Memoir” prefixed to Lectures on Painting by John Opie (1809)

In 1787, John Opie was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts. Membership alone, however, was not the height of his ambition, and on Henry Fuseli’s resignation of his professorship in 1805, Opie was elected Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy. On16 February 1807, he delivered the first of four lectures on painting. Shortly after delivering final lecture in the series on 9 March, Opie fell ill, and died of an inflammation of the brain on 9 April. Amelia, who was proud of her husband’s abilities, worked to arrange his burial in St. Paul’s Cathedral and, aided by her friend Prince Hoare, carefully shepherded his lectures through publication. She also authored an extensive Memoir of John Opie, where she celebrated his intellect, his artistic capabilities, and above all, his support of her own literary career: “On no subject did Mr. Opie evince more generosity, and liberality of mind, than in his opinions respecting women of talents, especially those who had dared to cultivate the powers which their Maker had bestowed on them, and to become candidates for the pleasures, the pangs, the rewards, and the penalties of authorship. This class of women never had a more zealous defender than my husband against the attacks of those less liberal than himself” (25). The memoir by Amelia Opie is addressed to Prince Hoare, and occupies the first 54 pages of the first edition.


Lectures on Painting … by the late John Opie, Esq. Professor in Painting to the Royal Academy … to which are prefixed, A Memoir by Mrs. Opie, and Other Accounts of Mr. Opie’s Talents and Character. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1809.