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Rossell Hope Robbins was born on July 22, 1912, in Wallasey, Cheshire, England, to Rossell Casson Robbins, formerly of Liverpool, England, and Alice Eveline Hope Robbins, formerly of Kirkcudbright, Scotland.

He began his education at Wallasey Grammar School, 1921-30, then proceeded to the University of Liverpool, where in 1933, as a student of J. H. G. Grattan, he received, with first class honors, his B.A. in English Language and Literature. In 1934 he received his diploma of education from the School of Education, Liverpool. During this period of his life Robbins also trained in music at the Matthay School of Music, Liverpool Branch (1930-36), receiving his licentiate from the Guildhall School of Music, London, in 1932. He was a member of the London Verse Speaking Choir under the direction of Marjorie Gullan from 1935-37. This early interest in music and verse has remained with him all his life. His dissertation and three of his earliest scholarly books dealt with the lyric in English, and, in 1961, Columbia University Press published his Early English Christmas Carols in a handsome gift edition with music, illustrations, and an LP record.

In 1934 Robbins was admitted to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, on an Open External Studentship to proceed to his doctorate. He was supported by a Wallasey Borough Research Scholarship and the University of Liverpool Graduate Scholarship. He received his Ph.D. in literature in 1937 as a student of G. G. Coulton. In that year he was awarded a Commonwealth Fellowship by the Harkness Foundation, which brought him to America. (He became a naturalized citizen in 1944.) Here, he continued his work on Middle English Lyrics at New York University with Carleton Brown, work which is still acknowledged as the best of its kind.


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