Rough, William (DNB00)


ROUGH, WILLIAM (d. 1838), lawyer and poet, only son of William Rough, of the parish of St. James, Middlesex, was born on 21 Aug., probably in 1772. He was admitted at Westminster School on 23 Jan. 1786, and became a king's scholar in 1789. Having been elected to a scholarship from Westminster at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1792, he matriculated on 6 June in that year, and proceeded B.A. 1796, M.A. 1799. At Westminster he is said to have contributed to Southey's school periodical, ‘The Flagellant.’ In November 1793 he became a member, with S. T. Coleridge, C. V. Le Grice, and Christopher Wordsworth, of a small literary society at Cambridge, and he seems to have been one of the projectors of the short-lived ‘University Magazine’ of 1795 (Wordsworth, Univ. Life in Eighteenth Century, pp. 589–93). While at Trinity College he made the acquaintance, as a fellow-sympathiser with William Frend [q. v.], of Copley, afterwards Lord Lyndhurst. Rough was admitted at Gray's Inn on 9 Feb. 1796, and called to the bar at the Inner Temple on 18 June 1801. He went the Midland circuit, and on 30 May 1808 became a serjeant-at-law. He married, on 26 June 1802, Harriet, aged 23, a natural daughter of John Wilkes. Crabb Robinson, who made their acquaintance in the summer of 1810, and described Mrs. Rough as ‘a woman of some talents and taste, who could make herself attractive,’ met at dinner at their house Mrs. Abington and Kean, and many distinguished lawyers, including Copley. Rough was always in pecuniary difficulties, and for some years he was hindered by illness from the energetic prosecution of his profession. In April 1816 he accepted Earl Bathurst's offer of the post of president of the court of justice for the united colony of Demerara and Essequibo. He remained there for five years, but on 6 Oct. 1821, after a long disagreement, he was suspended by the acting governor, Lieutenant-general John Murray, for having, as supreme judge, usurped ‘the privileges and functions of the executive.’ He returned to England, and appealed to the privy council, which in April 1825 gave its decision in his favour. He forthwith applied for a fresh appointment, but it was not until after 1830 that he was appointed a puisne judge at Ceylon. In this position he served with distinction, and on 13 March 1836 was promoted to be chief justice of the supreme court. Next year (7 Aug. 1837) he was knighted. Rough died at Nuwara Eliya, Ceylon, on 19 May 1838. He had four children by his wife, who died in Demerara about 1820.

Rough was the author of: 1. ‘Lorenzino di Medici’ (a drama), and other poems, 1797; dedicated to William Roscoe. 2. ‘The Conspiracy of Gowrie,’ a tragedy (anon.), 1800. 3. ‘Lines on the Death of Sir Ralph Abercromby’ (anon.), 1800. These pieces were collected together in ‘Poems, Miscellaneous and Fugitive, now first collected by the Author, on his preparing to leave England,’ 1816. Rough also edited, anonymously, ‘Letters from the Year 1774 to the Year 1796, by John Wilkes, esq., addressed to his daughter, the late Miss Wilkes; with a collection of miscellaneous Poems; to which is prefixed a Memoir of the Life of Mr. Wilkes,’ London, 4 vols. 1804. He contributed poetry to the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ and the ‘Monthly Magazine.’

[Gent. Mag. 1839, i. 211; H. Crabb Robinson's Diary, i. 300–416, ii. 3, 42; Barker and Stenning's Westm. School Reg. p. 199; Welch's Alumni Westm. pp. 428, 435, 436; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ix. 479; Kirke White's Remains, 1808, i. 127–8, 156–9, 179–82; funeral sermon by Benjamin Bailey, Colombo, 1838; information from Mr. Aldis Wright.]

W. P. C.