Matilda Betham

Octogenarian, William Betham became rector of Stoke Lacy in 1833, however by that time his eldest of fourteen children, Mary Matilda Betham (1776-1852) had established herself as a portrait artist, author, poet and woman of letters, like her better-known contemporary Jane Austen, as a spinster, she needed to make her own living.

Matilda exhibited her work at the Royal Academy and made a name for herself as a miniature portrait artist of society figures such as Mrs Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Portrait by Matilda Betham of Sara Coleridge Mrs Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1809)

Despite having been ‘sent to school only to learn sewing and prevent too strict application to books' Matilda went on to publish not only five volumes of verse but ‘ A Biographical Dictionary of Every Age and Country’ in 1804 a substantial volume running to 775 pages. She was a prolific letter writer and champion of women’s rights, calling for greater parliamentary involvement for women and wrote Challenge to Women, Being an Intended Address from Ladies of Different Parts of the Kingdom’  in support of Queen Caroline in her acrimonious marriage to King George IV.

 

 

Living well into her seventies she wrote of herself:-

Though Age advances, strength decays,

Enjoyments come a thousand ways—

The bending trunk of Life's old tree

Still blossoms forth abundantly!

—Mary Matilda Betham

 

 

 

References

British Women Poets of the Romantic Era edited by Paula Feldman

The Oxford Dictionary of Writers and Their Works

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