Simple Tales (1806)

As Brightwell notes, “the year 1806 was, to the subject of these memoirs, prosperous, and full of joyful anticipation for the future, beyond any that had preceded it” (127). Adeline Mowbray had been well-received the previous year and The Father and Daughter continued to be in demand. John Opie’s career was flourishing and Amelia commented “our circumstances were no such as would enable us to have more of the comforts and elegancies of life, and to receive our friends in a manner more suited to the esteem which we entertained for them; I was allowed to make the long projected alterations and improvements in my own apartments” (Brightwell 127).

Simple Tales attracted mixed reviews–for the Critical Review, “A tedious insipidity pervades, with few exceptions, every one of these tales, for which the fair author makes us no other recompence than a few pathetic touches at the dénouement of each. Mrs. O. we presume, was of opinion with Moses in the Vicar of Wakefield, that when once in favour with the public, she had ‘nothing to do but to go to sleep;’ and impressed with this idea she has not exerted her usual diligence.” However, the Flowers of Literature comments “Mrs. Opie’s Simple Tales have a far higher claim to notice. This work, consisting of eighteen or twenty tales, pleasingly and interestingly related, possesses the general characteristics of her style and manner of thinking. It may not be amiss to observe, that her style is that of a well-educated and accomplished woman; her manner of thinking, that which does her the highest honour! These tales are truly simple and unaffected, evincing much genuine pathos in the bosom of their fair author.”

“Love and Duty” [one of Opie’s favourite tales (Brightwell 145)] was adapted for the stage in 1810 by Pocock and Welsh as Twenty years ago! : a new melo-dramatic entertainment, in two acts, as performed at the English opera at the Lyceum theatre. The libretto was also published in New York the following year. A number of the other tales were published separately in America: “The Black Velvet Pelisse” and “The Mother and Son” form Number 4 of The Novelist, a series of cheaply produced pocket novels from the firm of Eliot and Crissy in New York. The back cover indicates that “Robber and Revenge” by Mrs. Opie may have formed part of this series as well. “Murder Will Out” also appeared as a tiny pocket novel from the press of E. Duykinck of New York, printed with “The Captive Mother Restored to Her Family” by Helen Maria Williams.


Volume I

“The Black Velvet Pelisse” (1-40)

“The Death-Bed” (41-80)

“The Fashionable Wife, and Unfashionable Husband” (81-260)

“The Robber” (261-352)

Volume II

“The Mother and Son” (1-113)

“Love and Duty” (114-300)

Volume III

“The Soldier’s Return” (1-86)

“The Brother and Sister” (87-240) [published separately as The Brother and Sister: A Tale by Grove, 1847]

“The Revenge” (241-321)

Volume IV

“The Uncle and Nephew” (1-65)

“Murder Will Out” (66-206)

“The Orphan, A Tale founded on a Well-Known Fact” (207-282)


Simple Tales. 4 vols., London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1806.

—–. 2nd ed., 4 vols., London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1806.

—–. 3rd ed., 4 vols., London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1809.

—–. 4th ed., 4 vols., London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, 1815.


La Belle Assemblée, Suppl. vol. V1, 1806, pp. 40-1.

British Critic, vol. 31, May 1808, pp. 566-7.

Critical Review, series 3, vol. 8, Aug. 1806, pp. 443-6.

Edinburgh Review, vol. 8, July 1806, pp. 465-71.

Literary Journal, a Review, ns, vol. 2, Aug. 1806, pp. 159-67.

Monthly Review, ns, vol. 53, Aug. 1807, p. 438.