‘to turn their own Cannon against them & ridicule them’

Samuel Madden, Robert Walpole and anti-Craftsman satire @ BSECS Postgraduate and Early-Career Scholar Seminar Series

There is something mysterious in the history of the Memoirs of the Twentieth Century, an early speculative fiction novel published anonymously in London in 1733. Thanks to a testimony by the publisher William Bowyer, it is known that out of one thousand copies commissioned by the author, some nine hundred were eliminated fresh out of print.

Written by Samuel Madden, an Anglican clergyman and philanthropist with Hanoverian and Whig sympathies, the novel consists of a collection of diplomatic letters written in the 1990s, sent to the Lord High Treasurer in London from British ambassadors from a number of countries, which the narrator claims to have received from the future. A fine example of the emergence of a new secularized future, pliable through human action, the novel’s logical extrapolation is informed by a variety of underlying rationales, ranging from utopian achievements to the satiric mocking of the writer’s present.

Madden had discussed with Robert Walpole the advisability of using satire against the government’s opposition, around about the same time as the idea for the Memoirs was presumably taking shape. In a letter to the de facto prime minister, he had proposed launching a satirical counterattack against the Tories united around The Craftsman.

Drawing on limited but eloquent documentary evidence available, and locating Madden’s political reflections in its original context – British political debate in the late 1720s – this paper will discuss the mystery surrounding the destruction of the Memoir’s print run.

Join the BSECS Postgraduate and Early-Career Scholar Seminar Series 2021, June 24th.

All sessions take place on the last Thursday of the month between 3-4pm GMT/BST.

See the programme at this EXTERNAL LINK

Register at http://bsecs-pg-ecr.eventbrite.com

Satirical head of Sir Robert Walpole yawning, 1743. Engraving by George Bickham the Younger. Inscription content: With title in upper margin, and in the lower margin ‘Lo! What are all your schemes come to?’ followed by two stanzas of seven lines of verse from Pope’s ‘Dunciad’: ‘More he had said, but yan’d … And Navies yawn’d for Orders on the Main’. Signed in lower right below image ‘Publish’d by G.Bickham in May’s Buildings’ and on the left ‘1743 Dec 3’. The British Museum Collections Online, © The Trustees of the British Museum, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
Cite this article as: Giulia Iannuzzi, "‘to turn their own Cannon against them & ridicule them’," in Geographies of Time, 22/06/2021, https://ian.hypotheses.org/1868.

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