1793 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Mary Robinson

Anonymous, "Account of Mrs. Robinson" European Magazine 23 (January 1793) 3-4.



This lady, whose literary talents we have had frequent occasion to celebrate, is descended from a good family. Her father, whose name was Darby, having lost a considerable fortune in promoting a scheme for the commercial advantage of this country, accepted the command of a seventy-four gun ship in the service of the Empress of Russia. He was an American by birth, though originally of an ancient family in Ireland, and died in December 1787, honoured with the highest esteem by his August Mistress, and lamented by all who knew him, as a brave and worthy member of society. His widow, Mrs. Robinson's mother, still living, is grand-daughter to Catherine Seys, of Boverton Castle, in Glamorganshire, whose sister, Anne Seys (married to Lord King, then Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain), was a woman celebrated for every virtue and accomplishment that could adorn her sex. Mrs. Robinson was born in the College Green, Bristol, in which city she received the early part of her education. At the age of ten years she was removed to one of the first seminaries of female tuition in the vicinity of the metropolis, and at the early age of fifteen years was married to her present husband, then a student in Lincoln's Inn. Neither party being possessed of independence, in a short time Mr. Robinson became embarrassed in his circumstances, which probably gave occasion to the first thoughts of Mrs. Robinson's exerting her talents on the Stage. She accordingly, under the particular patronage of the Duchess of Devonshire, made her first appearance at Drury Lane on the 10th of December 1776, in the character of Juliet, and during the three seasons she continued on the Stage, performed the parts of Lady Macbeth, Imogen, Rosalind, Cordelia, Ophelia, Viola, Palmira, the Irish Widow, Perdita, and a variety of other characters, with universal applause. In the latter character she attracted the notice of a distinguished personage, which occasioned her succession from the Theatre at a time when she was rising very rapidly in the estimation of the public. In 1778 she produced a musical farce at Drury Lane, entitled The Lucky Escape, and about the same time a poem called Captivity, dedicated to her patroness the Duchess of Devonshire. This poem certainly possessed some merit, but must be allowed to be inferior to those pieces since published, which have established her reputation on a solid and durable basis.

Mrs. Robinson, besides the pieces just mentioned, has already published a volume of Poems, in octavo, Vancenza, a Novel, of which three editions have been sold, Ainsi va le Monde, a Poem; and a Monody to the Memory of Sir Joshua Reynolds; besides many pieces under the signatures of Laura Maria, Julia, Laura, Oberon, &c. &c. some of which, we have observed, are not collected in the volume above mentioned. To this lady also some popular pamphlets have been attributed.

Of a lady whose name is so well known, it will be expected we should gratify our readers with some further particulars. We shall, therefore add, that our best celebration of her exquisite beauty will be, to refer to the portrait in the present Magazine; and concerning her general character subjoin the following, which we have received from one who professes to be well-informed on the subject: — "She is mistress of exquisite sensibility and tenderness of mind, blended with a vivacity of temper that has frequently led her into hasty decisions, where mature deliberation would have tended to promote her interest; she is liberal even to a fault, and many strong traits of her life will evince, that she has ever been one of the most disinterested of her sex."

Mrs. Robinson has one daughter, a lovely and elegant girl, whom she has educated with the strict attention of a fond parent, and the cautious exactitude of the most rigid governess. Miss Robinson is said to be conversant in the French and German languages, with a competent knowledge of music, dancing, &c.

The feeling reader will experience a shock to his sensibility when he is told, that this accomplished woman has for near six years been a victim of rheumatic attacks, which, though they have weakened her fair form, have not yet had power to debilitate the strong energies of her mind,which soars above sublunary calamity.