cover image The History of Sir George Ellison

The History of Sir George Ellison

Sarah Scott. University Press of Kentucky, $60 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-8131-1938-0

Scott (1720-1795), an affluent and educated Englishwoman eminent in her day for her benevolence, good works and nine books of fiction, biography and history, published Ellison in 1766. Although Scott is largely unknown today, her writing was well received in its time and understandably so. Her voice is amiable and articulate, and, though sticking to popular 18th-century devices and a ladylike tone, she takes on provocative topics. George Ellison is a visitor to Millennium Hall, the utopian society run by five single women that was the focus of Scott's A Description of Millennium Hall (1762). Unfolding his life's travels allows Scott to raise key concerns: the importance of education; the problems of marriage; the pretensions of class privilege; the condition of women; the crime of slavery; and others. Although Scott eschewed marriage to live in an unorthodox, commune-like setting much like Millennium Hall, both her politics and her writing style are tempered and reformist, not revolutionary. As editor Rizzo notes in her detailed introduction, beneath the apparent ``accommodation'' criticized by some scholars is a ``sense of outrage controlled by an intellectual perception of what she could and could not propose.'' Whatever Scott's more radical instincts were, they had to be restrained. Still, today's readers will be struck by her conviction and relevance, and by the astonishing good sense of this largely forgotten female writer. (Jan.)