The Amelia Alderson Opie Archive
1816 Valentine's Eve
Monthly Review, ns, 79 (1816): 438-9.


This story is not calculated either by its conduct or its circumstances to display advantageously the talents of the writer; and, since 'most animals know where their strength lies,' as Warburton said, when referring to his critics, such persons as attempt to perform the critical office towards Mrs Opie must consider her as an exception to his rule. Why, else, does she so often attempt the composition of playful dialogue, in which she has never succeeded; and the exhibition of consummate villainy, such as is here attributed to Melvyn and Sophia Clermont, and such as her own mind is too amiable to assist her in conceiving? The heroine, however, (Catherine Shirley,) is a high and christian character, doing honour to the principles and feelings of the fair delineator. The plan of confining the reward of her innocence entirely to another world is also a stroke of originality: but, 'as readers go,' her example might have been more inviting, if her misfortunes had not arisen from the exercise of her virtues; and if her death had been retarded, and she had been allowed to enjoy the esteem of her husband and the caresses of her children before she went hence to be no more seen. Lord Shirley is not consistently drawn. He ought not to have listened to nor visited Sophia and the defamers of his wife, when he had once been apprized of their real characters; and, on the other hand, he abandons his suspicions too lightly at first, after having acted on them so strongly. It is scarcely [439] worth while to add the remark, but surely the title of the work is not justified by the single, adventitious, and uninfluential circumstance from which it is derived. If the event in question (though itself important) had happened on a Thursday or a Friday, would Mrs Opie have called her history by the name of that day of the week?

The introductory chapters of this interesting but unequal performance are in Mrs Opie's best manner, and full of the natural touches for which her pen is deservedly distinguished; though the first begins rather oddly with stating that 'General Shirley was dining with a friend in the year eighteen hundred and odd.' We should like to ask the fair writer what year this was; and also to suggest to her the revision of the following passages: Vol. i. p. 112., 'going in and out of the room to find up all his books.' - Vol. ii. p. 95., 'Melvyn was firm in his refusal to stay no longer.' - P. 125., 'he feared his hopes of an union between the earl and his heiress was as far off was ever.' - P. 266., 'Pray how soon does she go?' 'Oh, not of a month, replied Lady Shirley.' - P. 334., 'they are always expressly forbidden never to come in when their lady is singing,' &c.


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