Richard Robert Madden

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Richard Robert Madden
Richard Robert Madden (United Irishman).jpg
Richard Robert Madden in 1858
Born (1798-08-22)22 August 1798
Died 5 February 1886(1886-02-05) (aged 87)
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 on 22 August 1798 to Edward Madden, a silk manufacturer and his wife Elizabeth (born Corey) .[1] His father had married twice and fathered twenty-one children.[2] Luckily for young Richard his father was still affluent enough by the time he was reaching adolescence to afford him a top quality education. This meant private schools and a medical apprenticeship in Athboy Co. Meath. He studied medicine in Paris, Italy, and St George's Hospital, London. While in Naples he became acquainted with Lady Blessington and her circle.[3]

In 1828 he married Harriet Elmslie,[1] herself coincidentally the youngest of twenty one children. Born in Marylebone in 1801 and baptised there into the Church of England,[4] she was the last child of John Elmslie (1739 – 1822), a Scot who owned hundreds of slaves on his plantations in Jamaica,[5] and his wife Jane Wallace (1760 – 1801). Both Harriet's parents were of Quaker stock, but while living in Cuba she converted to Roman Catholicism.[6] On marriage, Madden stopped travelling, and for five years 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.[7]

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.[8]

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,[9] and others (1833)), his works include the historically significant book The United Irishmen, their lives and times (1843, 7 Vols.),[10] 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.[11]


  • 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
  • Christopher Keniry, An Irish Doctor in the Caribbean, Richard Robert Madden's relationship with the island of Jamaica, Limerick : 2014, available from Mary Immaculate College Library.


  1. ^ a b J. M. Rigg, ‘Madden, Richard Robert (1798–1886)’, rev. Lynn Milne, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 16 Oct 2015
  2. ^ Richard Robert Madden,, Retrieved 16 October 2015
  3. ^ J. M. Rigg, ‘Madden, Richard Robert (1798–1886)’, rev. Lynn Milne, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  4. ^ ""England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975" , FamilySearch". Retrieved 17 February 2016. 
  5. ^ Legacies of British Slave-ownership, retrieved 17 February 2016 
  6. ^ Memorial in Donnybrook Cemetery, retrieved 17 February 2016 
  7. ^ Murray, David.R. (1972). "Richard Robert Madden". JSTOR 30088913. 
  8. ^ Boylan, Henry (1998). A Dictionary of Irish Biography, 3rd Edition. Dublin: Gill and MacMillan. p. 262. ISBN 0-7171-2945-4. 
  9. ^ Travels in Turkey, Egypt, Nubia and Palestine in 1824, 1825, 1826 & 1827 (online version)
  10. ^ The United Irishmen, their lives and times (online version)
  11. ^ Lalor, Brian (2003). The Encyclopedia of Ireland. Yale: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-09442-8.