Mary Robinson (1757-1800)

Death: 26th December 1800
Location: Church of St Peter and St Andrew, Old Windsor, Berkshire, England
Photos taken by: Daniel Robinson
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English actress, poet and novelist who was known during her lifetime as the English Sappho. She is also remembered for being the first public mistress of George IV.  
Born Mary Darby in Bristol to a sea captain, John Darby and Hester Seys. Her father deserted the family when Mary was a child, and her mother supported herself and her five children by running a school for young girls.
She married Thomas Robinson, but Mary ended up supporting their family after her husband was imprisoned for debt and the family lived under house-arrest. During this time Mary found a patron in Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire who sponsored the publication of Mary’s first volume of poetry, Captivity
After her husband’s release from prison Mary launched her acting career. She was best known for her 1779 performance of Perdita in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and it was during this performance that she was noticed by the Prince of Wales, later King George IV, who offered her £20,000 to become his mistress. He ended the affair in 1781 and refused to pay her the sum promised. The affair destroyed Mary’s reputation and she was unable to find work as an actress so she supported herself through her writing and also through a payment of £5000 from the Crown in return for love letters that the Prince had written to her.
From the late 1780s she became better known for her writing and as well as her poetry she wrote several gothic novels, two plays and the feminist treatise, A Letter to the Women of England. She died in poverty at the age of 42 after surviving several years of ill health.