Of the Motion of Thoughts in Speaking and Writing


by Margaret Cavendish

Those that have very quick Thoughts, shall speak readier than write; because in speaking they are not tied to any style or number: besides, in speaking, Thoughts lie loose and careless; but in writing they are gathered up, and are like water in a Cup whose mouth is held downward; for every drop striving to be out first, stops the passage: or like the common people in an uproar, that run without order, and disperse without success; when slow and strong Thoughts come well-armed and in good order; discharge with courage, and go off with honour.

Of Study

The reason why Study seems difficult at first, and easier and clearer afterward, is, that the Imagination hath not beaten out a path-way of Understanding in the Head; which when it hath, the Thoughts run even and right, without the pains of deep Study: for when the way is made, they need not search long to find out what they seek for: for the Brakes and Rubbish of Ignorance, that obstructed the Thoughts, are trodden into firm and hard ground in the way to Knowledge.

Of Writers

Most Modern Writers do but new-dress old Authors; though they give them another-fashion’d Garment, the Person is the same. But some do disguise them so much, that a Vulgar Eye cannot perceive them, but mistake the Author through the alteration of the Habit.

An History and a Romancy is more delightful in general, than Fancy; for Women and Fools are taken with Tales; but none but Wits are taken one with another.

Of Translators

It is not enough for Translators to be learned in several Languages, but there must be a sympathy between the Genius of the Author and the Translator, which every Age doth not produce: for most commonly a great Genius is not matches in many Ages. Ovid’s Genius was matched by Sands, and Dabartos was matched by Sylvester; for, though his Work was endeavoured to be translated, yet it is not like it. It is true, that though the copy of a Picture is not so well as the Original; the good Copies draw so near the Life, that none but a curious and skillful Eye shall perceive the difference, So a good Translator shall write, so like the Author, that none but the most Learned, and the with study and great observation, shall find the defects.

Essay first published in 1655. Via

About the Author:

Margaret Cavendish (1623 – 15 December 1673) was an English writer, scientist and aristocrat.