Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Robinson-Morris, Matthew

ROBINSON-MORRIS, MATTHEW, second Baron Rokeby in the peerage of Ireland (1713–1800), baptised at York on 12 April 1713, was the eldest son of Matthew Robinson (1694–1778) of Edgely and West Layton, Yorkshire, who inherited property in the neighbourhood of Rokeby from his great-uncle Matthew Robinson [q. v.], rector of Burneston. His mother, Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Drake of Cambridge, inherited estates at Horton, near Hythe in Kent, from her brother, Morris Drake Morris [q. v.], who assumed the surname of Morris. One of Matthew's sisters was Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu [q. v.] Of his six brothers, Thomas [q. v.], the second, and William [q. v.], the fifth, are separately noticed. The third, Morris (d. 1777), a solicitor in chancery in Ireland, was father of Henry, third baron Rokeby [see below]. John, the fourth, was a fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge. The youngest, Charles (1733–1807), was made recorder of Canterbury in 1763, and was M.P. for the city from 1780 to 1790 (Hasted, Canterbury, i. 58, ii. 242 n.; Gent. Mag. 1807, i. 386).

Matthew Robinson the younger graduated LL.B. from Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in 1734, and became a fellow (Luard, Grad. Cant.) He was elected M.P. for Canterbury on 1 July 1747, and re-elected in 1754. Between these dates he assumed the additional name of Morris on inheriting, through his mother, the Morris property at Monk's Horton, near Hythe, where he subsequently spent much of his time in retirement. He withdrew from parliament on account of his health, but throughout his life took a strong interest in politics, and exercised influence in Kent. His principles were those of ‘an old and true whig.’ As such he published between 1774 and 1777 four able pamphlets against the American policy of Lord North, and in 1797 an ‘Address to the County of Kent,’ advocating the dismissal of Pitt. On the death of his cousin Richard Robinson, first baron Rokeby [q. v.], in 1794, he succeeded to the Irish title. He died at his seat of Mountmorris on 30 Nov. 1800, and was buried at Monk's Horton on 8 Dec.

Rokeby's relative, Sir Egerton Brydges, calls him a scholar and a travelled gentleman. In person he was tall and ungraceful. He is said to have been ‘the only peer, and perhaps the only gentleman, of Great Britain and Ireland’ of his day who wore a beard (Public Characters). He had many peculiarities. He lived chiefly on beef-tea, and was an enthusiastic water-drinker. He abhorred fires, and had a bath so constructed as to be warmed only by the rays of the sun, and passed much of his time in it. He refused medical advice, and is said to have threatened to disinherit his nephew if he called in a doctor during one of his fits. He understood grazing both in theory and practice, and had most of his land laid down in grass with a view to keeping live stock on it. He was an excellent landlord, ‘generous but whimsical.’ He took long walks, ‘such as would tire a quadruped.’ A portrait and also a miniature of Rokeby were engraved by Heath.

Matthew's nephew, Morris Robinson-Morris (d. 1829), son of his brother Morris, succeeded to the Irish peerage as third baron Rokeby. He published in 1811, under the pseudonym of ‘A Briton’ (Cushing, Initials and Pseudonyms), an animated ‘Essay on Bank Tokens, Bullion,’ &c., attacking the predominant financial policy. To him also, in view of the poetical tastes attributed to him, is probably to be assigned the tragedy of ‘The Fall of Mortimer’ (1806), which is said in the ‘Biographia Dramatica’ to be the posthumous work of his uncle, the second lord Rokeby. Morris died unmarried on 19 April 1829, and was succeeded by his brother Matthew Robinson, fourth lord (1762–1831), who was adopted by his aunt, Mrs. Montagu, and took her name [see under Montagu, Elizabeth].

Montagu's third son, Henry Robinson-Montagu, sixth Baron Rokeby (1798–1883), was born in London on 2 Feb. 1798, and entered the army in 1814. He served with the 3rd lifeguards at Quatre Bras and Waterloo, attained the rank of colonel in 1846, major-general in 1854, lieutenant-general and colonel of the 77th foot in 1861, and general in 1869, having succeeded to the peerage on 7 April 1847. In 1875 he was named honorary colonel of the Scots fusilier guards, and retired from the service in 1877. He commanded a division in the Crimea, was created K.C.B. in 1856 and G.C.B. in 1875, as well as a commander of the legion of honour of France and knight of the Medjidieh. He died on 25 May 1883, and, his only son having predeceased him, the title became extinct. He married, on 18 Dec. 1826, Magdalen (d. 1868), eldest daughter of Lieutenant-colonel Thomas Huxley, and widow of Frederick Croft, and left four daughters.

[Biogr. Peerage of Ireland (1817); Gent. Mag. 1800 ii. 1219–20, 1847 i. 110; Hasted's Kent, 2nd ed. viii. 34, 55–8; Brief Character of Matthew, Lord Rokeby, by Sir S. Egerton Brydges, privately printed (1817); Public Characters, 3rd ed. vol. i. (art. signed S. [Alex. Stephens?] describing a visit to Monk's Horton in 1796); Rich's Bibliotheca Americana Nova, i. 203, 237, 259; Allibone's Dict. Engl. Lit. ii. 1139; Evans's Cat. Engr. Portraits. See also Biogr. Dramatica (1812), i. 604, ii. 216–17; Burke's Peerage (1894); Times, 26 May, 21 June 1883; Ill. Lond. News, 2 June 1883, with portrait of the sixth Lord Rokeby.]

G. Le G. N.