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Scott, Sarah (1723–1795)

Scott, Sarah (1723–1795)

English novelist. Born Sarah Robinson in 1723 in West Layton, Hutton Magna, Yorkshire; died on November 30, 1795, in Catton, near Norwich; daughter of Matthew Robinson (a Yorkshire landowner) and Elizabeth Drake Robinson (a Cambridge heiress); sister of Elizabeth Montagu (1720–1800); married George Lewis Scott, in 1751 or 1752 (separated).

Selected writings:

The History of Cornelia (1750); A Journey Through Every Stage in Life (1754); Agreeable Ugliness, or the Triumph of the Graces (1754); Description of Millenium Hall (1762); Sir George Ellison (1766); The Test of Filial Duty (1772).

Sarah Scott was born in 1723, the younger sister of celebrated writer and beauty Elizabeth Montagu . The sisters resembled each other so much, like two peas in a pod, that the family referred to Sarah as "The Pea." Around 1751, Sarah married George Lewis Scott, a mathematician who had served as a tutor to the future King George III, but they separated shortly thereafter, apparently due to incompatible personalities. Scott's need for an income turned out to be the start of her literary career, and she successfully sold her work, writing six novels as well as several historical and biographical works. Her fiction, all of which was published anonymously, covered topics including female independence and clandestine marriage.

After Scott left her marriage, she and her close friend Lady Barbara Montagu (to whom she was not related) set up an unusual haven for unattached women. Between 1754 and 1756, they ran a community at Bath Easton where single women could live while teaching poor children who otherwise lacked the means to obtain education. Scott's best-known novel, the utopian Description of Millenium Hall (1762), uses the backdrop of the female community for its plot, and features a man impressed with the group's commitment to rational pursuits. While the community at Bath Easton ended in 1756, Scott and Montagu continued living together until Montagu's death nine years later.

In addition to her novels, Scott also published a biography of Gustavus I Vasa (r. 1523–1560), king of Sweden (1761), a history of the House of Mecklenburg (1762), and Life of Théodore Agrippa d'Aubigné (1772). After apparently living quietly for a number of years, she died in 1795 in Catton, near Norwich, leaving instructions that all her papers and notes be burned.

sources:

Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

The Concise Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Shattock, Joanne. The Oxford Guide to British Women Writers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Catherine Dybiec Holm , M.S., Cook, Minnesota

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