Robinson, William (1726?-1803) (DNB00)

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ROBINSON, WILLIAM (1726?–1803), friend of Thomas Gray, was the fifth son of Matthew Robinson (1694–1778) of West Layton, Yorkshire, by Elizabeth (d. 1746), daughter of Robert Drake of Cambridgeshire, and heiress of the family of Morris. Sarah, wife of George Lewis Scott, and Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu [q. v.] were his sisters. He was born in Cambridgeshire about 1726, and proceeded from Westminster School to St. John's College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1750, and M.A. in 1754. On 16 March 1752 he was elected to a fellowship of his college, and held it until his marriage. He had a great love of literature, probably implanted in him by his relative, Conyers Middleton, and was an excellent scholar. He married in July 1760, when curate of Kensington, Mary, only surviving daughter of Adam Richardson, a lady, wrote Gray, ‘of his own age and not handsome, with 10,000l. in her pocket.’ Gray, on further acquaintance, called her ‘a very good-humoured, cheerful woman.’ Immediately after the marriage they settled, with an invalid brother of the bride, in Italy, and stayed there over two years, during which time Robinson became a good judge of pictures. On returning to England they dwelt at Denton Court, near Canterbury, and from 23 Nov. 1764 to 1785 Robinson held the rectory of the parish. His father had purchased for him the next presentation to the richer rectory of Burghfield in Berkshire, which he retained from 1768 to 1798. He died there on 8 Dec. 1803, leaving a son and two daughters, with ample fortunes, having inherited largely from his elder brother, Matthew Robinson-Morris, lord Rokeby [q. v.], who died on 30 Nov. 1800. Mary, the younger daughter, became the second wife of Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges, who wrote a cenotaph for the church of Monk's Horton in memory of his father-in-law (Anti-Critic, pp. 199–200).

Gray spent the months of May and June 1766 with the ‘Reverend Billy’ at Denton. At a second visit, in June 1768, Gray was ‘very deep in the study of natural history’ (Letters of Elizabeth Carter to Mrs. Montagu, i. 384). A letter to Robinson is included in the works of Gray, but he did not think Mason equal to the task of writing Gray's life, and he would not communicate any information. Long letters from Mrs. Montagu to Mrs. Robinson are in the ‘Censura Literaria’ (i. 90–4, iii. 136–49), and the correspondence of Mrs. Montagu with her forms the chief part of Dr. Doran's ‘Lady of the Last Century.’ From a passage in that work (p. 241) it appears that Robinson published in 1778 a political pamphlet.

[Gent. Mag. 1803, ii. 1192–3; Brydges's Autobiography, i. 11, 112, ii. 9–11; Hasted's Kent, iii. 318, 761; Gray's Works (ed. Mitford), vol. i. pp. lxxxiii–iv; Corresp. of Gray and Mason (ed. Mitford), pp. 193, 425, and Addit. Notes, pp. 506–508; Gray's Works (ed. Gosse), i. 135, iii. 57, 63, 161–2, 239–43, 265.]

W. P. C.