Robinson, Thomas (fl.1588-1603) (DNB00)
ROBINSON, THOMAS (fl. 1588–1603), lutenist and composer, born in England, seems at an early age to have practised his profession at the court of Denmark. He ‘was thought, in Denmark at Elsinore,’ he says, ‘the fittest to instruct’ the Princess Anne, the king of Denmark's daughter, afterwards queen of England (Dedication to James I of Schoole of Musicke). Although the frequent visits of English musicians to the court of Christian IV were recorded at the time, and the records have been published by Dr. Hammerich, no notice of Robinson's sojourn in Denmark has been discovered.
In 1603 Robinson published ‘The Schoole of Musicke, wherein is taught the perfect method of true fingering of the Lute, Pandora, Orpharion, and Viol de Gamba’ (printed by Thomas Este, London). The preface has an allusion to a former work by Robinson, which is not known to be extant. Robinson describes the lute as the ‘best-beloved instrument,’ and readers are encouraged to teach themselves to play at sight any lesson ‘if it be not too trickified.’ The instructions are written in the form of a dialogue. Hawkins observed that this book, in which the method of Adrian le Roy was generally followed, ‘tended to explain a practice which the masters of the lute have ever shown an unwillingness to divulge’ (History, 2nd ed. p. 567). Rules for singing are not forgotten, and lessons for viol da gamba as well as lute are set down in tablature. Some of the music was old, but other specimens, including almains, galliards, gigues, toys, and Robinson's Riddle, were ‘new out of the fat.’
Another Thomas Robinson (fl. 1622), pamphleteer, seems to have been a native of King's Lynn, and to have been sent to Cambridge at the expense of Thomas Gurlin, a well-to-do citizen of Lynn; but an academic career proved distasteful, and he took to the sea. Landing at Lisbon on one of his voyages, he fell in with Father Seth alias Joseph Foster, who was in charge of the English nunnery there. The nunnery was descended from the Brigittine convent, which was located at the time of the English Reformation at Sion House, Isleworth. All the inmates at Lisbon were Englishwomen. According to his own account, Robinson was persuaded by Father Seth to enter the convent in the capacity of secretary and mass priest. He spent two years there. Returning to London, he recorded the immoral practices which he affirms he had witnessed in ‘The Anatomy of the English Nunnery at Lisbon in Portugall described and laid open by one that was some time a yonger brother of the covent,’ London (by George Purslowe), 1622. The dedication was addressed to Thomas Gurlin, then mayor of King's Lynn. A new edition, dated 1623, has an engraved title-page; one of the compartments supplies in miniature a full-length portrait of Robinson. The writer exhibits a strong protestant bias, and his evidence cannot be accepted quite literally. But his pamphlet was well received by English protestants. Robinson's version of some of his worst charges against the nuns was introduced in 1625 by the dramatist Thomas Middleton into his ‘Game at Chess’ (Middleton, Works, ed. Bullen, vii. 101, 130).[Authorities cited.]