Betsey Trotwood is a fictional character from Charles Dickens' 1850 novel David Copperfield.

Betsey Trotwood
David Copperfield character
'I make myself known to my aunt'
Illustration by Hablot Knight Browne
Created byCharles Dickens
In-universe information

Role in novel


Betsey Trotwood is David Copperfield's great-aunt on his father's side, and has an unfavourable view of men and boys, having been ill-used and abandoned by a worthless husband earlier in life. She appears in the novel's first chapter, where she demonstrates her uncommon personality and her dislike of boys when she storms out of the house after hearing that David's mother has had a son, rather than the daughter to whom Trotwood intended to be the godmother.[1]

Betsey plays a bigger role in David's later life by taking him in after he has run away from labelling wine bottles in the factory in Blackfriars where his stepfather, Edward Murdstone, had placed him to work after the death of David's mother. She provides him with a place at a good school in Canterbury and opportunities for a career in Doctors' Commons, thus showing her complex character.[1][citation needed]



The character is based on Miss Mary Pearson Strong who lived at Broadstairs, Kent, and who died on 14 January 1855; she is buried in the St. Peter's-in-Thanet churchyard. Her sister Ann married Stephen Nuckell, who was a prominent bookseller in Broadstairs from around 1796 to 1822. Mary Pearson Strong's former home now hosts Broadstairs' Dickens House Museum.[2]



There is a public house in Clerkenwell, Central London, called The Betsey Trotwood. It adopted the name in 1983, having previously been The Butcher's Arms.[3]

The city of Trotwood, Ohio is named after the character.[4]

Film and television portrayals

Year Title Betsey Trotwood played by:
1911 David Copperfield Viola Alberti
1935 David Copperfield Edna May Oliver
1969 David Copperfield Edith Evans
1986 David Copperfield Brenda Bruce
1993 David Copperfield Andrea Martin
1999 David Copperfield Maggie Smith
2000 David Copperfield Sally Field
2019 The Personal History of David Copperfield Tilda Swinton


  1. ^ a b Dickens, Charles 'David Copperfield' Published by Bradbury & Evans (1850)
  2. ^ Strong on The Dickens Fellowship website Archived January 19, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Website Archived 2013-07-28 at the Wayback Machine of The Betsey Trotwood
  4. ^ Trotwood Area Chamber of Commerce - History of Trotwood