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The Blazing World

By: Margaret Cavendish

The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish is, all at once, a satire, a treatise on natural philosophy, a work of proto-science fiction, and a defiant venture into a scientific world where women were not usually allowed. It tells the tale of a young Lady who is kidnapped by a man that tries to sail away with her. Through divine interference, however, the ship is tossed into a storm and everyone but the Lady perishes. Blown up to the North Pole, she inadvertently passes into to another world, the Blazing World, where she is almost immediately made supreme ruler. As the Lady begins to exercise her will, Cavendish lays out her own Utopia and discusses a wide range of scientific, political, social, and religious topics. But when a war breaks out in her home world, what will the Lady do with all power of the Blazing World behind her?

Blazing World is a fanciful depiction of a satirical, utopian kingdom in another world (with different stars in the sky) that can be reached via the North Pole. According to novelist Steven H. Propp, it is "the only known work of utopian fiction by a woman in the 17th century, as well as an example of what we now call 'proto-science fiction' — although it is also a romance, an adventure story, and even autobiography."


Blazing World opens with a poem written by William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle. Cavendish's book inspired a notable sonnet by her husband, William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which celebrates her imaginative powers. The sonnet was followed by a letter to the reader written by Margaret Cavendish herself. In the letter to the reader, Cavendish divides Blazing World into three parts. The first part being “romancial”, the second “philosophical”, and the third “fancy” or “fantastical”.


The first “romancical” section describes a young woman being kidnapped and unexpectedly being made Empress of The Blazing World. The second “philosophical” section describes the Empress' knowledge and interest in the natural sciences and philosophy. She discusses these topics with the scientists, philosophers, and academics of The Blazing World. In the final “fantastical” section, the Empress acts in the role of a military leader during an invasion. She clothes herself in jewels and special stones that give her the appearance of a deity. When the Empress triumphs over the naval battle, the Blazing World is described again as a utopic empire.


Finally, Cavendish ends Blazing World with an Epilogue to the Reader. In this Epilogue she describes her reasons for writing The Blazing World. She compares creating The Blazing World to the conquests of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar.


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