1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Mary Robinson

Stephen Jones, in Biographia Dramatica; or, A Companion to the Playhouse (1812) 1:603-04.



This lady was a native of Bristol, and the daughter of a captain of a whaler there, by the name of Derby. Her father, at one period of his life, was in circumstances which promised our authoress a more respectable situation than that in which she was afterwards distinguished. She was educated by Miss Hannah More, whose name we have already mentioned in the present work, and under whom she made a considerable proficiency in the elegant accomplishments of her sex. About the time she had finished her education, the misfortunes of her father commenced. He failed in his business, and, dying soon after, left our authoress totally unprovided for. The beauty of her face, the elegance of her figure, and her taste for poetry and music, naturally pointed out the stage as a resource from the distresses in which she had become involved. She was accordingly recommended to Mr. Garrick, who proposed her first appearance to be in the character of Cordelia; but before the night fixed upon for her performance, she became acquainted with Mr. Robinson, then a young lawyer, who prevailed upon her to marry him, and relinquish her design of appearing on the stage. A union which had for its foundation passion, poverty, and extravagance, was not likely to produce any happy effects. Dissipation and improvidence soon reduced them to great difficulties, which suggested a return to the former scheme of her devoting herself to the stage. She accordingly appeared in the part of Juliet at Drury Lane, and, improving in her profession, soon became a favourite with the public. The part in which she chiefly distinguished herself was Perdita, in The Winter's Tale; a part of little importance in itself, but which was rendered uncommonly interesting, by the beauty, grace, and delicacy of the performer. On this occasion, a distinguished, blooming, and persuasive Florizel stepped in from the heights of life; and Mrs. Robinson was induced to retire from the stage in 1780, to live in a state of ignominious splendour. She paid, however, in her latter days, by neglect, poverty, and decrepitude, for the vanity and vices of her youth, and died at her cottage on Englefield Green, Dec. 26, 1800, aged about 40. She wrote many novels and poems, and three dramatic pieces, viz. 1. The Lucky Escape. M.F. 1778. The songs only printed. 2. Nobody. Com. 1794. N.P. 3. Sicilian Lover. Trag. 8vo. 1796.