Thursday, May 29, 2014

by reason knowledg is dividable, as well as composable

Cavendish praised John Evelyn's book Sylva, or a Discourse of Forest Trees (1664), “though it is large through number and variety, yet you have enclosed it with elegancy and eloquence,” which is also her praise of Shakespeare in the Sociable Letters, who could express multiplicity with intelligence. “Shakespear did not want Wit, to express to the Life all Sorts of Persons,” “for who could Describe Cleopatra better than he hath done, and many other Females of his own Creating, as Nan Page, Mrs Page, Mrs Ford, the Doctors Maid, Bettrice, Mrs Quickly, Doll Tearsheet, and others, too many to Relate?” though I would not say that she thought Evelyn was Shakespeare, only that she saw the enclosure of multiplicity as a virtue, and found it when she looked for virtues.

It is this belief in the value of variety that made her an insightful critic, says Fitzmaurice, “The point, again, seems to be variety,” and it seems, when I read her, that she is interested in the multifarious as an idea, and how insistently it appears everywhere in life; she sees it when she looks at herself; she sees the ways she might be and the way she is.

I am that the vulgar calls proud, not out of self-conceit, or to slight or condemn any, but scorning to do a base or mean act, and disdaining rude or unworthy persons; insomuch, that if I should find any that were rude, or too bold, I should be apt to be so passionate, as to affront them, if I can, unless discretion should get betwixt my passion and their boldness, which sometimes perchance it might, if discretion should crowd hard for place. For though I am naturally bashful, yet in such a cause my spirits would be all on fire.

(A True Relation of my Birth, Breeding, and Life)

She is “a coward” but also “valiant;” it depends on the circumstances, she says, and whether a gun has been fired, also, who is in danger, and whether her honour is involved; there are all these possibilities of change in her and why omit any; she is interested in everything that she could be, or else it erupts into her and she needs to make a record, or she allows it to erupt and follows a style that encourages eruption.

“The Empress confessed that she observed Nature was infinitely various in her works” in The Blazing World and her sentences often swell themselves with multitudes of words around one theme, “an Elephant seemed no bigger then a Flea; a Camel no bigger then a Lowse; and an Ostrich no bigger then a Mite,” “the Spider-men, which were her Mathematicians, the Lice-men which were her Geometricians, and the Magpie- Parrot- and Jackdaw-men, which were her Orators and Logicians,” “the Earth is a warm, fruitful, quiet, safe, and happy habitation,” “the Women, which generally had quick wits, subtile conceptions, clear understandings, and solid judgments;” the whole Blazing World being that way also, a series of discussions around the strange country the Lady-Empress has come into, which is an example of “female rhetoric” a blogger named Celeste argues, not meaning rhetoric performed by females but a style that mounts to a point by conglomeration instead of announcing its thesis directly. “Instead of building a world for the purpose of holding a particular narrative plot, she builds a world with the purpose of simply understanding the full range of its complexity and complications.”

Truly, said the Empress, I do believe that it is with Natural Philosophy, as it is with all other effects of Nature; for no particular knowledg can be perfect, by reason knowledg is dividable, as well as composable; nay, to speak properly, Nature her self cannot boast of any perfection, but God himself; because there are so many irregular motions in Nature, and 'tis but a folly to think that Art should be able to regulate them, since Art it self is, for the most part, irregular.

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