Ann Van Sant


In the casual extremity that sometimes marks Sarah Scott’s style, one of her characters says, “There is no divine Ordinance more frequently disobeyed than that wherein God forbids human Sacrifice, for in no other light can I see most marriages.” The stories her characters tell create both isolated and cumulative evidence for the necessity of a counter-narrative for women, for which Scott provides a model in Millenium Hall. She explicitly identifies the problem of gentlewomen displaced from conventional natal and conjugal family structures, brings a critical scrutiny to those structures, and creates a family formation hospitable to women. As Felicity Nussbaum expresses it, “Millenium Hall, recognizing the potential imprisonment of women in marriage, offers an alternative to it ... [:] a feminotopia of domesticity that offers protection from unwanted marriage, pregnancy, and the disappointments and dangers of maternity. It provides daily sorority.” As Alessa Johns argues in Women’s Utopias of the Eighteenth Century, Scott works against the naturalized family of blood and recreates affective and moral families. Although in her letters Scott can take a tolerantly affectionate and conventionally witty tone about “our William” and his exaggerated romantic suffering (“I scold without end at his dolorous countenance and voice, abuse him without the least degree of delicacy and he takes it all with great good humour”), she also makes explicit her scepticism about the frequent bearing of children (“I am as little sensible of the merit of producing children yearly as you are”) and her detachment from the concept of “blood” (“I have not that regard to blood some good people have, perhaps it may be that I have so drained my Veins that certainly there does not remain in my whole body one drop of what I brought into the World with me).”