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Julia Matthews

Davies & Cocirca 1862

National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery

Julia Matthews (1842-1876), actress and singer, made her debut at Sydney's Royal Victoria Theatre in 1854, aged twelve. The following year she surprised Melbourne audiences in George Coppin's Olympic Theatre in Old and Young and King John. By 1856, still only fourteen, she was an audience favourite, and in 1858 she made her second appearance on the goldfields. Robert O'Hara Burke, twenty-one years her senior, is said to have proposed marriage to her in August 1860, immediately before his departure on the 'Burke and Wills' Expedition. Although she spurned him, she sang Rule Britannia and the national anthem in a Grand Tableau tribute to the explorers in Castlemaine in January 1863. Matthews last appeared in Sydney in 1867; in November that year she became the first Australian-trained singer to appear at Covent Garden.

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