“But not laughing”: horsemanship and the idea of the cavalier in the writings of William Cavendish, first Duke of Newcastle
This article examines William Cavendish’s two treatises on horsemanship printed in 1658 and 1667, respectively. It argues that a close reading of these works in their discursive and iconographic contexts reveals their engagement with a markedly unstable idea of the cavalier as horseman during this period and evinces a far greater degree of self-conscious anxiety concerning questions of governance than previous critics have acknowledged. In particular, it explores Newcastle’s grappling with notions of the cavalier as frivolous man of pleasure and as a figure of monstrosity, conceived of in terms of a troubling hybridity with his horse. This leads to a specific consideration of the ambivalent role played by the figure of the centaur in Newcastle’s equestrian writings, a figure whose contradictory antecedents are played out in its recurrence in the contemporary literature of political controversy.
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