Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brough, Robert Barnabas

BROUGH, ROBERT BARNABAS (1828–1860), writer, was born in London 10 April 1828. He was educated at a private school at Newport, Monmouthshire, in which town his father commenced business as a brewer and failed, it is said, through political causes. Brough began active life in Manchester as a clerk. He was fond of art, drew pretty well, and is said to have practised as a portrait-painter. Subsequently he removed to Liverpool, where, while still under age, he started a weekly satirical journal entitled 'The Liverpool Lion.' A burlesque on the subject of the 'Tempest,' written in conjunction with William Brough [q. v.], who had joined him in Liverpool, and entitled 'The Enchanted Isle,' produced at the Amphitheatre in that city, was the first dramatic essay of the brothers. It was seen and approved by Benjamin Webster, who, on 20 Nov. 1848, transferred it to the Adelphi. This led to the establishment of the brothers Brough in London, where they became constant and well-known contributors to the press. Before leaving Liverpool they had married sisters. Elizabeth Romer, the wife of Robert Brough, was at one time a member of the Haymarket company. Alone or in conjunction with his brother, Robert wrote a series of burlesques, which were played at the Adelphi, Lyceum, Olympic, and other theatres, together with some adaptations from the French. His labours in other branches of literature were incessant. In the first volume of the 'Welcome Guest,' which he edited, appeared his novel 'Miss Brown,' and many short stories, poems, and essays. 'Marston Lynch,' reprinted 1860, with a memoir by Mr. G. A. Sala, saw the light in the 'Train,' 1856-7, to which also he contributed translations of the poems of Victor Hugo. He wrote in such comic papers as the 'Man in the Moon' and 'Diogenes,' was for a short time editor of the 'Atlas,' and was the Brussels correspondent of the 'Sunday Times.' His republished works are: 'Cracker Bon-Bons for Christmas Parties,' 1851, 'Life of Sir John Falstaff,' with illustrations by George Cruikshank, 1858, 'Shadow and Substance,' 1859, 'Songs of the Governing Classes,' 1859, 'Miss Brown,' 1860, 'Marston Lynch, his Life and Times,' 1860, 'Ulf the Minstrel,' 1860, 'Which is Which?' (a romance), 1860. He also translated 'La Famille Alain' of Alphonse Karr. His best known burlesques written in conjunction with his brother are: 'Camaralzaman and Badoura,' 'The Sphinx,' and 'Ivanhoe,' and of those he wrote alone 'Medea,' to which the performance of Robson gave much celebrity, 'Masaniello,' and 'The Siege of Troy.' He died at Manchester in the house of his brother-in-law, Mr. William Chilton, 26 June 1860, on his way to North Wales, whither he had been ordered for his health. He left a widow and three children, two of whom are living and are known on the stage. Three of his brothers, William Brough [q.v.], John Cargill Brough, a writer, and Mr. Lionel Brough, the comedian, are well known. Brough's verses are of their epoch. They, have neatness of execution and happiness of fancy, but are without the kind of finish sought in modern days. His burlesques were among the best of a not very important class, and his essays are bright and humorous. The 'Songs of the Governing Classes' consist of satirical poems written from a radical point of view. Some of his works are rare and are priced very high in booksellers' catalogues. In the world of journalism Brough was popular, and references to him are abundant in Mr. Yates's 'Recollections and Experiences' and in 'Reminiscences of an old Bohemian.' A benefit performance for his widow and children was given in July 1860 by five companies for which he had written burlesques. His health was bad, and his early death had long been anticipated.

[Memoir by G. A. Sala in the Welcome Guest, ii. 1 1, 348-50; Era Almanack; The Train; works mentioned; private information.]

J. K.