Teaching Mary Robinson's The Natural Daughter (1799) in
Lisa M. Wilson, SUNY Potsdam
Although the number of Romantic-period novels available in paperback
editions suitable for teaching has increased dramatically in recent years,
coverage of the novel in undergraduate courses devoted to surveying Romanticism
generally remain focused on a short list of titles with Mary Shelly's Frankenstein being
perhaps the most common choice. Other
frequent choices include a short gothic novel (Walpole's Castle of
Otranto, Radcliffe's Sicilian Romance) or a Jane Austen
title (Pride and Prejudice), or both (Northanger Abbey with
excerpts from Mysteries of Udolpho). Such choices indicate laudable
efforts to include prose fiction in surveys of Romanticism that have
traditionally focused on poetry. They may also be dictated by other legitimate
pedagogical concerns such as familiarity (or canonicity), length of selection
and readability, and diversity of genre or author; however, I argue that
Mary Robinson's 1799 novel The Natural Daughter deserves
serious consideration on any such syllabus because of the ways in which
the novel employs both sentimental and satirical literary strategies
to engage with key issues such as authorship and celebrity, women's labor,
and the culture of conspicuous consumption.
In The Natural Daughter, her final novel, Robinson constructs
her social and literary satire around a sentimental novel plot line,
one that features an unjustly accused heroine persecuted by vulgar relatives,
immoral aristocratic seducers, and a hypocritical husband. Martha Bradford,
later Mrs. Morley, becomes a social outcast when she befriends an orphan
whom everyone thinks must be her own "natural daughter" or
illegitimate child. Abandoned by her family and her husband, Mrs. Morley
attempts to support herself by working in a variety of positions open
to bourgeois women. The novel examines the various mechanisms used to
maintain social and literary celebrity and personal reputation, and centrally
concerns itself, not to reject the goal of celebrity entirely, but to
distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate sources of fame.
Robinson forwards the notion of a meritocracy of talents supported by
a free marketplace and applies them to women's intellectual labor. The
targets of Robinson's satire—rakish aristocrats, hypocritical society
women, social-climbing cits—all hope for undeserved fame gained
through external markers of social success. They stake their reputations
on fine clothing and showy equipages, ostentatious charity-giving or
artistic patronage, purchased publicity, public reputations for chastity
and virtue that hide private vice, and melodramatic expressions of sensibility.
We can see The Natural Daughter, then, as Robinson's defense
of a bourgeois culture of sensibility and self-restraint and her protest
against a stereotypically aristocratic culture of conspicuous consumption.
Robinson sets up Martha, her heroine, and Mrs. Sedgeley, Martha's
actress friend, as models of true virtue, sensibility, and genius; in
Mellor's terms, they appeal to readers for sympathy as both "talented
performers" and "unprotected" wives, much as Robinson
herself does in her 1801 Memoirs (231). Against them Robinson
poses the foil of Martha's hypocritical and debased sister Julia. The
women also suffer at the hands of a range of satirized characters such
as the fatally self-indulgent Alderman Bradford; the vulgar, social-climbing,
and aptly-named Leadenheads; the ignorant literary patron lady Eldercourt
and her pert femme de chamber; and the cynical publisher Mr.
Index. In this way, Robinson's novel goes beyond those truisms of the
sentimental novel to protest against a media culture that systematized
private gossip into public satire. It
is also remarkable for suggesting that such a culture of luxury and celebrity
has negative consequences, not only for unprotected women but also for
Sharon Setzer's 2003 Broadview edition of Robinson's novel, paired with
the 1799 political pamphlet A Letter to the Women of England, provides
instructors with an accessible and intelligently-edited teaching text.
Students enjoy the way Robinson's highly readable two-volume novel employs
comic devices to forward its serious social critique; more importantly,
the novel can be taught in relationship to many of the literary texts
and historical contexts we cover in surveys of Romanticism and so can
provide an outstanding opportunity to synthesize course themes through
discussion of a single novel. When paired with the Romantics volume of
standard anthologies like the Longman Anthology of British Literature, vol.
2A, (Wolfson and Manning, eds.); the Norton Anthology of English
Literature, vol. D, (Stillinger and Lynch, eds.); or with period-focused
anthologies such as Mellor and Matlak's British Literature: 1780-1830, or
Wu's Romanticism: An Anthology, the novel can be fruitfully
read alongside anthology units on the Revolution controversy, the "rights
of women" debates, and prose authorship and readers.
The novel is also a natural choice for more focused courses surveying
the Romantic-period novel, covering women writers of the era, or studying
the Jacobin/Anti-Jacobin debates; however, its use need not be limited
to such specialized courses for undergraduate literature majors or graduate
students. A key figure in the discourse surrounding the rights of women
in the eighteenth century, Robinson also merits inclusion in surveys
of women's and gender studies and feminist theory. I have taught The
Natural Daughter in undergraduate courses ranging from a lower-division
survey of multiculturalism to an upper-division Romantic-period literature
course. In the multiculturalism course, Robinson's novel provided an
opportunity to discuss the ways gender and social class affected women's
employment options in the eighteenth century. The novel's heroine works
in nearly every field open to respectable middle-class women. She serves
as a lady's companion, a governess, a teacher in a fashionable girls'
seminary, a provincial actress, a novelist, a poet—and considers
but turns down a position as a man's mistress. Her sister Julia, introduced
into aristocratic circles, lives by allying herself with wealthy men
in exchange for sexual favors, runs a profitable gambling establishment,
and ends by committing suicide. In this essay, I discuss ways I have
taught Robinson's novel in two undergraduate literature courses: one
an upper-division survey of Romanticism for literature majors that covers
period poetry, fiction, and non-fiction; the other, a women's literature
course for literature and women's studies students focused on the works
of three Jacobin women writers: Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Hays, and Mary
Robinson. (See syllabi for LITR 414: "Romanticisms" and ENG
327: "British Women Writers in the 1790s").
In both courses, I begin by contextualizing novel reading and authorship
in the Romantic period. We read period texts that both support and criticize
the development of mass readership and we discuss the gender and class
stereotypes surrounding novel readers and writers. For example, I introduce
the idea, unfamiliar to most of today's students, that novels were considered
dangerously inflammatory reading—especially for women, the young
of both sexes, and the working classes. An 1801 engraving entitled "Luxury
or the Comforts of a Rum P Ford" aptly summarizes moralists' concerns
about novel reading. It shows a young woman prostitute relaxing at home
in her shift, warming herself in a masturbatory posture, novel in hand,
before the latest in Rumford enclosed stoves. The young woman holds a
copy of The Monk in her left hand; her right hand is held in
front of her, hidden beneath her uplifted skirts; other sexually titillating
novel titles lie around the apartment. The point of the engraving, clearly,
is that novel-reading can be as luxuriously warming as the new stove,
a point which connects mental with physical stimulation. A slightly more
chaste 1810s version of this print, entitled "Comfort," may
be found in the New York Public Library online exhibit, Before Victoria. "Comfort" similarly
shows a novel-reading woman before a stove; this figure's posture is
less sexually suggestive than the earlier version, however. In this engraving,
the woman is fully clothed and reveals only her pantaloon-clad posterior
and a bit of cleavage. This version clearly shows the woman's left hand,
which lifts her dress in the back rather than the front and is not in
contact with her skin. We
also read selections from eighteenth-century conduct book writers Gregory
and Fordyce and also from Hannah More's Strictures on the Modern
System of Female Education. Discussing
these texts encourages students to work through for themselves some of
the reasons these authors had for cautioning their readers against novels;
we draw comparisons with present-day concerns about the impact of
video games, for example. Particularly for undergraduate students, Steve
Behrendt's chapter "The Romantic Reader" in Blackwell's Companion
to Romanticism is an excellent secondary resource that cogently
summarizes these issues (Wu, ed., 91-100). Pearson's Women's Reading
in Britain, 1750-1835: A Dangerous Recreation provides
a more detailed account of this debate over the effects of novel reading,
which includes an account of Robinson's portrayal of circulating libraries
in The Natural Daughter and Walsingham (166-69).
These texts on the discourse of novel reading also help students understand
period reviews of novels more fully; students are often puzzled by reviewers'
attention to moral issues over aesthetic ones unless they have been prepared
with such readings. When the conservative British Critic reviews The
Natural Daughter, for example, the reviewer claims that the novel
is morally harmful rather than badly written. The reviewer backs up this
claim by summarizing the heroine's unconvincing claims to virtue, sarcastically
using Robinson's own words against her. The review states that "it
is the tendency of these volumes which we find ourselves obliged to disapprove" and
goes on to say that "A heroine [. . .] who quits her home with a
man of gallantry, lives at a lodging, and receives his visits; who, under
circumstances of great pecuniary distress, goes to a masquerade with
a libertine avowedly endeavouring to seduce her; and, after she has given
her hand to one man, her heart to another, debates seriously whether
she shall bestow her person upon a third" is a dangerous moral example
(rpt. in Setzer 327, 328). The reviewer continues, "[Robinson's
heroine] ought not, in our opinion, to be held up as one 'who had never
in the smallest instance violated the proprieties of wedded life; who
had never been guilty of any action that might, even by the most fastidious,
be deemed derogatory to the delicacy of female character, or the honour
of her husband.'" (328). Clearly, this reviewer is unconvinced by
Robinson's narrative commentary, which holds Martha up as a model of
virtue; he cautions readers against uncritically accepting the author's
estimation of the heroine's moral worth. The reviewer seems particularly
concerned that Robinson's heroine might mislead young women readers into
following her example and so precipitate their social and sexual ruin.
This critic reads against the grain of the novel in a way that students
might not expect without prior knowledge of the discourse surrounding
novel reading. Nearly all of today's students, taught to follow the moral
clues provided by narrators like Robinson's and not sharing the reviewer's
moral standards, will initially be puzzled by the stance taken in this
review. As one student pointed out, this reviewer seems to miss the novel's
main point—Martha's actions should be judged by her intentions,
which are pure, rather than by appearances, which are against her. Of
course, the reviewer rejects Robinson's entire premise, believing that
appearances—and public reputation—always do matter.
As does reading cultural documents that condemn novel reading, reading
this conservative review of The Natural Daughter encourages
students to re-read sections of the novel that they might not have particularly
noticed before and to ask different questions of it: Does the novel suggest
that it is natural for Martha to fall in love with the handsome and gallant
Sir Francis after she's been unfairly rejected by her husband? What effect
does her decision have on the reader? Halfway through volume one, Martha
admits that she loves Sir Francis: "her heart at that moment first
told her, that it owned [L]ord Francis as its sovereign" (159).
Does Robinson truly write from a different moral system than the reviewer,
as he claims—one in which "star-crossed lovers" are
entitled to fall in love, in fiction if not in real life? Why would the
reviewer particularly object to this passage?: "Lord Francis was,
to all external appearance, too amiable to be known and not esteemed
by a woman of Mrs. Morley's judgement and susceptibility: but the pride
of her heart was still its impenetrable safeguard against every encroachment
to the passions, which might in the smallest degree tend to her degradation" (207).
The reviewer doesn't believe that men and women can be friends without
giving in to passion; Robinson implies that they can. Is there any moral
ambiguity in Martha's position—or Robinson's presentation of it—in
the scene in which Martha meets Sir Francis alone in her lodgings? The
reviewer assumes that no such private meeting could be wholly innocent.
Questions like these encourage students to examine familiar systems
of literary convention (like that of the "star-crossed lovers")
or contemporary moral systems (which privilege feelings of love over
contractual commitments to a loveless marriage) in light of Romantic-period
views on these same literary and moral issues. While we might find it
natural for Martha to love Sir Francis, reviewers might see Robinson's
presenting it as natural as a radical and even treasonous move—The
British Critic reviewer explicitly classes her as a radical Jacobin
writer, in spite of the novel's graphic portrayal of the horrors of the
French Revolution's Reign of Terror: "it is of little use to lament
or censure the French revolution, if the morals and manners which tended
to produce it, are inculcated and held up for imitation" (328).
Rather than reject such conservative readings of the novel outright,
I encourage students to delve back into the text to see if they can find
any basis for the reviewer's claims. Such an exercise helps students
to understand the competing moral positions from which the novel was
read in the period, and also to practice applying those positions to
closer readings of specific passages in the novel. (See my "LITR
414: Romanticisms" essay assignment, "Reception History and
Analysis: Robinson's The Natural Daughter," which formalizes
this exercise by asking students to summarize period reviews and apply
them to a reading of the reviewed novel). Students' prior readings in
the Revolutionary debate further allow them to understand why this reviewer
might see political danger as well as moral danger in Robinson's novel.
We conclude our initial conversation about the debate over novel reading
with selections that defend women's leisure reading: Milne's short 1805
poem, "To a Lady Who Said It Was Sinful to Read Novels," excerpts
from Reeve's The Progress of Romance, and selections from Barbauld's "On
the Origin and Progress of Novel-Writing" from her 1820 British
Novelist series. These
selections spiritedly defend novel reading as legitimate sources of entertainment
and social knowledge, and so allow students to see the range of opinions
on this issue. They also expose students to the range of styles and genres
in which those opinions were expressed. The Milne poem wittily compares
novel reading to another harmless indulgence—tea drinking—and
to a more dangerous one—gossip ("scandal"): "To
love these books, and harmless tea. / Has always been my foible . . .
. Deprived of such resource, the tongue / Is sure employed - in scandal" (ll.
1-2, 11-12). The Barbauld essay also provides a smooth transition to
our next topic, cultural opinions on the novels' contents and aesthetics,
their relative position in the literary hierarchy, and definitions of
Barbauld's essay provides a gateway into our discussion of the period's
stereotypes about novels and their literary conventions. Selections from
Inchbald's On Novel Writing, Jewsbury's humorous essay "On
Writing a Love Tale" and Alcock's satirical poem "A Receipt
for Writing a Novel" all provide competing definitions of the "ingredients" required
to compose a popular novel. Students enjoy reading these witty and parodic
formulas, which can later be used as yardsticks against which to compare
the fictional elements of particular novels. (See my "British Writers:
Gothic Novel" paper assignment, "Recipe for a Gothic Novel," which
asks students to use the Alcock poem and other period sources to define
the essential conventions of the form and then apply them to particular
We also read short selections from other novelistic subgenres that help
place The Natural Daughter in literary context: Burney, Inchbald,
Radcliffe, and Hamilton all provide interesting examples of sentimental,
satirical, and gothic novel conventions against which to read Robinson's
good secondary source on this general topic is John Sutherland's chapter "The
Novel" in Blackwell's Companion to Romanticism, in which
he defines novelistic subgenres including gothic, romantic, and domestic
novels, and national tales (333-43).
The criteria delineated in Barbauld's essay, for example, can be used
to illustrate sentimental and realist novel conventions, as well as departures
from them, when examined against novels like The Natural Daughter.
Barbauld notes that novels paint "the passion of love," but
also show "all that is tender in virtuous affection" and characters' "benevolence
and sensibility to distress" (91). She claims that novelists show
a "high regard to female honour, generosity, and a spirit of self-sacrifice" but
also inculcate "the more severe and homely virtues of prudence and
economy." They provide lessons against "unfeeling dissipation" and
provide readers with "some knowledge of the world . . . attained
with more ease, and attended with less danger, than by mixing in real
life" (91, 92).
When applied to The Natural Daughter, a definition like Barbauld's
helps students identify literary conventions that the novel shares with
other works of the period. Students can have lively debates about the
application of some of these standards. Does the novel paint "the
passion of love"? Compared to a novel by Austen or Burney, traditional
courtship and love seem to play a smaller role here. Does the novel show "virtuous
affection"? Friendships between women seem to be more important
examples of this ideal than those between women and men. Does Martha's
maternal affection for her Fanny count in this regard? Does Robinson
show a "high regard to female honour, generosity, and a spirit of
self-sacrifice"? Certainly. Martha's sense of her duty and her willingness
to sacrifice her reputation to care for little Fanny drive the main plot.
Now we come to the more ambiguous criteria. Does the novel support "the
more severe and homely virtues of prudence and economy"? Robinson
certainly seems to intend us to see Martha as a model of prudence, although
conservative reviewers might disagree with this view. Does the novel
provide lessons against "unfeeling dissipation"? The satiric
subplots of the novel involving the social climbing Bradfords and Leadenheads
make this point; they selfishly squander their wealth and are unsympathetic
and ungenerous toward their social and monetary inferiors. Barbauld's last
criterion is her most controversial: Does Robinson provide readers with "some
knowledge of the world . . . attained with more ease, and attended with
less danger, than by mixing in real life"? Some period reviewers
argue that the situations she describes are too far from "real life" social
situations to serve as models for behavior. For example, The New
London reviewer says that "we cannot help sometimes thinking
that the situations into which [Martha] is thrown are rather too frequently
varied to satisfy the mind of their natural occurrence or probability" (rpt.
in Setzer 330). Robinson (and Barbauld) would probably argue that Martha's
example does provide a valuable object lesson: Would it not be better
for a young woman to read about Martha's refusal to be established as
the mistress of a libertine than for her to experience a libertine's
advances in person? Some might say that the situation is unlikely to
occur in most readers' lives. Others might say that a young woman shouldn't
even know of the existence of such men and that she certainly shouldn't
know about it in the sort of detail Robinson presents.
One can almost see their point. In this scene, Martha is at her lowest
point in the novel: out of money, she has been fired from two previous
positions by the machinations of the Leadenheads, and her literary efforts
have been rejected:
Mrs. Morley's humble situation again exposed her to the insults
of the vulgar. Two thousand pounds for present exigencies, and three
hundred pounds per annum, were proffered as the price of her degradation;
by one, who not many weeks before, had refused to aid her literary toils
by the subscription of a single guinea! Mrs. Morley's indignation was
strong, but her necessities were powerful. She shuddered at the idea
of a sordid sacrifice; but she had been convinced that worldly importance
depends on wealth and not on virtue." (221)
For the first time in the novel, Martha is genuinely tempted to take up
the man's offer, although she ultimately rejects it. Robinson's point here,
is, I think, summed up in the final phrase: "she had been convinced
that worldly importance depends on wealth and not on virtue." Martha's
experiences have nearly convinced her, almost against her will, that in
order to get by in the world, she must do as her sister Julia has done
and embrace the values of aristocratic gallantry over middle-class worth
and virtue. In order to convince her to accept his offer, the man takes
her to a masquerade and shows her "the most exalted women of libertine
notoriety. She saw them caressed, followed, and protected, even by the
most fastidious"; he tells her that she has already sacrificed her
reputation, so she should become the fallen women people believe her to
be (222). In the end, she refuses him because Lord Francis warns her against
the man—and urges her to instead accept his (somewhat less improper)
offer of an escort to London. By carrying our heroine to the very brink
of ruin, describing thoughts in which Martha seriously considers the libertine's
offer, and detailing that offer down to exact price to be paid, Robinson's
plot goes a bit beyond standard sentimental novel conventions for an endangered
combining such melodramatic plot events with seeming realist characters
and settings, the novel seems to court the kind of moral ambiguity to which
reviewers react. Reading this scene alongside Barbauld and the comments
of the reviewers encourages students to work out these ambiguities by placing
them in the context of literary conventions and moral expectations of the
As Barbauld's work and this discussion of the Natural Daughter suggest,
few novels fit wholly into a single subgenre. As Gary Kelly points out
in English Fiction of the Romantic Period, "Sharp generic
distinctions were not part of Romantic literary culture; on the contrary,
breaking the bounds of form was a recurrent rhetorical gesture" (42).
One of the most distinctive features of Robinson's Natural Daughter is
the multiplicity of generic strategies it employs in the service of its
social and political criticism: it contains both satirical and sentimental
prose elements as well as poetry and so provides an excellent opportunity
to explore the patchwork quality of novels in the period. Reading the
novel through the lens of Barbauld, Alcock, and Jewsbury allows us to
see the work's debt to the sentimental novel. By framing the literary
context differently, we see more of the satirical elements in the work.
As Gary Kelly points out, the two genres were never distinct in this
period, especially since the sentimental novel often contained a large
element of social criticism and anti-aristocratic satire:
Both the Sentimental tale and the novel of manners, sentiment,
and emulation, but especially the latter, are also fictions of social
criticism, specifically criticism of the fashion system, pride of rank,
the gentry culture of conspicuous consumption, patronage, and dependence,
the "mistress system" of courtly gallantry, and emulation of
these "merely" social and economic institutions by other classes
As we turn to discussion of the novel's satirical elements, we use Kelly's
list of characteristics for "fictions of social criticism" to
search for specific targets of Robinson's satire. I also bring in examples
of other types of political and personal satire from the period, such
as James Gillray's etchings and
Robinson's own satirical poetry, and
we return to earlier readings by Whig and Tory satirists such as Polwhele
in order to compare their attitudes and literary strategies to those
in Robinson's in The Natural Daughter. Gillray's engraved images
provide an excellent guide for students to the markers of the "gentry
culture of conspicuous consumption" that both his images and Robinson's
novel critique. Indeed, in The Natural Daughter Robinson takes
aim at every target Kelly enumerates. The Leadenheads, in particular,
strive to emulate all the vices of the fashionable classes, exhibiting
an obsession with fashion and social pride, readily adopting fashionably
hypocritical social and sexual morals—and leaping at the chance
to buy themselves publicity. For example, when the family thinks that
Gregory, the eldest son, has become engaged to the fashionable Lady Pen
Pryer, they rush to announce the event in the newspapers and launch into
a frenzy of conspicuous consumption. Robinson records the over-inflated
language of the engagement announcement, which is an exaggerated parody
of actual newspaper articles. She then enumerates the Leadenheads' pre-wedding
The arms of the new landau were effaced, to make room for
the emblazoned quarterings of the exalted alliance. The pages of heraldry
were ransacked, to explore every iota of armorial distinction; and the
Miss Leadenheads sent off an express to London, for a fresh cargo of
fashions, to pay and to receive the wedding visits. Plummet Castle was
to be new furnished for the reception of the noble relative; and twenty
dozen of cards were ordered to be struck off, with the name of the right
honorable [L]ady Penelope Leadenhead, against the visits of condescension
to the associates of their almost forgotten rank in society. (192)
In this passage, Robinson shows the Leadenheads aping every possible sign
of aristocratic luxury: in an effort to overawe their neighbors and
capitalize on the aristocratic connections of their new relation, they
repaint their new carriage with specious arms, the daughters order an enormous "cargo" of
new fashions, and they redecorate the entire castle. The joke is on them,
however. After they have gone to all this expense, they discover that Gregory
has married plain Julia Bradford, mere social-climbing gentry like themselves.
The spectacle of aristocratic spending, particularly the attention to
markers like carriage ownership and fashion, find their parallels in
Gillray's prints. Compare the parodic vision of aristocratic social life
in the 1796 engraving, "Lady Godina's Rout; or Peeping-Tom Spying
out Pope-Joan. Vide Fashionable Modesty." This image of a fashionable
card party satirizes the latest fashions in transparent gowns, monumental
feather headdresses, and indecently plunging necklines. A
1786 Gillray print, "A New Way to Pay the National-Debt," shows
King George and Queen Charlotte leaving the national Treasury, their
clothing stuffed with gold pieces; courtiers, their own pockets filled
to overflowing, greet them with fanfares and additional gifts. In the
background are two neglected figures, the victims of royal insularity
and greed: a tattered-looking Prince of Wales and the pathetic figure
of an old soldier deprived of all four of his limbs, his hat upturned
for donations. In
this print, the King and Queen are portrayed as lacking in sympathy and
unwilling to provide for their subjects, as unnatural parents and unnatural
rulers; their reactions parallel those of the Leadenheads but also those
of Martha's own family in the opening chapters of the novel. For example,
in the opening chapters, Robinson contrasts Martha's practical helpfulness
with her sister Julia's exaggerated (and useless) display of sensibility
through their differing reactions to an old soldier: "At supper,
Julia could not eat for thinking of the soldier's wounded arm; while
he, by the private order of Martha, had been lodged near the inn, and
provided with a comfortable meal" (103). I also supplement the Gillray
images with discussion of period carriage ownership and fashion; students
enjoy seeing fashion plates and carriage catalogs that illustrate these
luxury goods, and readily make parallels to today's commodities—pricey
SUVs, designer gowns.
I frequently wait to introduce biographical detail about Robinson herself
until students have finished the novel and we have discussed it in relationship
to the above contexts and to the period reviews. Introducing biographical
material into the literature classroom is always a loaded gesture; in
Robinson's case it is particularly fraught with difficulties but also
particularly important. As the recent spate of biographies shows, prurient
interest in Robinson's life sometimes overshadows interest in her art,
and students occasionally come to class with a vague notion of Robinson
as a "classy tart." Throughout
the Romanticism survey, we discuss the ways that biographical readings
of novels became an increasingly important way for authors to self-market
and for critics to discipline authors as celebrities. We discuss the
development of the literary-critical concept of the biographical fallacy,
and read period texts that address the question of biographical readings
of literary texts. For example, Godwin's essay "Of History and Romance" argues
that "any man's character," whether he is a figure from history
or fiction, has depths that may not be completely plumbed. An 1814 essay
by Edward Mangin entitled A View of the Pleasures Arising from a
Love of Books: in Letters to a Lady, also provides a useful perspective
on this kind of interpretation. Mangin argues that novel readers enjoy
forgetting "the fact of [the novel's] being a fiction" and
are "interested in perusing, if detailed, even the story of the
writer; or in conjecturing it, where the information is not given" (36,
129). Significantly, Mangin argues that biographical information about
the novel writer is key to novel-reading pleasure; however, he argues
that the reader's interest is elicited first by the novel itself, rather
than by the "story of the writer." He presents a model in which
readers read novels, and then make guesses about the life of the author
based on the fiction and any other biographical information that's available.
I use Mangin's model to complicate the standard take on the biographical
fallacy; it is more often true that readers initially know little about
an author and make assumptions about the author's real-life character
based on his fictions. "Monk" Lewis's identification with his
title character is an excellent example of this phenomenon; it is clearly
at work in the careers of Romantic-period poets like Smith, Byron, and
Landon as well. (See also my "Female Pseudonymity in the Romantic
'Age of Personality': The Career of Charlotte King/Rosa Matilda/Charlotte
As an early Romantic-period celebrity, actress, and courtesan before
she became a writer, Robinson provides a unique case study in the development
of this style of literary interpretation and an example of its effects
on the career of a woman writer. In both literature courses in which
I teach the novel, students will have first discussed the implications
of biographical readings for the career of Mary Wollstonecraft. For a
survey course, anthologists like Wolfson and Manning reprint selections
from the Vindications and Maria, which can be read
alongside excerpts from Godwin's Memoirs of Wollstonecraft and
from conservative reactions like Polwhele's Unsex'd Females; in
a course focused on the women writers of the 1790s, we read these texts
in their entirety along with Wollstonecraft's earlier novel Mary.
In order to interrogate legitimacy of period critics' claims that The Natural
Daughter is a roman-a-clef, it is important for students
to read the novel first, to establish a baseline understanding of the
text's satirical aims, as I have discussed above. We then read Robinson's
political writing, like the Letter, which leads to re-reading
the novel paying increased attention to its themes about women's professional
and reproductive work and to the overt and covert political views expressed
in it; we conclude by reading period reviews of the novel alongside
excerpts from Robinson's own autobiography, which leads to discussions
about the reasons Robinson's critics might have for insisting that
her fiction was thinly-disguised autobiography—and the reasons
that their own notions of Robinson's so-called real life might be based
as much on her fictions as on biographical fact.
Robinson's views on authorship, on writing as a career for women, show
up usefully through this series of re-readings. Students can analyze
the ways Robinson's views in her Letter to the Women of England serve
as a counterpoint to her depictions of Martha's literary career in The
Natural Daughter. The Letter, which concludes with a "List
of British Female Literary Characters Living in the Eighteenth Century" which
includes Robinson herself, speaks directly to the issues of women's literary
professionalization and inserts itself into Romantic-period debates about
gender and literary canons. Scenes
from the novel dramatize the heroine's struggles to earn her living as
a writer hindered by ignorant patrons and unscrupulous publishers. Robinson
writes, critiquing the marketplace conditions that make it impossible
for her to earn a living from her talents:
She had employed her pen, till her health was visibly declining;
she had denied herself the comforts of existence, till existence itself
was scarcely to be valued. All that her honourable, her incessant industry
could procure, was insufficient for the purposes of attaining a permanent
independence; and she was at length so deeply involved, so menaced with
destruction, that nothing but an effort of despair could save her. She
found by painful experience, that few among the illiterate and the vulgar
will extend their patronage to mental worth; that the reward which the
aristocracy of wealth bestows is very rarely munificent; though self-gratification
is purchased at a prodigal expence, and while genius lingers in adversity,
licentious pleasure revels in all the boundless luxury of fortune. (221)
Passages like these lead to discussion of the economic conditions of novel
writing during the late eighteenth century; Fergus and Thaddeus, for example,
show that Robinson herself "attempted to control her own career, and
she made many publishing decisions herself" but conclude that her
efforts "brought her no satisfactory income" (196). While she
may not have experienced the kind of outright dishonesty at the hands of
novel publishers that Martha experiences, she made sixty pounds for The
Natural Daughter. She never made more than 150 pounds a year from
her writing (and that only in the last three years of her life), and died
in debt (Thaddeus and Fergus 197). In a Romanticism survey course, Robinson's
view of the literary marketplace can also be usefully linked to the views
of other novelists and poets who were her contemporaries: Charlotte Smith
in the prefaces to Elegaic Sonnets, Elizabeth Inchbald's prefaces
to The British Theater, Mary Hays in her periodical essays and
reviews, Wordsworth and Coleridge in the Preface to Lyrical
Ballads, as well as Coleridge in Biographia Literaria.
Presenting studies with selections from the numerous portraits, caricatures,
scurrilous pamphlets and newspaper accounts of Robinson's career is a
useful method of illustrating the remarkable level of media coverage
she received, and also showing the ways in which The Natural Daughter responds
to and parodies those stereotyped representations of her image. For example,
one period reviewer argues that Robinsons inserts "memoirs of herself,
in some trying situations" into the novel (European Magazine, rpt.
in Setzer 329). This passage from The Natural Daughter describes
Martha's first appearance on stage as a provincial actress in terms that
parody those of the newspaper puffs, gossip columns, and theater reviews
in which Robinson herself featured:
Expectation was not disappointed by the high report which
Fame had made of the twin constellations in the dramatic hemisphere.
Mrs. Sedgeley was, after her first appearance in the Grecian Daughter,
pronounced a juvenile Siddons; while the lively and engaging Martha was
greeted, in the sportive walks of Thalia, with boundless adoration. The
easy elegance of Farren, who had frequently trod the same boards with
considerable éclat, and the genuine playful graces of
the queen of smiles—the attractive Jordan, were blended in the
person and talents of Mrs. Morley (180).
This passage, which compares the fictional actresses to the real actresses
Sarah Siddons, Elizabeth Farren and Dorothy Jordan, can be paired with
a review from the Morning Post of Robinson's own debut:
A Lady, whose name is Robinson, made her first appearance last
night at this theatre, in the character of Juliet; her person is genteel,
her voice harmonious, and admitting of various modulations, and her features,
when properly animated are striking and expressive—At present she
discovers a theatrical genius in the rough [. . . . but] she gave an earnest
of stage-abilities, which, if properly attended to, may prove a credit
to herself and the Theatre." (qtd. in Byrne 72)
Comparing such passages highlights for students the intertextuality of Robinson's
novel and further illustrates the novel's use of parody and satire.
Most of the press coverage of Robinson's early career as an actress and
courtesan was not as flattering as this review, however. This negative
press, too, can be usefully read against Robinson's portrayals of Martha's
virtue and her sister Julia's vices in the novel. As Runge notes, "between
1780 and 1788 Robinson is the subject of at least six satirical pamplets,
two 'Tête-à-Tête' columns in Town and Country Magazine, numerous
newspaper paragraphs, and some thirty-eight satirical prints" (569-70).
Robinson herself was frequently accused of just the kind of fashionable
vices for which she satirizes her fictional characters in The Natural
Daughter. Comparing the satirical media coverage of Robinson helps
students to understand the context for Robinson's novel as well as to read
sources that might have influenced her satirical practice. For example,
the passage in which Robinson satirizes the Leadenheads' conspicuous consumption
can be paired with newspaper paragraphs on "Perdita's" latest
coach and livery or fashionable opera gown. They can also be contextualized
with images like the 1782 engraving of Robinson and her reputed lover Charles
James Fox, "Perdito and Perdita—or—the Man and Woman of
the People." Fox is portrayed as enthralled by a triumphant Robinson,
who is shown dressed in the height of fashion, driving her carriage, whip
in hand. This image reveals how Mary's fashionable attire and equipage
became the focus for newspaper critiques that connected her politics to
her role as a leading Whig courtesan.
This series of contextualized re-readings of the novel helps students
understand the ways that the same text may be read in multiple ways and
the ways that non-fiction genres like autobiography, critical review
essays, and political cartoons might influence definitions of the Romantic-period
novel and its relative value in the cultural hierarchy. It also encourages
them to think critically and historically about the role that celebrity
and biographical criticism played in the careers of novelists of the
Romantic period. From this perspective, Robinson's career as a fiction
writer provides an unparalleled opportunity to work through these concepts
in depth, using The Natural Daughter as a case study for the
development of the Romantic-period reader and writer.
Andrew, Donna. "'Adultery a-la-Mode': Privilege, the
Law and Attitudes to Adultery 1770-1809." History 82 (1997):
Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey. Ed. Donald Gray.
New York: Norton, 2000.
---. Pride and Prejudice. Ed. Susan Fraiman. New
York: Norton, 2004.
Before Victoria: Extraordinary Women of the British Romantic
Era. New York Public Library. New York. 2005. 2 Nov. 2007. <http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/victoria/introduction.html>.
Breen, Jennifer, ed. Women Romantic Poets, 1785-1832:
An Anthology. London: Everyman, 1996.
---. Women Romantics 1785-1832: Writing in Prose.
London: Everyman, 1996. Broadview Press. 2005. 4 Nov. 2007. <http://www.broadviewpress.com/>.
Byrne, Paula. Perdita: The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous
Life of Mary Robinson. New York: Random House, 2004.
Close, Anne. "Into the Public: The Sexual Heroine in
Eliza Fenwick's Secresy and Mary Robinson's The Natural
Daughter." Eighteenth-Century Fiction 17.1 (2004):
Davenport, Hester. The Prince's Mistress: A Life of Mary
Robinson. Phoenix Mill: Sutton P, 2004.
Fergus, Jan, and Janice Farrar Thaddeus. "Women, Publishers,
and Money, 1790-1820." Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture
17 (1987): 191-207.
George, Mary Dorothy, ed. Catalogue of Political and
Personal Satires: Catalogues of Prints and Drawings in the British
Museum. London: British Museum, 1870-1951.
Gillray, James. "The Comforts of a Rumford Stove." 12
June 1800. Rpt. in Ingenious: 30,000 Images from the Collections
of Science Museum, National Railway Museum, National Museum of Photography,
Film, and Television, Science Museum, Science & Picture Library.
Picture Number 10315400. 4 Nov. 2007. <www.ingenious.org.uk>.
---. James Gillray. New York Public Library,
New York. 6 Apr. 2007. <http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/spe/art/print/exhibits/
---. James Gillray: The Art of Caricature. Tate
Gallery, London. 6 Apr. 2007. <http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/gillray/>.
---. "Lady Godina's Rout." 12 Mar. 1796. Rpt. in Before
Victoria. New York Public Library, New York. Miriam and Ira D.
Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, Print Collection.
2005. 2 Nov. 2007. <http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/victoria/ref/
---. The Satirical Etchings of James Gillray. Ed.
Draper Hill. New York: Dover, 1976.
Godwin, William. "Of History and Romance." Rpt. as Appendix IV. Caleb Williams. Ed. Maurice Hindle. London: Penguin, 1988: 359-73.
---. Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Ed. Pamela Clemit and Gina Luria Walker. Peterborough, ON: Broadview P, 2001.
Gregory, John. "A Father's Legacy to His Daughters." Rpt.
in Poems (1773) by Anna Laetitia Aiken: A Romantic Circles Electronic
Edition. Ed. Lisa Vargo and Allison Muri. 2006. University of Maryland.
4 Apr. 2007. <http://www.rc.umd.edu/editions/contemps/barbauld/poems1773/
Gristwood, Sarah. Perdita: Royal Mistress, Writer, Romantic.
London: Bantam, 2005.
Hawley, Judith. "Romantic Patronage: Mary Robinson and
Coleridge Revisited." British Women's Writing in the Long Eighteenth
Century: Authorship, Politics and History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan,
Ingamells, John. Mrs. Robinson and Her Portraits.
Wallace Collection Monograph I. London: Trustees of the Wallace Collection, 1978.
Jump, Harriet Devine, ed. Women's Writing of the Romantic
Period, 1789-1836: An Anthology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1997.
Jones, Vivien, ed. Women in the Eighteenth Century: Constructions
of Femininity. London: Routledge, 1990.
Kelly, Gary. English Fiction of the Romantic Period,
1789-1830. Longman Literature in English Series. London: Longman,
Labbe, Jacqueline. "Selling One's Sorrows: Charlotte
Smith, Mary Robinson, and the Marketing of Poetry." Wordsworth
Circle 25.2 (Spring 1994): 68-71.
Levy, M. J. The Mistresses of King George IV. London:
Peter Owen, 1996.
Lonsdale, Roger, ed. Eighteenth-century Women Poets.
Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990.
Mangin, Edward. A View of the Pleasures Arising from
a Love of Books: In Letters to a Lady. London: Longman, 1814.
McCreery, Cindy. "Keeping up with the Bon Ton: The
Tête-à-Tête series in the Town and Country
Magazine." Gender in Eighteenth-Century England: Roles, Representations,
and Responsibilities. Ed. Hannah
Barker and Elaine Chalus. London: Longman, 1997: 207-29.
McGann, Jerome J., ed. The New Oxford Book of Romantic
Period Verse. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1994.
Mellor, Anne K. "Mary Robinson and the Scripts of Female
Sexuality." Representations of the Self from the Renaissance
to Romanticism. Ed. Patrick Coleman, Jayne Lewis, and Jill Kowalik.
Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. 230-59.
---., and Richard E. Matlak. British Literature,
1780-1830. Boston: Heinle, 1996.
National Portrait Gallery. National Portrait Gallery,
London. 9 Nov. 2007. 9 Nov. 2007. <http://www.npg.org.uk/>.
Oxford University Press (USA). 2005. 4 Nov. 2007. <http://www.oup.com/us/>.
Pascoe, Judith. "Mary Robinson and the Literary Marketplace." Romantic
Women Writers: Voices and Countervoices. Ed. Paula Feldman
and Theresa Kelly. Hanover: UP of New England, 1995. 252-68.
---, ed. Mary Robinson: Selected Poems. Peterborough, ON.: Broadview P, 2000.
Pearson, Jacqueline. Women's Reading in Britain, 1750-1835:
A Dangerous Recreation. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999.
Penguin Group (USA). 2007. 4 Nov. 2007. <http://us.penguingroup.com/>.
Radcliffe, Ann. A Sicilian Romance. Ed. Alison Milbank.
Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999.
---. The Mysteries of Udolpho. Ed. Bonamy Dobree.
Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.
Robertson, Fiona, ed. Women's Writing 1778-1838: An Anthology.
Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001.
Robinson, Mary. The False Friend. A Domestic
Story. 4 vols. Longman and Rees, 1799.
---. "A Letter to the Women of England on the Injustice
of Mental Subordination : A Romantic Circles Electronic Edition." Romantic
Circles. Ed. Adriana Craciun, Anne Irmen Close, Megan Musgrave,
Orianne Smith. 2001. University of Maryland. 4 Apr. 2007. <rc.umd.edu/editions/robinson>.
---. "Mary Darby Robinson (1758-1800)." A Celebration
of Women Writers. Ed. Mary Mark Ockerbloom. University of Pennsylvania.
6 Apr. 2007. <http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/robinson/biography.html>.
---. "Mary Darby Robinson Poems." Famous Poets
and Poems.com 2006 6 Apr. 2007. <http://www.famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/
---. The Natural Daughter. With Portraits of the Leadenhead
Family. A Novel. 2 vols. 1799. In A Letter to the Women of
England and The Natural Daughter. Ed. Sharon M. Setzer.
Peterborough, ON: Broadview P, 2003.
---. Perdita: The Memoirs of Mary Robinson. 1801.
Ed. M. J. Levy. London: Peter Owen, 1994.
---. Walsingham; or the Pupil of Nature. A Domestic Story.
4 vols. 1797. Ed. Julie Shaffer. Peterborough, ON: Broadview
Runge, Laura. "Mary Robinson's Memoirs and the Anti-Adultery
Campaign of the Late Eighteenth Century" Modern Philology (2004):
Stillinger, Jack, and Deidre Lynch, eds. The Romantic
Period. Vol. D of The Norton Anthology of English Literature.
8th ed. New York: Norton, 2006.
Valancourt Books. 2006. 4 Nov. 2007. <http://www.valancourtbooks.com/>.
Walpole, Horace. The Castle of Otranto. Ed. Michael
Gamer. New York: Penguin, 2002.
Wilson, Lisa M. "Female Pseudonymity in the Romantic
'Age of Personality': The Career of Charlotte King/Rosa Matilda/Charlotte
Dacre." European Romantic Review 9.3 (Summer 1998): 393-420.
Wolfson, Susan, and Peter Manning, eds. The Romantics
and Their Contemporaries. Vol. 2A of Longman Anthology of
British Literature. 2 nd edition. London: Longman, 2003.
Wollstonecraft, Mary. Mary and Maria.
1788, 1798. Ed. Janet Todd. New York: Penguin, 1991.
---. The Vindications: The Rights of Men and The
Rights of Woman. Ed. D.L. Macdonald and Kathleen Sherf. 1790,
1792. Peterborough, ON: Broadview P, 1997.
Wu, Duncan, ed. A Companion to Romanticism. London:
---. Romantic Women Poets: An Anthology. London:
---. Romanticism: An Anthology. 3rd ed. London: Blackwell, 2005.
list of British novels of the Romantic period includes more than forty titles,
including an excellent selection of satirical novels and works by women authors
(Broadview Press, 2005, <http://www.broadviewpress.com/>);
Penguin carries around twenty-five titles, including a selection by the male
gothic novelists, the Wollstonecraft-Godwin circle, and Walter Scott (Penguin
Group [USA], 2007, <http://us.penguingroup.com/>);
Oxford lists around twenty, notably the most complete selection of titles
by Ann Radcliffe (Oxford University Press [USA], 2005 <http://www.oup.com/us/>);
and Valancourt Books has recently released nearly twenty gothic titles, including
anonymous titles and works by Parsons, Roche, and Lathom (Valancourt
discussions of the media coverage of celebrity adultery in the period, see
Donna Andrew, "'Adultery a-la-Mode': Privilege, the Law and Attitudes to
Adultery 1770-1809," History 82 (1997): 5-23; Cindy McCreery, "Keeping
up with the Bon Ton: The Tête-à-Tête series in the Town
and Country Magazine," in Gender in Eighteenth-Century
England: Roles, Representations, and Responsibilities, ed. Hannah Barker and Elaine Chalus (London: Longman,
1997): 207-29; and Laura Runge, "Mary Robinson's Memoirs and the Anti-Adultery
Campaign of the Late Eighteenth Century," Modern Philology (2004): 563-85.
or the Comforts of a Rum P Ford," 26 Feb. 1801, in Catalogue
of Political and Personal Satires, ed. M.D. George, Plate 9812 (London: British
Museum, 1870-1951). See also "Comfort," [1815 watermark], Before
New York Public Library, New York, The Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley
and His Circle, 2005, <http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/victoria/ref/
These images parody an earlier Gillray engraving on Anglo-American reformer
and inventor Count Rumford's invention, "The Comforts of a Rumford Stove," which
shows the Count warming his own bare bottom before one of his enclosed stoves
(12 June 1800, plate 75). An electronic version of this print is available:
James Gillray, "The Comforts of a Rumford Stove," 1800, rpt.
in Ingenious: 30,000 Images from the Collections of
Science Museum, National
Railway Museum, National Museum of Photography, Film, and Television, Science
Museum, Science & Picture Library, Picture Number 10315400, <www.ingenious.org.uk>.
Gregory, "A Father's Legacy to His Daughters," rpt. in Poems
(1773) by Anna Laetitia Aikin: A Romantic Circles Electronic
Edition, Romantic Circles, ed. Lisa Vargo and Allison Muri, 2006, University of Maryland, <http://www.rc.umd.edu/editions/contemps/barbauld/
Fordyce rpt. in Jones 176; More rpt. in Wolfson and Manning 92-97.
 In her reading of Robinson's Memoirs, Mellor argues that the stories told by
and about Robinson fall into four categories: "crudely summarized, she
was either 1) a whore; 2) an 'unprotected' and abused wife; 3) a star-crossed
lover; or 4) a talented performer and a successful artist" (231). Robinson's
justification for the relationship between Martha and Sir Francis seems to partake
of something of the kind of argument she makes in her Memoirs; Martha, like
Robinson herself, is an "abused wife" and "talented performer" whose
adulterous relationship is that of "star-crossed lovers."
 See Wolfson and Manning, "The Rights of Man and the Revolution Controversy," (56-112),
particularly the selection on love and the marriage contract excerpted from
William Godwin's Of the Enjoyment of Liberty (95-96).
 Milne rpt. in Breen, Women
Romantic Poets, 1785-1832, 126; Reeve rpt. in Robertson
41-47; Barbauld rpt. in Breen, Women Romantics 1785-1832:
Writing in Prose,
90-96; slightly different excerpts from More and Barbauld are also found in
 Thanks to my colleague Margaret Case for the germ of the idea for this paper
assignment, adapted from one of her own.
and Manning excerpt Scott, Austen, and Shelley (918-22, 981-88, 992-1006),
while Robertson includes Burney, Inchbald, Radcliffe, Hamilton, Edgeworth, Austen,
and Shelley (3-20, 93-101, 143-52, 183-91, 223-47, 343-57, and 366-88, respectively).
Anne Close's "Into the Public: The Sexual Heroine in Eliza Fenwick's Secresy
and Mary Robinson's The Natural Daughter also places The
Natural Daughter in literary context (Eighteenth-Century
Fiction 17.1  35-52).
masquerade scene and Martha's resultant moral dilemma may also be contextualized
by comparing it to the masquerade scene in Robinson's 1796 novel Walsingham,
as well as earlier fictional masquerades such as Haywood's tale of Erminia in
volume one, book one of the 1744 Female Spectator. Rpt. in Vivien Jones, ed.,
Women in the Eighteenth Century: Constructions of Femininity (New York: Routledge,
1990): 38-44. It may be further contextualized by examining representations
of masquerade in Robinson's 1801 Memoirs alongside the well-known print of Robinson's
attending Vauxhall with the Prince of Wales, reproduced on the The
Norton Anthology of English Literature's electronic resource page: W.W.
I recommend treating the fictional representations first, however, before introducing
students to parallels from Robinson's own life. See my discussion beginning
at paragraph 18, above.
online exhibits of Gillray's works can be found at: "James Gillray:
The Art of Caricature," Tate Gallery, London, <http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/gillray/>,
and "James Gillray," New York Public Library, New York. 2004-05, <http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/spe/art/print/
An inexpensive paperback selection of his prints is also available: The
Satirical Etchings of James Gillray, ed. Draper Hill (New York: Dover,
 See "January, 1795," "Taste and Fashion," "Male Fashions
for 1799," and "Female Fashions of 1799," for other examples
of Robinson's satirical voice in poems, all of which may be found in volume
three of her 1806 Poetical Works. Pascoe's Broadview edition of Robinson's
poems includes the mock-heroic "The Poet's Garret" and "January,
1795" (354-58); "Modern Male Fashions" and "Modern Female
Fashions" (360-63); as well as several previously uncollected versions
of satirical poems from magazines and newspapers: "Stanzas" ("In this
vain, busy world"), "All For-Lorn," "The Camp," and "Great
and Small" (290-96).
Other print sources: "January, 1795" is the most frequently anthologized
of Robinson's satirical poems. Stillinger and Lynch as well as Wolfson and
Manning reprint "January" and "The Camp" (216, 220; 68,
70). McGann includes "Modern Male Fashions" and "Modern Female
Fashions" (195-97), as well as "The Camp" (228-29). Lonsdale
and Robertson both include "January" (474, 166). Wu, Romantic
Women Poets, reprints "Lines addressed by a Young Lady of Fashion to a Small
Green Fly, Which had Pitched on the Left Ear of Lady Amaranth's Little White
Barbet, Fidelio, on a Summer Evening, After a Shower, Near Sunset" from
Robinson's novel Walsingham-a poem whose title is almost longer than its
Hypertext editions include "Mary Darby Robinson (1758-1800)," A
Celebration of Women Writers, ed. Mary Mark Ockerbloom, University of
This database includes electronic texts of selected poems, including "January,
1795" and "The Camp," as well as complete texts of Robinson's
1791 Poems. It also includes the 1895 reprinted edition of Robinson's 1801
Memoirs and engravings of the author. See also "Mary Darby Robinson
Poems," Famous Poets and Poems.com, 2006, <http://www.famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/
This database reprints "January, 1795," "Female Fashions of
1799," and "Male Fashions of 1799."
Gillray, "Lady Godina's Rout," 12 Mar. 1796, rpt. in Before
New York Public Library, New York, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of
Art, Prints and Photographs, Print Collection, 2005 <http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/victoria/ref/
Also in Hill, plate 40. Hill identifies the central figure, "Lady Godina," as
Lady Georgiana Gordon, whose name Gillray crosses with that of the proverbially
naked Lady Godiva to underline the visual joke.
Gillray, "A New Way to Pay the National Debt," 21 Apr. 1786,
rpt. in James Gillray, New York Public Library, New York, Image 10,
 See M. J. Levy, The
Mistresses of King George IV (1996), Paula Byrne, Perdita:
The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson (2004), Hester Davenport,
The Prince's Mistress: A Life of Mary Robinson (2004), and Sarah Gristwood,
Perdita: Royal Mistress, Writer, Romantic (2005).
of the Letter may be found paired with The
Natural Daughter in Setzer's
Broadview edition; a hypertext edition of the Letter with contextualizing
resources can also be found at Romantic Circles: Mary Robinson, A
Letter to the Women of England on the Injustice of Mental Subordination :
A Romantic Circles Electronic Edition, ed. Adriana Craciun, Anne Irmen
Close, Megan Musgrave, Orianne Smith, Romantic Circles, 2001, University
of Maryland, <www.rc.umd.edu/editions/robinson>.
 Critical essays that consider Robinson's marketing of her poetry include: Judith
Hawley, "Romantic Patronage: Mary Robinson and Coleridge Revisited," British
Women's Writing in the Long Eighteenth Century: Authorship, Politics and History (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005): 62-75; Judith Pascoe, "Mary Robinson
and the Literary Marketplace," Romantic Women Writers:
Voices and Countervoices,
ed. Paula Feldman and Theresa Kelly (Hanover: UP of New England, 1995): 252-68;
and Jacqueline Labbe, "Selling One's Sorrows: Charlotte Smith, Mary Robinson,
and the Marketing of Poetry," Wordsworth Circle 25.2 (Spring 1994): 68-71.
in Ingamells 14 and also in the introduction to Shaffer's Broadview edition
of Walsingham. A complete listing of prints featuring Robinson may
be found in M.D. George; Ingamells, Byrne, Davenport, and Gristwood all print
reproduced images of Robinson. Some satirical prints and engraved portraits
are now also available online, including at the British National Portrait Gallery,
which features eight engraved portraits of Robinson (after Reynolds, Gainsborough,
and Dance) and three caricatures in which she is included: [Portraits of Mary
Robinson], National Portrait Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, London. <http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/person.asp?search