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Author: Robinson, Mary


ROBINSON, Mary, formerly DARBY (1758-1800: findmypast)

Pseudonym Laura Maria

She was one of the five children of Nicholas Darby, a merchant and sea captain, and his wife Hester Vanacott. Born in Bristol, she was educated first at a school run by Hannah More (q.v.) and her sisters; after her father lost most of his fortune in speculation and her parents separated, she was taught at various establishments in London. She hoped for a career on the stage but under pressure from her mother instead married Thomas Robinson, a law student who seemed to have expectations, in 1773. They led a fashionable life and had two children, one of whom died in infancy. But Robinson was imprisoned for debt in 1775-6 and his wife and child went to prison with him. Mary Robinson began writing to provide an income for the family; even after they parted ways, Robinson refused to divorce her because he was financially dependent on her. She had a successful run as an actress in London from 1776 to 1780, when she gave up that career to be the mistress of the Prince of Wales. After he tired of her and bought her off, she had a succession of much publicized affairs, the most lasting of them with Colonel (later General) Tarleton, whom she was with until 1797. In 1783 she became paralysed from the waist down, possibly following a miscarriage. In the 1790s she wrote tirelessly--poems, plays, autobiography, journalism, and eight popular novels--and made friends in radical literary circles, among them William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, John Wolcot, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (qq.v.). But she struggled with debt and died in poverty, from "a dropsy in the chest," in Englefield Green at the home of her daughter Mary Elizabeth Robinson (q.v.). Her daughter completed her Memoirs (1801) and prepared her Poetical Works (1806) for publication. (ODNB 3 Aug. 2020; 3 Aug. 2020; Blain; Todd 2)



Other Names:

  • M. M. Robinson
  • M. Robinson
  • Mrs. M. Robinson
  • Mrs. Robinson

Books written (26):

London: C. Parker, 1775
2nd edn. London: [no publisher: printed by J. Bell], 1790
London: printed by J. Bell, 1791
London: for the author by James Evans, 1793
London: J. Evans and T. Becket, 1793
London: J. Evans and T. Becket, 1793
London: J. Evans and T. Becket, 1793
London: printed for the author by Hookham and Carpenter, 1796
Manchester: [Printed by G. Nicholson, sold by T. Knott and by Champante and Whitrow in London], 1797
London/ Bristol: T. N. Longman and O. Rees/ Biggs and Co., 1800
Ludlow/ London: G. Nicholson/ T. Knott, and Champante and Whitrow, 1800
London: R. Phillips, T. Hurst, and Carpenter, 1801
New York: T. and J. Swords, P. A. Mesier, and W. A. Davis, 1801
Philadelphia: printed by T. and William Bradford, 1802
London: Richard Phillips, 1803
London: Richard Phillips, 1806