COLERIDGE (SARA) Portrait miniature of Sara Coleridge, daughter of Samuel Taylor and Sara Coleridge, by Mary Matilda Betham, signed and dated 1809
Lot 289Y
Sold for £6,000 (US$ 10,078) inc. premium
Lot Details
Property of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's direct descendant
Portrait miniature of Sara Coleridge, daughter of Samuel Taylor and Sara Coleridge, afterwards Mrs Henry Nelson Coleridge, by Mary Matilda Betham, signed ("Matilda Betham") and dated 1809, showing her full-length, down on one knee and facing to her right, attired in a white lace bonnet and white dress, with pink silk shoes, holding a doll in a blue dress, watercolour on ivory within an oval, in a contemporary black gilt-mounted papier mâché frame, gilt hanging-clasp (matching Betham's portrait of her mother), image 70 x 56 mm., [Greta Hall], [summer to early autumn] 1809


  • A PORTRAIT OF THE INFANT DAUGHTER ABANDONED BY COLERIDGE, WHO IN LATER YEARS WAS TO KEEP HER FATHER'S REPUTATION ALIVE, depicted here at the age of five-and-a-half, holding her doll and in a pose of supplication – possibly, conscious or otherwise, as an implied rebuke by the artist (a woman herself who had long known the child's father and who a few months earlier had painted his portrait in London). Coleridge had abandoned his family, leaving Sara in the care of her mother, the year before: 'Although in many ways the most Coleridgean of Coleridge's offspring, Sara was first and foremost the daughter of Greta Hall, of Southey and Wordsworth and the indefatigable Mrs Coleridge, all of whom took responsibility for young Sara's education and helped to make her the resident wunderkind. By the age of twenty-three, she had mastered five languages and published two books, the first a translation from Latin, the second from medieval French' (Bradford K. Mudge, 'Telling Her Own Story: Sara Coleridge and the 1850 Essays on His Own Times', The Coleridge Bulletin No 2, Summer 1989, pp. 32-42).

    In 1829 Sara was to leave the Lake District on her marriage in the face of family opposition to her first cousin, Henry Nelson Coleridge. With her husband, she edited and published Table Talk in 1835 and four volumes of Literary Remains between 1836 and 1839. After Henry Nelson's death in 1843, 'it was her vision, her labour, and her scrupulous research that kept her father's works before the public eye. After seeing the 1843 edition of Aids to Reflection through the press, the second volume of which included her own long essay 'On rationalism', Sara published Biographia literaria (1847), Notes and Lectures upon Shakespeare (1849), Essays on his Own Times (1850), and The Poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1852). Each new edition was accompanied by a lengthy introduction or appendix in which Coleridge's theories were explicated, defended, or qualified. Her finest achievement was her edition of the Biographia, which took her four years and which continues to be acknowledged by modern scholars. Her introduction to that edition itself occupies almost an entire volume' (Mudge, ODNB).

    Like the portrait of her mother, this miniature was painted by Matilda Betham while staying at Greta Hall in the summer and early autumn of 1809 and who had painted a portrait of her father in 1808 (see note to the previous lot). Sara later wrote of it: 'I wore a cap till I was eight years old. I appear in a cap, playing with a doll in a little miniature of me at that age [sic] by the sister of Sir William Betham, who also made portraits in the same style of my Uncle and Aunt Southey, my mother, Aunt Lovell, and cousins Edith and Herbert' (quoted by Mudge, Sara Coleridge, a Victoria Daughter: Her Life and Essays, 1989, p. 252).
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