Richard Robert Madden

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Richard Robert Madden
Richard Robert Madden (United Irishman).jpg
Richard Robert Madden in 1858
Born 22 August, 1798
Died 5 February, 1886
Nationality Irish
Known for
Children Thomas More Madden (son)

Richard Robert Madden (22 August 1798 – 5 February 1886) was an Irish doctor, writer, abolitionist and historian of the United Irishmen. Madden took an active role in trying to impose anti-slavery rules in Jamaica on behalf of the British government.


Madden undercover in Syria, exploring the Turkish Empire

Madden was born at Wormwood Gate, Dublin to Edward Madden, a silk manufacturer. He was educated at private schools. He studied medicine in Paris, Italy, and St George's Hospital, London. While in Naples he became acquainted with Lady Blessington and her circle.[1] He married in 1828, stopped travelling, and for five years he practised medicine.

Eventually he realised that he needed to contribute to the abolitionist cause. The slave trade had been illegal in the empire since 1807, but slaves still existed. Abolishing slavery was a popular cause and it was obvious that the trading of slaves was still in progress and many were not actively involved but they were complicit with the activity.[2]

Madden was employed in the British civil service from 1833, first as a justice of the peace in Jamaica, where he was one of six Special Magistrates sent to oversee the eventual liberation of Jamaica's slave population, according to the terms of the Slavery Abolition Act 1833. From 1835 he was Superintendent of the freed Africans in Havana. His son, Thomas More Madden, who later became a surgeon and writer, was born there. In 1839 he became the investigating officer into the slave trade on the west coast of Africa, in 1847 the secretary for the West Australian colonies. He returned to Dublin and in 1850 he was named secretary of the Office for Loan Funds in Dublin.[3]

He died at his home in Booterstown, just south of Dublin city, in 1886 and is interred in Donnybrook Cemetery.

Published works[edit]

Besides several travel diaries (Travels in Turkey, Egypt etc. in 1824–27, 1829,[4] and others (1833)), his works include the historically significant book The United Irishmen, their lives and times (1843, 7 Vols.),[5] which contains important details on the causes of the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

His other books include:

  • The Mussulman., London, H. Colburn and R. Bentley, 1830. 3 vol. LCCN 42-44802. Available on Google Books: vol. 1, vol. 2 and vol. 3.
  • The infirmities of genius illustrated by referring the anomalies in the literary character to the habits and constitutional peculiarities of men of genius., London, Saunders and Otley, 1833. 2 vol. LCCN 15-13521. Available on Google Books: vol. 1 and vol. 2.
  • A Twelvemonth’s Residence in the West Indies, during the transition from slavery to apprenticeship; with incidental notice of the state of society, prospects, and natural resources of Jamaica and other islands., Philadelphia, Carey, Lea and Blanchard, 1835. 2 vol. LCCN 02-13566. Available on Google Books: vol. 1 and vol. 2.
  • Juan Francisco Manzano, Poems by a slave in the island of Cuba, recently liberated; translated from the Spanish, by R. R. Madden, M.D., with the history of the early life of the negro poet, written by himself; to which are prefixed two pieces descriptive of Cuban slavery and the slave-traffic, by R. R. M., London, T. Ward & Co., 1840. [9]-188 p. LCCN 01-13046
    • Note that there is an ew edition, under a shorter title: The Life and Poems of a Cuban Slave : Juan Francisco Manzano, 1797–1854 / edited by Edward J. Mullen, Hamden, Connecticut : Archon Books, 1981. vii, 237 p. ISBN 0-208-01900-6. LCCN 81-3652 – Madden's name as editor and translator seems to be given inside the book.
  • The Connexion between the Kingdom of Ireland and the Crown of England ... With an appendix of the Privy Council correspondence during ... 1811, 1812, 1816, 1817., Dublin : James Duffy, 1845. iii-340 p.
  • The History of the Penal Laws Enacted Against Roman Catholics, London : Thomas Richardson and Son, 1847. 1 vol. (80 p.). Available on Google Books.
  • The Life and Times of Robert Emmet, Esq., Dublin : James Duffy Publisher, 1847 (first edition), XV-VII-343 p. (available on Google Books. Second edition : Glasgow :Cameron, Ferguson & Co., 1902, 272 p. LCCN 04-4402.
  • The island of Cuba: its resources, progress, and prospects, considered in relation especially to the influence of its prosperity on the interests of the British West India Colonies., London, C. Gilpin; [etc., etc.] 1849. xxiv-252 p. LCCN 29-23832
  • The shrines and sepulchres of the Old and New World; records of pilgrimages in many lands and researches connected with the history of places remarkable for memorials of the dead, or monuments of a sacred character; including notices of the funeral customs of the principal nations, ancient and modern., London, T. C. Newby, 1851. 2 vol. LCCN 16-20251
  • The Life and Martyrdom of Savonarola, illustrative of the history of church and state connexion., London, T. C. Newby, 1853. 2 vol. LCCN 06-23658. Available on Google Books: vol. 1 and vol. 2.
  • The Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington, London, T. C. Newby, 1855. 3 vol. LCCN 13-7744. Available on Google Books: vol. 1, vol. 2 and vol. 3.
    • New edition, under the same title: New York, AMS Press, 1973. 3 vol. ISBN 0-404-07720-X.
  • Phantasmata ; or, Illusions and fanaticisms of Protean forms, productive of great evils., London, T. C. Newby, 1857. 2 vol. LCCN 11-6864
  • The Turkish Empire. In its Relations with Christianity and Civilization., London, T. C. Newby, 1862. 2 vol. LCCN 05-9240. Available on Google Books: vol. 2.
  • Galileo and the Inquisition, London: Burns & Lambert; Dublin: J. Mullany, 1863. vi-210 p.
  • Historical Notice of Penal Laws Against Roman Catholics: Their Operation and Relaxation During the Past Century, of Partial Measures of Relief in 1779, 1782, 1793, 1829, and of Penal Laws which Remain Unrepealed, Or Have Been Rendered More Stringent by the Latest So-called Emancipation Act., London : Thomas Richarson and Son, 1865. 241 p. Available on Google Books.
  • The history of Irish periodical literature, from the end of the 17th to the middle of the 19th century, its origin, progress, and results; with notices of remarkable persons connected with the press in Ireland during the past two centuries., London : T. C. Newby, 1867. 2 vol. (vii-338 p. + 531 p.). Available on Google Books: vol. 1 and vol. 2.
  • The memoirs (chiefly autobiographical) from 1798 to 1886 of Richard Robert Madden. Edited by his son Thomas More Madden., London, Ward & Downey, 1891. 4-328 p., LCCN 40-18630

His time in Jamaica is also noticeable for his collection of letters and autobiographical accounts of several Muslim African slaves there at the time. These accounts are dealt with in his two-volume memoir, A Twelve Month's Residence in the West Indies.

He also wrote poetry for The Nation.[6]


  • Gera Burton, Ambivalence and the postcolonial subject : the strategic alliance of Juan Francisco Manzano and Richard Robert Madden, New York : Peter Lang, 2004, xii-144 p., ISBN 0-8204-7058-9, LCCN 2003-19581


  1. ^ J. M. Rigg, ‘Madden, Richard Robert (1798–1886)’, rev. Lynn Milne, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  2. ^ Murray, David.R. (1972). "Richard Robert Madden". Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  3. ^ Boylan, Henry (1998). A Dictionary of Irish Biography, 3rd Edition. Dublin: Gill and MacMillan. p. 262. ISBN 0-7171-2945-4. 
  4. ^ Travels in Turkey, Egypt, Nubia and Palestine in 1824, 1825, 1826 & 1827 (online version)
  5. ^ The United Irishmen, their lives and times (online version)
  6. ^ Lalor, Brian (2003). The Encyclopedia of Ireland. Yale: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-09442-8.