OPIE, Amelia Alderson. Adeline Mowbray (1805)
Critical Review, 3rd ser. 4 (Feb 1805): 219–21.
We opened with great pleasure a new novel from the entertaining
pen of Mrs. Opie, a lady whose uncommon talents do honour to her
sex and country. She displayed, in her pathetic tale of ‘the
Father and Daughter,’ a power of working upon the passions
we think unrivalled (perhaps with the single exception of Mrs. Inchbald,)
by any writer of the present day. Nor has she failed to affect her
readers with many heart-rending scenes in the work before us.
The story of ‘the Mother and Daughter’ may be comprised
in few words. The former imbibes and supports in theory
the principles of the new code of morality; the latter carries them
into practice, and becomes the mistress of one of the authors
who broached them to the world. Upon this her mother, inconsistently,
but naturally, renounces her; and by the death of her lover she
is driven to seek support in the exercise of those accomplishments
her education had bestowed upon her. But her course of virtuous
industry is interrupted by the scandalous reports of those who remembered
her in her former vicious situation; and she is awakened to a sense
of her misguided conduct. She is in consequence married; but her
husband using her ill, after much misery she is restored to her
mother, and dies contented.
But this scanty outline Mrs. Opie has most ably filled up with
a variety of characters and incidents, well conceived, and adroitly
introduced. She keeps up the attention of her readers to the end.
The moral of her work is declared in the following passage: (Vol.
iii. P. 13.)
The example of Adeline is held up ‘as a warning to all young
people; for her story inculcates most powerfully how vain, are personal
graces, talents, sweetness of temper, and even active benevolence,
to ensure respectability, and confer happiness, without a strict
regard to the long established rules for conduct, and a continuance
in those paths of virtue and decorum which the wisdom of ages has
pointed out to every one.’
But we cannot avoid remarking that the effect of this moral does
not seem to have been consulted, when the state in which Adeline
and Glenmurray lived was represented as perfectly happy, as far
as their happiness rested in themselves; but the instant that Adeline
marries, she becomes miserable from the conduct of her husband.
Rightly considered, this reflects nothing upon the marriage state;
but what we have to object to are the fascinating colours thrown
over the erroneous virtues of Adeline and Glenmur-[219/220]ray ‘making’
(as the benevolent quaker observes, Vol. ii. page 109) ‘vice
more dangerous by giving it an air of respectability.’
We have to remark a few inaccuracies in Mrs. Opie’s style;
solely from a regard to her reputation as a writer, for we doubt
not her good sense will profit by our hints. ‘Gulping down
sobs and sighs’ is an expression that occurs too often throughout
the three volumes; ‘a fine moral tact’ we cannot help
thinking a silly and affected phrase; ‘it was the dark hour’
means nothing but ‘it was dark;’ and why should ‘the
maternal feeling’ be substituted for the feelings of a mother?
The interesting interview between the mother of Adeline and the
benevolent quaker, in which the latter gives the former tidings
of her daughter, is successfully imitated from the scene between
Lady Randolph and the Stranger, in the play of Douglas.
But the description of the death of Adeline may bear a comparison
with that of Richardson’s Clarissa, or Rousseau’s Heloise.
Her last letter to her mother, where she bequeaths her infant daughter
to her care, must move every reader to tears who can melt at the
recital of unmerited distress; and that to colonel Mordaunt, recanting
her false principles, and strongly contending in favour of marriage
for the sake of the children and their education, is an honourable
proof of Mrs. Opie’s powers of argument in the defence of
the good old cause.
We shall conclude our observations on the present work, with an
extract from the second volume, page 116, which we conceive to be
a very beautiful specimen of Mrs. Opie’s eloquent and interesting
flow of language. Mrs. Pemberton (the benevolent quaker) thus addresses
Adeline; whom she had heard of in her days of innocence, and now
met with in disgrace.
‘ “And art thou,” she cried “Adeline
Mowbray? art thou that courteous, blooming, blessed being,
(for every tongue that I heard name thee blessed thee) whom I saw
only three years ago bounding over thy native hills, all grace,
and joy, and innocence?” Adeline tried to speak, but her voice
failed her. “Art thou she,” continued Mrs. Pemberton,
“whom I saw leaning from the window of her mother’s
mansion, and inquiring with the countenance of a pitying angel concerning
the health of a wan labourer who limped past the door?” Adeline
hid her face with her hands. Mrs. Pemberton went on in a lower tone
of voice. “I came with some company to see thy mother’s
grounds; and to hear the nightingales in her groves; but”
(here Mrs. Pemberton’s voice faltered) “I have seen
a sight far beyond that of the proudest mansion, said I to those
who asked me of thy mother’s seat; I have heard what was sweeter
to my ear than the voice of the nightingale; I have seen a blooming
girl, nursed in idleness and prosperity, yet active in the discharge
of every Christian duty; and I have heard her speak in the soothing
accents of kindness and of pity, while her name was followed by
blessings, and parents prayed to have a child like her. Oh! lost,
unhappy girl! Such was Adeline Mowbray: and often, very
often, has thy graceful image recurred to my remembrance; but [220/221]
how art thou changed! Where is the open eye of happiness? where
is the bloom that spoke a heart at peace with itself? I repeat it,
and I repeat it with agony, Father of mercies! is this thy Adeline
Notes: Listed under ‘Monthly Catalogue: Novels’. Format:
3 vols 12mo; price 3s. 6d. [sic]
Flowers of Literature (1805): 416.
This is the most interesting of any of the productions of the beautiful
and accomplished author; it inculcates the most important moral
truths, and excites admiration by the elegance and simplicity of
Notes: 2nd edn. Format: 3 vols; price 12s. Publisher: Longman &
Co. This title is also mentioned in an introductory section on ‘Novelists’
in Flowers of Literature for 1805: ‘Mrs. OPIE, whose
beautiful poems have excited general admiration, has gained additional
credit by her novel called Adeline Mowbray; or, the Mother and
Daughter. It inculcates principles which cannot fail to make
the most striking impression on an inexperienced mind, and prevent
those errors of the affections into which youth is ever liable to
fall’ (p. lxi). Also mentioned in a biographical article on
‘Mrs. Opie’ in Flowers of Literature for 1807:
‘[...] We do not remember that any of her productions were
published in the name of Alderson. In the year 1801, she gave to
the world The Father and Daughter, consisting of a [11/12]
single volume. This first production possesses considerable interest,
and is justly admired for the artless simplicity of its language
[...] Encouraged by the reception of her former effusions, Mrs.
Opie, in the early part of the year 1805, produced a tale in three
volumes, entitled Adeline Mowbray; or the Mother and Daughter.
// The laudable object of this work was to check the progress of
the New Philosophy which pervaded the world, and to shake
the virtue of many individuals. The heroine of the piece is nurtured
in the baneful system, and by reducing the vain theories to practice,
proves at once, their evil and their fallacy. She falls a sacrifice
to her delusive principles, and expiates, by a repentant death,
a life of error. // In this admirable work, Mrs. Opie has evinced
powers worthy of the sentiments which excited and adorned her labour.
It is worthy the perusal of every class of a civilized nation, and
is an excellent present for a parent to his child. The work was
well received, and soon passed through its first dition [sic]
Monthly Review, 2nd ser. 51 (Nov 1806): 320–21.
These volumes are, both in their design and execution, so superior
to those which we usually encounter under the title of novels, that
we can safely recommend them to the perusal of our readers. We wish,
nevertheless, to hint to Mrs. Opie, that her work would be improved
by a more strict attention to the propriety of some of her expressions,
which at times are affected, and at others inelegant: but we forbear
to point out instances, under the persuasion that our caution is
already sufficient to a writer who possesses so much good sense.
It is the intention of this work to portray the lamentable consequences,
which would result from an adoption of some lax principles [320/321]
relative to a rejection of matrimonial forms, which have been inculcated
by certain modern writers.
Notes: Listed under ‘Monthly Catalogue: Novels’. Format:
3 vols 12mo; price 13s. 6d. Boards. Publisher: Longman & Co.
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