Image of Agnes Mary Frances Robinson


Lifetime: 1857 - 1944 Passed: ≈ 80 years ago


Poet , Novelist


United Kingdom

Agnes Mary Frances Robinson

Agnes Mary Frances Robinson (known as Agnes-Marie-François Darmesteter after her first marriage, and Agnes Mary Frances Duclaux after her second; 27 February 1857 – 9 February 1944) was a poet, novelist, essayist, literary critic, and translator. She was the elder sister of the novelist and critic Frances Mabel Robinson.

Agnes Mary Frances Robinson was born in Leamington, Warwickshire, on 27 February 1857 to a wealthy architect. After a few years, the family moved to become a part of the artistic community growing in London. Robinson and her younger sister, Frances Mabel Robinson, shared an education under governesses and in Brussels until they attended one year at University College, London. The Robinson house became a central location for painters and writers of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, such as William Michael Rossetti, William Morris, William Holman Hunt, Edward Burne-Jones, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Arthur Symons, Ford Madox Brown, and Mathilde Blind, to meet and cultivate a community of artists.

In 1876, Robinson met John Addington Symonds, who provided literary advice as she began her writing. Robinson's first book of poems, A Handful of Honeysuckle was published in 1878 and was greeted with much success. In 1880, the family travelled to Italy, where Robinson first met Vernon Lee (Violet Paget). During the 1880s, Robinson published a book of poetry almost every year, as well as her one novel Arden. She received most of her acclaim through her lyrics. In 1888, Robinson married James Darmesteter, a Jewish professor at the College de France and moved to Paris, France. Darmesteter translated much of Robinson's works into French during their marriage, and Robinson improved her own French where she eventually published her first original work in French, Marguerites du Temps Passé. During her stay in Paris, Robinson and her husband became involved in the Parisian literary society which included Hippolyte Taine, Ernest Renan, and Gaston Paris. After a brief 6 years married, Darmesteter died on 19 October 1894 from a short illness and left Robinson widowed at age 38. Robinson remained in France after Darmesteter died, and she wrote articles for the Revue de Paris, translated her late husband's work, and researched for a biography she wrote for Ernest Renan.

Robinson formed many intimate relationships throughout her life. Her longest intimate relationship was shared with Vernon Lee (the pen name of Violet Paget). The two of them travelled between England, France, and Italy for 8 years until Robinson settled into married life with Darmesteter in Paris. Lee broke down after the initial marriage announcement and although she never fully recovered, she did renew her friendship once more through letters and some visits to Paris. In Bibliothèque nationale in Paris, 1,253 folio pages still exist of letters between Lee and Robinson and 1,100 of the pages are from 1880-1887 before Robinson's marriage to Darmesteter. The letters contain intimate terms such as "dear love" and "dear glory of my life" demonstrating the romantic connection the women shared.

Robinson wrote hundreds of poems and ballads that are published in many different journals and books. Robinson published books of her own collected works in both English and French, and also wrote the first full-length biography of Emily Brontë to positive reviews. Robinson's poetry and lyrics were considered mostly part of the aestheticism intellectual movement. The movement reflects the significance of poetry as beautiful with no deeper meaning. In 1902, Robinson published Collected Poems, lyrical and narrative which held a short "Preface" written on the subject of poetry and authorship. Although Robinson comments that poetry should be written in at one's limit or "extremity", she admits this collection of poems were written over the span of 23 years and were "re-considered", "revised", and "re-written." She accepts that poets do not look for recognition today but "may find an audience to-morrow", recognizes her status in the sights of great poets such as Byron, Hugo, and Keats.

Books by Agnes Mary Frances Robinson

Emily Bronte Cover image

Emily Bronte

Autobiography Literary Criticism

Emily Brontë (1818-1848) is best known for her only novel, "Wuthering Heights." She was born in Yorkshire, northern England, where her father was an Anglican curate. When Brontë was three years old her mother died of cancer. At the age of six she joi...

A Short History of France Cover image

A Short History of France

Battle War Military Rescue Culture French Revolution Historicity Roman

After the Roman conquest, the Celtic Gauls adopted Roman culture and speech. The Germanic invasions ultimately transformed France into a Catholic feudal society. In this short history, Mary Duclaux traces the emergence of towns, the rise of the Frenc...