Amelia Alderson [Opie] to Susannah Taylor

[October] 17941

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How strange it is my dear friend that I should have suffered your kind letter to remain so long unanswered, but as I am certain that you will not impute my silence to any diminution of affection towards you, I will not fret about my oddity, but endeavor to make amends for it by writing as good a letter as I can, and that will be alas very stupid, for the state of the times and other things press upon my mind continually and unfit me for everything but conversation — My Father will have told you a great deal, he will have told you too how much we are interested, and agitated by the probable event of the approaching trials — would to God you and your husband were equally so, for then would one of my cares be removed; as you would like us perhaps turn a longing eye towards America as a place of refuge, and one of the strongest ties that bind me to Norwich would be converted into an attraction to lure me to the new world— On this I hope however at all events; we are resolved —to emigrate if the event of the trial be fatal, that is provided the Morgans do not give up their present resolution, and that we can carry a little society along with us, in which we can be happy, should Philadelphia disappoint our expectations — I write to you on this subject in confidence, as we do not wish our intention to be much known at present— How changed I am! How I sicken at the recollections of past follies, and past connections, and wish from the bottom of my soul that I had never associated but with you, and others like you — But it is folly to dwell on the past, it only incapacitates one for employing the present, it shall now be my care to anchor on the future, and I trust in God that it will not disappoint me —

You see I am not in high spirits, but then I am more rational, and my flighty hours are long gone by, and my time for serious exertion is arrived, but why should I write thus? I shall perhaps infect you with this seeming gloom, for after all, if I carefully examine my heart, it will tell me that I am happy — My usual spirits have been lowered this morning, by hearing Mr. Boddington and Mr. Morgan mark the printed list of the jury — Every one almost is marked by them as unfit to be trusted; for almost every man is a rascal, or a contractor, and in the pay of government in some way or another. What hope is there then for these objects of ministerial rancour? Mr. B: objects even to his own uncle, whom he thinks honest, because he is so prejudiced an aristocrat, that he looks upon rigour in such cases, to be Justice only— What a pass are things come to, when even Dissenters lick the hand that oppresses them!—— Hang these politicks! how they haunt me! Would it not be better think you to hang the framers of them?——

What is a woman made of think you that can sue a man for inconstancy? Truly of very coarse materials; yet I really believe Miss Mann’s trial would have attracted me more than that of sedition. It would have given me so many new ideas— I have never heard that the Gunnings work for their bread but I think it very likely — Now, they have taken Goddard's house in Pall Mall,and mean I believe to let lodgings — I am very anxious to know what the effect of R.and L. Plumptres visit to Norwich is, pray give my kindest love to the persecutees and tell them to write as soon as they can inform me, whether I have written to them or not — I do not know who Mrs. G. Spence is. Is Miss Brooks in N? I hear she corresponds consistently with John Walker — You are but too right C: Graham remains speechless — Indeed I can neither read nor write, and yet time flies — We hope soon to see Marsh and Firth — When I think on the former, my heart bleeds for him. I am sure his first impressions were bad, and vanity is now his stimulus for action— He will not I fear stand, and fall with the great and immortal cause now agitating — Who knows but that his Sun will set in aristocracy and be extinguished by the guillotine? I wish my Father could have remained with us, but he was very good to stay so long as he did and I have the satisfaction of knowing he was happy while he did stay— He will tell you enough about Mrs. Inchbald, for he is quite smitten with her —— nay I rather suspect he paid her a farewell visit. Pray tell him to write to me soon. —

I believe I shall go to Battie’s before I return, so when you'll see me I know not — Mrs. Battie is reserve personified, but polite, and attentive and I dare say will improve on acquaintance. The effect of her first appearance on Sam: Boddington was so forcible that he declares if I had looked at him he should have laughed in her face —— The Lloyds, on whom I called the other day received me in the most friendly manner — Mr. L with a hearty kiss to the great entertainment of [T-- M---]. 2 What a pity it is that the Cabinet is dangerous — I should have enjoyed it else so much.— I admire what is already written— 3 and we are going tonight as usual to W. Morgan's— where I shall sing as usual your husband's song— 4 how I wish he were here to sing it instead of me! Farewell! pray write to me soon.

Say all that’s kind for me to Pitchford, and J. Taylor, and your husband.


1. For permission to publish the text of the manuscript in their possession, the editor would like to thank The Huntington Library, Pasadena, CA (Mss. OP59). Cecilia Brightwell reproduces it with some excisions in Memorials of the life of Amelia Opie, selected and arranged from her letters, diaries, and other manuscripts (Fletcher and Alexander, 1854, pp. 45-46). The letter itself is only dated "Saturday" but since Alderson refers to the Treason Trials in the letter itself, it seems likely that it dates from October. Internal evidence clearly indicates that she wrote it while living in Southgate, a suburb of London and sent it to Taylor in Norwich. This letter is notable in that Alderson Opie mentions her friendship with several of the editors of The Cabinet, a radical Norwich publication which would soon publish her work, although anonymously. Topics in this letter: Law/Court/Trials, Memories/Nostalgia, Performance, Politics, and Reading.

2. The name here is not legible.

3. The Cabinet was a radical periodical published out of Norwich. Its editors included T.S. Norgate and Charles Marsh, who is sympathetically described earlier in this letter. Under the initial “N”, Alderson Opie published sixteen poems and a short tale in the periodical over the course of its run. Her work began appearing in January of 1795.

4. Amelia frequently performed John Taylor's radical anthem "The Trumpet of Liberty" during this period. The first two lines are “The trumpet of liberty sounds through the world, / And the Universe starts at the sound”; a resounding refrain of “Fall, tyrants, fall! fall! fall!” recurs frequently.