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The Atomic Poems of Margaret (Lucas) Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, from her Poems, and Fancies, 1653, an electronic edition. Edited with an introduction by Leigh Tillman Partington

by Margaret Cavendish [Newcastle, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of, 1624?-1674]

date: 1653
source publisher:
collection: Early Modern through the 18th Century

Table of Contents

Poem >>
Cavendish, Margaret (Lucas).

To Natural Philosophers.

1653

IF any Philosophers have written of these Subjects, as I
make no question, or doubt, but they have, of all that
Nature hath discover'd , either in meere Thought, and Spe-
culation, or other waies in Observation; yet it is more then
I know of: for I never read, nor heard of any English Booke[5]
to Instruct me: and truly I understand no other Language;not
French, although I was in France five years.Neither do I un-
derstand my owne Native Language very well; for thereare
many words, I know not what they signifie; so as I have one-
ly the Vulgar part, I meane, that which is most usually spoke. I [10]
do not mean that which is us'd to be spoke by Clownes in e-
very Shire, where in some Parts their Language is knowne to
none, but those that are bred there. And not onely every Shire
hath a severall Language, but every Family, giving Marks for
things according to their Fancy. But my Ignorance of the Mother [15]
Tongues makes me ignorant of the Opinions, and Discourses in
former times; wherefore I may be absurd, and erre grossely. I can-
not say, I have not heard of Atomes, and Figures, and Motions
and Matter; but not throughly reason'd on: but if I do erre,
it is no great matter; for my Discourse of them is not to be ac- [20]
counted Authentick: so if there be any thing worthy of no-
ting, it is a good Chance; if not, there is no harm done, nor
time lost. For I had nothing to do when I wrot it, and I sup-
pose those have nothing, or little e'se to do, that read it. And
the Reason why I write it in Verse, is, because I thought Er- [25]
rours might better passe there, then in Prose; since Poets write
most Fiction, and Fiction is not given for Truth, but Pastime;
and I feare my Atomes will be as small Pastime, as themselves:
for nothing can be lesse then an Atome. But my desire that
they should please the Readers, is as big as the World they [30]
make; and my Feares are of the same bulk; yet my Hopes fall to
a single Atome agen: and so shall I remaine an unsettled Atome,
or a confus'd heape, till I heare my Censure. If I be prais'd, it
fixes them; but if I am condemn'd, I shall be Annihilated to
nothing: but my Ambition is such, as I would either be a [35]
World, or nothing.
I desire all that are not quick in apprehending, or will not
trouble themselves with such small things as Atomes, to skip
this part of my Book, and view the other, for feare these
may seem tedious: yet the Subject is light, and the Chapters [40]
short. Perchance the other may please better; if not the second,
the third, if not the third, the fourth; if not the fourth, the
fifth: and if they cannot please, for lack of Wit, they may please
in Variety, for most Palates are greedy after Change. And though
they are not of the choicest Meates, yet there is none dangerous; [45]
neither is there so much of particular Meat, as any can feare a
Surfet; but the better pleas'd you are, the better Welcome. I
wish heartily my Braine had been Richer, to make you a fine
Entertainment: truly I should have spar'd no Cost, neither have
I spar'd any Paines: for my Thoughts have been very busily im- [50]
ployed, these eight, or nine Months, when they have not been
taken away by Worldly Cares, and Trouble, which I confesse hath
been a great hinderance to this Work. Yet have they sat up late,

and risen earely, running about untill they have been in a fiery
heat, so as their Service hath not been wanton, nor their In- [55]
dustry slack. What is amisse, excuse it as a Fault of too much
Care; for there may be Faults committed withbeing over-bu-
sie, as soon as for want of Diligence. But those that are poore,
have nothing but their labour to bestow; and though I cannot
serve you on Agget Tables, and Persian Carpets, with Golden Di- [60]
shes, and Chrystall Glasses, nor feast you with Ambrosia, and Nectar,
yet perchance my Rye Loafe, and new Butter may tast more sa-

voury, then those that are sweet, and delicious.
If you dislike, and rise to go away,
Pray do not Scoff, and tell what I did say. [65]
But if you do, the matter is not great,
For tis but foolish words you can repeat.

Pray do not censure all you do not know,
But let my Atomes to the Learned go.
If you judge, and understand not, you may take [70]
For Non-sense that which learning Sense will make.
But I may say, as Some have said before,
I'm not bound to fetch you Wit from NaturesStore.