Madden, Frederic (DNB00)

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MADDEN, Sir FREDERIC (1801–1873), antiquary and palæographer, was born at Portsmouth 16 Feb. 1801, and was the seventh son of William John Madden, a captain of royal marines, and nephew of General Sir George Allan Madden [q. v.] His family was of Irish extraction. From an early age he displayed a strong bias towards antiquarian and literary pursuits. He mastered Norman-French and Anglo-Saxon, languages little studied at the time, and in 1825 showed his acquaintance with the latter by collating the manuscripts of Cædmon for the university of Oxford. He was subsequently engaged, together with William Roscoe, in cataloguing the Earl of Leicester's manuscripts at Holkham, but the catalogue, though completed in eight volumes folio, remains unpublished. In 1826 he was engaged by the British Museum to assist in the preparation of the classified catalogue of the printed books, commenced under the superintendence of the Rev. T. Hartwell Horne [q. v.] He laboured for two years at this abortive undertaking, and his reports of progress are still preserved at the museum. In 1828 he obtained a position on the staff as assistant-keeper of manuscripts, was made a knight of the Guelphic order in 1832, a knight bachelor in 1833, and in 1837 became head of the manuscript department. In that situation he personally displayed the most unremitting diligence, but he failed, partly through a lack of cordiality in his relations with some of his colleagues, to maintain the department at a high level of efficiency. The great amount of manual as well as mental labour performed by him in the service of the museum did not disable him from literary pursuits, nearly all the editorial work on which his reputation as a scholar principally rests having been performed during his connection with that institution. He was also indefatigable in amassing manuscript material, much of which remains unused. As a palæographer he had no rival in his day, his sagacity, confirmed by long practice, appearing almost intuition. It was most conspicuously evinced in 1859 in the recognition of the notes in the ‘Perkins’ copy of the Shakespeare folio as forgeries, though personal considerations induced him to leave further investigation to others [see under Collier, John Payne]. His only extensive contributions to palæographic literature, however, were the text he wrote for Shaw's work on illuminated ornaments (1833) and his edition of the English translation of Silvestre's ‘Universal Palæography,’ 1850.

As an antiquary he published four great editions of ancient works, which stand out decisively from the mass of similar publications. The philological importance of his edition of ‘Havelok the Dane,’ 1828, is only surpassed by his publication for the Society of Antiquaries of Layamon's ‘Brut,’ 1847. Layamon [q. v.] is an English Ennius as regards language, though his matter is derived from foreign sources. A still more truly national work was Madden's magnificent edition, in conjunction with the Rev. Josiah Forshall [q. v.], of Wiclif's Bible, 1850, in the preparation of which sixty-five manuscripts were consulted by the editors. From 1866 to 1869 appeared in the Rolls Series his edition of Matthew Paris's ‘Historia Anglorum,’ with an important preface, pointing out that the largest portion of the ‘Flores Historiarum,’ attributed to the pseudo Matthew of Westminster, is partly in the handwriting of Matthew Paris himself, containing also a full investigation of the various manuscripts, and the proof of the untrustworthiness of the text given by Archbishop Parker. The third volume is prefaced by a biography of Matthew Paris, with an estimate of his place in literature.

Among Madden's minor publications, all of importance, may be especially named his editions of the metrical romances of ‘William and the Werewolf’ (1832) and ‘Syr Gawayne’ (1839), and of the old English versions of the ‘Gesta Romanorum’ (1838). He also edited (1831) the ‘Register of the Privy Purse Expenses of Mary Tudor as Princess,’ and wrote a number of separate memoirs on antiquarian and palæographical subjects, the best known of which is his ‘Observations on an Autograph of Shakspere and the Orthography of his Name’ (reprinted from the ‘Archæologia,’ vol. xxvii., in 1838). He contends that the name should be written ‘Shakspere,’ and that the extant autographs present no obstacle to the acceptance of that spelling. He had projected a history of chess in the middle ages, in conjunction with Howard Staunton [q. v.], but the book was never completed. Madden's abilities were rather critical than constructive, and he makes little effort to invest his subjects with the literary charm which they might well have admitted. He was well versed in early French and English, including their dialectical forms, but was disqualified from great eminence as a philologist by an imperfect knowledge of German.

Madden was one of the first hundred members selected for the Athenæum Club on 12 June 1830. He was elected an F.R.S. in February 1830, was a gentleman of the privy chamber both to William IV and Queen Victoria, a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (1828), and a member of the Royal Irish Academy and of numerous other learned societies. He died of pleurisy at his residence in St. Stephen's Square on 8 March 1873. His journals and papers were bequeathed to the Bodleian Library, where they are to remain unopened until 1920.

Madden was twice married. One of his sons, Mr. Frederic William Madden, is a distinguished numismatist, and author of a standard work on Hebrew coinage (1864).

[Encycl. Brit.; Athenæum, 15 March 1873; Ann. Reg. 1873, p. 131; Memoir by Connop Thirlwall, bishop of St. David's, being an address to the Royal Soc. of Lit. 1873; personal knowledge.]

R. G.