Synopses & Reviews
As one of the queen's attendants and the daughter of prominent Royalists, Margaret Lucas was exiled to France when King Charles I was overthrown. While the English Civil War raged on, she met and married William Cavendish, an aristocratic landowner and poet. He encouraged both her writing and her desire for a career--a singular relationship at the time. After Cromwell's defeat, Margaret and William returned to England, where her work, behavior, and sense of style--including once attending the theater in a topless gown-- earned her both fame and infamy. A curious Samuel Pepys kept an eye out for "Mad Madge," in London, writing in his diary that "The Duchess of Newcastle is all the pageant now discoursed on." At the dawn of daily newspapers, she was a tabloid celebrity, yet she was also the first woman to be invited to the Royal Society of London--a mainstay of the Scientific Revolution--and the last for another two hundred years.
Margaret the First is an intimate story of woman whose modern sensibility was out of step with her times, one whose work as a philosopher has recently drawn the attention of the academy. Stylistically quick, with sharp cuts through narrative time, the novel also revels in the physicality of a garden or a landscape, and turns tender in its rendering of family and marital ties.
Dutton’s remarkable second novel is as vividly imaginative as its subject the 17th century English writer and eccentric Margaret Cavendish. Even as a shy young girl Margaret Lucas covets fame and writes prolifically. Years later she is an attendant to the queen and when the English Civil War begins Margaret flees with the court to Paris where she meets and marries the aristocratic William Cavendish. Blossoming in an intellectual milieu that includes Descartes and Dryden she begins to write even more seriously. Back in England after the war ends she publishes wildly unconventional books to a mixture of admiration and scorn refusing to write anonymously like other women of her time or to let her lack of formal education silence her. Though Dutton doesn’t shy away from the “various and extravagant” antics (such as attending the theater in a topless gown) that earned her subject notoriety and the nickname “Mad Madge” her Margaret is a woman of fierce vitality creativity and courage. Incorporating lines from Cavendish herself as well as Virginia Woolf whose essays introduced Dutton to Cavendish this novel is indeed reminiscent of Woolf’s Orlando in its sensuous appreciation of the world and unconventional approach to fictionalized biography. Dutton’s boldness striking prose and skill at developing an idiosyncratic narrative should introduce her to the wider audience she deserves. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
“I am in awe of what Dutton accomplishes here, in this novel of the small and the sublime. What a triumph!” Kate Zambreno, author of Green Girl
“Margaret the First is set in the seventeenth century, but don't let that fool you. It's a strikingly smart and daringly feminist novel with modern insights into love, marriage, and the siren call of ambition.” Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation
“Dutton’s remarkable second novel is as vividly imaginative as its subject, the 17th-century English writer and eccentric Margaret Cavendish.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Danielle Dutton engagingly embellishes the life of Margaret the First, the infamous Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.” Vanity Fair
About the Author
Danielle Dutton’s fiction has appeared in magazines such as Harper’s, BOMB, Fence, and Noon. She is the author of a collection of hybrid prose pieces, Attempts at a Life, which Daniel Handler in Entertainment Weekly called “indescribably beautiful,” and an experimental novel, S P R A W L, a finalist for the Believer Book Award. In 2015, she wrote the texts for Here Comes Kitty: A Comic Opera, an artists’ book with collages by Richard Kraft.
Dutton holds a PhD in Literature and Writing from the University of Denver, an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a BA in History from the University of California at Santa Cruz. Prior to her current position on the creative writing faculty at Washington University in St. Louis, she taught in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa and was the book designer at Dalkey Archive Press.