Henry Crabb Robinson

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1869 engraving by William Holl the younger after a photograph of Crabb Robinson.

Henry Crabb Robinson (1775–1867) was an English lawyer known as a diarist.


Robinson was born in Bury St. Edmunds, England. He was articled to an attorney in Colchester. Between 1800 and 1805 he studied at various places in Germany, meeting men of letters there, including Goethe, Schiller, Johann Gottfried Herder and Christoph Martin Wieland. He then became correspondent for The Times in Altona in 1807. Later on he was sent to Galicia, in Spain, as a war correspondent in the Peninsular War.

On his return to London in 1809, Robinson decided to quit journalism and studied for the Bar, to which he was called in 1813, and became leader of the Eastern Circuit. Fifteen years later he retired, and by virtue of his conversation and qualities, became a leader in society. He was one of the founders of the London University (now University College London)[1] and travelled several times to Italy, as many of his contemporaries did. He died unmarried, aged 91. He was buried in a vault in Highgate Cemetery alongside his friend Edwin Wilkins Field.[2] A bust of Crabb Robinson was made, and a portrait by Edward Armitage.[3]


Robinson's Diary, Reminiscences and Correspondence was published in 1869.[4] It contains reminiscences of central figures of the English romantic movement: including Coleridge, Charles Lamb, William Blake, William Wordsworth, and others. They are documents on the daily lives of London writers, artists, political figures and socialites. In his essay on Blake, Swinburne says, "Of all the records of these his latter years, the most valuable, perhaps, are those furnished by Mr. Crabb Robinson, whose cautious and vivid transcription of Blake's actual speech is worth more than much vague remark, or than any commentary now possible to give."[5]

In 1829 Robinson was made a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (F.S.A.), and contributed a paper to Archæologia entitled "The Etymology of the Mass".[3]

His diaries were bequeathed to Dr Williams's Library, because Robinson had been a member of the Essex Street Chapel, the first avowedly Unitarian congregation in England.


  1. ^ "The Four Founders of UCL". University College London. Retrieved 22 November 2015. 
  2. ^  Rigg, James McMullen (1897). "Rolt, Sir John". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 49. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 173,174. 
  3. ^ a b  Rae, William Fraser (1897). "Robinson, Henry Crabb". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 49. London: Smith, Elder & Co. sources: Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence of Henry Crabb Robinson, by Thomas Sadler; Letters of Charles Lamb, ed. Ainger.] 
  4. ^ Cousin 1910, p. 319.
  5. ^ Symons, Arthur (1907). "Appendix: Extracts from the Diary, Letters, and Reminiscences of Henry Crabb Robinson". William Blake. New York: E. P. Dutton and Company. pp. 331–335. 

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainCousin, John William (1910). "Robinson, Henry Crabb". A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. Wikisource 

Further reading[edit]

  • Edith Morley. The Life and Times of Henry Crabb Robinson. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1935.
  • Diana Behler: "Henry Crabb Robinson as a Mediator of Lessing and Herder to England". In: Lessing Yearbook 7 (1975), pp. 105–126.
  • Diana Behler: "Henry Crabb Robinson: A British Acquaintance of Wieland and his Advocate in England". In: Christoph Martin Wieland. Nordamerikanische Forschungsbeitrage zur 250. Wiederkehr seines Geburtstages 1983. Ed. Hansjörg Schelle. Tübingen, 1984, pp. 539–571.
  • Diana Behler: "Henry Crabb Robinson and Weimar". In: A Reassessment of Weimar Classicism. Ed. Gerhart Hoffmeister. Lewiston (NY), 1996, pp. 157–180.

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