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Margaret the First

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  2,922 ratings  ·  498 reviews
‘I am as Ambitious as ever any of my Sex was, is, or can be; though I cannot be Henry the Fifth, or Charles the Second, yet I endeavour to be Margaret the First.’

When Margaret Cavendish addressed the Royal Society in 1667, Samuel Pepys recorded that her dress was ‘so antic and her deportment so unordinary, that I do not like her at all’. And indeed, here vividly brought to
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published December 8th 2016 by Scribe UK (first published March 15th 2016)
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Average rating 3.54  · 
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 ·  2,922 ratings  ·  498 reviews

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Hannah Greendale
Margaret Cavendish wrote utopian science fiction as well as feminist plays, essays, and poems in the 17th century. She went on to have her work published at a time when women were not supposed to be writers and the world believed women had no business being published.

The key to enjoying Margaret the First is to open the book with proper expectations. To begin with, it's much shorter than the average novel, coming in at just one hundred sixty pages. It's a condensed but lyrical jaunt through Mar
Richard Derus
May 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 6* of five

Review of MARGARET THE FIRST at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud. This gorgeous-looking Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton book by the wonderful talented writer and publisher, Danielle Dutton, gets 6 stars of five for the joy I got in meeting the rescued 17th-century true original character. How many of those are there ever? And the odds that even an aristocratic woman could sustain such an outrageously public persona! Catapult, the publisher, made book lovely to match its joys of writing.
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
PHENOMENAL. I have a strong feeling this will be the best book I read this year.
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"I had rather been a meteor, than a star in a crowd."
- Danielle Dutton, Margaret the First

"...the mind is without a sex!"
- Danielle Dutton, Margaret the First


A short, vibrant, nearly perfect novella. I'm not sure if I loved it more because of the prose, the protagonist, the setting, or because it was infused with life, energy, worlds. I'll steal an hour at lunch to finish my review tomorrow at work. Lovely.

The book is an ode to feminism, science, knowledge, prose, and marriage. My only disappoin
Feb 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had never heard of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle until this book came out and everyone got very excited about her and it. I enjoyed this book though sadly I have to say that the final two parts, excluding the epilogue, went rather down hill after the first book was told from her narration. Dutton seems to have got her voice and character, even though it felt slightly like a ghost telling the tale, and then seemed to turn it into a biography as ‘she did this’ and ‘she did that’ which ...more
Book Riot Community
A fabulous (and fabulist) re-imagining of the infamous Margaret Cavendish, a seventeenth-century duchess who wrote feminist philosophy and utopian science fiction in an era when being an eccentric (see: attending the theater in a topless ballgown) and writer was an unthinkable career path for a woman. Margaret the First isn’t a historical novel, however; magnificently weird and linguistically dazzling, it’s a book as much about how difficult and rewarding it is for an ambitious, independent, and ...more
"The whole story of this lady is a romance, and everything she does."

A lyrical biographic of a remarkable woman who deserves to be remembered. Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673) was a writer of feminist plays, philosophical essays and author of one of the first science-fiction stories (The Blazing World).
While she caused already scandal by doing this, her dramatic and shocking actions (tits out at the theatre!) made her famous among the English elite and the common people.

But neither her hus
Jenny (Reading Envy)
May 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by:
Margaret Cavendish was a fascinating person in the 17th century, an intellectual and published writer long before this was acceptable for women, the first woman to present to the Royal Society of London. A short novel is probably the best vessel for the story in my mind, although I wonder if the author might have arranged it differently than in such a linear fashion, which made it seem more fragmented than it needed to be.

I did experience a brief moment of regret for not forcing myself to finis
Heidi The Reader
Margaret the First is written like a dream- the scenes come and go with little or no explanation in them and years pass in the blink or an eye or turning of the page. Usually, I read historical fiction to immerse myself in the details of a time period, but this book doesn't really cater to that. It's a bubble in the wind or a glimpse from the windows of a fast moving car. It hints at depth more than delivers it. But still, despite this strangeness, I was mainly captivated.

Margaret describing her
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Margaret Cavendish is one of a number of women philosophers who are now beginning to be resurrected and studied alongside their canonical male counterparts. The impression of Cavendish given by this beautiful and striking book, however, is of her isolation. She reads avidly (in English only) works by members of the nascent Royal Society, with many of whom she was socially connected. But everything we learn about her own thinking marks it as the product of fantasy and imagination. This impression ...more
Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)
A heady, lyrical take on the life of an extraordinary woman. This is a fictional study of Margaret Cavendish (a 17th-century British duchess and writer) that brings her fanciful inner world to life, laying her passions and talents beside her flaws and contradictions. And Dutton writes clearly and concisely (150 pages, people!) while leaving room for delicious ambiguity. Absolutely gorgeous.
Lyn Elliott
Mar 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Dutton’s writing gleams with precision, sometimes sharp and brilliant, almost crystalline, sometimes brittle, sometimes flattened, as her difficult subject reveals herself, and is revealed, in the course of this short work of art.
For it is a work of art, swirling with colour, almost pointillist placement of words, images and ideas, each section engaging the reader in a different way.

The prose is dazzling, the subject so difficult to come to terms with it took Dutton 10 years to write. The book
Eric Anderson
Dec 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This isn’t your typical historical novel, but its protagonist Margaret Cavendish wasn’t your typical 17th century English aristocrat either. Attendant to Queen Henrietta Maria and married to William Cavendish, First Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, she could have spent her days reclining on a chaise lounge. Instead she engaged with the scientific, literary and philosophical ideas of her day by writing her own essays, plays and unconventional romances. Danielle Dutton has written an inventive fiction ...more
Crysta Coburn
Feb 15, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really struggled to finish this book, if one can really call it a book. It's more like a rambling prose poem with very nearly zero character development and no plot whatsoever. Margaret Cavendish is presented as an infantile and delusional silly woman. At no point do I see her be clever or witty, I just have the author's assurances that she is so. Vain, whiney, depressed, and out-of touch, yes. She was depressing to read about. And why the hell does the author switch point of view half way thr ...more
The imagery scattered across the pages, blazing like gemstones, like fireworks, like constellations! The rhythms of the language, the stream of consciousness, and events liberated from the tyranny of time-- it’s all very Woolfian. High praise indeed.

In fact, Dutton says in her Author’s Note (page 161) that “the book incorporates, here and there, lines and images from Woolf’s own writing” and while I could not identify specific examples borrowed from Virginia, I was thinking of her long before I
Tyler Goodson
Jan 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arcs
In the 17th century, when men were trying to understand how the universe worked, Margaret Cavendish asked herself the same questions: not just of the universe, but of the society in which she found herself, and the many roles she came to play: duchess, writer, thinker, wife, celebrity. If you have never heard of Margaret Cavendish you are lucky, because now you get to know her through Danielle Dutton's words, and her life and story glitter in these pages. As Margaret says, humans are not equippe ...more
Jaclyn Crupi
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a complete delight. Margaret Cavendish is definitely the next historical figure Lin-Manuel Miranda should write a musical about. What a fascinating woman! Perfect reading in anticipation of International Women's Day tomorrow. Be sure to read this. ...more
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an absolutely lovely little book, inside and out - the cover is gorgeous, the title perfect in its egotistical simplicity. The tone, the writing, the structure, all combine to create not just a picture of Margaret, but the very feel of being with her - maybe even of being her. What a woman of contradictions - shy, egotistical and bursting with frustrated creativity.
Here's a little writing sample that gives a window inside Margaret's head:
But Margaret wanted the whole house to move thre
Jess Penhallow
Historical fiction about real people is tricky. It needs to stick to the facts but to add something either dramatically or stylistically that is different from a non-fiction account.

Unfortunately I don't feel that this book does that. Whilst I found Margaret and her work fascinating, she is too erratic a character to narrate her life story and there were times when I got a bit lost.

I think I would have been better off reading a biography which includes excerpts from her work which I may well d
Alice Lippart
An odd and wonderfully written book. The story feels a bit fleeting and ungrounded, but the writing style is magnificent.
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
What a delightful little historical novel. Size doesn't matter, here: at 160 pages, Margaret The First punches far above its weight.

It's based on the extraordinary, little-known life of Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle, a maverick, scientist, and proto-feminist writer in the seventeenth century. You'd probably benefit from reading a brief biographical sketch of Cavendish online before diving in (just not the Wikipedia one, which is bloated and terrible); however, the novel really nar
Nate D
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those seeking biography without the restrictions such suggests
Recommended to Nate D by: 17th century revolutionaries
Shelves: read-in-2018
As a creative interpretation of the life of Margaret Cavendish -- early feminist natural philosopher and sci-fi writer! -- Dutton interprets a clearly broad and detailed research with a spare poetic elegance, creating a precisely arranged experience of the Restoration and Enlightenment, and its heroine's remarkable life. I'd become interested in Dutton's writing after discovering that she's behind the excellent Dorothy, a publishing project, and she's clearly of a part with the pantheon of great ...more
Laura Frey (Reading in Bed)
Well, now I've read two books with anthropomorphic polar bears in 2017. And the year's not half over! ...more
T.D. Whittle
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, is presented here as a vibrant, fascinating, unique, and lovable woman, which I've no doubt she was. She was also (perhaps unintentionally) hilarious and egocentric to an astounding degree, but no more so than many men of that or any age. Egocentricity always stands out in a woman of past centuries because it's so unexpected. One suspects it would not have been tolerated had she not been of noble birth and marriage. Happily, for us, Margaret was protecte ...more
William Cavendish is a name/figure familiar to those well-versed on Stuart England and the court of Charles II. Lesser known in modern times but famous during the era was his wife, Margaret Cavendish. Margaret was an author, Duchess, celebrity, and first woman invited to the Royal Society of London. Author Danielle Dutton features ‘Mad Madge’ (as she was dubbed) in, “Margaret the First”.

Dutton may call “Margaret the First” a ‘novel’ but this must be declared as a false statement. “Margaret the F
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: catapult
This is an ultimately successful experiment, if a bit aimless. Danielle Dutton fictionalizes the life of Margaret Cavendish, or, as the protagonist muses that she would one day like to be known as: Margaret the First. The prose is tucked inside a bland-looking nest, but it really holds the most beautiful eggs imaginable. Dutton explores how Margaret maneuvered through a society where "intellectualism" was dominated by males. It's quite funny at times: with the benefit of living in 2016, we watch ...more
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenni by: Olive Fellows (abookolive)
Actual rating: 4.5 stars

This books is so lovely. Beautiful and entertaining and full of wonderful quote worthy passages! I'm definitely going to be rereading this one at some point.
Resh (The Book Satchel)
I had expected to love the book after hearing raving reviews. But I feel I didn't know enough of the history to enjoy the book enough. Also I would've liked more depth (of characters and settings) which again might be because I didn't know enough of the history being covered in the book. ...more
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, feminism
I first came across Margaret Cavendish when one of my best friends wrote their undergraduate dissertation about her. She is sometimes considered the mother of science fiction, thanks to her 1666 book The Blazing World. In this, a girl survives a shipwreck and finds herself in a strange and fanciful other world of talking animals. Cavendish is a fascinating and unusual figure: an eccentric intellectual woman in an era when that was vanishingly rare. I was thus delighted to come across a review of ...more
Jan 26, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american, historical
I liked the first and the last chapter of this book.
I suspect the book was aiming to echo the whimsy and messiness of Margaret's writing in its structure and language.
In my opinion it got caught between the whimsy and the facts - it committed to neither, but it also couldn't let go of either. The first half felt like reading a wikipedia page padded up with melancholic vignettes. In essence we learn that Margaret moved from this place to that place, some people died inbetween, some historical e
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Danielle Dutton's fiction has appeared in magazines such as Harper's, BOMB, The Paris Review, The White Review, Conjunctions, Guernica, and NOON. She is the author of Attempts at a Life, which Daniel Handler in Entertainment Weekly called "indescribably beautiful"; SPRAWL, a finalist for the Believer Book Award in 2011, reprinted by Wave Books with an Afterword by Renee Gladman in 2018; Here Comes ...more

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