Amelia Opie, née Alderson (12 November 1769 – 2 December 1853), was an English author who published numerous novels in the Romantic Period of the early 19th century, through 1828. Opie was also a leading abolitionist in Norwich, England.
Early life and influences
She was born Amelia Alderson, the daughter of James Alderson, a physician, and Amelia Briggs of Norwich, England. She was a cousin of notable judge Edward Hall Alderson, with whom she corresponded throughout her life, and also a cousin of notable artist Henry Perronet Briggs.
Marriage and family
In 1798 Alderson married John Opie, the painter. The nine years of her married life before her husband's death were happy, although her husband did not share her love of society. With his encouragement, in 1801 she completed a novel entitled Father and Daughter, which showed genuine fancy and pathos.
Amelia Opie published regularly after that. Her volume of Poems, published in 1802 went through six editions, and was followed by The Warrior's Return and other poems in 1808. More novels followed: Adeline Mowbray (1804), Simple Tales (1806), Temper (1812), Tales of Real Life (1813), Valentine's Eve (1816), Tales of the Heart (1818), and Madeline (1822).
Opie wrote The Dangers of Coquetry at age 18. Her novel Father and Daughter (1801) is about misled virtue and family reconciliation. Encouraged by her husband to continue writing, she published Adeline Mowbray (1804), an exploration of women's education, marriage, and abolition of slavery. The novel is noted in particular for engaging the history of Opie's former friend Mary Wollstonecraft, whose relationship with the American Gilbert Imlay outside marriage caused some scandal, as did her later marriage to the philosopher William Godwin. Godwin had previously argued against marriage as an institution by which women were owned as property, but when Wollstonecraft became pregnant, they married despite his prior principles. In the novel, Adeline early on becomes involved with a philosopher who takes a principled stand against marriage, only to be convinced to marry a West Indian landowner against her better judgment. The novel also engages abolitionist sentiment, in the story of a mixed-race woman and her family whom Adeline saves from poverty at some expense to herself.
In 1825, following the death of her father who had objected, she joined the Society of Friends, due to the influence of Joseph John Gurney and his sisters, who were longtime friends and neighbors in Norwich. The rest of her life was spent mostly in travelling and working at charity, though she published an anti-slavery poem, The Black Man's Lament in 1826 and a volume of devotional poems, Lays for the Dead in 1834. Opie worked with Anna Gurney to create a Ladies Anti-Slavery Society in Norwich. Opie went to World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840 where she one of the few women who was included in the commemorative painting.
Even late in life, Opie maintained connections with writers, for instance receiving George Borrow as a guest. After a visit to Cromer, a seaside resort on the North Norfolk coast, she caught a chill and retired to her bedroom. A year later on 2 December 1853, she died at Norwich and was said to retain her vivacity to the last. She was buried at the Gildencroft Quaker Cemetery, Norwich.
An somewhat sanitized biography of her, A Life, by Miss C.L. Brightwell, was published in 1854.
Novels and Stories
- Dangers of Coquetry. (published anonymously) 1790
- The Father and Daughter. 1801
- Adeline Mowbray. 1804
- Simple Tales. 1806
- Temper 1812
- First Chapter of Accidents. 1813
- Tales of Real Life. 1813
- Valentine's Eve. 1816
- New Tales. 1818
- Tales of the Heart. 1820
- Madeline. 1822
- Illustrations of Lying. 1824
- Tales of the Pemberton Family for Children. 1825
- The Last Voyage. 1828
- Detraction Displayed. 1828
- Miscellaneous Tales. (12 Vols.) 1845-7
- Memoir of John Opie. 1809
- Sketch of Mrs. Roberts. 1814
- Maid of Corinth. 1801
- Elegy to the Memory of the Duke of Bedford. 1802
- Poems. 1802
- Lines to General Kosciusko. 1803
- Song to Stella. 1803
- The Warrior's Return and other poems. 1808
- The Black Man's Lament. 1826
- Lays for the Dead. 1834
- Recollections of Days in Holland. 1840
- Recollections of a Visit to Paris in 1802. 1831-1832.
- Armstrong, I, Bristow, J, et al (eds). Nineteenth-Century Women Poets. Oxford University Press. 1996
- Armstrong, Bristow et al
- Women's Anti-Slavery Associations, Spartacus, Retrieved 30 July 2015
- The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1841, National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG599, Given by British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1880
- "Opie, Amelia". British Authors of the Nineteenth Century H.W. Wilson Co., New York, 1936
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "article name needed". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Eberle, Roxanne (1994). "Amelia Opie's 'Adeline Mowbray': Diverting the Libertine Gaze; Or, The Vindication of a Fallen Woman". Studies in the Novel. 26 (2): 121–52.
- Howard, Carol (1998). "'The Story of the Pineapple': Sentimental Abolitionism and Moral Motherhood in Amelia Opie's Adeline Mowbray". Studies in the Novel. 30: 355–76.
- Howard, Susan K. "Amelia Opie", British Romantic Novelists, 1789–1832. Ed. Bradford K. Mudge. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992.
- Kelly, Gary (1980). "Discharging Debts: The Moral Economy of Amelia Opie's Fiction". The Wordsworth Circle. 11: 198–203.
- Kelly, Gary. English Fiction of the Romantic Period, 1789-1830. London: Longman, 1989.
- King, Shelley and John B. Pierce. "Introduction", The Father and Daughter with Dangers of Coquetry. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2003.
- Simmons, Jr., James R. "Amelia Opie". British Short-Fiction Writers, 1800–1880. Ed. John R. Greenfield. Detroit: Gale Research, 1996.
- Spender, Dale. Mothers of the Novel: 100 Good Women Writers Before Jane Austen. London: Pandora, 1986.
- St. Clair, William. The Godwins and Shelleys: The Biography of a Family. London: Faber and Faber, 1989.
- Staves, Susan. "British Seduced Maidens", Eighteenth-Century Studies 12 (1980–81):109–34.
- Ty, Eleanor. Empowering the Feminine: The Narratives of Mary Robinson, Jane West, and Amelia Opie, 1796–1812. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Opie, Amelia.|
- Works by Amelia Opie at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Amelia Opie at Internet Archive
- Works by Amelia Opie at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
- Amelia Opie and Norwich
- Archival material relating to Amelia Opie listed at the UK National Archives
- Lee, Sidney, ed. (1895). "Opie, Amelia". Dictionary of National Biography. 42. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 226–230.
- Brightwell, Cecilia Lucy,Memorials of the life of Amelia Opie, London: Longman, Brown, & Co., 1854.
- The Amelia Alderson Opie Archive