About this Website, and How to Use It

by Liza Blake

Welcome to Margaret Cavendish’s Poems and Fancies, edited by Liza Blake in collaboration with thirteen undergraduate research assistants. This landing page describes the site and how to use it; if you’d rather go straight to the poems themselves select which Part of the edition you want to read from the sidebar menu to the left, or continue reading for tips on how to navigate. If you’re curious about the “Clasp” sections in the sidebar, see the first section of “Reading Poems (and Fancies): An Introduction to Margaret Cavendish’s Poems and Fancies.” If you’re new to Cavendish’s poetry and are looking for suggestions on what to read first, see the third section of that same Introduction for some suggested poem groupings.

I. What Is this Site?
II. How Do I Navigate this Site?
III. Who Is Responsible for this Digital Edition?
IV. How Do I Cite this Digital Edition?

I. What Is this Site?

This website offers a scholarly critical edition of Margaret Cavendish’s Poems and Fancies, first published in 1653 and reprinted, completely revised and significantly rearranged, in 1664 (with a third edition, largely based on the second edition, in 1668). The poems presented here have been produced after a full collation across all three editions, and include full textual notes. These textual notes tell you, in each instance where there was a variant reading across editions, which reading we chose, and what the alternate reading(s) was(/were).

This website, as a freely available digital critical edition, has two central aims. First, it makes the poetry of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, freely available online for all to use, for teaching or research. More importantly, the full textual notes show the numerous variants across the three editions, which will allow readers of these excellent poems to see the tremendous amount of revision that Cavendish made to her poems. The Editorial Introduction describes the textual history of the volumes (including making some new scholarly arguments about how and why revisions were made, and by whom) and describes our editorial practices and choices; the general Introduction orients first-time readers to Cavendish’s book of poems, calling particular attention to the fascinating structure of the volume, giving suggestions on how to read the different sections, and offering some recommended clusters of poems for readers with different interests (including, among others, such interests as the history of science, posthumanism and ecocriticism, ethics, poetics and formalism, politics, animal studies, and genre).


II. How Do I Navigate this Site?

Cavendish’s book of poems is made up of several discrete but overlapping and interlinking sections; this website breaks those sections out into manageable chunks, which you will see in the left-hand side-bar (or, on smaller screens, in the menu) in expandable menus. Above the expandable menus you will see the shortcuts for this explanatory page, as well as the Introduction to her poems and the Editorial Introduction. In the expandable menu, the Prefatory Materials section includes the many prefatory materials she included at the start of her volume; more such prefatory materials can also be found scattered throughout the book to introduce each new part (see, e.g., the letter on moral philosophers with which she begins the “moral” dialogues of Part II, or the prefatory letter to poets that opens Part III). Poems are then sorted into one of five Parts, or into one of four “Clasps” (with the additional work “Animal Parliament” and the concluding poems also broken out), according to the structure of the volume (see the Introduction for more on this structure, and the role of the Clasps in the collection): Part I — Clasp I–II — Part II — Clasp II–III — Part III — Clasp III–IV — Part IV — Clasp IV–V — Part V.

Below the expandable menus, you can find a function that allows you to keyword search all materials on the website. You can use this if you are, e.g., looking for a particular poem, or interested in tracking a keyword or key phrase across the entire volume. Note that the keyword search function searches only the poems themselves, not the textual notes.

At the bottom of the left-hand sidebar, below the search function, you can also find an expandable menu of Bonus Poems, which includes mini-editions of Cavendish poems from other volumes that I found especially noteworthy or interesting. This section may expand in the coming years.

If you wish to read one particular section of Cavendish’s work, simply click on the Part itself (e.g., “Part I” or “Clasp I–II”) and every poem within that section will appear. The default position of each menu is collapsed, but by clicking the down-pointing caret to the right of the menu title, you can expand most sections to see (in some cases) sub-headings, and (at its maximum expansion) a list of each poem included in the section. These expandable menus are designed both to help readers understand the hierarchical structure of her poems volume (e.g., to visualize how nearly every Part has within it both prefatory materials and poems, but sometimes also marked subsections), as well as to help readers navigate within the volume more easily.

If you are looking for a specific poem within a Part or Clasp, expand that section’s heading(s) and use the “Find” function in your browser to keyword search for the (modernized) title. You can also conduct keyword searches for the poem by using the “Search” tool. Note that Cavendish changed many titles as she revised, particularly between the 1653 and 1664 editions (this is discussed more in the Introductions); a table at the end of the Editorial Introduction lists all changed titles to make it possible to find this site’s version even if the title is changed. If a keyword search for a poem takes you to that table rather than to the poem itself, use the hyperlinked title in the table to go to the poem under its other title.


III. Who Is Responsible for this Site?

All the editorial work on this site is by Liza Blake, Assistant Professor of English at the University of Toronto (U of T), as well as by several undergraduate research assistants and collaborators from the three U of T campuses (most based at the University of Toronto Mississauga, or UTM). The prefatory materials, Part I, and Clasp I–II were collaboratively edited with Crimson Craighead and Shalini Nanayakkara (in 2016); Part II, with Mariam Hanna, Farheen Khan, and Faryal Khan (2017); Clasp II–III, with Katherine Reid (2017); Part III and Clasp III–IV, with Carl Kersey and Ayesha Tirmzi (2017); Part IV and Clasp IV–V, with Katherine Reid (2018); and Part V, Animal Parliament, and the Conclusion, with Emma Duffee, Nicholas Marcelli, Tess Rahaman, Elena Senechal-Becker, and Kristen Zimmer (2018). Liza Blake and Farheen Khan co-edited the additional poem “Of Sense and Reason Exercised in their Different Shapes” (from Cavendish’s 1653 Poems and Fancies), and Liza Blake and Tess Rahaman co-edited the additional poem “Great God, from Thee All Infinites Do Flow” (from Cavendish’s natural philosophical treatises). Additional textual bibliographical work was conducted throughout the 2018–19 school year by Melanie Simoes Santos, PhD candidate in the Graduate Department of English at the University of Toronto, as well as Farheen Khan and Tess Rahaman, students in the Department of English and Drama at UTM. All poems and textual notes were carefully checked by Liza Blake before publication on this site, and any surviving errors she acknowledges as her own.

Much of the editorial work on this edition was made possible by UTM Research Opportunity Program (ROP) grants, which allowed us to travel to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, and to the British Library in London, UK, to examine and collate for stop-press changes early printings of Cavendish’s poems. We are grateful to the Folger Library and British Library for hosting us, and to the UTM ROP for funding our trips. Work on Part V was supported by the U of T’s Jackman Humanities Initiative’s undergraduate Scholars in Residence program, hosted at UTM. Liza Blake completed the final work on this project, and wrote the introductions, while working as a Long-Term NEH Fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and gratefully acknowledges the NEH’s support. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The initial phase of this site was hosted on the servers of Rob Blake, who donated server space and ongoing technical support; we are grateful both to him, and to the UTM Library Technologies & Liaison Librarian Mike Serafino, who migrated the site to UTM servers and helped expand it to make room for Parts II–V.

If you have any questions or comments, email liza[dot]blake[at]utoronto[dot]ca.


IV. How Do I Cite this Digital Edition?

Below are recommended citations if you are citing the website as a whole, a specific poem, or any of the three introductions by Liza Blake. At the moment each citation reflects the publication date only; if we make major modifications, we will add in each citation on this page the date of last update.

We recommend the following citation for the website as a whole:

Margaret Cavendish. Margaret Cavendish’s Poems and Fancies: A Digital Critical Edition. Ed. Liza Blake. Website published May 2019. <http://library2.utm.utoronto.ca/poemsandfancies/>

To cite individual poems within the volume, we suggest (replace all caps with specific title):

Margaret Cavendish. “POEM TITLE.” In Margaret Cavendish’s Poems and Fancies: A Digital Critical Edition. Ed. Liza Blake. Website published May 2019. <http://library2.utm.utoronto.ca/poemsandfancies/> [Or replace with link to specific item.]

We have provided line numbers on the site to allow readers to find their place in the volume more easily, and to allow the citation of specific line numbers; when citing the alternate readings from textual notes, we suggest the following citation style: l. Xn (DATE OF ALTERNATE READING). So, to cite the variant 1653 reading from a textual note to line 5, you might use: l. 5n (1653 variant); to cite the variant 1664 and 1668 reading from a textual note to line 8: l. 8n (1664 and 1668 variant).

To cite any of the introductory materials, we suggest (replace all caps with specific title):

Liza Blake. “TITLE OF SPECIFIC INTRODUCTION.” In Margaret Cavendish’s Poems and Fancies: A Digital Critical Edition. Ed. Liza Blake. Website published May 2019. <http://library2.utm.utoronto.ca/poemsandfancies/> [Or replace with link to specific item.]