Madox, Thomas

, the learned exchequer antiquary, and historiographer royal, of whose personal history we have no information, is well known among antiquaries and lawyers for his valuable collection of records relating to the ancient laws and constitution of this country; the knowledge of which tends greatly to the illustration of English history. In 1702, under the patronage of the learned lord Somers, he published the first fruits of his researches, under the title of “A Collection of antique Charters and Instruments of divers kinds taken from the originals, placed under several heads, and deduced (in a series according to the order of time) from the Norman conquest, to the end of the reign of king Henry VIII.” This is known by the name of the “Formulare AngJicanum.” To it is prefixed a dissertation concerning “Ancient Charters and Instruments,” replete with useful learning upon that subject. He was prompted to this work, by considering that there was no methodical history or system of ancient charters and instruments of this nation then extant; and that it would be acceptable to curious persons, and useful to the public, if something were done for supplying that defect. Having entertained such a design, and being furnished with proper materials from the archives of the late court of augmentations, he was encouraged to proceed in it, especially by lord Somers and prosecuted it with so much application, that out of an immense heap of original charters and writings, remaining in that repository, he selected and digested the chief substance of this volume. In 1711, he proceeded to a work of still greater importance than the foregoing, “The History and Antiquities of the Exchequer of the Kings of England, in two periods, viz. from the Norman conquest, to the end of the reign of king John; and from the end of the reign of king John, to the end of the reign of king Edward II. Taken from records. Together with a correct copy of the ancient dialogue concerning the Exchequer, generally ascribed to Gervasius Tilburiensis and a Dissertation concernlag the most ancient great roll of the exchequer, commonly styled the roll of Quinto Regis Stephani,” folio; | reprinted in 1769, in 4to. This was dedicated to queen Anne; but there is likewise prefixed to it a long prefatory epistle to the lord Somers, in which he gives that illustrious patron some account of this unprecedented undertaking. He observes, that though some treatises had been written concerning the exchequer, yet no history [of it had been yet attempted by any man; that he had pursued his subject to those ancient times, to which, he thinks, the original of the exchequer in England may properly be assigned; and thence had drawn down an orderly account of it through a long course of years; and, having consulted, as well the books necessary to be perused upon this occasion, as a very great number of records and manuscripts, he had endeavoured all along x to confirm what he offered by proper vouchers, which are subjoined column-wise in each page, except where their extraordinary length made it impracticable. The records. which he here attests were, as he adds, taken by his own pen from the authentic parchments, unless where it appears by his references to be otherwise. He has contrived throughout the whole (as far as the subject-matter would permit) to make use of such memorials as serve either to make known or to explain the ancient laws and usages of this kingdom. For which reason, as he notes“, this work may be deemed, not merely a history of the exchequer, but likewise a promptuary towards a history of the ancient law of England. He afterwards acquaints” his lordship in what method he began and proceeded in compiling this work. First, he made as full a collection from records as he could, of materials relating to the subject. Those materials being regularly arranged in several books of collectanea, he reviewed them, and, weighing what they imported, and how they might be applied, he drew from thence a general scheme of his design. When he had pitched upon the heads of his discourse, he took materials for them out of the aforesaid fund, and digested them into their proper rank and order. In do ng this, it was his practice for the most part to write down, in the draught of his book, the respective records or testimonies first of all; i. e. before he wrote his own text or composition; and from them formed his history or accouit of things; connecting and applying them afterwards, as the case would admit. At the end of this history (as we have expressed it in the title) Mr. Maddox has publisteti a copy of the treatise concerning the exchequer, | written in the way of dialogue, and generally ascribed to Gervasius Tilburiensis. This treatise is certainly very ancient, and intrinsically valuable. Our author introduces it by an epistolary dissertation, in Latin, to the then lord Halifax. The dialogue is followed by another epistolary dissertation, in the same language, addressed to the lord Somers, relating to the great roll of the exchequer, commonly styled the “Roll of Quinto Regis Stephani.” No historical account has been given, in this volume, of the records reposited in the exchequer. Mr. Madox thought that it might be more properly done if there was occasion for it, hereafter, in a continuation of this work; which he seems to have had some intention of performing himself when he published this part; or hoped some other hand would supply, if he did not*. The concluding chapter of the history is a list of the barons of this court from the first year of William the Conqueror to the 20th of Edward II. The last work this laborious historiographer published himself, was the “Firma Burgi, or historical essay concerning the cities, towns, and boroughs of England. Taken from records.” This treatise was inscribed to king George I. The author warns his readers against expecting to find any curious or refined learning in it; in regard the matter of it is low. It is only one part of a subject, which, however, is extensive and difficult, concerning which, be tells us, much has been said by English writers to very little purpose, serving rather to entangle than to clear it. When he first entered upon the discussion of it, he found himself encompassed with doubts, which it hath been his endeavour, as he says, to remove or lessen as he went along. He has throughout mixed history and dissertation together, making these two strengthen and diversify each other. However modestly Mr. Madox might express himself concerning the learning of this work, it is in reality both curious and profound, and his inquiries very useful. The civil antiquities of this country would, in all probability, have been further obliged than they are to this industrious person, if his life had been of a somewhat longer continuance; for it may be presumed, from two or three passages in the prefaces of those books he published


By a letter from him to Dr. Charlett, we find that the printing and paper of this work cost him 400l. and when the whole impression of 480 should be sold, he would be but just able to pay the charges with a trifling overplus." Letters by eminent Persona, 1813, 3 vols. 8vo.

| himself, that he meditated and intended some others to follow them, different from this posthumous History of Baronies, which his advertisement of it apparently suggests to be the only manuscript left finished by the author. This is compiled much in the manner of his other writings. In the first book he discourses largely of land baronies; in the second book he treats briefly of titular baronies and in the third of feudal tenure in capite.

Mr. Madox’s large and valuable collection of transcripts, in ninety-four volumes in folio and quarto, consisting chiefly of extracts from records in the exchequer, the patent and clause rolls in the Tower, the Cotton library, the archives of Canterbury and Westminster, the collections of Christ’s College, Cambridge, &c. made by him, and intended as materials for a feudal history of England from the earliest times, were presented by his widow to the British museum, where they are now preserved. They were the labour of thirty years; and Mr. Madox frequently declared, that when young he would have given 1500 guineas for them. Fifty-nine volumes of Rymer’s Collection of Public Acts relating to the history and government of England from 1115 to 1698 (not printed in his Fosdera, but of which there is a catalogue in vol. XVII.) are also deposited in the Museum by an order of the House of Lords. 1


Nichols’s Bowyer.