William Robinson, Rev
William Robinson (1727-1803) was born in his grandmother’s house in Cambridge. He received his initial education at Scorton Grammar School in North Yorkshire, but was moved to Westminster School in January 1742. He proceeded to St John’s Cambridge, where he became a good friend of the poet Thomas Gray. He was the only one of the Robinson brothers to make his career in the Church, being ordained as a priest on June 13th 1756. He obtained a curacy in Kensington, where he met his future wife, Mary Richardson. They were married on 26th July 1760.
Immediately following his marriage, he and his wife travelled to Italy with her invalid brother, and stayed there until April 1763, when they returned by way of Paris. Their first child, Matthew William, was born there but died at the age of one year shortly after their return to England. In 1764 William was made Rector of Denton in Kent by Mrs Cecilia Scott, who held the ‘advowson’ or right of appointment. This was a poor parish, and in 1767 William’s father, Matthew Robinson, also purchased a forty-year lease on the right to appoint the Rector of the parish of Burghfield near Newbury in Berkshire, and presented it to his son. William continued to hold the two livings, but paid a curate to carry out his duties in Burghfield, and rarely went there except to collect the rents and tithes. In 1785 Mrs Cecilia Scott died and in her will transferred the living of Denton to her nephew, and William moved to Burghfield with his wife, his son Matthew and his daughters Sarah Elizabeth and Mary.
It is possible that William suffered from some sort of depressive illness, being often miserable and easily moved to tears. He himself admitted he was indolent, and his sisters regarded him as mean with money, referring to his covetousness. W Powell Jones has described him as ‘one of the eighteenth century’s most celebrated nonentities’, and ‘a good example of an indolent parson of means, a pluralist who never did more than the bare minimum of parish work’ [W Powell Jones, The William Robinsons in Italy, in Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 4 no. 3, (April 1941), pp. 343-357.]
On the memorial put up in Burghfield church, William’s son Matthew, who succeeded him as Rector, nevertheless recorded ‘the elegant Taste, the classical Erudition, the Urbanity of Manners & the Brilliancy of Wit which endeared the Society of his Father to every affectionate Relation & every admiring Friend’.
Also known as:
- William Robinson
- Reverend Robinson
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