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


1   Quoted in Sonia Hofkosh, "A Woman's Profession: Sexual Difference and the Romance of Authorship," Studies in Romanticism 32 (1993: 245-72). ^ up

2   Adeline Mowbray, Opie's fourth publication and her third novel, went through many editions beginning in 1805 and until Opie's death. It was most recently reprinted for Pandora's Mothers of the Novels series in 1986. But the novel's textual history is problematic, to say the least. The Edinburgh Review included a notice of the novel in its "Quarterly List of New Publications" for October 1804 to January 1805 and reviews of the novel appeared in The Critical Review in 1805 (with a publication date cited as 1805) and in The Monthly Review for September to December of 1806. Yet Dale Spender, in Mothers of the Novel (London: Pandora, 1986), cites 1804 as the novel's publication date and Jeanette Winterson, in her introduction in the Pandora reprint of the novel, repeatedly refers to an 1802 publication date. (Further confounding the issue, Winterson also refers to an 1844 re-issue of the novel.) Not having the resources to examine these many variant editions of the novel, I can only piece together a very rough history of the text. Roxanne Eberle, in "Amelia Opie's Adeline Mowbray: Diverting the Libertine Gaze; or, The Vindication of a Fallen Woman," Studies in the Novel 26 (1994: 121-52) is to my knowledge the only critic to note the variant editions; she refers to Pandora's 1986 text as "heavily revised after [Opie] converted to Quakerism in 1825" (147n). In this article Eberle briefly notes textual variation between the original 1805 text and this later text. I have, unfortunately, not been able to examine the 1805 text in its entirety. I have studied, however, a facsimile edition of the novel in three volumes (Ed. Gina Luria, New York: Garland, 1974). The Garland 1974 edition curiously comprises the first edition, 1805 version of the first volume of the novel, but the third edition, 1810 version of the second and third volumes. (To make matters worse, the title page of the second volume of the Garland edition has a publication date of 1801, which surely is a typographical error.) In this paper I will refer to the "early editions" of the novel (citing the 1805 text, via Eberle and the first volume of the Garland reprint, and the 1810 text, via the second and third volumes of the Garland reprint) and the "later edition" (citing Pandora's text, which I will call the 1825 text) for convenience. All references to page numbers in these various editions of Adeline Mowbray will appear within the text. ^ up

3   Mary Poovey, The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1984). ^ up

4   Gary Kelly, Women, Writing, and Revolution 1790-1827 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1993), p. 10. ^ up

5   Gary Kelly, "Discharging Debts: The Moral Economy of Amelia Opie's Fiction," The Wordsworth Circle 11 (1980: 198-203), "Amelia Opie, Lady Caroline Lamb, and Maria Edgeworth: Official and Unofficial Ideology," Ariel 12 (Oct. 1981: 3-24), "Revolutionary and Romantic Feminism: Women, Writing and Cultural Revolution," Revolution and English Romanticism, Eds. Keith Hanley and Raman Selden (New York: St. Martin's, 1990). ^ up

6   Kelly, "Revolutionary and Romantic Feminism," p. 121. ^ up

7   Poovey, p. 41. ^ up

8   Kelly, "Revolutionary and Romantic Feminism," p. 111. ^ up

9   Although I am very much persuaded by Poovey's arguments and by Kelly's and reading of Adeline Mowbray as subtly revolutionary, I find the reactionary elements of the novel, the evermore conservative revisions, and the progress of Opie's life and career compelling in examining the situation of the woman writing in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. ^ up

10   Review of Adeline Mowbray, The Monthly Review, 2nd ser., 51 (1806), pp. 320-21. ^ up

11   I say today because I have found no reference to the similarity between Adeline and Wollstonecraft and Glenmurray and Godwin before 1883, many years after Opie's death, in Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie's A Book of Sibyls (London, 1883). Nearly every mention of Adeline Mowbray since Ritchie commented on the Wollstonecraft correlation calls the novel a roman à clef. ^ up

12   I draw my biographical information from Cecilia Brightwell's Memorials of the Life of Amelia Opie (2nd ed. Norwich, 1854), Ada Earland's John Opie and His Circle (London: Hutchinson, 1911), Margaret Eliot MacGregor's "Amelia Alderson Opie: Worldling and Friend," Smith College Studies in Modern Languages 14 (1932-33: 1-146), Jacobine Menzies-Wilson's and Helen Lloyd's Amelia, The Tale of a Plain Friend (London: Oxford UP, 1937), and Thackeray Ritchie's work. ^ up

13   Rev. of Adeline Mowbray, The Critical Review, 3rd ser., 4 (1805), pp. 219-21. ^ up

14   There is a kind of irony in this idea of the Quaker as proper or conservative. Allene Gregory observed that Quakers "had been noted for their sympathy with the most liberal political opinions . . . Many of the finest doctrines of the Revolutionists were identical with those of the Friends" in The French Revolution and the English Novel (New York: Putnam's, 1915), p. 205. Eberle further notes the unconventionality of Opie's Quaker, pp. 151-2n. ^ up

15   There is however one extensive deletion of several paragraphs from the 1805 text in which Adeline peruses Sir Patrick's profligate library. The narrator characterizes Adeline's reading history by commenting that she had "read Rousseau's Contrat Social, but not his Julie" (1805, 1:154; 1825, 57), but Sir Patrick's library contained only Rousseau's New Heloise and Confessions. In the passage deleted from the later edition, Adeline sits down to peruse New Heloise and is at first "disgusted" but soon "enchanted." Mrs. Mowbray discovers Adeline reading the novel and forbade her to continue, as it is "improper" (1805, 1:156). The narration notes that the positive influences of "the sacrifice which the guilty but penitent Julia makes to filial affection, and the respectable light in which the institution of marriage is held up to view" (1805, 1:157) contained within the novel is lost to Adeline. See Eberle, p. 150n, for more on this point. ^ up

16   Eberle, p. 139. ^ up

17   Just after this exchange the couple retires to their bedroom to continue their argument in privacy. Mrs. Norberry ends the argument by "pushing her pillow vehemently towards the valance" (1810, 2:37). In the later edition, such a reference to actually being in bed is removed. ^ up

18   Johnson, p. 13. ^ up

19   I am indebted to Eberle for her work in associating Opie and Wollstonecraft. ^ up