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Opie
Opie
228

In the spring of 1810 she revisited London. Thenceforward she spent some weeks there annually, and secured a high position in society. She numbered among her friends Sheridan, Sydney Smith, Humboldt, Mme. de Stael, Byron, Scott, and Wordsworth. She constantly dined at Lady Cork's, who was one of her intimate friends, and danced vivaciously in a pink domino at the ball given to the Duke of Wellington at Devonshire House in 1814. On Sundays her house was thronged with visitors. To offers of marriage she turned a deaf ear, but Miss Mitford declared that she was in 1814 engaged to Lord Herbert Stuart, a brother of Lord Bute (L'Estrange, Life of Miss Mitford, iii. 294). In 1816 Mrs. Opie visited Edinburgh, and stayed for a short time with Hayley in Sussex. She published in that year ‘Valentine's Eve,’ a novel in three volumes, explaining somewhat vaguely her religious views. Hayley declared that it ‘happily recommended to everyday practice the cordial lessons of simple, genuine Christianity’ (Memoirs, ii. 183). Meanwhile, at Norwich, Mrs. Opie had renewed an early intimacy with the quaker family of Gurney, and Joseph John Gurney [q. v.], whom Dean Stanley called ‘the quaker pope’ (Prothero, Life of Stanley, i. 252), obtained great influence over her. Mrs. Opie's affection for him was probably something stronger than mere friendship. In 1814 she commenced attending the Friends' religious services. Her religious opinions, although nominally unitarian, had never been very definite. The Friends' principles attracted her; and she experienced religious misgivings, which she confided to Mrs. Fry, Gurney's sister, and thereupon Gurney offered her spiritual advice (Braithwaite, The Memoirs of J. J. Gurney, i. 234–41). In December 1820 her father fell ill, and she remained in attendance on him until his death in October 1825. With his approval, she was formally received into the Society of Friends two months before (11 Aug. 1825). Dr. Alderson, at his express desire, was buried in the Friends' burying-ground at the Gildencroft, Norwich.

On joining the quakers, Mrs. Opie necessarily ceased novel-writing. Her last novel, ‘Madeline,’ was published in 1822, in two volumes. It won Southey's approval. She commenced another, but it remained unfinished. She wrote to Mrs. Fry, 6 Dec. 1823: ‘As it is possible that thou mayest have been told that a new novel from my pen, called “The Painter and his Wife,” is in the press, I wish to tell thee this is a falsehood; that my publishers advertised this only begun work unknown to me, and that I have written to say the said work is not written, nor ever will be. I must own to thee, however, that as several hundreds of it are already ordered by the trade, I have felt the sacrifice, but I do not repent of it.’ According to Miss Mitford, Mrs. Opie thus sacrificed ‘upwards of a thousand pounds copy-money’ (L'Estrange, Life of Miss Mitford, ii. 198–9). In 1823 she contributed to the ‘European Magazine’ a series of poetical epistles from Mary Queen of Scots to her uncles, a few tales, and a short memoir of Bishop Bathurst. When S. C. Hall asked her to write something for his ‘Amulet,’ she answered that her principles would only permit her to send an anecdote, which proved to be a pathetic tale, apparently ‘The Last Voyage: a true Story,’ in the volume of 1828 (Book of Memories, p. 169). In 1825 she published, in two volumes, ‘Illustrations of Lying in all its Branches,’ and in 1828 ‘Detraction Displayed.’ She had read the latter in manuscript to Gurney, and adopted his suggestions. It was praised by Archdeacon Wrangham, but Caroline Bowles found both works vulgar (Correspondence of Southey and Caroline Bowles, p. 105). The former had a large circulation in America.

Mrs. Opie now spent her time chiefly in works of charity. She visited workhouses, hospitals, and prisons, and ministered to the poor. After a sojourn in the lakes in 1826, she began to keep a diary, in which she recorded her religious thoughts, as well as details of her daily life.

She visited London every year for the May meetings, and combined with them much social gaiety. She occasionally went to Paris, where she met Lafayette, Benjamin Constant, Cuvier, Ségur, Mignet, Mme. de Genlis. In 1829 she sat to David d'Angers for a medallion. He wished her to sit to him, she stated, because her writings had made him ‘cry his eyes out.’ She atoned for dining at the Café de Paris and praising French cooks by visiting the hospitals. Resuming her work at Norwich, she took especial interest there in the Bible Society and the Anti-Slavery Society; but in 1832 she sold her Norwich house, and spent seven months in Cornwall, Opie's native county (Tregellas, Cornish Worthies, ii. 245). She stayed with the Foxes at Falmouth in December 1832 and January 1833, and joined the essay readings at Rosehill, sometimes contributing a few lines to the subject of the week.

Her last book, ‘Lays for the Dead,’ appeared in 1833. It contained poems in memory of departed relatives and friends, chiefly written in Cornwall. Despite failing health, she visited the highlands of Scotland in 1834, and in the next year took her last jour-