Samuel Madden

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Madden, Samuel, D.D., "Premium Madden," a distinguished writer, and one of the founders of the Royal Dublin Society, was born in Dublin, 23rd December 1686. He took the degree of B.A. at Trinity College in 1705, and was collated to Drummully, near Newtownbutler, in 1721. The celebrated Philip Skelton was his curate here, and tutor to his sons. (In his life by Burdy are several interesting particulars concerning Mr. Madden.) In 1723 he took the degree of D.D. He first appeared before the public as an author in 1729, when he published his tragedy of Themistocles, played with considerable success in London. In 1731 he wrote A Proposal for the General Encouragement of Learning in Trinity College, and in 1733 published anonymously in London his Memoir of the Twentieth Century, 527 pp., a cumbrous effort at a jeu d'esprit on current politics, "unrelieved by any merits adequate to counterbalance the serious defect of too great prolixity." Almost the whole edition of 1,000 copies was withdrawn and cancelled by himself a few days after publication.

In 1738 he wrote Reflections and Resolutions proper for the Gentlemen of Ireland, a suggestive and valuable work, partaking somewhat of the character of Bishop Berkeley's Querist. About this time he promoted a system of quarterly premiums at Trinity College (which obtained for him the appellation of "Premium Madden", and constantly exerted himself to induce persons of rank and influence to give their support to plans for the amelioration of the country. The Dublin Society was originated at a meeting held in Trinity College on 25th June 1731. While Thomas Prior was most active in founding the Society, Madden was one of those to whom the ultimate success of this great national institution was due. It was mainly through his influence that in April 1749-'50 a charter of incorporation was obtained. Commencing in 1739, he contributed annually £130 in premiums for the encouragement of manufactures and the arts by means of the Society — a sum increased to above £300 per annum a few years later. Having spent a life of exemplary piety and charity, and devoted his talents and liberal fortune to the improvement of the condition of his fellow-creatures, he died at Manor Waterhouse, in the County of Fermanagh, 31st December 1765, aged 79.

He bequeathed a large and valuable collection of books to Trinity College, and several paintings now in the Provost's house. Dr. Madden was the friend of many of the most eminent men of his time, and was greatly esteemed by Dr. Johnson, who said, his was "a name which Ireland ought to honour." So little is now known of this distinguished man that even his descendants are unacquainted with the place of his interment, and the accounts of his life are most meagre and contradictory. The particulars here given are principally taken from a notice of his family, his life, his descendants, and the rise of the Royal Dublin Society, in the Irish Quarterly Review, 1853.

His son, Samuel Molyneux Madden, who died in 1798, bequeathed his estate in the corporation of Belturbet, together with the residue of his personal estate, for the founding of a prize to be given to the best of the disappointed candidates at the Fellowship examinations at Trinity College, Dublin.

Note from Addenda:

Madden, Samuel, D.D. — For "1749-'50," read "1750."[233]

Sources

190b. Irish Monthly Magazine. Dublin, 1873-'7.

233. Manuscript and Special Information, and Current Periodicals.

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