Sociable Letters
  • Publication Date: June 29, 2004
  • ISBN: 9781551115580 / 1551115581
  • 336 pages; 5½" x 8½"

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Sociable Letters

  • Publication Date: June 29, 2004
  • ISBN: 9781551115580 / 1551115581
  • 336 pages; 5½" x 8½"

The writings of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, are remarkable for their vivid depiction of the mores and mentality of seventeenth-century England. This edition includes all of Cavendish’s Sociable Letters (1664), a collection of writings that comments on a wide range of aspects of seventeenth-century society, such as war and peace, science and medicine, English and Classical literatures, and social issues such as choosing a spouse, married life, infidelity, divorce, and the option of women not to marry.

This Broadview edition includes a critical introduction and a valuable selection of primary documents that situate Margaret Cavendish and Sociable Letters within the context of English letter writing and other early women writers. Appendices include the letters Cavendish wrote during her courtship with William Cavendish; letters by two family members, Elizabeth Cavendish Egerton and Christiana Cavendish; letters written by Aphra Behn, Dorothy Osborne, and Angel Day; and an essay by Francis Bacon.


“This is a fine edition of Margaret Cavendish’s most engaging and accessible work. The text is reliable, the annotations are helpful, and the volume contains an extremely useful appendix of letters by Cavendish and various other family members. The volume will be a great resource for those with an interest in early modern literature, history, and women’s writing. James Fitzmaurice is an excellent scholar and the annotations in this edition reflect many years of painstaking work on Cavendish’s writings and their context.” — Paul Salzman, LaTrobe University

Sociable Letters is a very welcome addition to Broadview’s excellent editions of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle. The dialogic form of the letter is perfectly adapted to express Cavendish’s ambivalences—about marriage, reading and writing, and women’s nature and role. James Fitzmaurice’s erudite and user-friendly edition contains the added bonus of a generous quantity of real seventeenth-century letters as context.” — Jacqueline Pearson, University of Manchester

“This is a welcome edition of one of Margaret Cavendish’s most multifaceted and engaging works by a leading scholar of Cavendish. Not only is it an important text for early modern women’s writing, but it provides a varied and detailed commentary on seventeenth-century English culture and society. Cavendish’s innovative use of the epistolary form, successful in its own right, anticipates the appeal of the form to novelists in the eighteenth century. The introduction and appendices offer helpful contexts for a fuller understanding of the work.” — Mihoko Suzuki, University of Miami

List of Illustrations
Margaret Cavendish: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text

Sociable Letters

Appendix A: The Context of Family

  1. Letters from Margaret Lucas to William Cavendish and Selections from his Poems in Reply (1645)
  2. A Letter from Elizabeth Cavendish Egerton to Jane Cavendish Cheyne (1659)
  3. Letters from Christiana Cavendish, Countess of Devonshire, to William Cavendish (1630s)

Appendix B: The Context of Women’s Letters

  1. Letters from Dorothy Osborne to William Temple
  2. Letters from Aphra Behn to John Hoyle

Appendix C: The Context of English Letter Writing and the English Essay

  1. From Angel Day, The English Secretary
  2. Francis Bacon, “Of Marriage and the Single Life”


James Fitzmaurice is a Professor of English at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff.