A Celebration of Women Writers



[Page 4] 

  1 Collin's Peerage gives the following account of this lady: "Peter, Lord King married Anne, daughter of Richard Seys, Esq., of Boverton, in Glamorganshire, with whom he lived to the day of his death in perfect love and happiness, and left by her four sons and two daughters" (vol. vii. p. 273).

[Page 5] 

  1 A portrait of my grandmother, when a girl, was seen by my mother at Haswell, in Somersetshire, the seat of Sir C. K. Tynt, many years after I was born.

[Page 7] 

  1 I may with truth, and without vanity, make this remark. The estimable being here mentioned was named John; he died on the 7th of December, 1790, at Leghorn, in Tuscany, where he had been many years established as a merchant of the first respectability.

[Page 10] 

  1 Hannah More, with her sisters, at this time kept a boarding-school for young ladies. Later she became famous as the author of tragedies which gained popularity.ED.

[Page 11] 

  1 Mr. Powel.

[Page 32] 

  1 Thomas Hull, deputy manager of Covent Garden Theatre, was founder of the Theatrical Fund for the relief of distressed players. He was an actor, the author and translator of several plays, and a writer of poems and short stories.ED.

  2 David Garrick, the famous actor and manager of Drury Lane Theatre, made his last appearance on the stage on the 10th of June, 1776, he being then in his sixtieth year.ED

  3 Arthur Murphy, an Irishman, began life as a clerk, [Page 33]  then became a journalist and subsequently an actor, but remaining on the stage only for a couple of seasons, he turned dramatist and wrote a number of plays, some of which attained great success. Two years after the death of David Garrick he wrote a life of the famous player, who had been his intimate friend.ED

[Page 37] 

  1 Susannah Cibber, who gained considerable fame as a singer in oratorio before becoming an acress. Her first success as a player was gained at Covent Garden, but in 1753 she joined Garrick's company at Drury Lane, of which she remained a member until her death in 1766. Garrick, who greatly admired her genius, on hearing of her demise, declared, "Then tragedy is dead on one side." She lies buried in Westminster Abbey.

[Page 56] 

  1 At the time when the banns of her marriage were published she admits to being "a few months advanced in her sixteenth year"; and she had been four months married when the journey to Bristol was made.ED.

[Page 65] 

  1 Mrs. Sophia Baddeley, Who was a very beautiful woman, and the heroine of many amorous adventures.ED.

[Page 66] 

  1Robert Henley, who, in 1772, succeeded his father as second Earl of Northington. Previous to this date he had been made an LL.D. of Cambridge, and had held the offices of Teller of the Exchequer, and Master of the Hanaper Office in Chancery. The year after his succession he was made Knight of the Thistle, and in 1783 was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland.ED.

[Page 67] 

  1 Thomas, second Baron Lyttelton, known as "the wicked Lord Lyttelton," in distinction to his father, who in his lifetime had been styled "the good Lord Lyttelton." Thomas, Baron Lyttelton, was a man of parts and fashion; a politician, a writer of verses, an artist whose paintings were supposed to contain the combined excellencies of Salvator Rosa and Claude, and withal one of the greatest profligates of the age. This is the Lord Lyttelton who, in his thirty-fifth year, and whilst in perfect health, dreamt a woman appeared to him and announced he had not three days to live. He spoke lightly of his dream, and on the morning of the third day felt in such good spirits that he declared he should "bilk the ghost." He died suddenly that night, when his friend Miles Peter Andrews dreamt Lyttelton appeared to him and said, "All is over."

George Edward Ayscough a captain in the Guards, was cousin to the second Lord Lyttelton. Some years later than the date of his meeting with Mrs. Robinson he produced a version of Voltaire's "Semiramis," which was presented at Drury Lane Theatre in 1776. He is described as "a parasite of Lord Lyttelton," and as "a fool of fashion."ED.

[Page 69] 

  1 Anna Lætitia Aikin (1743-1825).ED.

[Page 71] 

  1 George Robert Fitzgerald, commonly known as "Fighting Fitzgerald," from the number of duels in which he took part, was a man of good family, noted alike for his gallantry and recklessness. A fracas which was the result of his distasteful attentions to Mrs. Hartley, a well-known actress, had made him notorious in 1773, some years previous to his introduction to Mrs. Robinson. His life, which was one of singular adventure, ended on the scaffold, he being executed for murder in 1786.ED

[Page 80] 

  1 Mrs. Abington, a distinguished actress who, at the age of seventeen, had made her first appearance at the Haymarket Theatre, some six years before the author of these memoirs was born.

[Page 86] 

  1 Later she gave birth to a daughter named Sophia, who lived but six weeks.ED.

[Page 88] 

  1 Mr. Robinson was educated at Harrow, and was a contemporary of Mr. Sheridan.

[Page 107] 

  1 This gentleman's name is Hanway, the person mentioned in the former part of this work, as Mr. Robinson's earliest friend.

[Page 113] 

  1 Writing of this time, Miss Hawkins states that Mrs. Robinson was "eminently meritorious: she had her child to attend to, she did all the work of their apartments, she even scoured the stairs, and accepted the writing and the pay Which he had refused."ED.

[Page 115] 

  1 Georgiana, wife of the fifth Duke of Devonshire. The Duchess was not only one of the most beautiful, vivacious, and fascinating women of the day, but was likewise an ardent politician. Whilst canvassing for the election of Fox she purchased the vote of a butcher for a kiss, and received from an Irish mechanic the complimentary assurance that he could light his pipe at her eyes.ED.

[Page 120] 

  1 George Hobart, third Earl of Buckinghamshire, who had a passion for dramatic entertainments, and for a time became manager of the opera in London.ED.

[Page 127] 

  1 Richard Brinsley Sheridan was at this period in his twenty-fifth year, and had entered on his mismanagement of Drury Lane Theatre. He had already written The Rivals, which had not proved a success on its first appearance; St. Patrick's Day, or the Scheming Lieutenant, a farce; The Duenna, a comic opera; but he was yet to write A Trip to Scarborough, and The School for Scandal.

[Page 130] 

  1 In his "History of the Stage," Genest tells us Mrs. Robinson made her first appearance on the stage as Juliet on the 10th of December, 1776, but leaves us in ignorance regarding the actors who took part in the tragedy. Romeo was evidently played by William Brereton, who had rehearsed the principal scenes with her in the green-[Page 131]  room before Sheridan and Garrick. Genest adds: "Mrs. Robinson was received with great applause. She had an engagement previous to her first appearance, and received what was considered a handsome salary. She was a most beautiful woman, and a very good breeches figure"ED.

[Page 132] 

  1 According to Genest, the second character she attempted was Statira, in Alexander the Great, played on the 17th of February, 1777; Amanda, in The Trip to Scarborough, produced seven nights later, being her third personation.ED.

  2 Ernest Augustus Duke of Cumberland, and afterwards King of Hanover, was the fifth son of George III., and perhaps the most profligate and unpopular member of the royal family.ED.

[Page 133] 

  1 Horace Walpole, writing to his friend, the Rev. William Mason, on the 28th of May, 1780, says: "Lady Craven's comedy, called The Miniature Picture, which she acted herself with a genteel set at her own house in the country, has been played at Drury Lane. The chief singularity was that she went to it herself the second night in form; sat in the middle of the front row of the stage box, much dressed with a profusion of white bugles [Page 134]  and plumes, to receive the public homage due to her sex and loveliness.... It was amazing to see so young a woman entirely possess herself; but there is such an integrity and frankness in her consciousness of her own beauty and talents, that she speaks of them with a naiveté as if she had no property in them, but only wore them as gifts of the gods. Lord Craven, on the contrary, was quite agitated by his fondness for her, and with impatience at the bad performance of the actors, which was wretched indeed. Yet the address of the plot, which is the chief merit of the piece, and some lively pencilling, carried it off very well, though Parsons murdered the Scotch Lord, and Mrs. Robinson (who is supposed to be the favourite of the Prince of Wales) thought on nothing but her own charms and him."

The Irish Widow was a farce founded by David Garrick on Molière's Le Mariage Forcé, and produced on the 23rd of October, 1772.ED.

[Page 138] 

  1 Thomas Linley, who was considered "one of the finest violin players in Europe," was drowned through the upsetting of a boat on the 5th of August, 1778. He was a brother-in-law of Richard Brinsley Sheridan.ED

  1 George Colman, a popular and prolific dramatist, who in 1727 became manager of the Haymarket Theatre, and continued as such until 1785, introducing meansvhile many new players and some dramatic novelties.ED.

[Page 139] 

  1 Elizabeth Farren, born 1759, made her first appearance before a London audience as Miss Hardcastle in She Stoops to Conquer, on June 9, 1777 . After years spent in strolling through the provinces in her father's company and that of other managers, she now captivated the town. Her beautiful face, exquisitely modulated voice, elegant figure, and natural grace, rendered her an ideal representative of the fine ladies of comedy. She was welcomed into the most distinguished society in London, and whilst acting as manageress of private theatricals at the Duke of Richmond's house in Whitehall, met Edward, twelfth Earl of Derby, whose wife was then living. This did not prevent him from falling in love with Miss Farren, who, it was understood, would succeed his first wife as countess did the latter predecease the actress. Lady Derby died on March 14, 1797, and on the 8th of the following month Miss Farren took leave of the stage in the character of Lady Teazle, and on the 1st of May was married to Lord Derby, she being then in her thirty-eighth year. Even in this scandal-loving and licentious age no imputation had ever been cast upon her honour. Of the three children born of this union but one survived, a daughter, who married the Earl of Wilton. The Countess of Derby lived until 1829.ED.

[Page 141] 

  1 Mrs. Robinson played Lady Macbeth on the occasion of her benefit, when was also performed a musical farce she had composed entitled A Lucky Escape.ED

[Page 154] 

  1 The famous politician Charles James Fox, a friend of the Prince of Wales.ED.

[Page 155] 

  1 George III. and Queen Charlotte, who frequently attended the theatre.ED.

[Page 156] 

  1 This performance of The Winter's Tale took place on December 3, 1779, she being at that time in her twenty-second year, and the Prince of Wales in his eighteenth year.ED.

  2 Smith had been educated at Eton and St. John's College, Cambridge, with a view to becoming a clergyman, but eventually went on the stage and proved himself an excellent actor, whose representation of Charles Surface was considered a finished performance.ED

  3 George Capel Coningsby, Viscount Maiden, after-[Page 157] wards fifth Earl of Essex, born November 13, 1757. He married twice, his second wife being Miss Stephens, the famous singer.ED.

[Page 159] 

  1 Those who have read The Winter's Tale will know the significance of these adopted names.

[Page 160] 

  1 The writer evidently makes a mistake in fixing the [Page 161]  Oratorio for the next night, as will be seen from the note on the next page.ED.

[Page 161] 

  1 Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany, second son of George III., who at the age of six months was elected to the valuable bishopric of Osnaburg.ED.

[Page 162] 

  1 Another of the "diurnal prints" dated February 12, 1780, is not so complimentary in its remarks, which run as follows: "A circumstance of rather an embarrassing nature happened at last night's Oratorio. Mrs. R, decked out in all her finery, took care to post herself in one of the upper boxes immediately opposite the Prince's, and by those airs peculiar to herself, contrived at last so to basilisk a certain Heir-apparent, that his fixed attention to the beautiful object above became generally noticed, and soon after astonished their Majesties, who, not being able to discover the cause, seemed at a loss to account for the extraordinary effect. No sooner, however, were they properly informed than a messenger was instantly sent aloft desiring the dart-dealing actress to withdraw, which she complied with, though not without expressing the utmost chagrin at her mortifying removal."ED.

[Page 172] 

  1 At this time the Prince of Wales and his brother Frederick Augustus, Duke of York, were living in seclusion at Boner Lodge, Kew, where their education was being conducted by Dr. Hurd, Bishop of Lichfield, Mr. Arnold, and Lord Bruce. A strict discipline was exercised over the princes at this period. It was not until January 1, 1781, that the Prince of Wales was provided with a separate establishment, a part of Buckingham House being allotted to him for that purposeED.

[Page 176] 

  1 Now Margravine of Anspach.

[Page 202] 

  1 The most affecting tribute which the memory of a gallant father could receive was the following pathetic and heartfelt effusion of genuine and grateful duty:






DECEMBER 5, 1786

  Oh, sire, rever'd ! ador'd !
Was it the ruthless tongue of DEATH,
  That whisp'ring to my pensive ear,
    Pronounc'd the fatal word

[Page 203] 

  That bath'd my cheek with many a tear,
And stopp'd awhile my gasping breath ?
    ' He lives no more !
    Far on a foreign shore,
His honour'd dust a laurell'd grave receives,
While his immortal soul in realms celestial lives ! '

  Oh ! my lov'd sire, farewell !
Though we are doom'd on earth to meet no more,
Still mem'ry lives, and still I must adore !
And long this throbbing heart shall mourn,
Though thou to these sad eyes wilt ne'er return !
    Yet shall remembrance dwell
  On all thy sorrows through life's stormy sea,
When fate's resistless whirlwinds shed
Unnumber'd tempests round thy head,
  The varying ills of human destiny !

Yet, with a soul sublimely brave,
Didst thou endure the dashing wave;
Still buffeting the billows rude,
By all the shafts of woe, undaunted, unsubdued !
  Through a long life of rugged care,
'Twas thine to steer a steady course !
  'Twas thine misfortune's frowns to bear,
And stem the wayward torrent's force !
  And as thy persevering mind
The toilsome path of fame pursued,
  'Twas thine, amidst its flow'rs to find
The wily snakeIngratitude !

[Page 204] 

  Yet vainly did th' insidious reptile strive
On thee its poisons dire to fling;
  Above its reach, thy laurel still shall thrive,
Unconscious of the treach'rous sting !

'Twas thine to toil through length'ning years,
Where low'ring night absorbs the spheres !
  O'er icy seas to bend thy way,
Where frozen Greenland rears its head,
  Where dusky vapours shroud the day,
And wastes of flaky snow the stagnate ocean spread
  'Twas thine amidst the smoke of war,
  To view, unmov'd, grim-fronted Death;
  Where Fate, enthron'd in sulphur'd car,
Shrunk the pale legions with her scorching breath !
  While all around her, bath'd in blood,
Iberia's haughty sons plung'd lifeless 'midst the flood.

  Now on the wings of meditation borne,
Let fond remembrance turn, and turn to mourn;
Slowly, and sad, her pinions sweep
O'er the rough bosom of the boist'rous deep
  To that disastrous, fatal coast
  Where, on the foaming billows tost,
Imperial Catherine's navies rode;
  And war's inviting banners wide
  Wav'd hostile o'er the glitt'ring tide,
That with exulting conquest glow'd !

  For thereoh sorrow, check the tear !
  There, round departed valour's bier,

[Page 205] 

The sacred drops of kindred virtue 1 shone !
  Proud monuments of worth ! whose base
  Fame on her starry hill shall place;
  There to endure, admir'd, sublime !
  E'en when the mould'ring wing of time
Shall scatter to the winds huge pyramids of stone !
  Oh ! gallant soul ! farewell !
Though doom'd this transient orb to leave,
  Thy daughter's heart, whose grief no words can tell
Shall, in its throbbing centre, bid thee live !
  While from its crimson fount shall flow
The silent tear of ling'ring grief;
The gem sublime ! that scorns relief,
  Nor vaunting shines, with ostentatious woe !

Though thou art vanish'd from these eyes,
Still from thy sacred dust shall rise
  A wreath that mocks the polish'd grace
Of sculptured bust, or tuneful praise;
  While Fame shall weeping point the place
Where Valour's dauntless son decays !
Unseen to cherish mem'ry's source divine,
Oh ! parent of my life, shall still be mine !

  And thou shalt, from thy blissful state,
Awhile avert thy raptur'd gaze,
To own, that 'midst this wild'ring maze,
  The flame of filial love defies the blast of fate !

[Page 205] 

  1 Captain Darby commanded, at the time of his death, a ship of war in the Russian service, and was buried with military honours, universally lamented.

[Page 206] 

  1 Dumouriez.

[Page 207] 

  1 An attachment took place between Mrs. Robinson and Colonel Tarleton shortly after the return of the latter from America, which subsisted during sixteen years. On the circumstances which occasioned its dissolution it is neither necessary nor would it be proper to dwell. The exertions of Mrs. Robinson in the service of Colonel Tarleton, when pressed by pecuniary embarrassment, led to that unfortunate journey, the consequences of which proved so fatal to her health. The colonel accompanied her to the Continent, and, by his affectionate attentions, sought to alleviate those sufferings of which he had been the involuntary occasion.

[Page 209] 

  1 Son of the celebrated Edmund Burke.

[Page 212] 

  1 The Right Honourable Edmund Burke, at that time conductor of the Annual Register.

[Page 215] 

  1 Mr. Merry had been a member of the "Scuola della Crusca," at Florence

[Page 219] 

  1 Mrs. Robinson's "Poems," vol. ii. p. 27.

[Page 224] 

  1 The date on which the Paris prisons were broken open and twelve hundred royalist prisoners slainED.

[Page 226] 

  1 Boaden, in his Life of Kemble, says: "I remember the warmth with which Mrs. Robinson chanted the kindness of Mrs. Jordan in accepting the principal character: and I cannot forget the way, when the storm began, in which the actress, frightened out of her senses, 'died and made no sign.'"ED.

[Page 230] 

  1 The Morning Post.

[Page 239] 

  1 Miss Robinson and a friend.

[Page 243] 

  1 Those who have read Gifford's "Baviad" and "Mæviad" will understand this allusionED.

Editorial Credits

From The Memoirs of Mary Robinson by Mary Darby Robinson & Mary Elizabeth Robinson, with an introduction and notes by J. Fitzgerald Molloy. London: Gibbings and Company, Ld., 1895.

Editorial Credits