureous liquid gunpowder, that
    without question fire would worke upon it and make it actiue.
    But, Madam, I haue found myself so farre short of mÿ
    opinion, that firing one of these bottels to the reddest hight
    of heat, I haue not onelÿ seene it Without anÿ effect, but
    also beeing cooled againe, I haue wondred to see all his vertue
    spent ^and spoiled, so that I could breake of the whole taile bÿ peeces euen
    to the bellÿ without anÿ motion more then y.u would see in
    an ord ordinarie peece of glasse. Hauing alsoe broke ^the bellÿ a sunder
    and wel obserued the little hollow bubles that within it, I haue
    not found the least appearance of anÿ liquor or oyly substance
    should haue been inclosed therein. If y.r Excellency thinketh ^it worth
    her paynes to consider of these circumstances, It may bee that
    bÿ degrees she will bring herself to the true notice of the mÿsterie.
    I am the bolder in importunating her w.th these trifles, for as much
    I remember y.r Excellency would declare ^unto me that beeing to daÿ of an
    opinion in matter of Philosophie, she would not to be bound to it
    that she to morrow she might not make choice of a better.
    I leaue all to her most ingenious perspicacitie, and w.th her
    gracious leaue do signe me Y

    5. Margaret Cavendish to Huygens, 30 March 1657. British Library, MS Add 28558 f.65.
    Published with the kind permission of the British Library.

    Monsr Huijgens de
    Le Haghue


    I haue recd : yor second letter by mr dewerts
    wherin I finde yor dissatisfaction of ye Opinion of those
    Litle glasses; [42] truly Arts are as obscure and hard to finde
    and by those yt are vnlerned in them, as Natures Workes;
    but to Cleere my Opinion, or rather to Answer yors
    desires I shall Argue something more of them; though
    my Arguments may be as weake as my Opinions, &
    my opinions, as weake as my Judgement, & my
    Judgement as weake as want of Knowlledge Can
    make itt.         As for ye Liquer you say in yor Letter
    that if itt were a Sulpherous Liquer, or a Liquid
    gunpowder (as I said) I thought it might bee,
    doubtlesse it would be actiue by ye helpe of fire;
    I Answer for that fire hath seuerall Actiue Effects both
    in itt selfe and vppon other substances; or subiects
    wherfore if ye Liquer had ben drye powder it might
    be subiect to yt effect, or fire, as to flash, flame, or
    bounce; but if ye powder were wett the fire coulde
    worke noe such effects, but as ye substance is A
    Licquer fire is as subiect to yt Liquid substance, or
    matter as that substance or matter is to fire
    for all Liquers allthough strong wth spirritts and hott
    in operation will quench fire as sudenly, as fire
    shall euaperate Liquer take quantity for quantity
    and it is probable yt the high fire you did Applye
    to ye glasse, did euaporat out ye Licquer in the
    glasse which might be ye weakening & changing
    or altering the former effects; Alsoe you saye you
    cannot perceiue ye buble to be a Licquer I
    [next page:]
    Answer that it is probable the Licquer, if any be
    therin was Euaperated out either by ye fire, you applyed
    or by ye vent of passage, which may soone turne
    itt into Vapour by reason of ye Litle quantitye
    yt is in a glasse thus it might be wasted before
    ye truth could possible be found out: for
    Certaynly to my sense, as alsoe to my reason
    A Licquer Apeared to be in those glasses; you sent
    me; but if there be noe Licquer in those glasses;
    then itt is probable it might be putt pent vp ayre
    enclosed therin, which hauing vent was ye cause
    of the sound, or report which those glasses gaue
    Thus Sr : you may perceiue by my Argueinge, I
    striue to make my former opinion, [43] or sense
    good; Allthough I doe not binde my selfe to
    opinions, but truth; and y e truth is that though
    I cannot finde out ye truth of ye glasses; yet
    In truth I Am

    Antwerp 30th march
                              Your humble seruant
                              M Newcastle
    Sr I would haue writt
    my leters to you in my
    own hand but be reson
    my hand written
    is not legabell
    I though[t] you might rather
    haue gest who at what I
    would say then had
    read what I had writt
    this is the reson they wer
    writt by an other hand [44]

    6. Margaret Cavendish to Constantijn Huygens. G1- 9/1.
    Published with the kind permission of the Koninklijk Huisarchief, The Hague.
    [Endorsed: R: 27 October 1658]
    noble Sr
    giue me leaue to chalengs your promas
    which was to fauor my book [45] and
    so me by it so much as to present
    it to the uniuersity liberary of
    layden, [46] for though my book hath
    nether witt nor worthe enouf to dissarue
    a place in that liberary yet by the
    honour that it will reseue from your
    hands it may find a good actseeptance
    thus Sr j trouble you but no man
    liues with out som troubles and thos
    persons that are most emenant are
    offnest soleseted to doe faours and
    your faour in this will ever obleg me
                 to be Sr your
                 most humble saruant


    7. This letter does not survive in manuscript but is printed in A Collection of Letters and Poems: Written by Several Persons of Honour and Learning, Upon divers Important Subjects, to the Late Duke and Dutchess of Newcastle (London: Printed for Lanly Curtis in Goat-Yard on Ludgate-Hill, 1678).

    [Chapter:] Letters, &c.

    Hague, the 28th of November, 1658.

    According to your Excellencies command, I have been of purpose at Leyden, and there delivered your Present into the hands of the Rector Magnificus (as we call him) of the University, who some days after hath made a solemn exhibition of it to the Lords Curators, in a publique meeting of the whole Academical Senate, and, in their name, hath sent me the Letter here enclosed; by which I hope the faithful discharge of my Ambassage shall be testified, and give your Excellency

    occasion of further Employment to bestow upon the unworthy person,

                                                        Madam, of
    This letter came but even
    now from Leiden, so that I           Your Excellencies Humble
    hope your Excellency will
    not suspect any negligence           and Obedient Servant,
    in me.
    Huygens de Zulichem.

    Illustrissima Domina,

    Obtulit Bibliothecæ pubicæ Zulichemi Dominus Divinum ingenii vestri fætûm, qui five prosà five Carmini omnem admirationem excedit. Princeps ingenii, Princeps terrarum, Princeps fæminini fexus merito diceris. Abripitur fæcunda tue erudito, per cælos, terras, maria, & quicquid in natura, vel civili vita, ullove Scientiarum genere, nobile occurrit. Ipsa Pallas Academiæ nostræ præses Tibi assurgit, gratiásque immensas pro vestro munere agit, & cum Imaginem vestram aspicit, se ipsam veluti in speculo intueri videtur. Vale

                                     Illustrissima Domina

                                             Virtutum vestrarum

    Datæ Lugdini Batavo-        Admirator & Cultor summus,
    rum XXVIII. Novem.          Anthonius Thysius,
    MDCLVIII.                         Academiæ Rector.

    8. Margaret Cavendish to Constantijn Huygens. G1-9/1.
    Published with the kind permission of the Koninklijk Huisrarchief, The Hague.

    noble Sr
    j should ^not haue ben so long from sending
    my thankes for your great fauour47 but
    that j haue ben greu^eously aflicted with
    the toothe ache in so much as j thought
    j had the torments of hell in my teath
    and that thos torments would haue ben
    as euerlasting, be reson it could not be
    drawn out allthough j haue ben ualanly
    suffred the petars of a tooth drawer
    who hath broaken som parts of the
    walls but not puld up the founddation
    but how so euer thos my torments and
    tormenters mad me for the presant
    uncapell of presenting my thankes yet
    they could not mak me so ungratfull as not
    to remember thos my obblegations j
    reseue from you and truely Sr you may
    be a presedant to this age in that your
    genorous courtisie doth not only extend
    to the natiues of your country but to
    strangers who dissus your fauorabl
    asesttancs by whwhich asesttans both
    j and my workes hath found fauor
    and respect at laiden for throw the
    great estem the iuneuersity hath of
    you caueses them to estem that which
    you present unto them so that you are
    the father of thos respects and com
    complements j haue reseued from them for
    which j shall be euer gratfull
                      as Sr becomes

    [page turned 90 degrees and written in the left margin:]

    and is requesed for your uery louing frend and
    humbell Saruant MARGREAT NEWCASTLE

    9. This was described in the sale catalogue of Richard Hatchwell, Cleeve House, Rodbourne Bottom, Malmesbury, as a Letter from Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, dated July 15th, 1660, from Antwerp. Written to Mons. Zealicen, secritaire a son Altesse, La Haye. [48] With 2 small seals. It is now in a private collection.

    "Worthy Sr. I did not think I should have troubled you to doe me any mor favors but
    was in hope fortune and fatte would give me some opertunety one way or other to
    sarve you to exprès my gratitude to you for the obligation I have reseved from you,
    but I must desire your faver once more as to desire the Stats Generall of holand [49] in my name presenting my sarvices to them, that they would be plesed to send me a pas for my goods to pas by ther terettores I had one when as the king [50] was at the hague that my lord [51] had of the king but I am toold that now that pass will not sarve. I have sent it that you may shew it the stats if you plese, but this favor they must if they will favor me with one. Be soon for I goe away the next weake my lord having sent for me and not to stay and so presenting my sarvices to your daughter [52] and your suns espeshally to your sun archimedas. [53] I rest your humble sarvant Margaret Newcastle.

    [Down the side of the letter is a postscript, apparently in a different hand, but in the
    same hand as the address]

    "it is some 30 trunckes & cases to poste at Lille: [54] and in
    Zealand containing only houshold stuffe, &c. we think we need not send ye kinges
    passe since you may pass for it that we have it & it may be lost."

    10. Constantijn Huygens to Margaret Cavendish, KA 48, f. 26r.
    Published with the kind permission of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague.

    To the Ladÿ                      London 2/12 of Aug. 1664
    Marquesse of       Madame,

    This is my second journeÿ from the Court of France
    into this, within the space of but one ÿeare; and I doe maÿ
    Ma better call it mÿ second misfortune, seeing mÿ occupations
    here will not giue me leasure to goe and render mÿ
    humble respects unto y.r Ex.e And this wch mortification
    lyeth so much heauyer upon me Madam because from
    beÿond sea I am informed of yr most undeserued exceeding Goodness toward
    me, and that o.r good frends at Antwerp [55] have prouided
    enriched ^my librarÿ in my absence xx by ordre of yr Exe wth a new ^delicate plentifull store of yr >maruellous wonderfull noble productions. [56] I hope Madam y.u wil not stand upon a re rigorous accompt w.th a man whom necessitie
    maketh unciuill. Being just now ^almost dispatched xx by his
    Matÿ I am ^instantlÿ tossed ^ouer again to the King of france
    about whom hauing spent the time of aboue two
    year ^alreadÿ and being almost become grown a stranger
    to mÿ owne countrÿ, I can dare assure y.r Excellency that besides
    this reason, the fine things I am to find at home
    by y.r fauour will spurr my ^diligence in such a manner
    that, as we say in a dutch proverb, the Court of france
    shall see me make short miles w.th her, and
    yr Excellency I hope, receaue in brief mÿ more particular
    acknowledgement for the ^noble benefit she hath been pleased
    to bestow upon me, who shall alwayes repute it
    for one of the greatest blessings of mÿ life to
    be beleeued, as I am faithfullÿ Y

    I make bold to present ^here mÿ
    humble and obedient sence
    to mÿ much honoured Lord Marquis
    his Excellency supposing he cannot receaue it
    from a more beloued hand.

    11. Constantijn Huygens to Margaret Cavendish. KA 48, f. 16r.
    Published with the kind permission of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague.

    To the dutches
    Of Newcastle
    Lond. 9/19 Sept. 1671. My Lord
    When the Prince mÿ Master parted from this court
    it pleased his High: to leaue me here, for the
    prosecution of some busines depending partlÿ of the
    Parliament and partlÿ of other courts and offices the Lords Commission of the
    All w.ch hauing stayed kept me here beyond hope
    till now bÿ ^reason of manÿ inpediments unexpectedlÿ
    fallen in, I haue always liued ^all the while in hope to haue had
    the honour to see Y.r Grace here in these parts being mÿ self
    unable to spare so much time as I had need of
    to goe and make an escape to kiss Y.r Graces hands in her own dominions
    as indeed I had wished, to doe and would haue done w.th a great deale of
    joy and delight. Now the time of mÿ expedition dispatch
    beginneth to draw neare, I seeing mÿ self bound
    to return home directlÿ, and so frustrated both of
    mÿ said hope and wishes, I could not forbeare
    to shew Y.r Grace by these lines how ^verilÿ mindfull
    I am of the manÿ fauours she hath been pleased
    to bestow upon me beyond sea in former times, euen especially of those fauours
    Madam w.ch I remember did cost yu Grace manÿ a
    white petticoat a week. I make no question
    Madam, but the same noble Veine is producing
    still some New rarities, and praÿ God It maÿ
    continue to doe so manÿ happie yeares to the
    glorÿ of y.r name and satisfaction of the
    world in w.ch as long I shall remaine I shall
    undoubtedlÿ be found y


1. Whitaker, Mad Madge, 354-67.

2. Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own, 99-100.

3. See Worp.

4. Bots 12-13.

5. Battigelli 12.

6. The letters can be found in the appendix.

7. Published by Worp in the Hague.

8. As Sarah Hutton observes, Cavendish's brother-in-law Charles was "a member of the Paris circle of Marin Mersenne, to which Descartes belonged. Margaret Cavendish mentions that Hobbes and Descartes dined with her husband, but denied being party to their conversations" ("Anne Conway, Margaret Cavendish and Seventeenth-Century Scientific Thought," 220).

9. Rupert's Drops figure prominently in Peter Carey's modern novel Oscar and Lucinda (1988). Lucinda has been fatally attracted to glass ever since she saw the colours of the Rupert's Drops, even buying a glass factory, which she names after the drops. The sophisticated fragile Lucinda has to head the muscular factory workers in a dirty steaming environment. Carey tangibly uses the drops as a metaphor throughout his novel, exploiting the contradictory quality of the drops -- strength and fragility -- to describe the world of Oscar and Lucinda. The metaphor is in particular inscribed unto the character of Oscar.

10. Grant 193.

11. Battigelli 89.

12. Sarasohn 130. In her Philosophical and Physical Opinions (London: J. Martin and J. Allestrye, 1655) Cavendish herself described nature as a woman: "that wise and provident Lady, nature" (A2r).

13. The catalogue of Huygens's library includes the following items:
"Libri Miscellanei in Folio":
no 101 Grounds of Natural Philosophy by the Duchesse of Newcastle, 1668
no 102 The Life of the Prince William Cavendishe by the Duchesse of Newcastle, 1667
no 103 Poems and Fancies by the Duchesse of Newcastle, 1668
no 104 Experimental Philosophy by the Duchesse of Newcastle, 1668
no 105 Plays by the Duchesse of Newcastle, 1668
no 106 Orations of the Duchesse of Newcastle, 1668
no 146 CCXI Sociable Letters by te [sic] Princesse of Newcastle, 1664
no 169 Philosophical Opinions Marchioness of Newcastle, 1663
no 205 Orations of the Marchioness of Newcastle, 1662
no 211 Playes of the Marchioness of Newcastle, 1662
no 213 Natures Pictures by the Marchioness of Newcastle, 1656
no 254 Poems and Fancies of Margaret Newcastle, 1653
no 270 The philosophical and physical Opinions of Marchioness of Newcastle, 1655
no 271 The Worlds of Marchioness of Newcastle, 1655
"Libri Miscellanei in Octavo":
no 317 Philosophical Fancies

14. Nevertheless, some of the auctioned books from Huygens's library have been found again. Ad Leerintveld comes up with a list of 69 books from the Huygens collection that have been retraced ('Magnificent Paper' p.176); 43 of which were not mentioned on the auction list (196). None of these books, however, is by Cavendish.

15. See Leerintveld.

16. In fact, Huygens also acted as a diplomatic intermediary for Cavendish when she was moving back to England in 1660. In a recently discovered letter from Cavendish to Huygens, written on July 15, 1660, Cavendish requests Huygens to ask the 'stats Generall of holand" to send her a "pas," so that her goods, "some 30 trunckes & cases to poste at Lille" may be transported through Holland.

17. Leyden University Library, 1407 C 20.

18. For further discussion see Keblusek.

19. See Harris 198.

20. Whitaker 259.

21. Fitzmaurice, "Some Problems in Editing," 254.

22. Fitzmaurice, "Margaret Cavendish on Her Own Writing," 299.

23. Utricia Swann-Ogle (1616-1674) was the daughter of Sir John Ogle and Elizabeth de Vries, and named after the city of Utrecht, where her father worked as a governor in 1610. She married captain Sir William Swann in 1645, and was well-known for her beautiful voice. Huygens therefore dedicated a volume of his musical compositions to her.

24. This could possibly refer to Virgil.

25. He alludes to Utricia's breasts here. The word "Gelegentheitjes" could be translated as "items", "things".

26. Margaret Cavendish.

27. This clearly refers to the extravagant dresses that Cavendish wore on public occasions.

28. Poems and Fancies, 1653.

29. Huygens's mansion in Voorburg, near The Hague.

30. Her friend Anna Maria van Schurman had left Utrecht and moved to Cologne.

31. Francisca Duarte (1619-1678), daughter of Gaspar Duarte and Catharina Rodrigues, belonging to the wealthy family of assimilated Jews in Antwerp whose circle of friends included both Huygens and Cavendish. The family was involved in the jewel trade, and well-known for its musicality. Francisca was an extremely gifted singer.

32. Jacques Duarte (1612-1691), brother of Francisca.

33. This conversation may have taken place at the family home of the Duartes in Antwerp.

34. Rupert's drops.

35. Louis XIV (1638-1715). The French king took a great interest in natural phenomena and founded royal academies of science.

36. Unfortunately, these epigrams are no longer extant.

37. The epigrams referred to in Huygens's letter of 12 March 1657.

38. Cavendish may have sent Huygens one of her works at this stage. The book mentioned is likely to be no 213 Natures Pictures, which, according to the auction catalogue, Huygens received as an addition to his library in 1656.

39. Rupert's drops.

40. Louis XIV's philosophers in Paris.

41. Rupert's drops.

42. Rupert's drops.

43. As formulated in her letter of 20 March 1657.

44. This postscript seems to be in her own hand rather than the scribe's.

45. ACADLVGD BAT BIBL: Poemarum and commentorum (Poems and Fancies), Picturarum Naturae (Nature's Pictures), Farragiunis Mundi (The World's Olio), Opiniorum Philosophicarum & Medicinarum (Philosophical and Physical Opinions), London, 1658.

46. Leyden, the Netherlands.

47. Of helping to get Cavendish's book included in the university library in Leyden.

48. Huygens was secretary to the Princes of Orange.

49. The Dutch Parliament.

50. Charles II of England.

51. William Cavendish.

52. His only daughter Geertruyd. Huygens wrote an epitaph on the death of Geertruyd's eldest daughter Suzanna, who had drowned, on 12 November 1672.

53. She probably refers to Christiaan Huygens, who was a talented mathematician, physician and astronomer.

54. Margaret Cavendish's luggage, which was to be transported to England again, to which the Cavendish family returned.

55. The Duartes.

56. One of the works waiting for Huygens could possibly be Sociable Letters by te [sic] Princesse of Newcastle, since it is listed as no 146 CCXI, 1664, in the auction catalogue.

Works Cited

Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at M.Steggle@shu.ac.uk.

© 2004-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS).