Biographical Sketches of Illustrious and Distinguished Characters
Number One Hundred and forty-five.
Justly may be classed amongst the illustrious and distinguished, those females who, to superiority of talent and great mental endowments, unites every charm that adorns domestic life, and whose conduct is guided by the truest principles of virtue.
Such is the highly celebrated female whose Portrait embellishes our present Number, the relict of John Opie, Esq. Royal Academician, and Professor of Painting; an artist whose skill in his profession gained him the meed of well deserved renown; but he needs no better biographer nor eulogist than his amiable widow, who, with her usual elegance of language, has published a short sketch of his life, to which are added his Lectures on Painting delivered at the Royal Academy.
Mrs. Opie is a native of Norwich, and was born in the year 1771. She is the only daughter of Dr. Alderson, an eminent physician in that city: he was a gentleman of highly classical attainments, and he beheld in his daughter, when she was arrived at but a very early age, extraordinary mental powers; and so rapid were her acquirements that she far surpassed any one of her sex at that early period of life. Her poetic talents early evinced themselves; and a dramatic piece, entitled Adelaide, a tragedy of much merit, was performed, under her father's sanction, at Mrs. Plumtree's private theatre at Norwich, in 1791.
Although Miss alderson's productions in the literary style were many, we believe she never published any till after her marriage with Mr. Opie, which took place on the 8th of May, 1798. Her first publication was that excellent novel The Father and the Daughter, in 1801. Her Elegy to the memory of the late Duke of Bedford, and a volume of beautiful Poems, published in 1802, were justly admired, and established her fame as a sweet and elegant writer. Her Adeline Mowbray, or The Mother and Daughter, her Simple Tales, her Memoir of Mr. Opie, her Tales of Real Life, her New Tales, and her last publication, entitled Tales of the Heart, which we noticed in our last Number, are all delightful; her novel, entitled Temper, &c. has less merit than any other of her works, but will be perused with that fond partiality which her name alone is sure to inspire.
In her person Mrs. Opie stands much indebted to all-bountiful nature; her manner of holding her head is reckoned peculiarly graceful; her disposition is extremely lively; and her conversation animated and unreserved, free from al pedantry, but on some select subjects peculiarly energetic; and at times a little keen satire shews itself: this sever kind of wit has been supposed to proceed from over indulgence; and she is prompted to utter what she thinks, from the consciousness of having all she says admired, for no one ever quitted her society without pronouncing her truly prepossessing and agreeable; her candour gains her many friends, and her superior talents ensure her respect.
One scene of uninterrupted conjugal affection marked the nine years Mrs. Opie lived with her valued husband. In her present retirement in her native city, she has gained the esteem and respect of the first families residing there; and as her reputation as an author is permanently established, so, by her talents and virtues, she has exalted and added dignity to the female character.