Robinson was born in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, third and youngest son of Henry Robinson (1736-1815) and Jemima (1736-1793), daughter of Denny Crabb, a landowner, maltster, and deacon of the congregational church at Wattisfield, Suffolk, and sister of Habakkuk Crabb. After education at small private schools, he was articled in 1790 to an attorney in Colchester. At Colchester he heard John Wesley preach one of his last sermons. In 1796, he entered the office of a solicitor in Chancery Lane, London; but in 1798 a relative died, leaving Robinson a sum yielding a considerable yearly income. Proud of his independence and eager for travel, he went abroad in 1800. Between 1800 and 1805, he studied at various places in Germany, meeting men of letters there, including Goethe, Schiller, Johann Gottfried Herder and Christoph Martin Wieland. He then became correspondent for The Times in Altona in 1807. Later on he was sent to Galicia, in Spain, as a war correspondent in the Peninsular War.
On his return to London in 1809, Robinson decided to quit journalism and studied for the Bar, to which he was called in 1813, and became leader of the Eastern Circuit. Fifteen years later he retired, and by virtue of his conversation and qualities became a leader in society. He was one of the founders of the London University (now University College London) and travelled several times to Italy, as many of his contemporaries did. Among those whom he befriended in Rome in 1829 was the novelist Sarah Burney.
Robinson's Diary, Reminiscences and Correspondence was published posthumously in 1869. It contains reminiscences of central figures of the English romantic movement: including Coleridge, Charles Lamb, William Blake, William Wordsworth, and of other writers such as Sarah Burney. They are documents on the daily lives of London writers, artists, political figures and socialites. In his essay on Blake, Swinburne says, "Of all the records of these his latter years, the most valuable, perhaps, are those furnished by Mr. Crabb Robinson, whose cautious and vivid transcription of Blake's actual speech is worth more than much vague remark, or than any commentary now possible to give."
- "Henry Crabb Robinson". Britannica.
- "Robinson, Henry Crabb (1775–1867), diarist and journalist". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/23842. ISBN 978-0-19-861412-8. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Durán de Porras, Elías (2008). Galicia, the Times y la Guerra de la Independencia. Henry Crabb Robinson y la corresponsalía de The Times en A Coruña (1808-1809). A Coruña: Fundación Pedro Barrié de la Maza. ISBN 9788495892676.
- "The Four Founders of UCL". University College London. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
- Rigg, James McMullen (1897). Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 49. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 173, 174. . In
- Rae, William Fraser (1897). . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 49. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
sources: Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence of Henry Crabb Robinson, by Thomas Sadler; Letters of Charles Lamb, ed. Ainger.
- Cousin 1910, p. 319.
- Symons, Arthur (1907). "Appendix: Extracts from the Diary, Letters, and Reminiscences of Henry Crabb Robinson". William Blake. New York: E. P. Dutton and Company. pp. 331–335.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Cousin, John William (1910). "Robinson, Henry Crabb". A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons – via Wikisource.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Lee, Sidney, ed. (1897). "Robinson, Henry Crabb". Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 49. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Diana Behler: "Henry Crabb Robinson as a Mediator of Lessing and Herder to England". In: Lessing Yearbook 7 (1975), pp. 105–126
- Diana Behler: "Henry Crabb Robinson: A British Acquaintance of Wieland and his Advocate in England". In: Christoph Martin Wieland. Nordamerikanische Forschungsbeitrage zur 250. Wiederkehr seines Geburtstages 1983. Ed. Hansjörg Schelle. Tübingen, 1984, pp. 539–571
- Diana Behler: "Henry Crabb Robinson and Weimar". In: A Reassessment of Weimar Classicism, ed. Gerhart Hoffmeister. Lewiston (NY), 1996, pp. 157–180
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 23 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 422.
- Lorna J. Clark, ed.: The Letters of Sarah Harriet Burney. Athens, Georgia, and London: University of Georgia Press, pp. 125–130, 133–143 and passim
- Edith Morley. The Life and Times of Henry Crabb Robinson. London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1935