A comprehensive and award-winning biography of Amelia Opie, poet and novelist (1769 -1853) – the first since 1937. Her long and interesting life deserves to be retold, with the inclusion of hitherto unpublished material from archive and private sources. Flirtatious and lively, she moved easily in literary and artistic circles, had many high society friends and was greatly influenced by, and involved with, the Gurneys of Earlham – whose good works included the prison reforms of Elizabeth Fry (nee Gurney) and the anti-slavery campaign of Thomas Fowell Buxton. Under the influence of Joseph Gurney, incomprehensible to her admirers, she became a Quaker at the age of 55.
Amelia Opie’s interesting life could have been lived for the benefit of some future biographer. She was a best-selling novelist, much in demand in the highest social circles, a committed campaigner for anti-slavery, the wife of John Opie, RA, one of our most celebrated portraitists, and, in her later years, a Quaker (to the disbelief of many of her friends).
Amelia lived around the dramatic period of the Napoleonic wars. The span and scope of her life can be indicated by naming some of her friends: William Wilberforce, Mary Wollstonecraft, Sarah Siddons, William Godwin, Robert Southey, Mary Russell Mitford, Lafayette, Lord Erskine, Lady Caroline Lamb, Adam Sedgwick – and, nearer to her Norwich home, the Norfolk Cokes, Gurneys, Birkbecks, Harveys and Taylors.
Biographies were published in 1854, 1933 and 1947, but it took a committed journalist, also born and raised in Norwich, to weave all the strands together for this definitive life. She has researched a vast amount of new material both here and in America – and this includes previously unpublished portraits presented in full page colour and monochrome.