Mary “Perdita” Robinson

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Mary “Perdita” Robinson's Geni Profile

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Mary “Perdita” Robinson (Darby)

Also Known As: "Perdita"
Birthplace: Bristol, City of Bristol, England, United Kingdom
Death: December 26, 1800 (43)
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Capt. Nicholas Darby, RN and Hester Darby
Wife of Thomas Robinson
Partner of General Sir Banastre Tarleton, 1st Baronet, GCB
Ex-partner of George IV, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Mother of Maria Elizabeth Robinson and Sophia Robinson

Occupation: Poet, novelist
Managed by: Erica Howton
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Mary “Perdita” Robinson

Mary Robinson (née Darby) (27 November 1757 – 26 December 1800) was an English poet and novelist. During her lifetime she is known as 'the English Sappho'[1][2]. She was also known for her role as Perdita (heroine of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale) in 1779 and as the first public mistress of George IV.


‘Imagine Nicole Kidman, Monica Lewinsky, Susan Sontag and Madonna all rolled into one, then ask yourself, how is it that we’ve never heard of her? -- Vogue
"Every event of my life has more or less been marked by the progressive evils of a too acute sensibility. " -- Mary Darby Robinson, The Memoirs of Mary Robinson, p. 8

Mary Robinson was destined in her brief life to become an actress, a poet, a novelist and one of the most famous courtesans of Georgian London. Her relationship with Tarleton lasted for fifteen years, finally terminating only a few months before he met his future wife, Susan Priscilla Bertie. Although they didn't marry, their association seems to have been closer to a modern common-law partnership than the standard protector/mistress paradigm of the period.

After two centuries of obscurity, Robinson has begun to re-enter the limelight with a vengeance, drawing interest from literary historians and, in particular, from those interested in 18th century feminism. The growing consensus seems to be that all of her published biographies -- including her own memoirs -- are untrustworthy.

Who's Whistling In Charleston?

The exquisite Perdita, a beautiful and talented European actress, made her debut in Charleston and became the darling of all. At one time, she was the mistress of George IV. Dr. Joseph Ladd who lived on Church Street was completely taken by Perdita -- she had won the heart of most of the men in Charleston. Ladd was an affable young man, well liked in Charleston. He always walked down the streets of the city whistling on his way to tend his patients. One night a young man from Rhode Island, Mr. Delancy, made crude remarks about the actress at a tavern. Ladd overheard the remarks and demanded a retraction. They argued and Delancy slapped Ladd in the face with his gloves -- the challenge of a duel. The two young men met at dawn the next morning in the mist, squared off and shot. Ladd was shot and died several days later. They say you can still hear him whistling as he goes along the streets of Charleston. The gardener at the Church Street House told me recently that he asked if they heard the ghost and the owners asked him not to mention "ghost" as they did not want the children to know it was a ghost they heard whistling.


Mary Darby Robinson died on December 26, 1800. She left a draft of her memoirs to her daughter, with a request that it be published. The draft covered her childhood, marriage, early writing, and career in the theatre. Her daughter Mary Elizabeth (referred to in the memoirs as 'Maria') continued and published the memoirs. They were first published in 1801 as Memoirs, with some Posthumous Pieces, in four volumes.

The on-line edition of Mary Robinson's Memoirs is a recreation of an 1895 edition by J. Fitzgerald Molloy. To Mary Robinson's memories and her daughter Maria's continuation, Molloy added a preface, footnotes, and a set of plates portraying Mrs. Robinson and her contemporaries.

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Mary “Perdita” Robinson's Timeline

November 27, 1757
Bristol, City of Bristol, England, United Kingdom
Bristol, England
December 26, 1800
Age 43