The Amelia Alderson Opie Archive
1805 Adeline Mowbray; or, the Mother and Daughter
European Magazine, 47 (1805): 129-30.


Mrs Mowbray is a learned lady, and a widow, devoted altogether to abstruse and metaphysical speculations. While this ill-judging mother is occupied in preparing a voluminous system of education, Adeline her daughter, for whom she entertains nevertheless the most parental and tender regard, remains in the mean time neglected and uninstructed; and had she not found in Mrs Woodville, the mother of Mrs Mowbray, a teacher after 'the old fashion,' her mind at fifteen would have been without improvement and without knowledge; the important system of Mrs M being still imperfect and incomplete. Adeline, who has the highest respect for her mother's literary talents, about this period, and after Mrs Woodville's death, becomes emulous of similar pursuits. Totally inexperienced, and without any proper director of her studies, she obtains the perusal of her mother's books, and unfortunately, in the writings of an author who is called Glenmurray, she discovers objections which she deems invincible against the institution of marriage. Upon the strength of this conviction, she forms a solemn compact with herself, and resolves never to marry. At Bath, she meets Glenmurray, and, of course, they are mutually enamoured. He is reasonable enough, notwithstanding the public avowal of her sentiments, to offer her marriage; but this she disclaims, and in defiance of a parent's command, of the sense of the world, and the solicitation of Glenmurray himself, she unites herself to him, on her own baneful and absurd principles 'of love and honour:' - a step this, it must be admitted, not consistent with that delicate feeling, and those exalted notions of filial affection and duty, which she is represented to possess; and although her conduct, with this single exception, be considered faultless, yet such an obstinate pertinacity of opinion must be conceived as belonging rather to the bold and lawless innovator, than to the submissive, the gentle, the benevolent, Adeline Mowbray.

This unlicensed union could only produce misery, shame, and disgrace; and of this Adeline is an eminent, and, it may be hoped, a useful example. By no means so much can be said for Glenmurray; a man without any fixed notions of religion, or indeed of any thing else, 'for he doubts of all things,' who dies without any renunciation of his errors, and yet is exhibited in the fascinating colours of splendid talents and attractive excellence and virtue. On the death of Glenmurray, Adeline is brought to some acknowledgment of her great mistake; and, in obedience to his dying request, resolutely struggling with her feelings, she marries his relation, Mr Berrendale. By him she is deserted; and at length, after some additional evidences, she relinquishes, on conviction, her former way of thinking; - she is convinced, that if the ties of marriage were dissolved, or it were no longer to be judged infamous to act in contempt of them, unbridled licentiousness would soon be in general practice. The remainder of the tale is short. Mrs M, by a wild sort of conditional oath, had renounced her daughter; and after many mutual attempts at reconciliation, which were frustrated by a malicious Miss Woodville, Adeline, in a declining state, retires with her child, an only daughter, by Mr Berrendale, to a cottage within two miles of her native place, where her mother resides.

Here they casually meet; Adeline in a dying condition, and Mrs Mowbray full of unabated affection: the former is conveyed, at her particular entreaty, to the shelter of a parent's roof; and the whole concludes, 'in the German stile,' at the moment of her death.

Mrs Opie is well known as 'a mighty mistress of pathetic song,' and though the above outlines seem unpromising, because the sufferings of Adeline are deserved; yet so many affecting incidents, so manly little circumstances, are skilfully introduced, that this tale [130] cannot be perused without strong emotion, even by those 'unused to the melting mood.'

The character of Mrs Pemberton, a quaker, merits unqualified praise; and Dr Norberry, a physician, blunt, and rather vulgar, is well drawn.

The language of Mrs Woodville, the early instructress of Adeline, is rather overcharged; it is 'downright vulgar;' and therefore scarcely correct enough for 'the sole surviving daughter of an opulent merchant of London.'

To conclude with a specimen of the work: on the subject of Mrs Mowbray's early and abstracted pursuits Mrs O thus ably observes: -

Fatal and unproductive studies! While, rapt in philosophical abstraction, she was trying to understand a metaphysical question on the mechanism of the human mind, or what constituted the true nature of virtue, she suffered day after day to pass in the culpable neglect of positive duties; and while imagining systems for the good of society, and the furtherance of general philanthropy, she allowed individual suffering in her neighbourhood to pass unobserved and unrelieved; while professing her unbounded love for the great family of the world, she suffered her own family to pine under the consciousness of her neglect, and viciously devoted those hours to the vanity of abstruse and solitary study, which might have been better spent in amusing the declining age of her venerable parents, whom affection had led to take up their above with her. - V. I.


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