Summary (from Goodreads): Margaret the First dramatizes the life of Margaret Cavendish, the shy, gifted, and wildly unconventional 17th-century Duchess. The eccentric Margaret wrote and published volumes of poems, philosophy, feminist plays, and utopian science fiction at a time when “being a writer” was not an option open to women. As one of the Queen’s attendants and the daughter of prominent Royalists, she was exiled to France when King Charles I was overthrown. As the English Civil War raged on, Margaret met and married William Cavendish, who encouraged her writing and her desire for a career. After the War, her work earned her both fame and infamy in England: at the dawn of daily newspapers, she was “Mad Madge,” an original tabloid celebrity. Yet Margaret 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.
I took an AP European History class in high school and I remember talking about this time period in England. It was very interesting to study and I think we mentioned Margaret Cavendish. Now I want to read some of her work and do some research on this time period. I read this book for my Genres of Writing Class.
I enjoyed this book because Margaret’s head is an interesting place to be in. Margaret has strange thoughts and it’s accentuated by the almost “stream of consciousness” style of writing in the novel. Her thoughts are chaotic, puzzling and quite revolutionary. I think she would’ve enjoyed being alive in the 1920s in the suffragette movement in the U.S.
This is very different from what I usually read and at times it was a little boring or hard to get through. For the most part, I did enjoy myself. The ride through Margaret’s life is whimsical and fascinating. She has no qualms about writing, besides her own doubts. She advocates for women in her own way, believing they aren’t inherently inferior to men. Besides writing, Margaret doesn’t do much. She sees some people and helps around the estate. She seems to sink into depression multiple times throughout the novel; however, William is able to devise ways for her to come out of it.
I enjoyed the relationship between William and Margaret. They seemed to genuinely care for each other the whole time they were together. They didn’t always get along and I think it started to irk William that his wife was much more popular than him later in life. He does make some cutting remarks, but ultimately he loves and supports his wife in her strange tendencies.