Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Robinson, Ralph (fl.1551)

ROBINSON, RALPH (fl. 1551), translator of More's Utopia,' born of poor parents in Lincolnshire in 1521, was educated at Grantham and Stamford grammar schools, and had William Cecil (afterwards Lord Burghley) as companion at both schools. In 1536 he entered Corpus Christi College, Oxford, graduated B.A. in 1540, and was elected fellow of his college on 16 June 1542. In March 1544 he supplicated for the degree of M.A. Coming to London, he obtained the livery of the Goldsmiths' Company, and a small post as clerk in the service of his early friend, Cecil. He was long hampered by the poverty of his parents and brothers. Among the Lansdowne MSS. (ii. 57-9) are two appeals in Latin for increase of income addressed by him to Cecil, together with a copy of Latin verses, entitled ' His New Year's Gift.' The first appeal is endorsed May 1551; upon the second, which was written after July 1572, appears the comment, 'Rodolphus Robynsonus. For some place to relieve his poverty.'

In 1551 Robinson completed the first rendering into English of Sir Thomas More's 'Utopia.' In the dedication to his former schoolfellow, Cecil, he expressed regret for More's obstinate adherence to discredited religious opinions, modestly apologised for the shortcomings of his translation, and reminded his patron of their youthful intimacy. The book was published by Abraham Veal, at the sign of the Lamb in St. Paul's Churchyard, in 1551 (b. 1. 8vo, Brit. Mus.) A second edition appeared in 1556, without the dedicatory letter. The third edition is dated 1597, and the 'newly corrected' fourth (of 1624) is dedicated by the publisher, Bernard Alsop, to Cresacre More [see under More, Sir Thomas]. The latest editions are dated 1869, 1887, and 1893.

Although somewhat redundant in style, Robinson's version of the 'Utopia' has not been displaced in popular esteem by the subsequent efforts of Gilbert Burnet (1684) and of Arthur Cayley (1808).

[See art. More, Sir Thomas; Lupton's preface to his edition of the Utopia, 1896; Wood's Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss.]

S. L.