Amelia Opie (1769-1853) 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 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 addresses 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, Opie joined the Society of Friends, despite the objections of her recently deceased father, due to the influence of Joseph John Gurney and his sisters, who were longtime friends and neighbours in Norwich. The rest of her life was spent mostly in travel and working with charities. In the meantime, however, 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. 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. A somewhat sanitised biography of Amelia Opie, entitled A Life, by Miss C.L. Brightwell, was published in 1854. Other works by Opie include Simple Tales (1806), Temper (1812), Tales of Real Life (1813), Valentine’s Eve (1816), Tales of the Heart (1818), and Madeline (1822).
Opie, Amelia. The Father and Daughter: with, Dangers of Coquetry. Edited by SHelley King and John B. Pierce. Broadview Press, 2003.
Opie, Amelia. The Collected Poems of Amelia Alderson Opie. Edited by Shelley King and John B. Pierce. Oxford University Press, 2009.