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Adeline Mowbray by Amelia Alderson Opie





In an old family mansion, situated on an estate in Gloucestershire known by the name of Rosevalley, resided Mrs Mowbray, and Adeline her only child.

Mrs Mowbray's father, Mr Woodville, a respectable country gentleman, married, in obedience to the will of his mother, the sole surviving daughter of an opulent merchant in London, whose large dower paid off some considerable mortgages on the Woodville estates, and whose mild and unoffending character soon gained that affection from her husband after marriage, which he denied her before it.

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! that inclination for study, which, had it been directed to proper objects, would have been the charm of Miss Woodville's life, and the safeguard of her happiness, by giving her a constant source of amusement within herself; proved to her, from the unfortunate direction which it took, the abundant cause of misery and disappointment.

For her, history, biography, poetry, and discoveries in natural philosophy, had few attractions, while she pored with still unsatisfied delight over abstruse systems of morals and metaphysics, or new theories in politics; and scarcely a week elapsed in which she did not receive, from her aunt's bookseller in London, various tracts on these her favourite subjects.

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.

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