A 1798 portrait of Amelia Opie by her husband, John Opie
12 November 1769
Norwich, United Kingdom
2 December 1853|
Norwich, United Kingdom
|Resting place||Gildencroft Quaker Cemetery, Norwich|
|Occupation||18th century novelist and poet|
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. When 187,000 names were presented to the British parliament as a petition from women to stop slavery, Amelia Opie was the first name.
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 couple spent nine years in married happiness, although her husband did not share her love of society. With her husband's encouragement, Amelia completed a novel in 1801 titled Father and Daughter, which showed genuine fancy and pathos.
After her novel Father and Daughter was published in 1801, Amelia Opie began to publish regularly. 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 when she was only 18 years old. 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 the abolition of slavery. This novel in particular is noted for engaging the history of Opie's former friend Mary Wollstonecraft, whose relationship with the American Gilbert Imlay outside of 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 beliefs. In the novel, Adeline becomes involved with a philosopher early on, who takes a firm 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, she joined the Society of Friends, due to the influence of Joseph John Gurney and his sisters, who were longtime friends and neighbours in Norwich. Amelia joined the Society of Friends despite her recently deceased father's objections. The rest of her life was spent mostly in travel and working with charities. In the meantime, however, she published an anti-slavery poem titled, 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. This anti-slavery society organised a petition of 187,000 names that was presented to parliament. The first two names on the petition were Amelia Opie and Priscilla Buxton.
Opie went to the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840 where she was one of the few women included in the commemorative painting.
Even late in her 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.
A somewhat sanitised biography of Amelia Opie, titled 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.
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Opie, Amelia". Encyclopædia Britannica. 20 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 129.
- 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
- Genius of Universal Emancipation. B. Lundy. 1833. p. 174.
- The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840, Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1841, [[National Portrait Gallery, London|]], 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
- 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.
- Amelia Opie at the Eighteenth-Century Poetry Archive (ECPA)
- Works by Amelia Opie at Project Gutenberg
- Works by Amelia Alderson née Alderson Opie at Faded Page (Canada)
- 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". 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
- Amelia Opie at Poeticous