Amelia Alderson [Opie] to Susannah Taylor

May 9, 17961

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My dear friend,

At last I take up my pen to write to you but whether I shall write to the purpose or not time will discover — Often very often do I wish for the quiet and confidence of our tête à tête evenings —— Every week as it passes in this world of character, and events adds to my observation on human nature, and I should like to consult with you on its accuracy, and plausibility — I distrust my own judgement — personal feelings, and prejudices influence so many of our decisions, that I have learnt in my opinions of persons at least, to reflect and consider, lest I mistake the suggestions of my wounded self love for the convictions of my reason —

My letters to my Father contain facts, and events; but to you I feel disposed to write sentiment. —

Shall I own to you that I am not happy here, that I sigh for home? I know the first part of the sentence will vex, the second please you; as I believe you to be truly interested in my welfare, and fond of my society — therefore when I say I already sigh for home you must suppose I should soon return to it — but I say to you what I could not say to my Father; while absent from him let him think I have all my heart can wish — “But why are you not happy?” methinks I hear you say — I’ll tell you — All my good humour, and more if I could borrow some, is necessary to enable me to bear the ill humour of some one else — the cloven foot has appeared, and now she knows it has been seen, there is no motive strong enough to make her conceal it again — ——When I came to the house last year I came as Mr. B’s friend — therefore I was in all probability not disposed to think highly of Mrs. B — My manners had pleased her at our first meeting; therefore she wished me to like her in return, and to make me do so, and to make me think her unjustly ill reported of by her husband’s friends, and not well used by her husband himself, she spared no pains, scrupled no complaints ——; and I forgot her imperfections in her unhappiness, thought Mr. B. grossly to blame in many things, and felt for Mrs. B: that pity, and that affection which her unpleasant situation and kindness to me demanded — But before I left her house, occasional pettishness gave me suspicions that she was acting a part, and with great effort too — but these suspicions vanished with the occasion that begot them —— and when she bade me farewell in an agony of tears she said she knew she had been often pettish and cross to me, but she hoped I would forgive it as she loved me sincerely notwithstanding — Could I after such an avowal dwell on little oddities, and forget great kindness? Oh no — my letters as well as hers expressed affection, and I came hither again —— but I will come hither no more — The true woman appeared — and I shudder while I gaze —— even to me she has been ill-humoured — I have seen it — my countenance has expressed my feelings, and I am sure I shall never be forgiven — I will give you a specimen of her, but I can give words only, looks and voice are; no— — they are not to be conceived ————

I was so unwell yesterday, and so low (from physical causes merely) that I desired the servants to deny me to every one — Unfortunately, Frend and another gentleman called, and as I was not at home, they ask’d for Mr. Batty and he went down to them ——; in his absence she entertained me with her dislike of Mr. F:, and she said she believed Mr. B: did not much like the acquaintance, and so on — at last she sat down to the instrument —— “if you play ma’am said I, they will think it is I, who am playing and will supposed I am at home ——” “Why so? do you think they suppose no body plays in the house but yourself? — no, no they will not think it is you.["] So on she went, “I did not mean to offend you ma’am” said I, and I was silent — When Mr. B: came up again, he said, “I am sure Mr. F: thought Miss A: was at home as he heard playing, and not lessons but songs.” “I told Mrs. Batty so, cried I — “well suppose he did, what does it signify does [he] suppose nobody is musical in the house but Miss A ——!” ——— Mr. B changed the subject, and I went on drawing, till I could draw no longer for I saw the mask was thrown aside, and I cried with terror, and disappointment —— For now I assure you, I speak and more in dread of offending her, and the awkward manner in which she tries to coax me over again, excites a sort of disgust in me which I can ill conceal — Mr. B: told me a month ago, that he was astonished at her [retaining] any affection for me so long. She tells me, and she is sure he almost hates the sight of her” and if he does not, I am sure he has great [right?] —— Now after all I have said, can you wonder I am not happy here? Often have I refused an invitation to stay at home with Mrs. B: but I can’t do so anymore. I must seek pleasure abroad.

In June, the concerts, my greatest pleasure, end —— and I shall pay the few visits I have to make in the country, and then in July, I shall return to my home, and those studies which are necessary to my comfort, uninterrupted by a spoiled child, and a vixen hostess —2

I hope to finish both my plays by the end of August — here, I can do nothing good — I have seen [Quitry] twice 3 but as the servants have orders to deny me constantly, he calls, and calls in vain. — I shall miss Anne, Charlotte, and Parklington,4 I go to them, when I want soothing — they are a sort of home to me. Give my love to yr spouse, and boys. Forgive this sckrawl [sic] of egotism, but writing it has relieved me — let me hear from you


1. For permission to publish the text of the manuscript in their possession, the editor would like to thank The New York Public Library's Berg Collection. It is not included in Cecilia Brightwell's Memorials of the life of Amelia Opie, selected and arranged from her letters, diaries, and other manuscripts (Norwich and London, 1854). The letter is addressed to Mrs. John Taylor, St. George, Norwich on the fold, and the postmark reads: 7 o’Clock, 9 MA, 96 NIGHT. Topics in this letter: Music, Romantic Entanglements.

2. Alderson Opie refers here to Mrs. Batty and a child. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography notes that Robert Batty had three children with Ann Batty, two sons and a daughter.

3. The identity of Quitry here is unknown, although he would appear to have been an over-eager suitor. Alderson Opie refers to him again, simply as Q in her next letter to Taylor.

4. It is unclear from context who Anne or Charlotte might be, although they would seem to be friends who once lived in Norwich. I've also been unable to identify Parklington.