Author Biography

Mark Zunac is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He is the editor of Literature and the Conservative Ideal (Lexington), and his scholarly work has appeared in such journals as Academic Questions, European Romantic Review, Papers on Language and Literature, and Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature.


This essay investigates the role of natural law within the philosophical debates in 1790s Britain over the origins and applicability of citizens' rights, an issue amplified by memories of the French Revolution. It marks Amelia Opie’s 1805 novel Adeline Mowbray as representative of a counterrevolutionary faction focused extensively on the rights of citizens, yet fully distinct from the theoretically grounded cosmopolitan vision of both the French Jacobins and their radical British counterparts. The novel serves as evidence that the British counterrevolution was not intrinsically opposed to reform, and that reform itself was not incompatible with moral duty and social good nor antithetical to a more nationalistic - though broadly based - conception of "rights." In fact, it seems to be presented by Opie as a conscious alternative to revolutionary theories of universal right, by 1805 viewed by many as the progenitor of the political violence that had ensued following the fall of the Bastille sixteen years earlier.


Amelia Opie, Adeline Mowbray, Natural Rights, French Revolution, British literature, counterrevolution, conservatism