Visiting the Chicago Public Library branch at Water Tower, I can’t help but peruse the newer releases. And so, I chanced upon Margaret the First. The velvety feel of the paperback cover, and its beautiful illustration of Margaret immediately made me feel this was a book above others. And, an historical novel to boot.
Margaret is royally born Margaret Lucas, in 1623 in Colchester, Essex, England. She joins the court as a lady in waiting for Queen Henrietta Maria and goes into exile in France with her and the court of Charles I during the Civil War with Cromwell and the Roundheads. While in France, Margaret marries William Cavendish, the Duke of Newcastle on Tyne, a fellow exiled royal. This is a love match. The Duke is considerably older than Margaret and supports her emotionally her throughout their childless marriage. Margaret indulges her interest in writing poetry, memoir, plays, some of the first science fiction—much of which she published in her name. This was a first for a woman of her time and today Margaret, who was an early influence on Virginia Woolf, is revered by women’s liberation advocates.
Dutton’s writes in a style evocative of the erratic nature of her subject. Some chapters are a paragraph, other much longer. She follows the historical landmarks of the time: war, exile, the restoration and life after the restoration. Margaret and William lose their fortune in property, regain it after the restoration and eventually leave Margaret a wealthy widow. Throughout, Margaret writes and writes—her preferred method of expression. That and her costume, which titillated the masses who could read the first tabloids documenting the exploits of Mad Margaret.
For my taste, the book was too short, exciting my interest in the historical period and in the characters. That is a good thing and will lead me to seek other books relating to Mad Margaret.
Recommended for history lovers.