Righting & Re-writing their Characters
Amelia Opie and the variant editions Adeline Mowbray


The emendations made to the early editions of Adeline Mowbray, include the deletion and substitution of words, phrases, and in a few instances, brief passages.15 The most significant change, altering even the sense of certain of the novel's situations, is the removal of overt sexual references. Eberle remarks that in the 1805 text a young man, who accosts Adeline while walking in the Temple after her visit to Langley's office, actually makes physical contact with Adeline, "patting her on the back" and "put[ting] his arm around her waist," whereas in the later edition such references are deleted.16 Likewise, Adeline's visit to Langley's office, in which she witnesses his meeting with a prostitute, is emended. Langley disrespectfully tells Adeline in the early edition

". . . I should be proud to see you here, at present I am particularly engaged, (with a significant smile)" (1810, 3:36)

while in the later edition, Langley's reference to his "engagement" is deleted. Moreover, an exchange, early in the novel, between Adeline and Sir Patrick, which later reads

". . . I believe, I think I had better retire," faltered out Adeline.

"Retire! — No, indeed," exclaimed the baronet; rudely seizing her (1825, 33)

at first had Sir Patrick replying "Retire! — Aye, by all means" (1805, 1:88). And the narration of the attempted rape scene, which reads in the later edition,

". . . after a vehement declaration of the ardour of his passion, he dared irreverently to approach her . . ." (1825, 62),

deletes Sir Patrick's "protestations that she should at that moment be his" (1805, 1:169). Clearly, Sir Patrick's pursuit of Adeline is much more obviously sexual in the early editions. There is even, in the early editions, a sexual nature implied in Dr. Norberry's devoted interest in Adeline. Mrs. Norberry chastises her husband in this exchange:

". . . I now feel that it would be highly improper for you, with daughters grown up, to receive with such marked kindness a single young woman at a cottage of yours, who is going to lie in of a bastard child."

"But, 'sdeath my dear, it is a different case, when I do it to keep her out of the way of having any more."

"That is more than I know, Dr. Norberry," replied the wife bridling, and fanning herself.

"Whew!" whistled the doctor; and then addressing his daughters, "Girls, you had better go to bed; it grows late" (1810, 2:36-7).17

But in the later edition, the mention of lying in of a bastard child is deleted, as is Mrs. Norberry's accusation of her husband's sexual interest in Adeline. In the early editions of the novel, Adeline is assailed by men's sexual desires. She is at real physical danger from strangers, from her lawyer, from her father-in-law, and even from her life-long friend. The later edition mitigates this sexual threat to Adeline and her "virtue" and presents the behavior of these men as less reprehensible.

At the same time, in the later edition of the novel, Adeline's virtue itself becomes less glorious. Dr. Norberry's effusion "Girl, girl, your virtue only heaps coals of fire on that devoted woman's head" (1810, 2:76) is deleted. It is significant to note that at this moment when Dr. Norberry extols Adeline's virtue at the expense of her mother, Adeline is pregnant and unwed. The narration of the early editions of the novel even blames Mrs. Mowbray, in an anomalous fatalistic turn, remarking that "it was decreed that everything the mother of Adeline did should accelerate the fate of her devoted daughter" (1805, 1:157). The later edition of the novel is reluctant to shift any blame from Adeline and refuses to refer to Adeline's virtue after her union with Glenmurray.

By far the most pervasive change made in the later edition of the novel is the replacement and deletion of direct references to God. Adeline's ". . . may that God whom I worship" (1805, 1:100) becomes ". . . may He whom I worship" (1825, 37); her "for God's sake" (1810, 2:60) becomes "for mercy's sake" (1825, 107). Mrs. Mowbray's "Lord have mercy on us!" (1805, 2:2) becomes "Heaven have mercy on us!" (1825, 87). Mrs. Pemberton's prayer that "God . . . bless thine!" (1810, 3:226) becomes a prayer "that thine may be blest!" (1825, 250). These emendations, however, are few and slight in comparison to the consistent removal of oaths made by Sir Patrick and Dr. Norberry. Sir Patrick repeatedly swears upon his soul (1805, 1:76,145) in the early editions, but upon his word in the later edition. The Dr. Norberry of the early editions is particularly fond of swearing. His "Zounds! girl — I protest you are as clever as your mother" (1805, 3:39) becomes "Why girl — I protest . . ." (1825, 15). And in a single brief exchange in the early edition of the novel, Dr. Norberry utters "'Sdeath" (1810, 2:19), "by the Lord" (2:20), and "Odzooks" (2:21), each of which is emended in the later edition. There are in fact something near thirty of Dr. Norberry's oaths which do not survive to the later edition of the novel. While not changing the sense of the novel at all, the frequency and kind of these oaths do alter the characterizations. Adeline's and Mrs. Pemberton's oaths are fewer and less profane than Dr. Norberry's. Once again, Dr. Norberry, whom Johnson refers to as "the novel's moral guide,"18 becomes suspect. His excessive swearing in the early editions of the novel undercuts his suitability as such a moral guide. In fact, Dr. Norberry's swearing warrants even a comment in the narration. At Adeline's death-bed, in Mrs. Pemberton's presence, Dr. Norberry is said to have "never uttered any thing like an oath, without humbly begging her pardon" (1810, 3:295; 1825, 275). Mrs. Pemberton is, in fact, the explicit moral guide within the novel.