Dodgson Hamilton Madden

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Dodgson Hamilton Madden (28 March 1840 – 6 March 1928) was an Irish Unionist Party Member of Parliament (MP) in the United Kingdom Parliament and subsequently a Judge. The Irish Unionists were the Irish wing of the Conservative Party.

He was the only son of the Reverend Hugh Hamilton Madden of Templemore, County Tipperary, and Isabella Mason. He married firstly in 1868 Mary (Minna) Moore and secondly in 1898 Jessie Warburton. He attended Trinity College, Dublin, before being called to the Irish Bar in 1864. He became a Queen's Counsel (QC) in 1880 and Third Serjeant in 1887.

Madden wrote several books on legal topics; but his best-known work is probably The Diary of Master William Silence; a Study of Shakespeare and of Elizabethan Sport, an imaganitive reconstruction of the world of Shakespeare's Falstaff. His scholarship led Maurice Healy to describe him as a don who had strayed into the Courts. Of his legal works the best known is Madden on Deeds, which remained the standard work on the subject for many years.

Madden was Solicitor-General for Ireland 1888-1890, and Attorney-General for Ireland in 1890-1892. He was made a member of the Privy Council of Ireland 9 December 1889. He was MP for Dublin University 1887-1892. He was subsequently Vice-Chancellor of Dublin University 1895-1919.

Madden left the House of Commons when he was appointed to the office of Justice of the Queen's Bench Division of the Irish High Court in 1892, an office which he held until 1919 when he retired and moved to England.

Maurice Healy in his memoir The Old Munster Circuit[1] described him with respect and affection: "one of the most charming judges I ever met". Yet Healy did not rate Madden especially highly as a judge, even allowing that his reputation was bound to suffer in comparison to such outstanding contemporaries as Christopher Palles and Hugh Holmes, in an era when the quality of Irish judges has probably never been higher. Healy recalled that to appear before Madden was a pleasure, especially if one could think of an appropriate literary reference, but his actual judgments were "weak and diffuse".

His judgment in Powell v McGlynn and Bradlaw,[2] concerning liability for a runaway pony, affords an excellent example of his judicial style. The question of whether one defendant employed the other depended in the circumstances partly on whether the expression "humph" had any legal meaning. Madden, displaying his great knowledge of English literature, cited Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott, among other sources, to prove that "humph" had a definite meaning, namely an expression of disagreement.


  1. MIchael Joseph Ltd. London 1939
  2. [1902] 2 I.R.154

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Hugh Holmes and
David Robert Plunket
Member of Parliament for Dublin University
With: David Robert Plunket
Succeeded by
Edward Carson and
David Robert Plunket
Legal offices
Preceded by
Peter O'Brien
Solicitor-General for Ireland
Succeeded by
John Atkinson
Preceded by
Peter O'Brien
Attorney-General for Ireland
Succeeded by
The MacDermot