The Amelia Alderson Opie Archive
1820 Tales of the Heart
Literary Chronicle, 2 (July 22, 1820): 466-7.


THOSE persons who have read this lady’s performances, either in prose or verse, will not find any thing in these tales particularly new, or eminently striking.  Each volume, notwithstanding its being formed in a series, may be taken up or put down as inclination or opportunity may suggest; this is an advantage equally to be found in Edgeworth, Mrs. Hannah Moore, and other estimable writers.

            There are, we believe, but two opinions as to general merits of this fair author: -- the one, that her writings are virtuous in their tendency, and consequently moral in their consequence; -- the other, that her descriptions are common place and her stories sometimes ineffective. Every production which has a virtuous example for its guide, is praiseworthy; and however common place, ought to be received favourably.  Narrative is the medium through which truth or fiction is seen, the chain which keeps the incidents together till we can discover and appreciate, or discover and reprehend.  Effect appears to us, to be of two characters, -- a gradual detail from beginning to end, or a final dénouement at the end, when curiosity is satisfied and patience rewarded.  Some of the tales under review produce the one effect, and some the other.  The titles of them are aptly chosen and inviting.  ‘A Woman’s Love’ and ‘a Wife’s Duty’, are two most endearing qualities.  The lover adores the first and the husband enjoys the last.  The object is supreme, and her performance admirable.  Love and Duty are two amiable sisters, and in heaven if not always on earth, inseparable.  Although we have not room for extracts from this tale, under the above united title, yet we will give a scrap or two of the poetry interspersed in it, and which we conceive to be the best.  But first, we do not like the hacknied rhymes of some of them, which are as familiar to our ears as the chiming of the church-bells for prayers, -- ‘impart’ is a most delicious word, -- ‘rove’ is another, especially to accompany ‘love,’ – and ‘roam,’ followed by ‘home,’ or rather estranged from it, is exquisite Gretna-green language.  And as, we are told, ‘the duet,’ in which this wandering is found, is set (we presume to music) and about to be published, we pass over it, though “that is a charming duet,” cried Seymour, when it was ended.  Then leaning behind Lady Martindale and Lord Charles, and calling to me, he said, with a look from which my conscious eye shrunk, “Helen, I admire the sentiment of that duet – I think, my love, we will get it – we should sing it con amore, should we not?”’ Oh yes! sing it con amore certainly; --what would songs be without Italian, or tales without French? since we have so much served up by the delicate lady, and our native language has not obscurity sufficient for such tasty purposes.  But what a beautiful comparison we quote here before we proceed, which says, ‘Lord Charles’s eyes were “like boiled gooseberries,” and “really dead eyes.”’  Sublime indeed!  We give the title of another song, ‘Fairest, Sweetest, Dearest,’ which must be enough without the contents.  The following, from ‘a song,’ is pretty, and might serve as a relief after reading ‘Poor Mary Ann!

[quotes “No, never” ?]

            ‘Happy Faces, or Benevolence and Selfishness,’ the last tale of the fourth volume, is, we think, very good and highly entertaining. –

[quotes “Happy Faces”]

            However, being determined to make happy faces with his savings from his estate, which is entailed on the male heir of his family, and having an immense fortune left him by the death of an old friend in India, he sets about it in the persons of a nephew at college and a niece who has a fortune of fifteen thousand pounds, and other relations; in whom he discovers such qualities and dispositions as he imagines deserve encouragement.  Of course, as nothing can be done in such stories, without love, -- the aforesaid nephew loves his niece, but his fortune not being equal to her’s, will not form a matrimonial union; this reaches his uncle’s ears, who givens him a sufficiency to maintain his dignity and complete his happiness.  The marriage is solemnized with all the usual dramatis personae.  Arthur left divinity, and, in conformity to his own wishes, entered himself a student in Lincoln’s Inn, soon after his marriage, as he liked not a life of idleness; but Sir Edward’s seat was his country home, and he and Justina, with their lovely children, threw a charm over the evening of their benefactor’s life.  The careless laugh, the playfulness of infancy, and the more sober testimonies of enjoyment exhibited by happy and grateful maturity, are in unison with the feelings and affections of the man of benevolence; and Sir Edward still continues – and long may he continue! – to bless the hour when his Quixotism led him to leave his retirement and eventually gave him the supreme delight of making of seeing HAPPY FACES!  And finally, we take our leave by thinking, though we do not always agree with some of the sentimental passages in these tales before us, yet, as they will glide into the presence of many amiable circles; and as they are ‘Tales of the Heart,’ many ‘Happy Faces’ will acknowledge the literary merits of their author.


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