chapter
23 Pages

Introduction

ByDaniel Robinson, Dawn M. Vernooy-Epp

Mary Robinson made her first foray into fiction with Vancenza; or The Dangers of Credulity in 1792. By this time she had already established herself as a successful poet through her association with the Della Cruscan coterie and the publication of Poems (1791). Like other Romantic women writers who published fiction (Charlotte Smith, Amelia Opie and Eliza Fenwick, in particular), she desperately needed financial solvency.1 During the 1780s, she had auctioned possessions to raise funds and travelled to the Continent, where the cost of living was often less than in London. As late as 1793, creditors sent her to a sponging-house while arrangements could be made to pay her outstanding bills. Gambling debts accrued by her husband and, later, her long-time paramour Banastre Tarleton could have further depleted her resources.2 Robinson’s critique of gaming is pervasive in her fiction as well as in her play, Nobody (staged at Drury Lane in 1794). In Vancenza, rakish as well as gallant characters alike, have a penchant for games of chance. Even the novel’s genteel, generous patriarch loses money playing quadrille (below, p. 288).