In 1750 at the age of twenty-seven Sarah Scott published her first novel, a conventional romance. A year later she left her husband after only a few months of marriage and devoted herself thereafter to writing and to promoting such causes as the creation of secular and separatist female communities. This revolutionary concept was given flesh in Millenium Hall, first published in 1762 and generally thought to be the finest of her six novels.
The text may be seen as the manifesto of the ‘bluestocking’ movement—the protean feminism that arose under eighteenth-century gentry capitalism (originating in 1750, largely under the impetus of Scott’s sister Elizabeth Montagu), and that rejected a world which early feminists saw symbolized in the black silk stockings demanded by formal society. It is a comment on Western society as well as on the strengths of Scott’s novel that the message of Millenium Hall continues to resonate strongly more than two centuries later.
Gary Kelly is Chair of the Department of English at the University of Keele. His many works include Revolutionary Feminism: The Mind and Career of Mary Wollstonecraft (Macmillan, 1992).
“Scott’s novel of a female utopia and of the personal histories of the women who took refuge there is an unrivalled experiment in literary form. With its provocative introduction, this edition is a must for anyone interested in the Enlightenment, in Social Theory, in Women’s history, or in the development of the novel.” — Eve Tavor Bannet, University of Oklahoma
“With this splendid edition Gary Kelly has recovered a central document of Enlightenment British feminism. Scott’s compelling utopia depicts a community of women who turn from the folly and vice of the world to create a rational paradise.” — Peter Walmsley, McMaster University