Robinson, Samuel (DNB00)

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ROBINSON, SAMUEL (1794–1884), Persian scholar, was born at Manchester on 23 March 1794, educated at Manchester New College (then situated at York), and entered business as a cotton manufacturer, first at Manchester, and, after his marriage to Miss Kennedy, at Dukinfield; he retired in 1860. His father, a well-known cotton ‘dealer,’ was a man of cultivated tastes, and from an early age the son showed a strong interest in poetry, especially German and Persian. In 1819, inspired by the writings of Sir William Jones (1746–1794) [q. v.], he read a critical sketch of the ‘Life and Writings of Ferdusi,’ or Firdausi, before the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester, which was included in the ‘Transactions,’ and printed separately for the author in 1823. For fifty years he published nothing more on Persian literature, but he had not abandoned the study (Preface to Persian Poetry for English Readers, 1883, p. v). When he was nearly eighty years old he printed selections ‘from five or six of the most celebrated Persian poets, with short accounts of the authors and of the subjects and character of their works.’ They appeared in five little duodecimo paper-covered books, uniform but independent, anonymous save for the initials S. R. subscribed to the prefaces, and published both in Manchester and London, in the following order: 1. ‘Analysis and Specimens of the Joseph and Zulaikha, a historical-romantic Poem, by the Persian Poet Jami,’ 1873. 2. ‘Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Persian Poet Nizami, and Analysis of the Second Part of his Alexander Book,’ 1873. 3. ‘A Century of Ghazels, or a Hundred Odes, selected and translated from the Diwan of Hafiz,’ 1875. 4. ‘Flowers culled from the Gulistan … and from the Bostan … of Sadi,’ with an ‘Appendix, being an Extract from the Mesnavi of Jelalud-din Rumi,’ 1876. 5. A reprint of the early ‘Sketch of the Life and Writings of Ferdusi,’ 1876. The greater part of the Sa‘di selection had previously appeared in a volume (by other writers) of translations from Persian authors, entitled ‘Flowers culled from Persian Gardens’ (Manchester, 12mo, 1870). The volume on Nizami was avowedly a translation from the German of W. Bacher, and the ‘Joseph and Zulaikha’ owed much to Rosenzweig's text and version. Indeed, Robinson, who was unduly modest about his knowledge of Persian, and expressly disclaimed the title of ‘scholar’ (Preface to Persian Poetry, p. vii), relied considerably on other versions to correct and improve his own, though always collating with the Persian originals before him. The result was a series of extremely conscientious prose versions, showing much poetic feeling and insight into oriental modes of thought and expression—the work of a true student in love with his subject. The five little volumes becoming scarce, they were reprinted in a single volume, for private circulation, with some slight additions and revision, at the instance and with the literary aid of Mr. W. A. Clouston, under the title of ‘Persian Poetry for English Readers,’ 1883, which may justly claim to be the best popular work on the subject.

Besides his Persian selections, Robinson published translations of Schiller's ‘Wilhelm Tell’ (1825, reissued 1834), Schiller's ‘Minor Poems’ (1867), ‘Specimens of the German Lyric Poets’ (1878), and ‘Translations from various German Authors’ (1879). Apart from special studies, he took a keen interest in all intellectual and social movements, especially in his own locality, and among his own workpeople, whose educational and sanitary welfare he had greatly at heart. He was one of the founders of the British School and the Dukinfield village library, where, in spite of his abhorrence of publicity, he often lectured, especially on educational subjects, and he was among the original organisers of the Manchester Statistical Society. A ‘Friendly Letter on the recent Strikes from a Manufacturer to his own Workpeople,’ 1854, was one of a series in which he gave sound advice to his employees. From 1867 to 1871 he was president of Manchester New College. He died at Blackbrook Cottage, Wilmslow, where he had lived many years, on 9 Dec. 1884, in his ninety-first year, bequeathing his library to the Owens College. He married, about 1825, Mary, daughter of John Kennedy of Knocknalling, Kirkcudbrightshire; she died at Pallanza, on Lago Maggiore, on 26 Aug. 1858, leaving no issue.

[Academy, 27 Dec. 1884; Burke's Landed Gentry, 1894, p. 1103; Manchester Guardian, 11 Dec. 1884; prefaces to his works; Brit. Mus. Cat.; information from the principal and the librarian of Owens College.]

S. L-P.