Mary Robinson was a gifted musician, champion of the rights of women, novelist, poet and actress. She was born in Bristol to a wealthy family and received a good education, but her marriage to the thoroughly unreliable Thomas Robinson unravelled when her husband was thrown into debtors’ prison while Mary was placed under house arrest.

On her husband’s release, Mary went to London and became a Shakespearean actress. Her performance as Perdita in The Winter’s Tale in 1799 attracted the attention of the Prince of Wales andshe became his mistress and a fashion icon in London.

After the Prince had abandoned her, Mary took several other lovers. In 1783, however, she suffered an illness that left her semi-paralysed and, from then on, she devoted her time to writing. She published two plays and eight novels, and her poetry was so well received that she became known as ‘the English Sappho’.

Poems by Mary Robinson

Female Fashions For 1799

Read by Jo Shapcott
Female Fashions For 1799 - Mary Robinson - Read by Jo Shapcott