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From Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle.

My dearest Tien-Yi Chao, (or should I say Doctor Chao?)

I take this liberty of writing to you, to offer my deepest affections and delight in your writings on the subject of myself. I have myself composed this letter to you, because I have experienced an extraordinary visit, and I am still very much  in an exalted state of excitement and wonder. Please forgive me for this matter of my humours but I will recount to you what has transpired, and why.

         I will recount to you why I have written this letter. Exactly three weeks ago, I had occasion to visit a good friend of your own, a one Doctor Jackson, who, I understand, is of your close acquaintance. I regret to say that I was not able to apprehend him of my visit beforehand, and therefore I was forced to descend upon him quite unexpectedly. He resided in what I would call a rather shabby dwelling, and in fact I had second thoughts about what his demeanour was going to be. I knocked on his door. He opened it himself, which I thought exceedingly strange. Did he have no servants? But he seemed surprised and, I have to say, very amiable. He very courteously invited me into his dwelling.

         I must say to you, my dear, that it was rather untidy, but that was the very least. It was full of strange objects, that I had never before seen. He invited me to sit down, which I did very cautiously, because of my dress and skirts. But the sofa (I think that is what he called it) was comfortable, and large enough to accommodate me. He offered me tea, which I accepted, though I did not what beverage it would be. When he brought it , it was in a large earthenware cup, such as peasants and country folk have in  their mean dwellings. But it tasted well enough, although, I must confess I was disappointed at not being offered sweetmeats. Instead he offered some sort of biscuit(?) which he described to me as Bourbon Creams! But they tasted well enough

         He sat and waited for me to finish my brief repast. I must say that though he was astonished at my visit, he was most courteous. And, at length, I was obliged to provide the reason for my call. “ Dear Doctor Jackson” I said, “I have been obliged to call upon you  because I comprehend that I have been written about by a young woman, who has studied my paper bodies. I should very much like to know about her, and would like to view some of her writings. I apologise for not furnishing notice of my visit beforehand but I understand that you, yourself,  have provided her with assistance. Would you be able to aid me in my enquiries”? “Certainly” he replied, “ I have a copy of her writings that I can show you. Shall I get it for you”? “ Not quite yet” I said hastily, “first tell me about some of these things in this abode of yours. Are you an alchemist, by any chance’? He burst out laughing. “Of course not , Duchess! All these things, I know are very unfamiliar to you. But I can explain them to you, if you wish”

         I had been examining such things with curiosity. I did not have the slightest notion of what they were, or where they came from. “Are you a collector’? I asked with the greatest interest. “In a way, yes” he replied, “I like to collect things from around the world. They remind me of my travels”.I recalled once seeing a Cabinet of Curiosities, that one of our dear friends had accommodated in his large house, full of treasures from around the world, but some of these things surprised and amazed me. But my attention was drawn to this large peculiar box in the corner of the room. What was it?

         The good Doctor Jackson told me: :”It is very difficult to explain” he said. “Imagine a moving view of puppets, like a diorama. But the puppets speak and move. Let me show you” and he pressed something on its façade. Imagine my alarm and amazement when suddenly I saw these puppets, moving, speaking in such a dramatic way! I will confess that I was alarmed, and sank back onto my seat, my chest heaving with, I confess, with some fear and trepidation. “That is enough!” I cried, and he pressed some mechanism of the front, and the whole  scene disappeared. It resembled a miniature theatre, which has always been dear to my heart, but I was somehow frightened of it. ,I resolved never to look at it again.

         “Have some more tea,” said the Doctor, sympathetically, and I will bring you the volume that Tien-Yi has written about you,” and he soon returned with a large blue bound volume, that he gave to me. I opened it and began to read. To  my absolute astonishment and delight, it described many of my works. The essays , although I did not fully understand all of the writings, described fully all my intentions and opinions  in such a perceptive way, and even mentioned my dear husband. I sat there for an hour, studying myself. I even found references to a society bearing my name.

         At length I closed the book. My heart was full of wonder and pleasure. So it was true! I had achieved fame and recognition  long after my time! It was such a wonderful discovery, and moved me so much that my eyes filled with tears, and I could barely speak for a few moments. I turned to the Doctor and asked him: “So it is really true that I have achieved fame for my paper bodies?” “Yes,” replied Doctor Jackson, “It is very true, and you been recognised by many scholars over the world for your achievements.”

         I was so moved that again I could scarcely speak. At length I found my voice. “I would very much like to meet this Tien-Yi. How can I locate her? The doctor stared at me in surprise.” But you already have”, he cried. “Do you not remember? She came to see you in your house. She wrote a wonderful account of her meeting with you, and the talk and discussion that you had had together. I know, because I have read it. Do you not recall?”  I sat and shut my eyes, trying to find that memory. Then I did recall that strange occasion, when I found , in my bedchamber, a strange young woman of somewhat oriental appearance. “Yes, we had a long conversation about my studies. And then she disappeared – I do not know where.”

         I thought quietly. At length, I said, “ I should like to meet this Tien-Yi again. Do you have any knowledge of her whereabouts, so that I can converse with her again, and thank her for all that she has written about me?” “Alas “ said the doctor, “She has returned home to her native land” “Then I shall write to her”, I said decisively. “But how will she be able to receive it?” “Leave that to  me” the doctor said. “I will forward it to her on your behalf.”

         “Then I shall leave immediately and write. Thank you for your hospitality, my dear  Doctor. I shall contact you very soon. I shall give her my best wishes.” So my dear Tien-Yi, this is how I have come to write this letter to you. Thank you so much for writing about me,  Perhaps we shall meet again one day.


Margaret Cavendish

Duchess of Newcastle

Dear Tien-Yi,

Hello, and how are you! I hope your new job is going well, and that you have had a good and profitable summer. Have you done any more creative writing? Chris is well and enjoying himself, as I am. I’ve been working with MingChang, who is about to submit his thesis, and Jongjean is assembling his also. I apologise for the hard copy, but my phone and my emails are offline at the moment. And I have been doing lots of creative writing, which you can look at on my website at / fj.

But something very exciting happened some time ago. I received a personal visit form Margaret Cavendish herself, which was totally unexpected! She came to see your thesis! How she knew about it, I didn’t understand, but we  had a very delightful time together. As she left, she turned and told me that she would be writing to you, and I volunteered to forward it, since she did not know how to contact you. A day after our meeting, I found a strange folded letter on my doormat, written on parchment paper, and in a very historical style of hand-writing. It was difficult to read, but I eventually deciphered it, and decided to print it out for you, for clarity. And this is what I enclose with this short letter to you. I hope very much that you enjoy what she has to say. It explains what we talked about in detail.

All best wishes to you, and my regards to your mother and father,

Yours sincerely,

Frank (Jackson)