Opie was, then, politically ahead of her time, but she surprised me by also writing an engaging book, if one at times infuriating to a contemporary sensibility. Of course, my level of engagement was increased by the fact that I was constantly arguing with Opie, which I believe to be exactly the reader response she intended. Raised by a self-declared genius of a mother who is fond of spouting off about leftist treatises in company, Adeline is encouraged to imbibe "dangerous" tomes of philosophy and political science, with no male oversight for her delicate female brain. The more practical aspects of her upbringing are neglected, and she would hardly have learned housewifery at all had not her grandmother taken her in hand.
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Nor was it long before their happiness was increased, and their union cemented, by the birth of a daughter; who continuing to be an only child, and the probable heiress of great possessions, became the idol of her parents, and the object of unremitted attention to those who surrounded her. Consequently, one of the first lessons which Editha Woodville learnt was that of egotism, and to consider it as the chief duty of all who approached her, to study the gratification of her whims and caprices.
But, though rendered indolent in some measure by the blind folly of her parents, and the homage of her dependents, she had a taste above the enjoyments which they offered her. She had a decided passion for literature, which she had acquired from a sister of Mr Woodville, who had been brought up amongst literary characters of various pursuits and opinions; and this lady had imbibed from them a love of free inquiry, which she had little difficulty in imparting to her young and enthusiastic relation.
But, alas! Happy would it have been for Miss Woodville, if the merits of the works which she so much admired could have been canvassed in her presence by rational and unprejudiced persons: but, her parents and friends being too ignorant to discuss philosophical opinions or political controversies, the young speculator was left to the decision of her own inexperienced enthusiasm.
To her, therefore, whatever was bold and uncommon seemed new and wise; and every succeeding theory held her imagination captive till its power was weakened by one of equal claims to singularity. She soon, however, ceased to be contented with reading, and was eager to become a writer also. But, as she was strongly imbued with the prejudices of an ancient family, she could not think of disgracing that family by turning professed author: she therefore confined her little effusions to a society of admiring friends, secretly lamenting the loss which the literary world sustained in her being born a gentlewoman.
Nor is it to be wondered at, that, as she was ambitious to be, and to be thought, a deep thinker, she should have acquired habits of abstraction, and absence, which imparted a look of wildness to a pair of dark eyes, that beamed with intelligence, and gave life to features of the most perfect regularity.
To reverie, indeed, she was from childhood inclined; and her life was long a life of reverie. To her the present moment had scarcely ever existence; and this propensity to lose herself in a sort of ideal world, was considerably increased by the nature of her studies.
Fatal and unproductive studies! While, wrapt in philosophical abstraction, she was trying to understand a metaphysical question on the mechanism of the human mind, or what constituted the true nature of virtue, she suffered day after day to pass in the culpable neglect of positive duties; and while imagining systems for the good of society, and the furtherance of general philanthropy, she allowed individual suffering in her neighbourhood to pass unobserved and unrelieved.
While professing her unbounded love for the great family of the world, she suffered her own family to pine under the consciousness of her neglect; and viciously devoted those hours to the vanity of abstruse and solitary study, which might have been better spent in amusing the declining age of her venerable parents, whom affection had led to take up their abode with her.
Let me observe, before I proceed further, that Mrs Mowbray scrupulously confined herself to theory, even in her wisest speculations; and being too timid, and too indolent, to illustrate by her conduct the various and opposing doctrines which it was her pride to maintain by turns, her practice was ever in opposition to her opinions.
Such was the mother of Adeline Mowbray! Now it was judged right that she should learn nothing, and now that she should learn every thing.
Now, her graceful form and well-turned limbs were to be free from any bandage, and any clothing save what decency required,—and now they were to be tortured by stiff stays, and fettered by the stocks and the back-board. For this purpose she turned over innumerable volumes in search of rules on the subject, on which she might improve, anticipating with great satisfaction the moment when she should be held up as a pattern of imitation to mothers, and be prevailed upon, though with graceful reluctance, to publish her system, without a name, for the benefit of society.
But, however good her intentions were, the execution of them was continually delayed by her habits of abstraction and reverie. After having over night arranged the tasks of Adeline for the next day,—lost in some new speculations for the good of her child, she would lie in bed all the morning, exposing that child to the dangers of idleness. If you were accustomed to eat meat, and butter, and drink any thing but water, you would not look so healthy, my love, as you do now.
O the excellent effects of a vegetable diet! Nothing could exceed the astonishment and mortification of Mrs Mowbray; but, though usually tenacious of her opinions, she in this case profited by the lesson of experience. The feet of Adeline bleeding on a new Turkey carpet proved that some clothing for the feet was necessary; and even Mrs Mowbray for a moment began to suspect that a little experience is better than a great deal of theory.
Her respect was excited by the high idea which she had formed of her abilities,—an idea founded on the veneration which all the family seemed to feel for her on that account,—and her affection was excited even to an enthusiastic degree by the tenderness with which Mrs Mowbray had watched over her during an alarming illness.
For twenty-one days Adeline had been in the utmost danger; nor is it probable that she would have been able to struggle against the force of the disease, but for the unremitting attention of her mother. It was then, perhaps, for the first time that Mrs Mowbray felt herself a mother:—all her vanities, all her systems, were forgotten in the danger of Adeline,—she did not even hazard an opinion on the medical treatment to be observed. Nor could she entirely acquit herself of ingratitude in observing this seeming indifference: for, whence did the abstraction and apparent coldness of Mrs Mowbray proceed?
Why did she leave the concerns of her family to others? She also took upon herself the office of almoner to Mrs Woodville, and performed it with an activity unknown to her; for she herself carried the broth and wine that were to comfort the infirm cottager; she herself saw the medicine properly administered that was to preserve his suffering existence: the comforts the poor required she purchased herself; and in sickness she visited, in sorrow she wept with them.
And though Adeline was almost unknown personally to the neighbouring gentry, she was followed with blessings by the surrounding cottagers; while many a humble peasant watched at the gate of the park to catch a glimpse of his young benefactress, and pray to God to repay to the heiress of Rosevalley the kindness which she had shown to him and his offspring. Thus happy, because usefully employed, and thus beloved and respected, because actively benevolent, passed the early years of Adeline Mowbray; and thus was she educated, before her mother had completed her system of education.
It was not long before Adeline took on herself a still more important office. Fortunately, however, her father on his death-bed made it his request that she would do so; and Mrs Mowbray pledged herself to obey him. She knows nothing yet of accounts. She knows accounts perfectly well. I have been inventing an easy method of learning arithmetic, by which I was going to teach her in a few months.
Did not you, Lina? But Adeline was versed in them all; and her mother, conscious of her superiority in these things, was at last contented to sit by inactive, though not unmoved. Wise was I to think one genius enough in a family,—else, what should I have done now?
My daughter, though the best child in the world, could never have made such nice broth as this to comfort me, so hot, and boiled to a minute like! And forgive me, Lina, when I own that I have often thanked God for not making you a genius! Not but what no child can behave better than mine; for, with all her wit and learning, she was always so respectful, and so kind to me and my dear good man, that I am sure I could not but rejoice in such a daughter; though, to be sure, I used to wish she was more conversible like; for, as to the matter of a bit of chat, we never gossiped together in our lives.
So I was vexed when my daughter declared she wanted all her time for her studies, and would not visit any body, no, not even Mrs Norberry, who is to be sure a very good sort of a woman, though a little given to speak ill of her neighbours. But, as I was going to say, my daughter was pleased to compliment me, and declare she was sure I could amuse myself without visiting women so much inferior to me; and she advised my beginning a course of study, as she called it.
To oblige her, my good man and I began to read one Mr Locke on the Conduct of the Human Understanding; which my daughter said would teach us to think. No—not three pages! So my good man says to Edith, says he, "You gave us this book, I think, child, to teach us to think? So at last my daughter found out that learning was not our taste; so she left us to please ourselves, and play cribbage and draughts in an evening as usual. But it had already received a check from the presence of Mrs Mowbray, of whose superior abilities Mrs Woodville was so much in awe, that, concluding her daughter could not bear to hear her nonsense, the old lady smiled kindly on her when with a look of tender anxiety she hastened to her bedside, and then, holding her hand, composed herself to sleep.
And while Mrs Mowbray expended her eccentric philosophy in words, as Mr Shandy did his grief, Adeline carefully treasured up hers in her heart, to be manifested only by its fruits. One author in particular, by a train of reasoning captivating though sophistical, and plausible though absurd, made her a delighted convert to his opinions, and prepared her young and impassioned heart for the practice of vice, by filling her mind, ardent in the love of virtue, with new and singular opinions on the subject of moral duty.
On the works of this writer Adeline had often heard her mother descant in terms of the highest praise; but she did not feel herself so completely his convert on her own conviction, till she had experienced the fatal fascination of his style, and been conveyed by his bewitching pen from the world as it is, into a world as it ought to be. This writer, whose name was Glenmurray, amongst other institutions, attacked the institution of marriage; and after having elaborately pointed out its folly and its wickedness, he drew so delightful a picture of the superior purity, as well as happiness, of an union cemented by no ties but those of love and honour, that Adeline, wrought to the highest pitch of enthusiasm for a new order of things, entered into a solemn compact with herself to act, when she was introduced into society, according to the rules laid down by this writer.
Nor had she even leisure to observe, that while she was feeling all the generous anxiety of a citizen of the world for the sons and daughters of American independence, her own child was imbibing, through her means, opinions dangerous to her well-being as a member of any civilized society, and laying, perhaps, the foundation to herself and her mother of future misery and disgrace.
But even had Adeline had an opportunity of discussing her new opinions with Dr Norberry, it is not at all certain that she would have had the power. Mrs Mowbray was, if I may be allowed the expression, a showing-off woman, and loved the information which she acquired, less for its own sake than for the supposed importance which it gave her amongst her acquaintance, and the means of displaying her superiority over other women.
Before she secluded herself from society in order to study education, she had been the terror of the ladies in the neighbourhood; since, despising small talk, she would always insist on making the gentlemen of her acquaintance as much terrified sometimes as their wives engage with her in some literary or political conversation.
She wanted to convert every drawing-room into an arena for the mind, and all her guests into intellectual gladiators.
She was often heard to interrupt two grave matrons in an interesting discussion of an accouchement, by asking them if they had read a new theological tract, or a pamphlet against the minister? If they softly expatiated on the lady-like fatigue of body which they had endured, she discoursed in choice terms on the energies of the mind; and she never received or paid visits without convincing the company that she was the most wise, most learned, and most disagreeable of companions.
But Adeline, on the contrary, studied merely from the love of study, and not with a view to shine in conversation; nor dared she venture to expatiate on subjects which she had often heard Mrs Woodville say were very rarely canvassed, or even alluded to, by women. She remained silent, therefore, on the subject nearest her heart, from choice as well as necessity, in the presence of Dr Norberry, till at length she imbibed the political mania herself, and soon found it impossible to conceal the interest which she took in the success of the infant republic.
Soon after their marriage, Mr Mowbray had carried his lively bride to the metropolis, where she expected to receive the same homage which had been paid to her charms at the assize-balls in her neighbourhood. True, she had beauty, but then it was unset-off by fashion; nay, more, it was eclipsed by unfashionable and tasteless attire; and her manner, though stately and imposing in an assembly where she was known, was wholly unlike the manners of the world, and in a London party appeared arrogant and offensive.
Her remarks, too, wise as they appeared to her and Mr Mowbray, excited little attention,—as the few persons to whom they were known in the metropolis were wholly ignorant of her high pretensions, and knew not that they were discoursing with a professed genius, and the oracle of a provincial circle. To Bath, therefore, she prepared to go; and the young heart of Adeline beat high with pleasure at the idea of mixing with that busy world which her fancy had often clothed in the most winning attractions.
What was to be, as they fondly imagined, their gain, was his loss, and with a full heart he came to bid them adieu. For Adeline he had conceived not only affection, but esteem amounting almost to veneration; for she appeared to him to unite various and opposing excellencies.
Though possessed of taste and talents for literature, she was skilled in the minutest details of housewifery and feminine occupations: and at the same time she bore her faculties so meekly, that she never wounded the self-love of any one, by arrogating to herself any superiority. Such Adeline appeared to her excellent old friend; and his affection for her was, perhaps, increased by the necessity which he was under of concealing it at home. The praises of Mrs Mowbray and Adeline were odious to the ears of Mrs Norberry and her daughters,—but especially the praises of the latter,—as the merit of Adeline was so uniform, that even the eye of envy could not at that period discover any thing in her vulnerable to censure: and as the sound of her name excited in his family a number of bad passions and corresponding expressions of countenance, the doctor wisely resolved to keep his feelings, with regard to her, locked up in his own bosom.
But he persisted in visiting at the Park daily; and it is no wonder, therefore, that the loss, even for a few months, of the society of its inhabitants should by him be anticipated as a serious calamity. But seeing herself, at the age of thirty-eight, possessed of almost undiminished beauty, she recollected that her charms had never received that general homage for which nature intended them; and she who at twenty had disregarded, even to a fault, the ornaments of dress, was now, at the age of thirty-eight, eager to indulge in the extremes of decoration, and to share in the delights of conquest and admiration with her youthful and attractive daughter.
Attractive, rather than handsome, was the epithet best suited to describe Adeline Mowbray. Her beauty was the beauty of expression of countenance, not regularity of feature, though the uncommon fairness and delicacy of her complexion, the lustre of her hazel eyes, her long dark eye-lashes, and the profusion of soft light hair which curled over the ever-mantling colour of her cheek, gave her some pretensions to what is denominated beauty.
But her own sex declared she was plain—and perhaps they were right—though the other protested against the decision—and probably they were right also: but women criticize in detail, men admire in the aggregate.
She was indeed tall, almost to a masculine degree; but such were the roundness and proportion of her limbs, such the symmetry of her whole person, such the lightness and gracefulness of her movements, and so truly feminine were her look and manner, that superior height was forgotten in the superior loveliness of her figure. It is not to be wondered at, then, that Miss Mowbray was an object of attention and admiration at Bath, as soon as she appeared, nor that her mother had her share of flattery and followers.
Indeed, when it was known that Mrs Mowbray was a rich widow, and Adeline dependent upon her, the mother became, in the eyes of some people, much more attractive than her daughter. It was impossible, however, that, in such a place as Bath, Mrs Mowbray and Adeline could make, or rather retain, a general acquaintance. Their opinions on most subjects were so very different from those of the world, and they were so little conscious, from the retirement in which they lived, that this difference existed, or was likely to make them enemies, that not a day elapsed in which they did not shock the prejudices of some, and excite the contemptuous pity of others; and they soon saw their acquaintance coolly dropped by those who, as persons of family and fortune, had on their first arrival sought it with eagerness.
But this was not entirely owing to the freedom of their sentiments on politics, or on other subjects; but, because they associated with a well-known but obnoxious author;—a man whose speculations had delighted the inquiring but ignorant lover of novelty, terrified the timid idolater of ancient usages, and excited the regret of the cool and rational observer:—regret, that eloquence so overwhelming, powers of reasoning so acute, activity of research so praise-worthy, and a love of investigation so ardent, should be thrown away on the discussion of moral and political subjects, incapable of teaching the world to build up again with more beauty and propriety, a fabric, which they were perhaps, calculated to pull down: in short, Mrs Mowbray and Adeline associated with Glenmurray, that author over whose works they had long delighted to meditate, and who had completely led their imagination captive, before the fascination of his countenance and manners had come in aid of his eloquence.
CHAPTER IV Frederic Glenmurray was a man of family, and of a small independent estate, which, in case he died without children, was to go to the next male heir; and to that heir it was certain it would go, as Glenmurray on principle was an enemy to marriage, and consequently not likely to have a child born in wedlock.
It was unfortunate circumstance for Glenmurray, that, with the ardour of a young and inexperienced mind, he had given his eccentric opinions to the world as soon as they were conceived and arranged,—as he, by so doing, prejudiced the world against him in so unconquerable a degree, that to him almost every door and heart was shut; and he by that means excluded from every chance of having the errors of his imagination corrected by the arguments of the experienced and enlightened—and corrected, no doubt, they would have been, for he had a mild and candid spirit, and mind open to conviction.
I doubt of all things, because I look upon doubt as the road to truth; and do but convince me what is the truth, and at what risk, whatever sacrifice, I am ready to embrace it. Of this description of persons he soon became the oracle—the head of a sect, as it were; and those tenets which at first he embraced, and put forth more for amusement than from conviction, as soon as he began to suffer on their account, became as clear to him as the cross to the Christian martyr: and deeming persecution a test of truth, he considered the opposition made to him and his doctrines, not as the result of dispassionate reason striving to correct absurdity, but as selfishness and fear endeavouring to put out the light which showed the weakness of the foundation on which were built their claims to exclusive respect.
When Mrs Mowbray and Adeline first arrived at Bath, the latter had attracted the attention and admiration of Colonel Mordaunt, an Irishman of fortune, and an officer in the guards; and Adeline had not been insensible to the charms of the very fine person and engaging manners, united to powers of conversation which displayed an excellent understanding improved by education and reading.
But Colonel Mordaunt was not a marrying man, as it is called: therefore, as soon as he began to feel the influence of Adeline growing too powerful for his freedom, and to observe that his attentions were far from unpleasing to her,—too honourable to excite an attachment in her which he resolved to combat in himself, he resolved to fly from the danger, which he knew he could not face and overcome; and after a formal but embarrassed adieu to Mrs Mowbray and Adeline, he suddenly left Bath.
This unexpected departure both surprised and grieved Adeline; but, as her feelings of delicacy were too strong to allow her to sigh for a man who, evidently, had no thoughts of sighing for her, she dismissed Colonel Mordaunt from her remembrance, and tried to find as much interest still in the ball-rooms, and the promenades, as his presence had given them: nor was it long before she found in them an attraction and an interest stronger than any which she had yet felt. Glenmurray, though a sense of his unpopularity had long banished him from scenes of public resort in general, was so pleased with the novelties of Bath, that, though he walked wholly unnoticed except by the lovers of genius in whatsoever shape it showed itself, he frequented daily the pump-room, and the promenades; and Adeline had long admired the countenance and dignified person of this young and interesting invalid, without the slightest suspicion of his being the man of all others whom she most wished to see.
Nor had Glenmurray been slow to admire Adeline: and so strong, so irresistible was the feeling of admiration which she had excited in him, that, as soon as she appeared, all other objects vanished from his sight; and as women are generally quick-sighted to the effect of their charms, Adeline never beheld the stranger without a suffusion of pleasurable confusion on her cheek. Nor was Adeline less abstracted: she too was contemplating Glenmurray, and with mixed but delightful feelings.
By this time Glenmurray had observed who were his neighbours, and the newspaper was immediately laid down. Glenmurray, with a bow and a blush of mingled surprise and pleasure, replied that there was a great deal,—and immediately presented to her the paper which he had relinquished, setting chairs at the same time for her and Adeline.
Mrs Mowbray, however, only slightly glanced her eye over the paper:—her desire was to talk to Glenmurray; and in order to accomplish this point, and prejudice him in her favour, she told him how much she rejoiced in seeing an author whose works were the delight and instruction of her life.
Adeline was unusually silent, unusually bashful.
Alderson inherited radical principles and was an ardent admirer of John Horne Tooke. Opie spent her youth writing poetry and plays and organizing amateur theatricals. Opie completed a novel in titled Father and Daughter. Characterized as showing genuine fancy and pathos,  the novel is about misled virtue and family reconciliation. After it came out, Opie began to publish regularly. Her volume of Poems, published in , went through six editions. Godwin had previously argued against marriage as an institution by which women were owned as property, but when Wollstonecraft became pregnant, they married despite his prior beliefs.