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Among the uses of biography, none is more valuable, than that which inspires good purposes, awakens energy, and incites to exertion. The events of a person's life, who has risen to eminence by the force of his own genius and enterprise, are always interesting, because they are rare; they are always instructive, because they serve as a light and a guide to others, whose early fortunes may be equally unpropitious.
That one should go out triumphantly on the tide of life, who is blessed with all the advantages of family, wealth, powerful friends, facilities of education, and incitements to employ them, is no cause of wonder. It would, indeed, be strange if it were otherwise. But when the sons of obscurity and indigence break from the cloud which surrounds, and the weight which oppresses them ; when they enter on the world's wide ocean, without a parent's voice to counsel, or a parent's hand to protect; when each returning day brings them into a new conflict with want and anxiety; when the allurements of vice besiege them on the one side, and the spectres of despondency assault them on the other, without shaking their firmness, or turning them from the steady purpose of uprightness and perseverance; and when, in defiance of every other obstacle, they ascend to a proud station among the wise, the learned, and the good ; it is then that they may justly claim the respect and admiration of their fellow-men, and call on them to behold an example worthy to be praised and emulated. Among the few, who are to be revered for self-acquired eminence, the subject of the present memoir stands in an honourable place.
Robert ROBINSON was born at Swaffham, county of Norfolk, on the eighth of October, 1735. His father was a native of Scotland, and an exciseman, of whom little needs be said, except that his humble sphere in life received no dignity from his understanding, and no brightness from his virtues. Mary Wilkin, the mother of Robert Robinson, was descended from a respectable family, and to the advantages of a good education she added the charms of a beautiful person, an amiable temper, and gentleness of manners. She was the daughter of a second marriage, and, as unnatural as it may seem, the affections of her father were centred in the children of his wife by a former husband. Mary was doomed to experience from him less of the tenderness of a parent, than of the austerity and unfeelingness of a severe master. He delighted to thwart her purposes; and on several occasions, through mere caprice, he rejected the
overtures of worthy and respectable persons, who solicited his daughter's hand.
Disheartened by the severity of her father's treatment, and impatient to escape from it, she imprudently resolved on marrying without his consent. This step was a prelude to untried evils. She united herself to a man in all respects unworthy of her, possessing neither the qualifications for making her happy, nor the disposition to soften and conciliate her father.
They had three children, of whom Robert was the youngest. The elder son was apprenticed to a painter, and the daughter to a mantuamaker. Robert was put to school when six years old, and soon drew the attention of his teacher, as exhibiting more than usual promise. In the mean time, his father removed from Swaffham, and settled at Scaring. He soon after died, and left the destitute mother to provide for herself, and three children. At Scaring was a grammar school, where Lord Thurlow, and some other distinguished persons, received the rudiments of their education. Desirous of encouraging her son's predilection for learning, Mrs Robinson made an effort to maintain him at this school, but her resources proved inadequate to the expense. So favourable an impression had he made, however, on his teacher, the Rev. Joseph Brett, and so much did this gentleman respect the motives and virtues of the mother,