Robinson, Anastasia

, an accomplished musical performer, descended from a good family in Leicestershire, was the daughter of a portrait painter, who, having visited Italy for improvement in his art, had made himself master of the Italian language, and acquired a good taste in music. Finding that his daughter Anastasia, during her childhood, had an ear for music, and a promising voice, he had her taught by Dr. Crofts, at first as an accomplishment; but afterwards being afflicted with a disorder in his eyes, which terminated in a total loss of sight, and this misfortune depriving him of the means of supporting himself and family by his pencil, he was under the necessity of availing himself of his daughter’s disposition for music, to turn it to account as a profession. She not only prosecuted her musical studies with great diligence, but by the assistance of her father had acquired such a knowledge in the Italian tongue as enabled her to converse in that language, and | to read the best poets in it with facility. And that her taste in singing might approach nearer to that of the natives of Italy, she had vocal instructions from Sandoni, at that time an eminent Iialian singing-master resident in London, and likewise from the opera singer called the Baconess.

Her first public exhibition was at the concerts in Yorkbuildings, and at other places, where she usually accompanied herself on the harpsichord. Her general education had been pursued with the utmost care and attention to the improvement of her mind, as well as to ornamental and external accomplishments; and these advantages, seconded by her own disposition and amiable qualities, rendered her conduct strictly prudent and irreproachable. And what still entitled her to general favour, was a behaviour full of timidity and respect to her superiors, and an undissembled gentleness and affability to others, which, with a native cheerfulness that diffused itself to all around her, gained her at all times such a reception from the public, as seemed. to ensure her success in whatever she should undertake. Encouraged by the partiality of the public towards his daughter, and particularly by the countenance and patronage of some persons of high rank of her own sex, Mr. Robinson took a house in Golden square, where he established weekly concerts and assemblies in the manner of conversazioni, which were frequented by all such as had any pretensions to politeness and good taste.

Thus qualified and encouraged, she was prevailed upon to accept of an engagement at the Opera, where she made her first appearance in Creso, and her second in the character of Ismina, the principal female part in Arminio. From this period till 1724, she continued to perform a principal part at the Opera with increasing favour and applause. Her salary is said to have been 1000l. and her emoluments, by benefits and presents, were estimated at nearly as much more. When she quitted the stage it was supposed to have been in consequence other marriage with the gallant earl of Peterborough, the friend of Pope and Swift, who distinguished himself so heroically in Spain during the reign of queen Anne. Though the marriage was not publicly declared till the earl’s death in 1735, yet it was then spoken of as an event which had long taken place. And such was the purity of her conduct and character, that she was instantly visited at Fulham as the lady of the mansion, by persons of the highest rank. Here, | and at Mount Bevis, the earl’s seat near Southampton, she resided in an exalted station till the year of her decease, 1750, surviving her lord fifteen years; who, at the time of the connexion, must have been considerably beyond his prime, as he was arrived at his seventy-fifth year when he died.

The following anecdotes of Mrs. Anastasia Robinson were communicated to Dr. Burney in 1787, by the late venerable Mrs. Delany, her contemporary and intimate acquaintance. " Mrs. Anastasia Robinson was of a middling stature, not handsome, but of a pleasing, modest countenance, with large blue eyes. Her deportment was easy, unaffected, and graceful. Her manner and address very engaging; and her behaviour, on all occasions, that of a gentlewoman, with perfect propriety. She was not only liked by all her acquaintance, but loved and caressed by persons of the highest rank, with whom she appeared always equal, without assuming. Her father’s house in Golden-square was frequented by all the men of genius and refined taste of the times; among the number of persons of distinction who frequented Mr. Robinson’s house, and seemed to distinguish his daughter in a particular manner, were the earl of Peterborough and general H; the

latter had shewn a long attachment to her, and his attentions were so remarkable, that they seemed more than the effects of common politeness; and as he was a very agreeable man, and in good circumstances, he was favourably received, not doubting but that his intentions were honourable. A declaration of a very contrary nature was treated with the contempt it deserved, though Mrs. A. Robinson was very much prepossessed in his favour.

"Soon after this, lord Peterborough endeavoured to convince her of his partial regard for her but, agreeable and artful as he was, she remained very much upon her guard, which rather increased than diminished his admiration and passion for her. Yet still his pride struggled with his inclination; for all this time she was engaged to sing in public, a circumstance very grievous to her, but urged by the best of motives, she submitted to it, in order to assist her parents, whose fortune was much reduced by Mr. Robinson’s loss of sight, which deprived him of the benefit of his profession as a painter.

"At length lord Peterborough made his declaration to her on honourable terms; he found it would be vain to make | proposals on any other; and as he omitted no circumstance that could engage her esteem and gratitude, she accepted them, as she was sincerely attached to him. He earnestly requested her keeping it a secret till it was a more convenient time for him to make it known, to which she readily consented, having a perfect confidence in his honour. Among the persons of distinction that professed a friendship for Mrs. A. Robinson, were the earl and countess of Oxford, daughter-in-law to the lord-treasurer Oxford, who not only bore every public testimony of their affection and esteem for Mrs. A. Robinson, but lady Oxford attended her when she was privately married to the earl of Peterborough, and lady Peterborough ever acknowledged her obligations with the warmest gratitude; and after lady Oxford’s death she was particularly distinguished by the duchess of Portland, lady Oxford’s daughter, and was always mentioned by her with the greatest kindness for the many friendly offices she used to do her in her childhood when in lady Oxford’s family, which made a lasting impression upon the duchess of Portland’s noble and generous heart.

"Mrs. A. Robinson had one sister, a very pretty accomplished woman, who married Dr. Arbuthnot’s brother. AfV ter the death of Mr. Robinson, lord Peterborough took a house near Fulham, in the neighbourhood of his own villa at Parson’s-Green, where he settled Mrs. Robinson and her mother. They never lived under the same roof till the earl, being seized with a violent fit of illness, solicited her to attend him at Mount Bevis, near Southampton, which she refused with firmness, but upon condition that, though still denied to take his name, she might be permitted to wear her wedding-ring; to which, finding her inexorable, he at length consented.

"His haughty spirit was still reluctant to the making a declaration that would have done justice to so worthy a character as the person to whom he was now united; and, indeed, his uncontrollable temper, and high opinion of his own actions, made him;i very awful husband, ill suited to lady Peterborough’s good sense, amiable temper, and delicate sentiments. She was a Roman catholic, but never gave offence to those of a contrary opinion, though very strict in what she thought her duty. Her excellent principles and fortitude of mind supported her through many severe trials in her conjugal state. But at last he prevailed en himself to do her justice, instigated, it is supposed, by | his bad state of health, which obliged him to seek another climate, and she absolutely refused to go with him unless he declared his marriage; her attendance Upon him in his illness nearly cost her her life.

"He appointed a day for all his nearest relations to meet him at the apartment over the gate-way of St. James’s palace, belonging to Mr. Pointz, who was married to lord Peterborough’s niece, and at that time preceptor to prince William, afterwards duke of Cumberland. Lord Peterborough also appointed lady Peterborough to be there at the same time. When they were all assembled, he began a most eloquent oration, enumerating all the virtues and perfections of Mrs. A. Robinson, and the rectitude of her conduct during his long acquaintance with her, for which he acknowledged his great obligations and sincere attachment, declaring he was determined to do her that justice which he ought to have done long ago, which was presenting her to all his family as his wife. He spoke this harangue with so much energy, and in parts so pathetically, that lady Peterborough, not being apprised of his intentions, was so affected that she fainted away in the midst of the company.

"After lord Peterborough’s death she lived a very retired life, chiefly at Mount Bevis, and was seldom prevailed on to leave that habitation, but by the duchess of Portland, who was always happy to have her company at Bulstrode when she could obtain it, and often visited her at her own house.

Among lord Peterborough’s papers she found his memoirs, written by himself, in which he declared he had been guilty of such actions as would have reflected very much upon his character. For which reason she burnt them; this, however, contributed to complete the excellency of her principles, though it did not fail giving offence to the cu-r rious inquirers after anecdotes of so remarkable a character as that of the earl of Peterborough.1


Barney’s Hist, of Music. Pope’s Works, by Bowles.