In New Tales, Opie attains perhaps her finest balance of astute but compassionate observation of human foibles and frailties, balancing a cautionary moral didacticism with a keen insight into the psychology of affection. From “Mrs. Arlington; or, All is not Gold that Glitters,” in which the wealthy and mysterious Mrs. Arlington offers a moral lesson to the vanity of her guests by revealing her own virtuoso musical talents, to “The Confessions of an Odd-Tempered Man,” where the key aspect of the narrator’s “odd-temper” is a reluctance, indeed a fatal refusal, to offer reassurances of his affection to his emotionally insecure wife, these tales explore the characteristics and consequences of social deceptions, both small and large. Even the notoriously selective Edinburgh Review recognized the general popularity of Opie’s style and content: “For many years, Mrs. Opie has pleased and delighted us with her numerous works of fiction, and has sparkled in this division of the literary hemisphere, a star not perhaps of the first, but certainly of the second magnitude. She displays not the general brilliancy of an Edgeworth, the narrative genius of a Porter, or the exquisite powers of discriminating and depicting national character, so justly admired in the tales of our anonymous Scottish novelist; but her unaffected piety, the easy simplicity of her style, and her talent for exciting the most amiable feelings of our nature, as well as rousing the less gentle emotions of horror and resentment, distinguish her as no mean proficient in this kind of writing, and rank her among the most popular authors of the present day.”
“Mrs Arlington: or, All is not Gold that Glitters” (1-299)
“Proposals of Marriage: A Tale” (300-356)
“White Lies” (1-244)
“Henry Woodville: A Tale” (245-408)
“The Quaker, and the Young Man of the World” (1-52)
“A Tale of Trials; told to My Children” (53-312)
“The Confessions of an Odd-Tempered Man. Written by Himself” (1-122)
“The Ruffian Boy; A Tale Founded on Fact” (123-293)
“The Welcome Home; or, The Ball” (294-363)
New Tales. 4 vols., London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1818.
—–. 3rd ed., 4 vols., London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1819.
British Critic, ns, vol. 10, Sept. 1818, pp. 287-98.
British Lady’s Magazine, series 3, vol. 2, Feb. 1819, pp. 78-80.
Fireside Magazine (quoting Edinburgh Monthly Magazine and Monthly Review),
vol. 1, Apr., May 1819, pp. 156, 188.