Mary Robinson - Encyclopedia

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ROBINSON, MARY [" Perdita"] (1758-1800), English actress and author, was born in Bristol on the 27th of November 1758, the daughter of a captain of a whaler named Darby. In 1774 she was married to Thomas Robinson, a clerk in London, where her remarkable beauty brought her many attentions; and when, after two years of fashionable life, her husband was arrested for debt, she shared his imprisonment. She had been a precocious child, encouraged to write verses, and while in King's Bench prison she completed the collection published in two volumes in 1775. On her release, thanks to Garrick, she secured an engagement at Drury Lane, making a successful first appearance as Juliet in 1776. On the 3rd of December 1 779 she was Perdita in Garrick's version of The Winter's Tale, and her beauty so captivated George, prince of Wales (afterwards George IV.), then in his eighteenth year, that he began a correspondence with her, signing himself "Florizel." She was for about two years his mistress, but he then deserted her, even dishonouring his bond for £20,000, payable when he came of age, and left her to obtain a pension of {500 in exchange for it from Charles James Fox. Owing to the hostility of public opinion, she feared to return to the stage, but she published some more volumes of her writings. There are numerous charming portraits of "Perdita"; two in the Wallace Collection, by Reynolds and by Gainshorough, reveal "her grave, refined beauty." Hoppner, Cosway and Romney also painted her.

See Memoirs of Mary Robinson, "Perdita," with introduction and notes by J. F. Molloy (1894).

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