1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Amelia Opie

T., in "On the Female Literature of the present Age" New Monthly Magazine 13 (March 1820) 275.



Mrs. Opie's powers differ almost as widely as possible from those of Miss Edgeworth. Her sensibility is the charm of her works. She is strong in the weaknesses of the heart. Did she not fall into one unhappy error, she would have few rivals in opening "the sacred source of sympathetic tears." She too often mistakes the shocking for the pathetic, — "on horror's head horrors accumulates," — and heaps wrongs on wrongs on the defenceless head of the reader. This is the more to be regretted, as she has shown herself capable of that genuine pathos which calls forth such tears only as are delicious. But who can endure a madman, who, having broken from his keepers, unconsciously pursues his daughter, whose conduct has occasioned his insanity, and bursts into horrid laughter? Human life has enough of real misery, without those additions being made to it by an amateur in sorrow. It is neither pleasant nor profitable to contemplate in speculation unadorned, unrelieved agonies. It may be laid down as an axiom, that, when we feel inclined to resort to the recollection that the tale is fictitious, in order to relieve our feelings, its author is mistaken. Let Mrs. Opie give us pictures of exquisite tenderness as well as grief — of love enduring amidst distress — of hope building up, amidst earthly woe, its mansions of rest in the skies — or let her fringe her darkest clouds of sorrow with the golden tints of the imagination, and the oftener she will thus beguile us of our tears the more shall we thank and esteem her.