The autobiographical terms in which Margaret Cavendish’s writing is often read obscure the degree to which she engaged with her intellectual heritage. Philosophical Letters (1664) in particular has been interpreted as Cavendish’s bid to establish her friendship and parity with her philosophical peers, but her argument has broader implications. She uses the genre of the familiar letter, or letter of friendship, to demonstrate that her philosophical ideas issue from sociable principles. Cavendish opens with a discussion of Hobbes’ Leviathan ostensibly focused upon non-political issues. However her political views are implied through the inherently sociable form of the letter. Cavendish uses the friendship letter to portray sociability as natural, and therefore, an ideal basis for the restored royalist polity.


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pp. 39-64
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