The Amelia Alderson Opie Archive
1820 Tales of the Heart
Lady's Monthly Museum, series 3, 12 (Aug. 1820): 95-8.


PERHAPS no writer of the present day possesses so fully as Mrs. Opie the power of interesting  us by presenting us with vivid and natural portraits of human feelings and passions, as exhibited in domestic life.  Other authors surprise, elevate, or dazzle our imaginations by romantic incident, splendid imagery, or the description of highly-wrought character, in scense and situations remote from the habits of ordinary life; but she has achieved the far more difficult task of uniting our suffrages by narrating ordinary and probably events, in a manner at once true to nature, and yet novel and touching; while the development of character, she displays such an accurate knowledge of the human heart, such justness of principle, and so much warmth of feeling, as excite at once our sympathy and admiration.  Some little disappointment will be felt, however, by those who contrast the tales before us, with her earlier productions, for much as we find in them to praise, we are yet compelled to say, they are in many parts inferior to her former works.  If, however, she lose in some respects by being compared with herself, there are few others by a comparison with whom she would not gain.  The first tale, Love, Mystery, and Superstition, is very interesting; our sympathy is powerfully excited for the unfortunate Rinaldo and Angela; but we must observe, Mrs. Opie has fallen into an error, when she speaks of the former as having taken his vows at seventeen; no monk can be professed previous to the age of twenty-one.  The second tale, The Two Sir Williams, is a very pleasing domestic sketch; the supper scene is admirable, and has a very dramatic effect.  The story of The Two Sins, is exquisitely written throughout; Ronald never for a moment loses his hold on our hearts.  Nothing can be more exquisitely pathetic than the description of his feelings on leaving the paternal home, and on recovering his poor old parents; the contrast between him and his brother is admirable.  The catastrophe, though we were in some degree prepared for it, thrilled us with horror.  The story of A Woman’s Love, contains many striking passages; but it is upon the whole inferior, both in interest and pathos, to the generality of Mrs. Opie’s productions.  The continuation of it, A Wife’s Duty, is much better written: the suffering wife, Helen Pendarves, is admirably drawn; it is one of this authoress’s principal merits that she paints the feminine virtues in the brightest and the loveliest colours.  The plot of The Opposite Neighbour, is ingenious and well wound up; but Evelyn’s romantic stratagem is certainly inconsistent with the general tone of his character.  The concluding tale, Benevolence and Selfishness, is delightfully written.  Never did benevolence wear a more amiable form than that of Sir Edward Meredith.  All the characters are, in fact, sketched in a masterly manner, and supported with the greatest spirit throughout.  The style of the work has the same elegant and pathetic simplicity which distinguishes Mrs. Opie’s former productions.  We regret that we can only give a short extract; it is from the conclusion of the tale of A Wife’s Duty.

[quotes from “A Wife’s Duty”]


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