Inscribed to Amelia Opie

Posted on 28th November 2018 by simonbeattie

It’s Wednesday, and we’re having an Amelia Opie moment here at 84 The Broadway.  And why not?  She ticks all the boxes: Romantic novelist, abolitionist, pal of Sarah Siddons and Mary Wollstonecraft, married to a feminist, accomplished musician…the list goes on.

Though Oxford DNB calls her ‘the most respected woman fiction writer of the 1800s and 1810s after Maria Edgeworth’, I can’t say I’ve had much exposure to her, which is a shame, because she was clearly a force of nature.  Adeline Mowbray (1804), in a very Wollstonecraft-ian manner, tackles the elusiveness of an egalitarian marriage, slavery, reason and feeling, and women’s education.  Her other works include the comic and pathetic, the sentimental and the Gothic, most first appearing in triple-decker format but soon finding their way into the wider world as popular chapbooks and melodramas.

One of Simon’s latest acquisitions is a copy of Matthew Henry Luscombe’s Pleasures of Society (1824), inscribed to Opie.  It’s a lovely snapshot into her world.

‘To Mrs Amelia Opie, / in testimony of unfeigned respect / from the Author / M. H. L. / Paris, Oct. 19 1829.’

Opie attended events at Luscombe’s house on several occasions, as well as society weddings which he performed.  She described one in her memoirs: ‘The marriage took place at the ambassador’s chapel, and the bride and her husband were a sight to see, as they knelt before Bishop Luscombe, picturesque from his fine face and large sleeves!’ (See Cecilia Lucy Brightwell, Memorials of the Life of Amelia Opie (Norwich, 1854), p. 234–5, 386).

For more on this book, check out our latest list, English Verse, 1810–1846.

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