Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Malone, Edmund
MALONE, EDMUND (1741–1812), critic and author, born at Dublin on 4 Oct. 1741, was second son of Edmund Malone (1704–1774), and nephew of Anthony Malone [q. v.] The father, second son of Richard Malone of Baronston, co. Westmeath, was born in Dublin on 16 April 1704, was called to the English bar in 1730, and practised there for ten years. Returning to Ireland in 1740, he obtained a good practice in the Irish courts, sat in the Irish House of Commons for Granard from 1760 to 1766, and became in 1766 judge of the court of common pleas. He died on 22 April 1774, having married in 1736 Catherine (d. 1765), daughter and heiress of Benjamin Collier of Ruckholt, Essex. By her he had four sons, of whom the two younger died in youth, and two daughters, Henrietta and Catherine. The eldest son, Richard (1738–1816), was admitted a student of the Inner Temple, London, in 1757; graduated B.A. at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1759; was incorporated of Christ Church, Oxford, in Michaelmas term in the same year; sat in the Irish House of Commons as M.P. for Granard from 1768 to 1776, and for Banagher from 1783 till 30 June 1785, when he was raised to the Irish peerage as Lord Sunderlin. He died at Baronston on 14 April 1816. In 1778 he married Dorothea Philippa, eldest daughter of Godolphin Rooper of Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire, whose portrait was painted by Reynolds, but she left no issue (cf. Lodge, Peerage, ed. Archdall, vii. 292–3).
Edmund was educated at a private school in Molesworth Street, kept by Dr. Ford, and among his schoolfellows were Robert Jephson [q. v.], William Fitzmaurice Petty, first marquis of Lansdowne, and John Baker Holroyd, first lord Sheffield. The boys practised private theatricals with much success, and Macklin the actor is said to have at times directed the performances. In 1756 Edmund removed to Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated B.A. In 1761 he contributed an ode to a volume of verse written by Dublin students in honour of George III's marriage. His college friends included Michael Kearney, Henry Flood, and John Fitzgibbon, afterwards earl of Clare. Malone paid his first visit to England in the summer of 1759, when he accompanied his mother first to Highgate and afterwards to Bath, and he made a tour through the midland counties. His mother remained at Bath till her death in 1765. In 1763 he came to London as a student of the Inner Temple, and interested himself in politics and literature. He spent his leisure at the Grecian Coffee-house in the Strand, where he found literary society, and an Irish friend, Edmund Southwell, in the autumn of 1765 introduced him to Dr. Johnson. A year later he accompanied Thomas George, afterwards viscount Southwell, and his son, Thomas Arthur, to the south of France. In March 1767 he arrived in Paris, returned to Dublin, and was soon afterwards called to the Irish bar. He joined the Munster circuit, and worked hard at his profession, but briefs were few and unremunerative. He wrote for the Irish newspapers, and in 1776 began an edition of Goldsmith's poetical and dramatic works, which was published in London in 1780.
On 1 May 1777 Malone left Ireland, and settled permanently in London as a man of letters. The death of his father in 1774 had put him in possession of a moderate competency with the estate of Shinglas, co. Westmeath, and a small property in Cavan. Until 1779 he resided in London at No. 7 Marylebone Street, and from 1779 to his death he lived at 55 Queen Anne Street East, now Foley Place. He rapidly gained admission to the best literary and political society, and exchanged generous hospitalities with the most distinguished men of the day. He was a frequent visitor to Johnson at Bolt Court (cf. Boswell, ed. Hill, iv. 141). In 1782 he joined the well-known literary club of which Johnson was a leading member. In 1784 he attended Johnson's funeral, and he conducted the negotiations for the erection of his monument in Westminster Abbey (cf. the collection of letters addressed to him on the subject in Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 22549). As early as May 1774 Malone sat for his portrait to Sir Joshua Reynolds, another member of the club, and the two men were soon afterwards very intimate. Reynolds submitted at least one of his discourses on art to Malone's revision. He was one of Reynolds's executors, and published a collection of his writings, with a memoir, in 1797. With Bishop Percy, also a member of the club, Malone began investigations into Goldsmith's biography, and corresponded through life on literary matters (cf. Nichols, Lit. Illustr. viii. 26, 32).
In 1785 he sought an introduction to Boswell, after reading a sheet of the ‘Tour to the Hebrides’ in Baldwin's printing-office. The acquaintance ‘ripened into the strictest and most cordial intimacy’ (Gent. Mag. 1813, p. 518), and Boswell dedicated to him the ‘Tour to the Hebrides’ on 20 Sept. 1785, to let ‘the world know that I enjoy and honour the happiness of your friendship.’ Malone supplied a note on Burke's wit (Life of Johnson, ed. Hill, v. 33–4). In 1786 he was security for 100l., when Boswell was called to the bar at the Inner Temple (Johnson, Letters, ed. Hill, p. 317). Throughout 1789 and 1790 Malone was busily helping Boswell in revising the life of Johnson. ‘I cannot,’ Boswell wrote, ‘sufficiently acknowledge my obligations to my friend, Mr. Malone, who was so good as to allow me to read to him almost the whole of my manuscript, and made such remarks as were greatly to the advantage of the work’ (Advertisement to 1st edit. 1791). He also helped to correct half the proof-sheets, and he edited with useful notes the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th reissues of the work, dated respectively 1799, 1804, 1807, and 1811. Boswell was till his death an enthusiastic admirer of Malone's dinners, and named him one of his literary executors, but Malone was too indolent to act, although he continued a close intimacy with Boswell's son. For a time in later life he was on very amicable terms with William Gifford, while Kemble and Mrs. Siddons always delighted in his society.
Malone's political friends included William Windham, Gerard Hamilton, Burke, and Canning. He was Burke's guest on many occasions at Beaconsfield. He also came to know Horace Walpole, who invited him to Strawberry Hill, and was a regular morning caller on Malone when he came to town. At Brighton, in October 1797, Malone dined in the company of the prince regent, and heard him detail ‘all the cant about the grievances of the Irish catholics,’ whereupon Malone declared that the complaints were imaginary.
Malone was always interested in Irish politics, supporting the union, and opposing the Roman catholic claim to emancipation, but he steadfastly resisted the solicitations of his friends to play any active political part. He paid occasional visits to Ireland, and maintained very intimate relations with the Irish friends of his youth, with his sisters, especially Catherine, and with his brother. In 1797 his brother received a new patent as Lord Sunderlin, with remainder to Edmund. Lord Charlemont was one of his most regular correspondents, and their letters form an interesting record of the literary effort of the times (cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. App. x.). Flood constantly dined with him when in London, despite their divergent views on politics. On 24 April 1783 he confidentially suggested to Flood, apparently at the suggestion of his friend Windham, then Irish secretary, that a post in the Irish ministry was to be placed at Flood's disposal, but the negotiation failed. In the days of the Irish rebellion of 1798 Lord Clare found time to send Malone accounts of its progress and suppression. In behalf of his fellow-countryman and companion at school, Robert Jephson and dramatist, he exerted all his social influence. In 1781 he carefully revised and wrote an epilogue for Jephson's ‘Count of Narbonne,’ and then with Horace Walpole's aid induced the lessees of Covent Garden Theatre to produce the piece (Walpole, Letters, viii. 107–10). He rendered similar service to Jephson's ‘Julia,’ and edited his ‘Roman Portraits,’ a poem, 1793.
Almost as soon as he had settled in London, Malone concentrated his attention on Shakespearean criticism, and he was privately encouraged in his work by Lord Charlemont, and at first by George Steevens, who presented him with his collection of old plays, and at one time professed to have retired from Shakespearean investigation in Malone's favour. Malone began work on the chronological arrangement of Shakespeare's plays, and in January 1778 published his ‘Attempt to ascertain the Order in which the Plays of Shakespeare were written.’ His results have not been very materially altered by later investigation. There followed in 1780 his very substantial supplement to Johnson's edition of Shakespeare in two volumes. The first contained ‘Supplemental Observations’ on the history of the Elizabethan stage and the text of the plays, with reprints of Arthur Brooke's ‘Romeus and Juliet,’ and Shakespeare's poems. The second volume supplied a reprint of ‘Pericles,’ and of five plays (‘Locrine,’ ‘Oldcastle,’ pt. i., ‘Cromwell,’ ‘London Prodigal,’ and ‘Puritan’) doubtfully assigned to Shakespeare. Malone followed Farmer in assigning the greater part of ‘Pericles’ to Shakespeare, and this view has been adopted by all later editors. In the spring of 1783 came out ‘A Second Appendix to Mr. Malone's Supplement to the last edition of the Plays of Shakespeare,’ i.e. to ‘Mr. Steevens's last excellent edition of 1778.’ This mainly consisted of textual emendation.
In August 1783 Malone asked Nichols, the editor of the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ to announce a new edition by himself ‘with select notes from all the commentators.’ To this work Malone devoted the next seven years. A breach with Steevens ensued. Malone had contributed a few notes, in which he differed from Steevens, to Isaac Reed's edition of 1783. Steevens demanded that Malone should transfer them unaltered to his projected edition, and when Malone declined to give the promise, Steevens took offence and the friendly intercourse ended. Malone issued in 1787 ‘A Dissertation on the Three Parts of King Henry VI, tending to show that those Plays were not originally written by Shakespeare.’ But his researches were largely directed to elucidating the biography of Shakespeare and the history of the Elizabethan stage. Francis Ingram of Ribbesford lent Malone the valuable office-book (now lost) of Sir Henry Herbert [q. v.], and the master of Dulwich College allowed him to remove to his own house the Alleyn and Henslowe MSS., while he examined the records in the court of chancery and in the registry of the Worcester diocese. In April 1788 he began a correspondence with James Davenport, vicar of Stratford-on-Avon, who lent him the parish registers. Malone also visited Stratford and made the acquaintance of John Jordan [q. v.], the poet of the town, who interested himself in antiquities, and was not incapable of inventing them. Malone entertained Jordan when he visited London in July 1799, and tried to obtain some government place for him. With Davenport he corresponded till 1805, and his correspondence with both him and Jordan was published in very limited editions, from manuscripts preserved at Stratford, in 1864, by Mr. J. O. Halliwell. Malone did Stratford an ill turn when he induced the vicar in 1793 to whitewash the coloured bust of Shakespeare in the chancel of the church. The incident suggested the bitter epigram—
Stranger, to whom this monument is shewn,
Invoke the poet's curse upon Malone;
Whose meddling zeal his barbarous taste betrays,
And daubs his tombstone, as he mars his plays.
(Gent. Mag. 1815, pt. i. p. 390.)
The main results of Malone's investigations were published in November 1790 in his edition of ‘Shakespeare,’ which appeared in ten volumes (but the first volume being in two parts, the whole numbered eleven). Among those who eulogised Malone's efforts was Burke, who acknowledged his infinite pains, great sagacity, and public-spirited labour, and lamented that he could only repay Malone's gift of gold with a gift of brass in the form of ‘The Reflections on the French Revolution.’ Reynolds would gladly have seen ‘more disquisition;’ Daines Barrington was ‘exceedingly gratified.’ Walpole, on the other hand, called it ‘the heaviest of all books … with notes that are an extract of all the opium that is spread through the works of all the bad playwrights of that age,’ but Walpole admitted that Malone's researches were ‘indefatigable’ (Letters, ix. 326). Malone's work found, indeed, detractors more outspoken than Walpole. James Hurdis, in his ‘Cursory Remarks upon the Arrangement of the Plays of Shakespeare,’ characterised Malone's labours as ‘disappointing.’ Joseph Ritson charged him with a ‘total want of ear and judgment’ in a pamphlet entitled ‘Cursory Criticisms,’ 1792. ‘His pages abound’ (according to Ritson) ‘with profound ignorance, idle conjectures, crude notions, feeble attempts at jocularity,’ and the like. Malone replied in April in ‘A Letter to the Rev. Richard Farmer, D.D.,’ of which the presentation copy to Farmer is in the British Museum. Malone there showed that after carefully collating the hundred thousand lines of the text he had made 1,654 emendations. Ritson alleged only thirteen errors, and in five he was mistaken. Steevens, when reissuing his edition in 1793, introduced many offensive references to Malone. But in fifteen months the edition was nearly sold out, and Malone almost at once issued a prospectus for a new edition in fifteen volumes, on superior paper, and with illustrations; but this scheme was definitely abandoned in 1796 for a new octavo edition in twenty volumes: the first volume to be devoted to the life, the second and third to a fuller history of the stage. In the preparation of this work Malone was mainly occupied for the rest of his life.
With a view to exhausting all possible sources of information Malone worked at Aubrey's manuscripts at Oxford for a fortnight in the summer of 1793, and arranged them with a view to publication. On 5 July 1793 the university of Oxford granted Malone the degree of D.C.L. (Foster, Alumni Oxon.) James Caulfield [q. v.] some years later complained that on this visit to the Bodleian, Malone used his influence with the authorities to prevent him from pursuing an examination of Aubrey's manuscripts, which he had begun in the previous year. Malone seems to have discovered that Caulfield had employed as copyist one Curtis, an assistant in the Bodleian, who was guilty of serious depredations in the library. When Caulfield published some portion of his transcripts from Aubrey's manuscripts under the title of ‘The Oxford Cabinet’ (1797), Malone is reported to have bought up the whole edition (of 250 copies), and Caulfield thereupon issued ‘An Enquiry into the Conduct of Edmund Malone, Esq., concerning the Manuscript Papers of John Aubrey, F.R.S.,’ London, 1797.
In January 1808 Malone issued privately a tract on the origin of the plot of the ‘Tempest,’ associating it with the account of the discovery of the Bermudas issued in 1610 [see Jourdain, Sylvester]. Douce had published like conclusions in his ‘Illustrations’ in the previous year, but Malone's results were reached independently.
Twice Malone turned from purely Shakespearean researches to prick literary bubbles of the day. Jacob Bryant's endeavour to prove the genuineness of Chatterton's ‘Rowley Poems’ drew from him, at Lord Charlemont's suggestion, a sarcastic rejoinder in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ 1782, and this he afterwards reissued as ‘Cursory Observations on the Poems attributed to Thomas Rowley, a priest of the fifteenth century,’ 1782. Thomas Warton and Tyrwhitt commended his efforts. Walpole wrote that Malone ‘unluckily has attempted humour, which is not an antiquary's weapon’ (Letters, viii. 149, cf. 161), but in a letter to Malone he agreed that he had ‘pointed their own artillery against them victoriously’ (ib. ix. 492).
In 1796 Malone published his better-known ‘Exposure of the Ireland Forgeries: an Inquiry into the authenticity of certain Papers attributed to Shakespeare’ [see Ireland, Samuel]. Steevens, despite his quarrel, acknowledged this to be ‘one of the most decisive pieces of criticism that was ever produced.’ Burke declared that he had revived ‘the spirit of that sort of criticism by which false pretence and imposture are detected.’ Ireland retorted in ‘An Investigation of Mr. Malone's Claim to the character of Scholar and Critic,’ 1796, and George Chalmers took up a similar attitude to Malone in his ‘Apology’ and ‘Supplemental Apology,’ 1797. For many years Malone amused himself by collecting everything published on the Chatterton or Ireland controversy.
As early as 1791 Malone projected an elaborate edition of Dryden's works and opened a correspondence with Sir David Dalrymple, lord Hailes [q. v.], who was reported to be engaged in a similar scheme. In 1800 there appeared in four volumes ‘The Critical and Miscellaneous Prose Works of John Dryden, with an Account of the Life and Writings of the Author.’ While engaged on the edition, Malone made a transcript of the well-known ‘Anecdotes’ of Joseph Spence [q. v.], which were then unprinted. The transcript proved of service to S. W. Singer, who first printed the ‘Anecdotes’ in 1820. The detailed care which Malone bestowed on Dryden's works excited the ridicule of George Hardinge [q. v.], who published two long-winded pamphlets: one entitled ‘The Essence of Malone,’ 1800, and the second, ‘Another Essence of Malone, or the Beauties of Shakespeare's Editor,’ in two parts, London, 1801, 8vo. Hardinge charges Malone with magnifying trifles; but though the attack is clever, it bears signs of malice, which destroys most of its value (cf. Nichols, Lit. Illustr. viii. 39). Sir Walter Scott, in his edition of Dryden, admitted that it would be hard to ‘produce facts which had escaped the accuracy of Malone, whose industry has removed the clouds which so long hung over the events of Dryden's life.’ A similar treatment of Pope seems to have been abandoned on the appearance of Joseph Warton's edition, in 1797.
In 1801 the university of Dublin conferred on Malone the degree of LL.D. He edited in 1808 (although his name did not appear) some manuscripts left by William Gerard Hamilton; and on the death of Windham, which greatly grieved him, he corrected some current rumours respecting his life in an article in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine,’ June 1810, which he circulated privately as a pamphlet; it is also reprinted in Nichols's ‘Literary Illustrations,’ v. 470 sq. Early in 1812 Malone's health, long declining, failed. From 17 March to 13 April he stayed at Taplow Court, Maidenhead, the residence of Lady Thomond. He died unmarried at Foley Place, 25 April 1812, and was buried in the family mausoleum in Kilbixy churchyard, near Baronston. A Latin epitaph in the mausoleum is by Dr. Beirnie, bishop of Meath, and gives full credit to his hospitality (Eclectic Review, May 1860, pp. 507 sq.).
Malone left his materials for the new edition of Shakespeare to James Boswell the younger, who completed his task in 1821. The new edition was in twenty-one volumes, and included, amid many other additions to the prolegomena, an essay on Shakespeare's metre and phraseology. In his preface Boswell defended his friend from the attacks of Steevens in his edition of 1793, and of Gifford in his edition of Ben Jonson. ‘Boswell's Malone’ is generally known as the ‘third variorum’ edition of Shakespeare, and is generally acknowledged to be the best; the ‘first variorum’ is the name bestowed on the edition of Johnson and Steevens, edited by Isaac Reed in 1803; and the ‘second variorum’ is that bestowed on a revision of Isaac Reed's work issued in 1813.
According to the younger Boswell, Malone ‘was indeed a cordial and a steady friend, combining the utmost mildness with the simplest sincerity and the most manly independence. Tenacious, perhaps, of his own opinions, which he had seldom hastily formed, he was always ready to listen with candour and good humour to those of others.’ The elegance of his manners evoked the admiration of Kemble and Mrs. Siddons. Socially he did his best to keep alive the traditions connected with Johnson and his associates, but, although not writing for money, he fully identified himself with the profession of letters. His publications prove him to have been a literary antiquary rather than a literary critic. He was ‘an excellent ferret in charter warrens,’ accurate in minute investigation, of unbounded industry, of incontrovertible honesty, and a sincere admirer of Shakespeare. ‘No writer, I think,’ wrote Andrew Caldwell to Bishop Percy, ‘ever took more pains to establish facts and detect errors’ (Prior, p. 268). His zeal as a Shakespearean investigator was insatiable. ‘Till our author's whole library,’ he wrote in 1778 in his first ‘Supplement,’ ‘shall have been discovered, till the plots of all his dramas shall have been traced to their sources, till every allusion shall be pointed out and every obscurity elucidated, somewhat will still remain to be done by the commentators on his works.’ In his treatment of the text of Shakespeare he depended with greater fidelity than any of his predecessors on the early editions; and in Shakespearean biography and theatrical history he brought together more that was new and important than any predecessor or successor. But when he attempted original textual emendation, his defective ear became lamentably apparent. His intellect lacked the alertness characteristic of Steevens or Gifford.
As a book collector Malone met with many successes. His library, he claimed, contained every dramatic piece mentioned by Langbaine, except four or five. In 1805 he bought of William Ford, a Manchester bookseller, a unique copy of Shakespeare's ‘Venus and Adonis,’ 1593, for 25l. To obtain ‘ancient copies’ of Shakespeare ‘was,’ writes the younger Boswell, ‘the great effort of his life;’ and a large part of his moderate fortune was devoted ‘to purchases—to him of the first necessity, to many collectors of idle curiosity.’ Between 1771 and 1808 he spent 2,121l. 5s. on books and binding, and between 1780 and 1808 839l. 9s. on pictures and prints. His volumes were bound in half-calf with ‘E. M.’ in an interlaced monogram on the back. The library was accessible to every scholar. Engraved portraits of historical personages figured largely in it, and many of these ultimately passed to the Rev. Thomas Rooper of Brighton, a relative of Malone's sister-in-law, Lady Sunderlin.
By Malone's will, made in 1801, his brother, Lord Sunderlin, who was sole executor, received his Shinglas and Cavan property. Three thousand pounds were left to each of his sisters. His library was placed at the absolute disposal of his brother. But he suggested that it might either remain as a heirloom at Baronston, or might be presented to Trinity College, Dublin. In 1815 Lord Sunderlin arranged that the greater part of it, including the rare works in early English literature, should be presented to the Bodleian Library, Oxford. At the time, these volumes were in the keeping of the younger Boswell, to whom they had been lent in order to enable him to complete the edition of Shakespeare. In 1821 the younger Boswell sent the books to Oxford. The catalogue, which was printed by the university in 1836, fills forty-six folio pages. In 1861 Halliwell-Phillipps printed a hand list of the rarer early English literature in the collection.
The rest of Malone's library was dispersed. His sisters presented to the younger Boswell some of his correspondence, many of his transcripts from rare documents and several books annotated by himself, and these were sold with Boswell's library in May 1825. In 1803 Malone himself disposed of a part of his library, and other portions, including 2,544 lots with duplicates of many rare English books and a collection of seven hundred tracts in seventy-six volumes, were sold in 1818; the tracts were sold again by Thorpe in 1833, and were bought by the Bodleian Library in 1838. The Bodleian Library has also purchased at various later dates many of Malone's manuscript notes respecting Shakespeare and Pope and much of his literary correspondence. A few of his letters and a copy of Johnson's ‘Dictionary’, copiously annotated by him in manuscript, are now in the British Museum.
A portrait, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which belonged to the Rev. Thomas Rooper, was presented by him in 1883 to the National Portrait Gallery, London. It was twice engraved; once for Bell's ‘British Poets.’ Another portrait, by Ozias Humphrey, was sent, in 1797, to Lord Charlemont, who praised its fidelity.
[James Boswell the younger contributed a memoir to the Gent. Mag. in May 1812. This was reissued separately in 1814 for private circulation; it also appeared in Boswell's edition of Shakespeare, 1821, vol. i. pp. liv–lxxi; in Nichols's Illustrations, v. 444–87, with an Appendix of ten letters addressed by Malone to Nichols. Sir James Prior's Life of Malone, 1864, adds many letters, and although ill-arranged is full of information; and to it is appended a collection of anecdotes—chiefly literary—collected by Malone. See also Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. Hill; Leslie's Life of Sir Joshua Reynolds; Boaden's Life of Kemble; Macray's Annals, 2nd edit. pp. 307–8; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. and Illustrations; Charlemont Papers in Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. pt. x.]