Sarah Scott 1723–1795
(Also wrote under the pseudonym of Henry Augustus Raymond, Esq.) English novelist and biographer.
Scott was an English novelist and biographer whose life and works reveal an engagement with charity, social reform, and the condition of women in society. Scott did not overtly challenge the existing social order, but rather depicted and attempted to create alternative female communities in which women could reach their true intellectual and moral potential.
Scott was born in Yorkshire in 1723, one of nine surviving children of twelve. In 1751 she married George Lewis Scott, a mathematician in the service of the Prince of Wales. The couple separated within a year. The reason for their separation is not known, but family letters suggest that they were simply incompatible. For the next several years Scott traveled and lived with friends and relatives. She eventually settled in Bath. In 1754 Scott and her friend Lady Barbara Montagu established a household in Batheaston and became partners in developing a charity attending to the needs of poor women. They encouraged selfsufficiency through education and the learning of practical skills. Scott and Montagu also established a school for children. After Montagu's death in 1765 Scott encountered financial difficulties. She spent the last years of her life in Catton, near Norwich, until her own death in 1795.
Scott's books are for the most part traditional sentimental novels in which characters struggle to maintain their virtue in the face of overwhelming odds. Her first novel, The History of Cornelia (1750), recounts the repeated trials of a young orphan in her quest for true love and happiness. Scott's next project, An Agreeable Ugliness; or, The Triumph of the Graces (1754), is a translation of Pierre-Antoine de La Place's La Laideur, et les dangers de la beauté. This morality tale of two sisters—one beautiful but vain, and the other plain but virtuous—reveals the superiority of the latter sister and concludes with her triumph. Scott's first bio-graphy, The History of Gustavus Ericson (1761), published under the pseudonym Henry Augustus Raymond, Esq., was a life of Gustavus Vasa, King of Sweden during the sixteenth century. In her preface to that work, Scott argued the merits of biography over narrative history, believing that they provide more insight into the character and motivations of people. Her most well-known novel, Millenium Hall (1762), is largely a fictionalized recreation of the charitable community run by Scott and Montagu at Bath. The women who inhabit the Eden-like confines of Millennium Hall are all disfigured physically, emblematic of the psychic scarring they received within exploitive relationships. In The History of Sir George Ellison (1766), a sequel to Millenium Hall, Scott addressed her text primarily to the class of English planters and slave owners. Her novel did not advocate abolition outright, but urged humanitarian and educational reforms within the slave system.
Scott's six novels and three historical biographies were all published either anonymously or pseudonymously, and received only limited critical attention during her lifetime. Yet at the end of the twentieth century, Scott, as a member of the early class of professional female writers, is receiving increased scholarly attention. Scott's work has received the attention of feminist and gender scholars, who focus on the extent to which Scott's writings reflect a developing feminist viewpoint. Scott's work has also been studied in the context of Utopian literature.
The History of Cornelia (novel) 1750
Agreeable Ugliness; or, The Triumph of the Graces (translation) 1754
A Journey Through Every Stage of Life, Described in a Variety of Interesting Scenes, Drawn from Real Characters (novel) 1754
The History of Gustavas Ericson, King of Sweden. With an Introductory History of Sweden from the Middle of the Twelfth Century (history) 1761
A Description of Millenium Hall, and the Country Adjacent, by a Gentleman on His Travels (novel) 1762
The History of Mecklenburgh from the First Settlement of the Vandals in that Country to the Present Time (history) 1762
The History of Sir George Ellison (novel) 1766
The Life of Theodore Agrippa D'Aubigne, Containing a Succinct Account of the Most Remarkable Occurences during the Civil Wars of France in the Reigns of Charles IX, Henry III, Henry IV, and in the Minority of Lewis XIII (history) 1772
The Test of Filial Duty, in and Series of Letters between Miss Emilia Leonard and Miss Charlotte Arlington (novel) 1772
(The entire section is 155 words.)
SOURCE: "Sarah Scott: A Reconsideration," in Coranto, 1973, pp. 9–15.
[In the following essay, the critic contrasts Scott's writing style in her letters with that found in her novels, maintaining that the qualities of eloquence and wit displayed in her voluminous correspondence are missing from her fiction.]
The twentieth-century reader who happens upon the eighteenth-century novel A Description of Millenium Hall (1762) is apt to be put off quickly by its unremitting tendentiousness.1 Without compensating artistic beauties, such as strong characterization or eloquent style, the book is easy to lay aside long before one reaches the end. In large part this must be attributed to the inability of the author to transcend the common-place, to invoke the artistic imagination necessary for first-rate work. As Walter Crittenden has said:
It is as a gentlewoman, alert to the intellectual and social tendencies of the day, yet guided by a native dignity and strict religious zeal which gave a moral tone to all her writings and made her assiduously avoid all notoriety, that Mrs. Scott must be looked upon as a representative author. She is, indeed, a typical product of the century's sentimental and didactic ideals.2
Still, to some extent she was representative rather than original by conscious choice. As Professor...
(The entire section is 3229 words.)
SOURCE: "A Paradise Like Eve's: Three Eighteenth Century English Female Utopias," in Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol. 9, 1982, pp. 263–73.
[In the following essay, Schnorrenberg contrasts Scott's Millenium Hall with other utopian novels written by women in the eighteenth century.]
There is general agreement on what utopias are and why they are written. They all share certain characteristics, though one aspect may be dominant in any particular work. Utopias are satires of current conditions, blueprints for how a society might be better formed, or descriptions of a dreamland that can never really be achieved. All however share a desire for improvement in the human condition.1
It is, therefore, perhaps surprising that none of the better known utopian proposals were written by women.2 Surely women have often needed the dream, the hope of change, more than men. Utopias written by men have talked of equal status for women, though most of those which retain the traditional family structure make man the head. Even in those written by women, complete equality has seldom been really advocated. The matriarchy, or amazonian society, has often been held up for ridicule.3 If, however, proposals for partial reforms of society, or the creation within the existing society of communities which operate independently according to different...
(The entire section is 3760 words.)
SOURCE: "Making and Rethinking the Canon: General Introduction and the Case of Millenium Hall," in Modern language Studies, Vol. XVIII, No. 1, Winter, 1988, p. 3.
[In the excerpt below, Rabb argues for inclusion of Scott's Millenium Hall in the canon of eighteenth-century literature.]
One of the most famous literary representations of a library—one that serves as a scene of dispute over traditional literary hierarchies—occurs in Jonathan Swift's Battle of the Books. In Swift's apt metaphor for the processes by which works from the past endure the changes wrought by time, the stately "treasure house of literature" is also a field of war. Recent commentators on the canon speak of the "continuous selection and reselection" that accounts for changes among the lists of the "great."1 Swift's fable dramatizes the hostility, conflict, and sometimes personal pique that contribute to the establishment of traditions and canons. Artificial standards, as opposed to natural processes of gradual evolution, can have wide influence. Alexander Pope mockingly proposes a criterion—a minimum age of 100 years—for the canon of "classics" in Imitations of Horace, Epistle II. i. ("To Augustus"): "Who lasts a Century can have no flaw, / I hold that Wit a Classick, good in law" (35-36). Such criteria would "damn to all Eternity at once, / At ninety-nine, a Modern, and a Dunce"...
(The entire section is 5009 words.)
SOURCE: "Utopia Limited: Sarah Scott's Millenium Hall and The History of Sir George Ellison," in Age of Johnson: A Scholarly Annual, Vol. 5, 1992, pp. 303-25.
[In the essay below, Carretta discusses Scott's use of male narrators in her texts. She maintains that this practice underscores Scott's essential conservatism and her belief that preserving the existing social hierarchy was a requisite of orderly reform.]
In her introduction to the Penguin edition of Sarah Scott's Millenium Hall, Jane Spencer suggests that the novel "aims to educate men. The first indication of this is on the title page." Without disputing her identification of the book's primary audience, I would like here to investigate the implications of authority found in the title-page phrase that attributes the work to "A Gentleman on His Travels." The masculine perspective is essential to the conservative ideological message and method of representation introduced in 1762 in Millenium Hall and elucidated and elaborated in 1766 in Sir George Ellison.
Although both books treat traditional eighteenth-century feminist issues, such as the disparity of educational opportunities for men and women as well as the frequently tyrannical subordination of women by men in familial and marital relationships, reading Scott's earlier novel as the first third of a two-part whole reveals how...
(The entire section is 7773 words.)
SOURCE: '"Romantic Friendship' and Patriarchal Narrative in Sarah Scott's Millenium Hall," in Genders, Vol. 13, Spring, 1992, pp. 108-22.
[Below, Haggerty suggests that Scott's Millenium Hall offers a narrative in which women escape the subjugated role assigned to them in eighteenth-century patriarchal literature and society.]
The emergence of the novel as an outlet for female creativity in the middle of the eighteenth century has been richly and justifiably celebrated.1 In addition to its obvious value as an educative and socializing tool, the novel, especially in its guise as "romance," offered women who were rigidly controlled in their personal lives the chance to experience the thrill of a courtship and marriage fraught with seemingly unlikely difficulties. The freedom that such novels offer, however, is in many ways illusory. In the first place, the "romance plot" itself is calculated to reinforce women's dependence on the male and on marriage for self-fulfillment and to force the transgressive female either outside the acceptance that a romantic resolution signals or into a rigid domestic role that essentially binds and gags her. The romance plot itself, in other words, works as a function of patriarchal control.2 More important, though, the authors themselves were trapped within increasingly rigid codes of feminine behavior, no matter how exotic the characters...
(The entire section is 7159 words.)
SOURCE: "Sarah Scott and The Sweet Excess of Paternal Love," in Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 32, No. 3, Summer, 1992, pp. 511-35.
[In the essay below, Gonda examines the theme of father-daughter relationships in Scott's Agreeable Ugliness, a translation of La Place's La Laideur, as well as in Scott's own fiction.]
You must take it well to be prun'd by so kind a Hand as that of a Father…. Some inward resistance there will be, where Power and not Choice maketh us move. But when a Father layeth aside his Authority, and persuadeth only by his Kindness, you will never answer it to Good Nature, if it hath not weight with you.1
Introducing the collection Daughters and Fathers, editor Lynda E. Boose notes a "distressing scarcity of models of benevolent fatherhood" in myth and literature: "Tyrannical paternity seems to mar the father-daughter text even more conspicuously than that of father and son."2 Sentimental novels of the eighteenth century, now receiving renewed critical attention after many years of neglect, would seem at first to provide an exception to Boose's generalization, abounding as they do with tender and affectionate fathers. A closer examination, however, reveals that such "models of benevolent fatherhood" can exert their own peculiarly inexorable form of...
(The entire section is 9233 words.)
SOURCE: "The Politics of Sentiment: Sarah Scott's Millenium Hall," in Transactions of the Eighth International Congress of the Enlightment, 1992, pp. 795-98.
[Below, Stoddard argues that Sir George Ellison and Millenium Hall are texts that criticize the subordination of women and function as an indictment of other social and economic inequities resulting from the emerging capitalist order in the eighteenth century.]
In a review of Janet Todd's book on Sensibility, Claudia Johnson refers to the 'question of whether the ostensibly moralistic and feminine cult of sensibility serves or resists the social conditions that cause the suffering it veritably fetishizes' and calls for 'more sustained attention to the status of sensibility as a political practice' (ECS 22 (1988), p. 112-13).
The political allegiances of sensibility in Millenium Hall are at first analysis confusing. On the one hand, Scott constructs an all-female community comprised of intelligent, practical, active women who purposely refuse to marry or re-marry, but on the other hand characters suffer all for the sake of virginity and count filial obedience as the highest of virtues. This complex of female sentimental values embodied in [Samuel Richardson's] Clarissa remains for me a touchstone of patriarchal conservatism. In fact the ideologies of Millenium Hall are...
(The entire section is 1460 words.)
SOURCE: "Mothers and Monsters in Sarah Robinson Scott's Millenium Hall," in Utopian and Science Fiction by Women: Worlds of Difference, edited by Jane L. Donawerth and Carol A. Kolmerten, Syracuse University Press, 1994, pp. 54-72.
[Below, Dunne argues that in Scott's utopian novel, Millenium Hall, healthy mother-daughter relationships are the paradigm for the most nurturing kinds of human relationships, while the monster motif in the text represents women's actual plight in patriarchal society.]
As the feminist project of recovery and reevaluation of women's writing advances, certain key texts are emerging that contain elements that make them especially relevant to the construction of a social and literary history that can inform and reform the present. Sarah Robinson Scott's Millenium Hall, originally published in 1762, is such a book. As a Utopian description of an idealized community of women, which is partially based on the personal life of the author, Millenium Hall also contains a compelling and bitter critique of eighteenth-century society, and presents an alternative to the traditional marriage plot of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novel. In addition, by incorporating the maimed and the monstrous into an idealized community of aristocratic ladies, the book appropriates and subverts the common phallocentric perception that all-female communities are inherently...
(The entire section is 9226 words.)
SOURCE: "Sarah Scott's Millenium Hall and Female Philanthropy," in Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900, Vol. 35, No. 3, Summer, 1995, pp. 535–54.
[In the essay below, Elliott suggests that in Millenium Hall, Scott is trying to reclaim for women a public role that had been eclipsed by eighteenth-century reforms making charity work primarily the province of men. Elliott suggests that Scott was especially concerned with finding roles for unmarried women in a culture that valued marriage and motherhood more highly.]
In 1766 Newton Ogle, Deputy Clerk of the Closet to His Majesty George III, summarized the achievements of mid-eighteenth-century English philanthropists in a charity sermon delivered before the assembled governors of the Magdalen Charity: "Houses of Charity have been opened for every Malady incident to Man. The Aged, the Maimed, the Sick, the Foundling, the Woman Labouring of Child, even those polluted by the foul Effects of their own Vices, have justly been admitted to a Share of our Bounty."1 Although rich benefactors had often endowed hospitals and almshouses in past centuries, the "Houses of Charity" that Ogle lauds were an eighteenth-century innovation. Modeled after the joint stock corporation, these charities relied on the system of charitable subscription rather than on individual donors. Charitable subscriptions were marketed like stock and many of these...
(The entire section is 7736 words.)
SOURCE: "A Serious Proposal for Slavery Reform: Sarah Scott's Sir George Ellison" in Eighteenth-Century Studies, Vol. 28, Summer, 1995, pp. 379–96.
[In the following essay, Stoddard argues that Sir George Ellison is a pre-abolition text in which Enlightenment principles and Christian morality are the basis for Scott's entreaty, addressed primarily to the planter class, petitioning for more humane treatment of slaves, but not the eradication of slavery itself.]
In mid-eighteenth century Britain, prior to the start of the Abolition Movement, proposals for regulating and reforming slavery began to appear from writers on both sides of the issue. The British had no slave code comparable to the French Code Noir; there were virtually no laws governing the treatment of slaves, except as items of personal property. As anti-slavery feeling mounted in Britain, especially after 1770 in the wake of the James Somersett legal case which took away property rights over slaves on British soil, West Indian slave owners realized they needed to police themselves if slavery was to continue. Hence some began to suggest plans for reform. The proposals of anti-slavery writers often appear similar to those of slave owners, with one major difference: the former tend to emphasize the conversion and education of slaves in preparation for eventual freedom. This article will analyze the dynamics and implications...
(The entire section is 10115 words.)
SOURCE: Introduction to The History of Sir George Ellison, The University Press of Kentucky, 1996, pp. ix–xlii.
[In the following essay, Rizzo provides an overview of Scott's life and literary career, suggesting that her personal history is essential to understanding Scott's works.]
Sarah Robinson Scott was born to many advantages of education and upbringing that made her a writer, but if she had not needed the money, she would scarcely have turned out the nine books (at least) that made her a professional author.
In 1712 her father, Matthew Robinson (1694–1778), of Edgeley and West Layton Hall in Yorkshire and of a younger branch of a respectable Yorkshire family, married Elizabeth Drake (c. 1693–1746), a Kentish heiress, daughter of Councillor Robert Drake of Cambridge. Together they produced twelve children of whom seven sons and two daughters survived. In Yorkshire were baptized Matthew (1713), Thomas (1714), probably Morris (c. 1715), Robert (1717), Elizabeth (1718), and Sarah (1721); at Cambridge were baptized William (1727), John (1729), and Charles (1731).1 It was a family of clever, loyal, close-knit siblings, most of whom remained intimately connected throughout their lives.
Elizabeth Drake Robinson's mother, Sarah Morris Drake, had married as her second husband, Dr. Conyers Middleton, the noted Cambridge scholar. The Robinson family spent...
(The entire section is 15099 words.)
Crittenden, Walter Marion. The Life and Writings of Mrs. Sarah Scott—Novelist (1723–1795). Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1932, 99 p.
Annotated bibliography of works by and about Scott.
Rizzo, Betty. Companions Without Vows: Relationships Among Eighteenth-Century British Women. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994, 439 p.
Provides biographical sketch of Scott as a political activist, discussing her preoccupation with the subordinate status of women in both her writing and in her personal life.
Onderwyzer, Gaby E. "Sarah Scott's Agreeable Ugliness, a Translation." Modern Language Notes, Vol. LXX, No. 8 (December 1955): pp. 578–80.
Discusses the argument that the novel Agreeable Uglines was not an original work of Scott's, but a translation of Pierre-Antoine de La Place's La Laideur Amiable, et les dangers la Beauté.
Scott, Sarah. A Description of "Millenium Hall": An 18th Century Novel by Mrs. Sarah Scott, edited by Walter M. Crittenden. New York: Bookman Associates, 1955, 200 p.
Contains a brief biographical sketch of Scott...
(The entire section is 175 words.)