Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Women Writers: Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson

Her Biography

Mary Darby was born in1758 to John and Hester Darby. Her father left to establish a whaling expedition with his mistress. John and Hester separated when the lack of financial support implied John didn’t care much for his family. Mary went to different schools throughout her childhood; during this time she realized she liked writing melancholy poetry. During this time, David Garrick, a famous actor, thought Mary should become an actress on the stage.       
When she was sixteen, she married Thomas Robinson. Both, however, led an extravagant lifestyle that was far beyond their financial capabilities. Thomas took a mistress, and one of his wealthy friends took an interest in Mary. Regardless, Thomas was arrested for gambling debts and the couple (with their child) ended up in King’s Bench Prison. He started another affair while she did some poetry for the Duchess of Devonshire to earn money.
After her husband was released, she turned to acting. Her most famous role was Perdita in “A Winter’s Tale,” when she was 21. She captured the attention of the Prince of Wales (later to become King George IV), and became his mistress. Later, she had two more lovers from the Prince’s circle of friends, one of which was Banastre Tarleton.
After a miscarriage with Tarleton and rough treatment from a midwife, Mary became partially paralyzed and suffered rheumatism. She wrote poetry during their rocky relationship, her notable pieces being “Sappho and Phaon,” and Volume 1 and 2 of Poems. She also contributed poetry to The World, The Oracle, and The Morning Post.
Her poetry was generally termed Romantic before she turned to more elegant prose and experimented with different kinds of verse. She would write reactions to Wordsworth, was an inspiration to Coleridge, and was friends with Mary Wollstonecraft. Many of her poems and books featured themes of sorrow and alienation, as well as autobiographical elements and gothic settings. Mary died December 26, 1800, leaving her memoirs unfinished.

   Web Resources

Ø A Celebration of Women Writers: Mary Darby Robinson http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/robinson/biography.html
A Webpage featuring a biography, links to her selections of poems, and a bibliography of her poetry, a play, her fiction, and non-fiction—as well as three biographies written about her and their publication information. (The search page where her name is listed provides scans of various editions of her published works, as well as links to other sources of information: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/_generate/authors-R.html)

Ø English Poetry 1579-1830, Spenser and the Tradition: Mary Robinson (1758-1800) http://spenserians.cath.vt.edu/authorrecord.php?action=GET&recordid=33284
A database created by Virginia Tech about various English authors, this particular page contains a wealth of information on Robinson. The “Works” page lists her works (including links to the works themselves alongside a brief description and contemporary commentary) and when they were published. “Profile” lists her professions, her education, and people she was associated with—many of which include links to the authors’ pages. “Commentary” and “Author As Critic” provides links to contemporary commentary/reviews about Robinson or by her on certain people/events. “Biographies” follows a similar vein.

Ø Sensibility, Romanticism, and Mary Robinson
A blog devoted to all things Mary Robinson. Although the site is fan-created, the blogger posts analyses of Robinson’s writings (particularly Lyrical Tales), and the politics of the day. Each post contains a Works Cited for further reference.

Ø Mary Darby Robinson Bibliography
A good listing of her works, archival materials and manuscripts, and journal articles/books relating to Mary Robinson.  


Binhammer Katherine. “Thinking Gender with Sexuality in 1790s' Feminist Thought.”  Feminist Studies 28.3 (Fall 2002): 667-90. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.  

Binhammer, Katherine. “Female Homosociality and the Exchange of Men: Mary Robinson's          Walsingham.” Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 35.3 (Apr-May 2006): 221-          240. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Bolton, Betsy. “Romancing the Stone: ‘Perdita’ Robinson in Wordsworth's London.” ELH          64.3 (Fall 2007): 727-59. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Brewer, William D. “The French Revolution as a Romance: Mary Robinson's Hubert de          Sevrac.” Papers on Language and Literature: A Journal for Scholars and Critics 42.2 (Spring        2006): 115-49. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Close, Anne. “Notorious: Mary Robinson and the Gothic.” Gothic Studies 6.2 (Nov. 2004):          172-91. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Cross, Ashley. “From Lyrical Ballads to Lyrical Tales: Mary Robinson's Reputation and the          Problem of Literary Debt.” Studies in Romanticism 40.4 (Winter 2001): 571-605.          Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Ferber, Michael. “Re-Visioning Romanticism: British Women Writers; Romantic Women          Writers; Voices and Countervoices.” NWSA Journal 8.2 (Summer 1996): n. pag. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Gamer, Michael and Teery F. Robinson. “Mary Robinson and the Dramatic Art of the          Comeback.” Studies in Romanticism 48.2 (Summer 2009): 219-256. Web. 22 Sept.          2014.

McGann, Jerome. “Mary Robinson and the Myth of Sappho.” Modern Language Quarterly 56.1          (Mar. 1995): 55-76. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Mellor, Anne. “Making an Exhibition of Her Self: Mary 'Perdita' Robinson and   Nineteenth—Century Scripts of Female Sexuality.” Nineteenth-Century Contexts 22.3        (Dec. 2000): 271-304. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Miskolcze, Robin L. “Snapshots of Contradiction in Mary Robinson's Poetical Works.” Papers          on Language & Literature 31.2 (Spring 1995): 206-20. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

 Munteanu, Anca. “Confessional Texts versus Visual Representation: The Portraits of Mary          Darby Robinson.” Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 9.2 (Fall-Winter 2009):          124-52. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Robinson, Daniel. “The Duchess, Mary Robinson, and Georgiana's Social Network.”          Wordsworth Circle 42.3 (Summer 2011): 193-7. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Rooney, Morgan. “Belonging to No/body’: Mary Robinson, ‘The Natural Daughter,’ and          Rewriting Feminine Identity.” Eighteenth Century Fiction 24.2 (Spring 2006): 355-72.          Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Runge, Laura L. “Mary Robinson’s Memoirs and the AntiAdultery Campaign of the Late          Eighteenth Century.” Modern Philology 101.4 (May 2004): 563-86. Web. 22 Sept.          2014.

Russo, Stephanie and AD Cousins. “'Educated in Masculine Habits': Mary Robinson,          Androgyny, and the Ideal Woman.” Journal of the Australasian 115 (2011): 37-50.          Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Saglia, Diego. “Commerce, Luxury, and Identity in Mary Robinson’s Memoirs.” SEL Studies in          English Literature, 1500-1900 49.3 (Summer 2009): 717-36. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Setzer, Sharon. “Mary Robinson's Sylphid Self: The End of Feminine Self-Fashioning.”          Philological Quarterly 75.4 (Fall 1996): 193-7. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Setzer, Sharon. “The Dying Game: Crossdressing in Mary Robinson's Walsingham.”          Nineteenth-Century Contexts 22.3 (Dec. 2000): 305-29. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Zunac, Mark. “'An Immediate and Final Separation’: Allegory and the Colonial Condition in          Mary Robinson's The Widow.” Pennsylvania Literary Journal 2.2 (Winter 2010): 25      46. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.


·        Found in TWU’s Library (not including her works):
o   Byrne, Paula. Perdita: The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson. New York: Random House, 2004. Print.
Woman's Collection (DA538.A35 B97 2004)

o   Molloy, J. and Mary Robinson. Memoirs of Mary Robinson, “Perdita”. New Haven: Research Publications, 1975. Print.
Woman's Collection – Reference (No Checkout) (DA538.A35 B97 2004)

o   Wharton, Philip and Mary Robinson and Mrs. A. T. Thompson. Mrs. Mary Robinson. New Haven: Research Publications, 1977. Print.
Woman’s Collection (DA538.A35 A3)

Book Review

          Paula Byrne’s book, Perdita: The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson, covers the colorful life of Mary Robinson from her birth to her death. With her piece being roughly 400 pages, Byrne divides the events of Robinson’s life into
three segments: Actress, Celebrity, and Woman of Letters. Byrne’s book provides an admiring yet honest tribute to Robinson and her various exploits of her exciting life. It is clear Byrne took painstaking care and research to be accurate and thus provide an in-depth look at Robinson. In her introduction, Byrne states she utilized the web and its resources, perused Robinson’s letters and manuscripts, and went through Robinson’s memoirs. This one claim, however, is not sufficient to highlight the amount of research Byrne did.     
          Mindful of historical context and the danger of Robinson’s bias within her own Memoirs, Byrne has also researched at length the individuals Robinson interacted with, the shifting politics during Robinson’s life, the fluctuating media and their perceptions of Robinson, and she even focuses on the fashions of the day in detail with respect of how every person and object related to Robinson and was indicative of the world in which she lived. This being said, Byrne has produced what is perhaps one of the most comprehensive and recent works on the famous Perdita, her many rises and falls to fame, and the history behind the myriads of personas Robinson adopted throughout her life.
          In the first segment of her work, Byrne focuses on Robinson’s youth and teenage years, from her birth to her unhappy marriage to her entrance into the world of theater. In every chapter, Byrne inserts relevant quotes relating to each subject. She provides substantial background on Robinson’s family, the question of the date of her birth, her hasty marriage to Tom Robinson, their financial hardships which land them into debtor’s prison, and her eagerly-desired plunge into the world of theater and acting.
          In the second segment, Byrne details her famous affair with the Prince of Wales, the politics of the tumultuous relationship, her various suitors and lovers, her flourishing rise to stardom in both England and France, and her eventually becoming a fashion icon. Care is also given to the tense politics between England and France.
          The third and final segment details Robinson’s life after she suffers from rheumatism, her reconciliation with her past glories, and her transition to living through her pen up until her death. The epilogue that follows details the reactions of close friends, the publicity she received, her daughter’s life afterward, and the legacy Robinson left behind through her reputation as actress, mistress, and author. From there, Byrne lists out her various citations, comments, index, and credits for the inserts she has used throughout the book.

          Holistically, Byrne provides a comprehensive look into Mary Robinson’s life, never neglecting to dive into the lives of those she affected, what the media thought of her, and even providing inserts of portraits and caricatures of Robinson and her associates. She also does not shy away from analyzing Robinson’s poems, novels, and letters, taking care to explore the motivations behind her words, placing them in context, and later drawing upon quotes to highlight various ironies throughout Robinson’s life. Every detail is meticulously examined and considered with careful relevance, and Byrne’s difficult and long research certainly shines through.

No comments:

Post a Comment