Henry Crabb Robinson - Encyclopedia


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HENRY CRABB ROBINSON (1777-1867), English journalist and diarist, the son of a tanner, was born at Bury St Edmunds on the 13th of March ,775. In 1796 he entered the office of a solicitor in London, but two years later, having inherited a sum of money sufficient to give him a small yearly income, he started in 1800 upon a tour on the Continent, travelling chiefly in Germany and Bohemia. In 1802 he became a student at the university of Jena, where he remained until his return to England in 1805. After vain endeavours to obtain a post in the diplomatic service, he was appointed foreign correspondent for The Times at Altona. His letters, "From the Banks of the Elbe," were published in this newspaper during 1807, and on his return he became its foreign editor. In 1808 at the outbreak of the Peninsular War he was sent out as special war correspondent--an innovation in English journalism - for The Times to Spain. There he witnessed Sir John Moore's retreat at Corunna. After his return to England he read for the bar at the Middle Temple, and from 1813 to 1828 he practised as a barrister, retiring as soon as he had acquired a modest competence. He is remembered chiefly as the friend of Lamb, Coleridge, Wordsworth and Southey. He was a great conversationalist, and his breakfast parties rivalled those of Samuel Rogers. He died in London on the 5th of February 1867.

His Diary of 35 volumes, his Journals of 30 volumes, and his Letters and Reminiscences in 36 volumes, contain vivid pictures drawn by an acute and sympathetic observer who had exceptional opportunities of studying contemporary celebrities. They are preserved at Dr Williams's Library in Gordon Square, London. Crabb Robinson seems to have intended to edit these for publication, but except for a meagre selection edited by Thomas Sadler and entitled The Diary, Reminiscences and Correspondence of H. Crabb Robinson (1869), they have never been reprinted. Crabb Robinson was one of the founders of the Athenaeum Club and of University College, London.

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