Catapult, 2016 / Scribe (UK), 2016

“Dutton’s remarkable second novel is as vividly imaginative as its subject, the 17th-century English writer and eccentric Margaret Cavendish . . . . 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.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“I have been recommending this slim, glinting dagger of novel since it came out in 2016, to anyone who will listen, and I’m not going to stop now. . . Dutton (who founded Dorothy: A Publishing Project) realizes the outsize ambitions of this remarkable book with virtuosic efficiency, braiding first- and third-person perspectives with passages from Cavendish’s original writing. I will be recommending this book for the next decade.”—Jonny Diamond, Lit Hub, “The 20 Best Novels of the Decade”

“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

Margaret the First is a brilliantly odd and absorbing historical novel . . . It’s bold, tender, funny and strange; a short book, but not in any way slight, more like a fever dream which brings a real, eccentric, talented woman unnervingly to life even as it showcases its author’s rare and lavish gift for the conjuring up of the unreal.” —Belinda McKeon, author of Tender, in The Irish Independent

“It is through a small miracle of imaginative sympathy and judicious sampling that Danielle Dutton has compressed the essence of the capacious and contradictory duchess into 160 pages. . . . There is a whole blazing world in this warm, witty portrait of a visionary who was both passionately engaged with her time and strikingly ahead of it.” —Justine Jordan, The Guardian

“The duchess herself would be delighted at her resurrection in Margaret the First. . . . Dutton expertly captures the pathos of a woman whose happiness is furrowed with the anxiety of underacknowledgment. . . . [She] surprisingly and delightfully offers not just a remarkable duchess struggling in her duke’s world but also an intriguing dissection of an unusually bountiful partnership of (almost) equals.” —Katharine Grant, The New York Times Book Review

“With refreshing and idiosyncratic style, Dutton portrays the inner turmoil and eccentric genius of an intellectual far ahead of her time.” —Jane Ciabattari,

“More than anything else, Margaret the First is about what it means to be a woman and to write; to live in a female body and to defy social constraints on what that body may accomplish. ‘My ambition is not only to be Empress, but Authoress of a whole World,’ Margaret wrote in The Blazing World. Dutton’s wonderful book anoints her as a founding mother to the whole sphere of women’s invention.” —Sarah Ditum, New Statesman

Margaret the First, then, presents us with another Margaret Cavendish, more compelling because less caricatured than Pepys’ or Woolf’s or even the Duchess’ own heroic self-fictions. Without diminishing her extraordinary accomplishments or taming her wild mind, Dutton’s novel invites readers to imagine Cavendish’s other possible selves, what she might have been had she lived in more utopian times.”—Sarah Hogan, The Collagist

“Danielle Dutton’s scintillating novel Margaret the First . . . has just that gossamer quality: Dutton’s prose is lambent and evocative, like Woolf’s, and her narrative drifts, but it is attached to life through moments of intense specificity . . . Margaret Cavendish yearned for fame and got it, at a price. Now Danielle Dutton has given her something more precious: understanding.” —Rohan Maitzen, The Times Literary Supplement

“Margaret Cavendish (1623–73) did something that was vanishingly rare for women in 17th-century England: She became a famous writer. . . . This is the story Danielle Dutton tells in her beguiling biographical novel Margaret the First. . . . ‘A woman cannot strive to make known her wit without losing her reputation,’ Margaret laments when told of the scandal her writing provokes. Yet this inimitable woman made her reputation anyway, and Ms. Dutton’s novel charmingly enhances it.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“This slender but dense imagining of the life of Margaret Cavendish, a pioneering 17th-century writer and wife of the aristocrat William Cavendish, could be classified as a more elliptical cousin of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell novels. . . . Ms. Dutton’s style is tightly poetic. ‘It was indescribable what she wanted,’ she writes of Margaret. ‘She wanted to be 30 people. … To live as nature does, in many ages, in many brains.’” —John Williams, The New York Times

“[Benjamin Labatut’s] When We Cease to Understand the World and Margaret the First never ask us to do without facticity or truth. If anything, both novels caution humility, not brazen assumption, in the face of life’s staggering complexity. Faced with the horrors, achievements, and mysteries of modern science, they remind us, we might do well to refrain from congratulating ourselves on what we think we know—not just about scientific inquiry, but about our species and ourselves.” —Clayton Wickham, Lit Hub, “Between Fact and Fable: Historical Fiction or Nonfiction Novel?”

“A baroque portrait in spirit, but really an abstract rendering of a life that could not be contained on any canvas. As audacious as its subject, Dutton’s writing is quick and daring, so fleet in its prose that you are actually seduced by the text—and the extraordinary 17th-century Englishwoman who inspired it.”—Christine Coulson

“With women in the sciences a hot issue today, Margaret the First satisfies a craving for women’s writing, women’s voices, and women’s stories, painting a portrait of a sensitive, thoughtful woman hungry not just for praise and recognition, but acknowledgment, affirmation, and validation. Margaret the First is a triumph!”—Liz Wright, “Staff Pick” at Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX

“Dutton has followed her critically acclaimed debut, SPRAWL, with a vibrant rendition of a unique historical figure. . . . The snippet-like diary form and rate of whip-smart quips bring to mind such contemporary American authors as Jenny Offill and Nell Zink. . . . an intimate, impressive portrait of a woman centuries ahead of her time.” —Sarah Gilmartin, Irish Times

“Danielle Dutton engagingly embellishes the life of Margaret the First, the infamous Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.” —Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair

“As depicted in Danielle Dutton’s lovely and delicate historical novel Margaret the First, Margaret was a brilliant, ambitious, and oft-reviled fixture of the 17th century English court. . . . Arresting and original.” —Javier Zarracina, “The 13 Best Novels of 2016,” on

“In Margaret the First, there is plenty of room for play. Dutton’s work serves to emphasize the ambiguities of archival proof, restoring historical narratives to what they have perhaps always already been: provoking and serious fantasies, convincing reconstructions, true fictions.” —Lucy Ives, The New Yorker, “How Archival Fiction Upends Our View of History”

“Danielle Dutton’s slim, charming debut. . . is colourful and full of flavour, with a style often as eccentric as its subject. . . . Danielle Dutton is a literary pioneer herself: she founded Dorothy, the independent publishing house, and discovered Nell Zink. Margaret the First leaves us wanting more, both of Cavendish’s life and [Dutton’s] writing.” —John Self, The Times (UK)

“Danielle Dutton has accomplished a remarkable feat with Margaret the First: she manages to tell the story of this enigmatic woman in the only manner I can imagine it being told. It feels destined that this is how Margaret Cavendish would come back to life, in dazzling, sinuous prose. This is a beautiful novel.” —Stephen Sparks, owner/bookseller, Point Reyes Books, Point Reyes, CA

“A fabulous (and fabulist) re-imagining of the infamous Margaret Cavendish … 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 gifted woman to build a life as an artist in any era as it is about Margaret herself. Incredibly smart, innovative, and refreshing, Margaret the First will resonate with anyone who’s struggled with forging her own path in the world.” —Sarah McCarry, Bookriot

“Beautiful, accessible, and hypnotic.” —Melissa Ragsdale, Bustle

“A perfect dagger of a book: sharp, dark sentences, in and out quick.” —Jonny Diamond, Literary Hub

“Dutton, an accomplished writer and daring publisher, here upends the genre of the historical novel in a brilliant book about Margaret Cavendish, a mold-breaking British Duchess of the 17th century who wrote poetry, drama, philosophy, and even science fiction.” —Jonathan Sturgeon, Flavorwire

Margaret the First is a work of extraordinary emotional and psychological complexity, about a woman who locates salvation in her own creativity and is audacious enough to seek recognition in a world governed by men, from which it is not readily forthcoming. It is also a novel which plays with the line between confidence and egoism in a setting in which the slightest display of confidence on a woman’s part is too easily glossed as egoism . . . . Its energy is inimitable; its curious aura—its curious beauty—burns a long while.” —Natalie Helberg, Numéro Cinq

“Although Margaret the First is set in 17th century London, it’s not a traditional work of historical fiction. It is an experimental novel that, like the works of Jeanette Winterson, draws on language and style to tell the story . . . . There is a restless ambition to [Dutton’s] intellect.” —Michele Filgate, The Los Angeles Times

“Dutton has captured the tumultuous life in a novel that is as radically inventive as its subject. Like [Cavendish’s] plays, it eschews traditional structure, but instead naturally flits through her life, from scene to scene, place to place. Some events are consigned to a few sentences, while others are explored in detail, such as Margaret’s arrest at gunpoint, along with her Royalist family’s, by Parliamentarian forces near the start of the Civil War. The result is a short, 177-page novel that is a sharply focused, intimate portrait of a remarkable woman who lived in a tumultuous time.” —Patricia Treble, Maclean’s Magazine

“In Margaret the First, a remarkable novel that re-tells Margaret Cavendish’s life, Danielle Dutton has pulled off the extraordinary feat of bringing to life that wildness, that generosity, and that passion for knowledge and understanding that so impressed [Virginia] Woolf, as well as redressing the silencing with which Margaret’s life and achievements have been met, and which Woolf mourns.” —Sian Norris, 3:AM Magazine

“The taut prose and supple backdrop of courtly life are irresistible. (Witness: quail in broth and oysters; bowls stuffed with winter roses, petals tissue-thin; strange instruments set beside snuffboxes.) Dutton is something of a meteor herself, as founder of the Dorothy Project and with two wondrous books already under her belt, including the Believer Book Award-nominated novel Sprawl.” —Anne K. Yoder, The Millions

“I had never before heard of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, so it was a delight to meet her through Danielle Dutton’s exquisite novel. Filled with small observations, sharp intelligence, and a bit of whimsy, it’s a deft look at 17th century England and the astonishing woman, novelist, dramatist and philosopher-scientist who was a paradox within it.” —Melina Powers, staff pick, Bookshop Santa Cruz

“This short literary book offers big rewards to readers interested in the complex mind of a woman ahead of her time.” —Sarah Cohn, Library Journal

“Dutton’s fictionalized biography is unconventional in its approach, but entirely sensuous and captivating in its style—much like her subject.” —Historical Novels Review

“This vivid novel is a dramatization of the life of 17th century Duchess Margaret Cavendish . . . While the novel takes place in the 1600s, the explorations of marriage, ambition, and feminist ideals are timeless.” —Katie Eelman, Papercuts Bookstore, “Pick of the Week,” The Boston Globe

“Margaret Cavendish is the fascinating subject of Danielle Dutton’s hypnotic new novel, Margaret the First. . . . With just a few precise brushstrokes, Dutton paints a gorgeous, richly detailed world that lingers long after the novel ends; this sublime writing and imagery are the book’s great strengths.” —Caitlin Callaghan, The Rumpus

“This lucid gem is the first-person tale of Margaret Cavendish, a real-life 17th century Renaissance woman and writer whose story would be captivating enough on its own, even without Dutton’s elegant, winking treatment. But the winks do not go unnoticed, of course (nor does that gorgeous cover).” —Emily Temple, LitHub, “The 50 Best Contemporary Novels Under 200 Pages”

“Dutton could have crafted the tale as a tragedy, but instead she gives us something else—something rich, generative, imagistic, occasionally unsettling, and ultimately deeply endearing. Highly recommended.” Biblioklept

“An intoxicating, blazing world that celebrates a woman years ahead of her time.” —Lucy Scholes, The Observer