Henry Crabb Robinson: 1775-1867

‘Unwearied in the office of friendship’, all his life Crabb Robinson was devoted to men of genius and faithfully recorded their behaviour, as Joanna Richardson here discusses.

‘Companion! by whose buoyant spirit cheered...’ So Wordsworth began his Memorials of the tour of Italy that he made from March to August 1837. The companion to whom he dedicated the verses was Henry Crabb Robinson; and, as the Dictionary of National Biography observes of Crabb Robinson: ‘As the valued friend of great men his name will survive’.

Henry Crabb Robinson was born two hundred and four years ago. The Dictionary gives the date of his birth as March 13th, 1775; Mr. Derek Hudson, introducing extracts from his diary, says that he was born on May 13th. It is, however, not contested that he was born at Bury St. Edmunds, the youngest son of Henry Robinson, a tanner. Crabb Robinson came of a comfortable middle-class family of Dissenters.

He was educated at a small private school at Devizes, and in 1790 he was articled to a Mr. Francis, an attorney at Colchester. Six years later, he entered the office of a solicitor in Chancery Lane; but his toil was not to last for long. In 1798 an uncle died, and conveniently left him a sum that gave him an income of £100 a year. Independent and eager to travel, Crabb Robinson went abroad in 1800.

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