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Scott, Sarah (1723-1795)  

The eighteenth-century novelist Sarah Scott challenges the sex-gender system of her society and claims narrative authority for women loving women.

The details of Sarah (Robinson) Scott's private life are becoming increasingly familiar. Born in 1723 to an established Yorkshire family, Sarah Robinson began writing at an early age; her sister, with whom she was close, was the famous "bluestocking" Elizabeth Montague; in 1748, she met Lady Barbara Montague (no relation to her sister), the daughter of the first earl of Halifax and his wife Lady Mary Lumley, with whom she maintained an intimate relation until Lady Barbara's death in 1765.

In 1751, Sarah Robinson married George Lewis Scott, and she separated from him in 1752. Her first novel, The History of Cornelia, appeared in 1750. Between 1750 and her death in 1795, Sarah Scott published four more novels and three histories.

Millenium Hall (1762) was her most popular work. Millenium Hall attempts to challenge the "sex-gender system" by working within the structure of exemplary narratives, such as were popular in midcentury, to offer an alternative to male-oriented interpretations of female sexual power.

In doing so, Scott challenges as well our conceptions of female sexuality in the eighteenth century and our preconceptions concerning female-female relations within that extraordinarily imprecise category of "romantic friendship," which flourished throughout the later eighteenth century.

In Millenium Hall, Scott offers a narrative form that challenges patriarchy with the tales of a group of women who remain at the end of their romantic adventures "happily unmarried." Although nominally written as a letter from "a gentleman on his travels," the novel establishes an elaborate strategy to resist the authority of the patriarchal narrative voice.

Scott's seemingly crude arrangement of internal
narration--the novel consists of a series of tales told by or about the inhabitants of Millenium Hall--represents the most obvious of her techniques: The tales create a female subject position within the text in order to undermine the "romance plot" that was already strong enough to determine popular expectation. By challenging the conventions of romantic narrative, Scott is able to reconceive their ideological range.

In her personal life, Sarah Scott found an alternative to the ruthlessly limited possibilities available to women in the eighteenth century. In this novel, she dramatizes this discovery in a way that claims narrative authority for women loving women and offers women in general an escape from the prison-house of patriarchal narrative.

George E. Haggerty


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literature >> Overview:  Romantic Friendship: Female

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De Lauretis, Teresa. Alice Doesn't: Feminism, Semiotics, Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984.

DuPlessis, Rachel Blau. Writing Beyond the Ending: Narrative Strategies of Twentieth-Century Women Writers. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.

Faderman, Lillian. Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women from the Renaissance to the Present. New York: Morrow, 1981.

Farwell, Marilyn R. "Heterosexual Plots and Lesbian Subtexts: Toward a Theory of Lesbian Narrative Space." Lesbian Texts and Contexts. Karla Jay and Joanne Glasgow, eds. New York: New York University Press, 1990. 91-103.

Mavor, Elizabeth. The Ladies of Llangollen: A Study in Romantic Friendship. London: Michael Joseph, 1971.

Nussbaum, Felicity. "Feminotopias: The Pleasures of 'Deformity' in Mid-Eighteenth-Century England." The Body and Physical Difference. David Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder, eds. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997. 161-173.

Spencer, Jane. The Rise of the Woman Novelist, From Aphra Behn to Jane Austen. Oxford: Blackwell, 1986.

Todd, Janet. Female Friendship in Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980.

_____. The Sign of Angellica: Women, Writing and Fiction, 1660-1800. London: Virago, 1989.


    Citation Information
    Author: Haggerty, George E.  
    Entry Title: Scott, Sarah  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated November 18, 2002  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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