AMELIA OPIE lived to be eighty-four years old. I saw her but a short time before her death, sitting in an easy-chair, in her drawing-room at Norwich; and the ruling passion was still alive, for she was neatly and gracefully dressed, and moved as if she would rise from her seat to welcome me. She had preserved other of the attributes of her youth, and in her "the beauty of age" was a charming picture. She was the only child of James Alderson, M.D., and was born on the 12th of November, 1769, in the parish of St. George, Norwich, and in that city she died on the 2nd of December, 1853, having passed there nearly the whole of her life; for when she became a widow she returned to it, and, with few brief intermissions, it was ever afterwards her home.
She did not become an author until after her marriage. That event took place in 1798. Late in the previous year she wrote to one of her friends, "Mr. Opie (but mum) is my declared lover." She hints, however, that her heart was pre-engaged, and that she "ingenuously" told him so. He persisted, nevertheless. At that time, she adds, "Mr. Holcroft also had a mind to me," but he "had no chance." She was "ambitious of being a wife and mother," and "willing to wed a man whose genius had raised him from obscurity into fame and comparative affluence." Her future husband she first saw at an evening party, as she entered (as her friend and biographer, Lucy Brightwell, states) bright and smiling, dressed in a robe of blue, her neck and arms bare, and on her head a small bonnet, placed in somewhat coquettish style, sideways, and surmounted by a plume of three white feathers." The painter, John Opie, was "smitten" at first sight. He was rugged and unpolished; she had the grace and lightness of a sylph. He (according to Allan Cunningham) looked like an inspired peasant; she, if her admirers are to be credited, had the form and mind of an angel. Yet they were married, in Marylebone Church, on the 8th of May, 1798; and the young bride preserved a record of her trousseau — "blue bonnet, eight blue feathers, twelve other feathers, two blue Scotch caps, four scollop'd-edge caps a la Marie Stuart, a bead cap, a tiara, two spencers with lace frills, et caetera, et caetera."
Opie was not rich; "great economy and self-denial were necessary;" and so she became "a candidate for the pleasures, the pangs, the rewards, and the penalties of authorship."
"Gaiety" was her natural bent; not so that of Opie; yet she did her duty by him from first to last; and as, no doubt, she expected little of romance, giving her husband more respect than love, her married life passed in easy contentment until his death on the 9th of April, 1807, and his burial in St. Paul's, in a grave beside that of Sir Joshua Reynolds. She bears testimony to his "general worth and natural kindness;" yet he was undoubtedly a coarse man, as one who knew him well writes, "rugged and unpolished, to say the least," although, as Haydon describes him, "of strong understanding, manly, and straightforward."
She is described, at that period, as exceedingly beautiful, intellectual, refined, graceful, and altogether lovely. She sung sweetly, painted skilfully, and was remarkably brilliant in conversation; and it must have astonished many to find the lovely, fascinating, and accomplished girl preferring Opie to the host of lovers that gathered in her wake.
From that far-away time she was a widow; as she mournfully writes in after years, "a lone woman through life, an only child, a childless widow," yet ever as maid, wife, and widow enjoying society, for some time the gayest of the gay, but always without spot or blemish, slander never having touched her fame. She was all her life long "true and lovely, and of good report."
She did not join the Society of "Friends" until the year 1825, although she attended their meetings much earlier. In 1814 she writes, "I left the Unitarians;" but it does not appear that she was ever in actual connection with that body, although she had frequent intercourse with them, and held "unsettled opinions" concerning the Christian faith.
In 1825 her father died. He, too, had "accepted Christianity," was "a believer in the atoning work of the Saviour," and, if not a Quaker, was, notwithstanding, interred in the Friends' burying-ground at Norwich, in a grave in which his daughter was laid more than a quarter of a century afterwards.
Probably it was her intimacy with the family of the Gurneys (honoured be the name, for it has long been, and is, that of many good women and good men) that led to her joining the Society of Friends. It is said, indeed, that she had an early attachment to one of them, Joseph John Gurney. He had known her when "a gay and lively girl," when she was a beautiful and young widow, and when she was sedate and aged; and perhaps, as far as we can think and see, it is to be lamented that she did not become his wife; for that they had devoted friendship each for the other there can be no doubt.
It was soon after she had become a Quaker we first knew her. As a trait of character, I may mention that about this time I had occasion to write and ask her to furnish a story for a work I was then conducting, the Amulet. In reply, she stated it was opposed to her principles to write a story, but she would send me an anecdote. She did so, and the distinction made no difference, for a very touching and pathetic story, called "An Anecdote," I received.
Not long afterwards we made her acquaintance. She was verging upon fifty, but looked much younger. Her personal appearance then might be described by the single word "sonsie." Her full bust, upright form, and stately carriage were indicative of that rare privilege of age, "Life to the last enjoyed."
Despite somewhat of severity in her quick blue eye, her manner and appearance were extremely prepossessing. There was a pleasant mixture of simplicity and coquetry in the folds of the pure white kerchief scrupulously arranged over a grey silk dress of the richest fabric, though plainly made and entirely without ornament. One of her Quaker friends describes her cap as "of beautiful lawn, and fastened beneath her chin with whimpers, which had small crimped frills." Her hair, of a singular colour, between flaxen and grey, was worn in waving folds in front. It had a natural wave, but, of course, was never curled. Her carriage was erect, her step firm and rapid, her manner decided, her voice low and sweet in tone, her smile perfect sunshine. She "flirted" a fan with the ease and grace of a Spanish donna; and if her bright, inquiring, and restless eyes made one rather nervous at a first interview, the charm of her smile and the winning grace of her nature placed one at ease after a few minutes' conversation. Still, the incessant sparkling of those quick blue eyes told
that e'en in the tranquillest climes,
Light breezes might ruffle the flower sometimes.
When we met in after years, the restless manner was much calmed. As the face became less beautiful it grew more soft, less commanding, but more lovable.
Miss Brightwell thus pictures her: — "She was about the standard height of woman, her hair was worn in waving folds in front, and behind it was seen through the cap, gathered into a braid. Its colour was peculiar — between flaxen and grey; it was unusually fine and delicate, and had a natural bend or wave. Her eyes were especially charming: there was in them an ardour mingled with gentleness that bespoke her true nature." She was aged when Miss Brightwell wrote this, but she pictures her also in youth — no doubt from hearsay. "Her countenance was animated, bright, and beaming; her eyes soft and expressive, yet full of ardour; her hair abundant and beautiful, of auburn hue; her figure well formed, her carriage fine, her hands, arms, and feet well shaped; and all around and about her was the spirit of youth, and joy, and love."
Yet, although a member of the Society of Friends, and bound by duty to be sedate, the old leaven clung to her through life — innocently and harmlessly; and there was no sin in her occasional murmurs of self-reproof — "Shall I ever cease to enjoy the pleasures of the world? I fear not."
In truth, she never did. And so her Diary oddly mingles gaieties with gravities: May meetings with brilliant evenings, labours of love and works of charity with half-idolatrous hero-worship; and if there occur records of worldly sensations, at which an Elder among the Friends might shake his head and sigh, there are many such passages as these: — "Went to the gaol — have hopes of one woman." — "Called to see that poor wretched girl at the workhouse; mean to get the Prayer-book I gave her out of pawn."
Mrs. Opie was brought up as an "ultra-liberal." Her sympathies were with the people. They were often exercised, at the close of the past and the beginning of the present century, when advocacy of freedom was a crime, and there was peril even in free interchange of thought. But though a Liberal in politics, her heart had room enough for all humankind: her bounty was large, and her charities were incessant. Among other merciful projects, in conjunction with Mrs. Fry — another of the earth's excellents — she conceived the idea of reforming the internal management of hospitals and infirmaries. In 1829 a project had been actually " set on foot — an institution for the purpose of educating a better class of persons as nurses for the poor," a project much encouraged by Southey, who considered that "nothing in the system need be adopted at variance with the feelings of a Protestant country."
Mrs. Fry did actually establish a society of "nursing sisters," and I believe it is in existence still.
It was in reference to his belief in the peculiar fitness of Amelia Opie to carry out this work of wisdom and mercy that Southey thus wrote of her in his "Colloquies:"—
"One who has been the liveliest of the lively, the gayest of the gay; admired for her talents by those who knew her only in her writings, and esteemed for her worth by those who were acquainted with her in the relations of private life; one who, having grown up in the laxest sect of semi-Christians, felt the necessity of vital religion while attending upon her father during the long and painful infirmities of his old age, and who has now joined the lively faith for which her soul thirsted; not losing, in the change, her warmth of heart and cheerfulness of spirit, nor gaining by it any increase of sincerity and frankness; for with these Nature had endowed her, and society, even that of the great, had not corrupted them."
So far back as the year 1818, Mrs. Hall was acquainted with MRS. FRY, of whom it may be emphatically said, "her works do follow her;" and Mrs. Hall supplies me with this Memory of that estimable woman:—
It was my privilege to accompany her more than once to Newgate, some years, however, after she had commenced her herculean and most merciful task of reforming that prison. I first met her at the house of William Wilberforce, to whom humanity still owes a large debt, although it has been, in part, paid by the abolition of negro slavery in all lands where the Anglo-Saxon tongue is spoken. The great philanthropist was then living at Brompton, and after a lapse of so many years, I recall my sensations of intense, happiness when, in my dawn of youth, conversing with that venerable man.
Newgate, when first visited by Elizabeth Fry, was a positive Aceldama. The women were all in rags, no care of any kind having been given to their clothing, and almost as little to their food. They slept without bedding on the floor of their prison, the boards raised in parts to furnish a sort of pillow. With the proceeds of their noisy beggary from occasional visitors they purchased spirits at a taproom within the gaol; and the ear was constantly outraged by frightfully revolting language. Though military sentinels were placed at intervals, even the governor entered their part of the prison with misgiving and reluctance.
Things had, however, changed for the better when I accompanied Mrs. Fry to Newgate. She had been at her work — and not in vain — during five years. My companion was the Rev. Robert Walsh, one of the most dear and valued friends of my girlhood-of my womanhood also. His children and his grandchildren are of my best and most beloved friends to-day.
But of Elizabeth Fry. I do not remember how it came about; yet I can see myself now clasping her hand between mine, and entreating to be taken with her once, only once; and I can recall the light and beauty that illumined her features — the gentle smile and look of kindness — as she moved back the hair from my moist eyes, and said, "Thy mother will trust thee with me and thy friend the doctor. Her heart is urged to this for good; do not check the natural impulse of thy child, friend," addressing my dear mother; "better for thy future in her to hear her pleading to visit those with whom the Lord is dealing in His mercy, than for thy sanction to visit scenes of pleasure, where there can be gathered no fruit for hereafter." I felt the words as a reproof; for only the night before I had seen the elder Kean play Macbeth. It was the first time I had been at a theatre, and the consequent excitement had kept me awake all night. Her words made me thoughtful. I remember removing the rosette from my bonnet, and putting on my gravest-coloured dress, to accompany Elizabeth Fry to Newgate.
Hannah More, speaking of this heroic "Friend," pictured her well: — "I thought of her as of some grand woman out of the Old Testament — as Deborah judging Israel under the palm-tree."
When in repose, there was an almost unapproachable dignity in Mrs. Fry. Her tall figure, the lofty manner in which her head was placed on its womanly pedestal, her regal form, and the calmness of her firm, yet sweet voice, without an effort on her part, commanded attention. You felt her power the moment you entered her presence; but when she read and expounded the Scripture, and above all, when she prayed, the grandeur of the woman became the fervour of the saint. In person she was not unlike Amelia Opie, though obviously of a "stronger" nature, and though by no means unfeminine, more masculine in form.
When I passed with her and Dr. Walsh, and a lady whose name I have forgotten, into the dreaded prison, and heard the loud gratings of the rattling keys in the locks, and the withdrawing and drawing of the bolts, and felt the gloom and damp of the walls, and heard my friends speak with bated breath, and then saw the door open, and a number of women — stained by "the trail of the serpent" — I should have been glad to have been anywhere but where I was. "Wilt thou go back, young friend?" whispered a kind voice. I looked up to her sweet face, and laying my hand in hers, felt strengthened by her strength. A Bible was on the table, and a chair and hassock were beside it; but, before she read or prayed, Mrs. Fry went to each individually. Not one word of reproof fell from her to any, though several were loud in their complaints against one particular woman, who really looked a fiend. She took that woman apart, reasoned with her, soothed her, laid her hand on her shoulder, and the hard, stubborn, cruel (for I learned afterwards how cruel she had been) nature relented, and tears coursed each other down her cheeks. "She promises to behave better," she said, "and thou wilt not taunt her, but help her to be good. And He will help her who bears with us all!" She had an almost miraculous gift of reading the inner nature of all with whom she came in contact. She seemed to show a peculiar interest in each; while each felt as if the mission was specially to her. I shall never forget the wild scream of delight of a young creature who fell at her feet, to whom she had said, "I have seen thy child." One of the women told the girl that if she was not quiet she could not remain for the prayer. I remember even now how she clenched her hands on her bosom, to still its heavings, and how she kept in her sobs, while her bright glittering eyes followed every movement of Mrs. Fry, when she added, "Thy child is well, and has cut two teeth, and thy mother seems so fond of her!"
This preparation for prayer and teaching occupied fifteen or twenty minutes, and eager and even noisy as some of those poor women had previously been, when Mrs. Fry sat down and opened THE BIBLE, the only sound that was heard was the suppressed sobs of the girl to whom Mrs. Fry had spoken of her child. There was something very appalling in the instantaneous silence of these dangerous women, subdued in a moment into the stillness which so frequently precedes a thunder-storm. The calm and silvery tones of the reader's earnest voice fell like oil on troubled waters. Gradually the expressions of the various faces changed into what may well be called reverential attention. Her prayer I remember thinking very short, but comprehensive; its entreaties were so earnest, so anxious, so fervent, that few were there whose moistened eyes did not bear testimony to its influence. She seemed to know and feel every individual case, to share every individual sorrow, and to have a ready balm for every separate wound. I can see the radiance of her face through the long lapse of years, and recall the "winningness" of her voice, so clear and penetrating, yet so tender. When she paused — remaining silent a while — and then rose to withdraw, the women did not crowd towards her, as on her first entrance, but continued hushed, and gathered together; indeed, several were too overpowered for words; but they gazed on her as if she were an angel, and was she not?
It was my privilege to repeat my visit. The second was but a repetition of the first — a few new faces, and some of the old ones gone; among them the girl whose child Mrs. Fry had taken under her own care. The mother had been sent over seas, for a crime that would now be atoned for by a few weeks' incarceration.
Amid the admirably-performed duties of domestic life, followed, as years advanced, by trials that the world calls "bitter," that holy woman never wavered from her holy mission; removing with marvellous patience the chains of mind as well as of body, that weighed so heavily upon the human race, and teaching the liberty that only the Christian appreciates, values, or enjoys.
Our most interesting intercourse with Amelia Opie occurred in Paris, in February, 1831, not long after the so-called "three glorious days." We had met and chatted with her at the receptions of the Baron Cuvier, where, among the philosophers, she was staid and stately.
And the Baron Cuvier is a rare Memory. His thick and somewhat stubbed form; his massive head containing the largest quantity of brain ever allotted to a single human being; his broad and high forehead; his features far more German than French; his manner sedate almost to severity: such is the picture I recall of the marvellous man, the parent of many great men who have opened to us the portals of New Worlds.
This is Mrs. Hall's Memory of Amelia Opie at the Baron Cuvier's: — "In Paris, Mrs. Opie was one of the lights of the liberal and intellectual, as well as of the legitimate and aristocratic, soirees. One evening we met her in the circle at the Baron Cuvier's, where the Bourbonists were certain to congregate, and where the Baron's magnificent head 'stood out' like the head of Imperial Jove. At one moment she was discussing some point of natural history with the great naturalist; the next, talking over the affairs of America with Fenimore Cooper, who, however much he disliked England, was always kindly and courteous to the English in Paris the next, explaining in very good English-French to some sentimental girl, 'who craved her blessing, and called her mere,' that she never was and never would be a nun; and that she belonged to no such laborious, useful, or self-denying order as the Soeurs de Charite; and at the close of the evening, when, in compliment to the English present, a table was covered with a white cloth, and tea was made and kindly poured out by Madame Cuvier's daughter, Mrs. Opie was certainly one of the pillars of the tea-table, laughing and listening (she never could have been so universally popular had she not been a good listener), and being to perfection the elderly English lady, tinged with the softest blue, and vivified by the graceful influence of Parisian society."
But one memorable evening we had the honour of passing in the salons of General Lafayette — the venerable soldier whose singular career of glory was then drawing to a close. The occasion was eventful: there were present many young Poles. The fatal struggle was then commencing in Poland; they were on the eve of departure, and had come to bid the aged hero adieu, and receive his blessing. It was touching in the extreme to see the old man kissing the cheek of each young soldier as he advanced, place a hand upon his head, and give the blessing that was asked for.
This is Mrs. Hall's recollection of the evening at Lafayette's: — "The gathering at Lafayette's is never to be forgotten. The General was a most remarkable and most deeply interesting man; he was at that time (in 1831) worn down, with much of his fire quenched, resembling rather a patriarch than a soldier; yet he had a short time previously given a crown to Louis Philippe. The rooms were crowded, and in the crowd was Fenimore Cooper, more at home with the Republicans, wanner and more genial than he had been at Cuvier's on the previous evening, where the society was courtly and constrained. All the remarkable men of that party were there, and all seemed agitated about something going forward, which at first was incomprehensible to us. Lafayette stood in an inner room, conversing with a staff of old friends, who appeared privileged to crowd around him; but every five or six minutes the circle opened, a youth in a foreign uniform approached, the old man pressed his hands, looked earnestly and affectionately in his face, addressed to him a few words in a low tone, and then the youth bent and kissed his hand, some even knelt and craved his blessing, and he dismissed them with a sentence, 'Ah, le bon Dieu vous benit, mon fils!' or, 'Allez a la gloire!' or, 'Vive la patrie!' One, a fine handsome fellow, more than six feet high, the General embraced and kissed; tears rushed to his eyes, and twice when the young man knelt he raised him and pressed him to his heart. Mrs. Opie wept, as indeed many did, who hardly comprehended the cause either of the reception or the parting, but we soon learned that the youth was the son of a distinguished Polish officer, who had fallen in defending his country, and that he was going to Poland with his countrymen to renew the struggle — that all those who so craved the blessing of Lafayette were Poles, all resolved to conquer or die, all destined to leave Paris at the dawn of the following day; and they did so, and in six weeks all those young hearts had ceased to beat—
Their last fight fought—
Their deeds of glory done.
Indeed, the meeting was a singularly solemn one for Paris; even when the little ceremony was concluded, there was so much serious matter connected with Poland to think of and talk about, so much anxiety as to the result of the struggle, the young braves excited so much interest, and Lafayette appeared so overpowered, that we withdrew earlier than usual, leaving Mrs. Opie walking through the rooms in earnest and animated conversation.
"Suddenly we were somewhat startled by a buzz and an audible whisper; we could only make out the words Soeur de Charite, and walking with formal state up the room, we saw Amelia Opie, leaning on the arm of a somewhat celebrated Irishman (O'Gorman Mahon), six feet high, and large in proportion, with peculiarities of dress that enhanced the contrast between him and his companion. She was habited as usual in her plain grey silk, and Quaker cap 'fastened beneath her chin with whimpers which had small crimped frills.' No wonder such a vision of simplicity and purity should have startled gay Parisian dames, few or none of whom had the least idea of the nature of the costume; but the good old General selected her from a host of worshippers, and seemed jealous lest a rival should steal the fascinating Quaker from his side."
To Lafayette and his family Mrs. Opie was greatly attached. She described him as "a delightful, lovable man," "a handsome, blooming man of seventy," "humble, simple, and blushing at his own praises;" and in allusion to her appearance at one of his "receptions," she writes — "I sighed when I looked at my simple Quaker dress, considered whether I had any business there, and slunk into a corner." But that was when the General "received" in state at the Etat Major of the Garde Nationale, and not when she was "at home" with him and his family at "The Grange."
It was at that time she sat to the sculptor David for the medal I have engraved. David was a small, undignified man, much pock-marked. He was to the last a fierce republican; as fierce, though not as ruthless, as his relative and namesake, the painter. I saw much of him during several after-visits to Paris.
Mrs. Opie occupied an "entresol" in the Hotel de la Paix, and a servant, with something of the appearance of a sobered-down soldier in dress and deportment, waited in the anteroom of the Quaker dame to announce her visitors. Singularly enough, Mrs. Opie was never more at home than in Paris, where her dress in the streets, as well as at the various reunions, attracted much attention and curiosity, the Parisians believing she belonged to some religious order akin to the Sisters of Charity.
The last time Mrs. Opie visited London was to see the Great Exhibition in 1851. There she was wheeled about in a garden chair. She retained much of her original freshness of form and mind, and was cheerful and "chatty." In the brief conversation I had with her, surrounded as she was by friends who loved, and strangers who venerated, her, she recalled our pleasant intercourse in Paris, murmuring more than once, "How many of them have gone before!"
In the autumn of that year I chanced to be in Norwich, and there my last visit to her was paid at her residence in the Castle Meadow. The house exists no longer, but a picture of it has been preserved by her friend, Lucy Brightwell, and I have engraved it. Plain house though it was, and fitly so, its memory is hallowed.
The room was hung with portraits, principally of her own drawing; flowers she was never without. She was delighted with its cheerful outlook, and described it as a "pleasant cradle for reposing age." From her windows she saw "noble trees, the castle turrets," and "the woods and rising grounds of Thorpe." She was thankful that "the lines had fallen to her in pleasant places." There, venerated and loved, she dwelt from 1848 to her death.
She was at that time very lame, yet the courtesy of her nature was manifested in an effort to rise and give me a cordial welcome, and we passed an hour chatting pleasantly and cheerfully of gone-by people and times.
Her society was eagerly sought for by the most enlightened persons of the age: to name her friends would be but to catalogue the most remarkable of those who are interwoven with the history of our times. She was earnestly and sincerely philanthropic; her name was not frequently seen in the list of subscribers to public charities; but when a tale of want or sorrow was told to Mrs. Opie, tears rapidly twinkled in her blue eyes, and gradually those pretty hands, which were demurely folded Quaker-fashion, would unclasp, and presently the right one found its way through the ample folds of her dress to her purse, from which she gave with frank liberality.
She described her dwelling in a letter written to Mrs. Hall, dated 8th Month, 4, 1851:—
"I am glad Mr. Hall liked my residence. I had long wished for it. The view is a constant delight to me. My rooms are rather too small, but my sitting-rooms and chamber being en suite they suit a lame body as I now am; and below I have three parlours, two kitchens, and a pretty little garden — for a town. I have a second floor and an attic which commands Norwich and the adjacent country; but this is thrown away on me. I have seen it, and that is enough. The noble trees, flowering shrubs, and fine acacias round the castle keep, into which I am daily looking, have to me an unfailing charm. The road runs under my window; and I have seen many groups of 'le tiers etat' hastening along, evidently to the Monday cheap train to London. It is a pleasant sight. The wind is rather high, and the trees I have told thee of are waving and bending their light branches so gracefully and invitingly before me, that I could almost fancy they were bowing to me, and get op to return the compliment, however gauchely. After this extraordinary flight of fancy, it is necessary that I should pause a while to recover it; so farewell! Thy loving friend,
It was obvious, however, that the time of her removal was drawing on. The death of her dear friend, Joseph John Gurney, one of "the excellent of the earth," in 1847 — of Dr. Chalmers soon afterwards — and of other beloved friends and relatives, affected her much, though she bore her losses resignedly, if not cheerfully, bowing in submission to the Divine Will, remembering her favourite text, "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?"
Age and infirmities had been creeping on; the comforting influence of the good Bishop Stanley was continually with her; numerous friends thronged around her; she still manifested interest in all they said and did. But, m 1849, Bishop Stanley died. She loved that good man very dearly, and his death was accepted as a warning that her own was near at hand. Writing to Mrs. Hall in 1851, she says, — speaking of the good man's grave, — "It is covered by a large black marble slab, with a deep border round of variegated marble, the colours black and grey. He lies in the middle of the great aisle of the cathedral, and when the painted-glass window, as a memorial to his memory, is finished, and placed over the great western gates of entrance, it is thought that the rays of the setting sun, on which he loved to gaze, will shine upon the stone that covers his 'dear remains.'"
She suffered much, yet was cheerful, buoyant, and happy to the last; and at midnight on the 2nd of December, 1853, she breathed her last, murmuring, "All is peace — all is mercy!" And so she joined the good and holy spirits — her friends in life and after life — who had been waiting to give her welcome.
The good works she did on earth she considered and has characterised thus "They are good only as the evidence of faith."
She died in the full possession of those clear and admirable faculties which rendered her one of the most remarkable women of her time, and it is no small evidence of her qualities — of the heart as well as of the head — to say that all the young who knew her regretted her as they would a chosen friend or companion. When she passed away from earth Norwich lost one of its attractions, for many made pilgrimage (especially from the New World) to the shrine of this brilliant but true-hearted woman, whose enthusiasm overthrew time, and outlived the decay of life itself.
Mrs. Opie's nature was most essentially feminine. It was feminine in its gifts — in its graces — in its strength — in its weakness — in its generosity. She was without a particle of jealousy, and her colour rose and her eyes sparkled while she bestowed warm and earnest, if not always critically judicious, praise on what she admired. She would have made a heroine, and died in a cause she believed right and righteous, but she never could have been guilty of the vulgarity of modern "Bloomerism;" she honoured her sex and its peculiar virtues too much to wish it unsexed. The sensitive delicacy of her mind was evident, not only in her writings, but in her words and deportment, and it was impossible for the young to have a better guide or a more excellent example. Her manners would have graced a court, and not encumbered a cottage. Her lessons continue to be of value; they were not written merely for a time or for a passing purpose.
She was interred in the Friends' burying-ground at the Gildenscroft, in the same grave with her father, and in association with so many of her beloved friends. At the extreme left side of the ground, beneath an elm-tree that overshadows the wall, is a small slab bearing the names of James Alderson and Amelia Opie, with the dates of their births and deaths.
Dear Amelia Opie! her nature was essentially feminine in its gifts, its graces, its goodness, its weakness, and its vanities; truthful, generous, and considerate ever. Pure of heart and upright in walk and conversation, her memory is without a blot; her precepts are those of Virtue; and her example was their illustration and their comment.
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in the dust.