Women’s life writing and reputation: a case study of Mary Darby Robinson

Journal article


Civale, S. 2018. Women’s life writing and reputation: a case study of Mary Darby Robinson. Romanticism. 24 (2), pp. 191-202. https://doi.org/10.3366/rom.2018.0372
AuthorsCivale, S.
Abstract

The posthumously published *Memoirs of the Late Mrs. Robinson* (1801) has been read as a final—but flawed—attempt to defend the conduct and rescue the reputation of the notorious actress, poet, and one-time royal mistress, Mary Darby Robinson (1758-1800).

Narrating her life as a pathetic tale of transgression and suffering, the Memoirs seems destabilised by inconsistencies in structure and gaps in content which are often discussed by modern critics as shortcomings: evidence of self-censorship, ‘confused’ intentions, or an inability to fashion an acceptable feminine persona. However, these so-called shortcomings may comprise a nuanced strategy of self-presentation designed to evoke curiosity and sympathy. Robinson’s Memoirs was reprinted throughout the nineteenth century, spurring myriad novels, mini-biographies, and periodical articles.

By examining nineteenth-century responses to the Memoirs, this essay argues for Robinson’s life writing as innovative and influential, and gestures to the benefits of extending the traditional ‘edges’ of Romanticism in terms of both genre and period.

KeywordsMary Darby Robinson, life writing, reputation, literary afterlife, Romanticism, women writers
Year2018
JournalRomanticism
Journal citation24 (2), pp. 191-202
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
ISSN1354-991X
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.3366/rom.2018.0372
Publication dates
Print01 Jun 2018
Publication process dates
Deposited07 Feb 2018
Accepted15 Aug 2017
Accepted author manuscript
Output statusPublished
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https://repository.canterbury.ac.uk/item/886xx/women-s-life-writing-and-reputation-a-case-study-of-mary-darby-robinson

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