"The History of Sir George Ellison (1766) is an important novel, both utopian and dystopian. Sir George, a man of benevolence, follows the pattern of the female utopia set forth in Scott's first novel, A Description of Millenium Hall (1762). In this sequel, Scott addresses issues of slavery, marriage, education, law and social justice, class pretensions, and the position of women in society, consistently emphasizing the importance, for both genders and all classes and ages, of devoting one's life to meaningful work. Although she adopted a gradualist approach to reform, Scott's uncompromising revelation of the corruption of English society in her day is clear-sighted, arresting, and hard-hitting.
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.)