| || Memoirs of the Twentieth Century |
aka Memoirs of the Twentieth Century, Vol. I.
by Samuel Madden
First publication: 24 Mar 1733
Two sources attribute the following account of Madden’s 1733 book to the 18th century English printer John Nichols. One of the sources is Dierdre Ní Chuanacháin’s Ph.D. dissertation, which attributes it to Nichols’s Literary Anecdotes; the other, which I quote here, is a handwritten note in the blank pages that precede the title page in googlebooks scanned copy of Madden’s work, attributed to Anecdotes of the Life of Mr. Wm. Bowyer:
There is something mysterious in the History of this Work; it was written by Dr. Samuel Madden, [the?] Patriot of Ireland; & addressed in an Ironical Dedication, [to] Frederick Prince of Wales. One Volume only of these Memoirs appeared, and whether any more were really intended is uncertain. A Thousand Copies were printed, with such very great dispatch that three Printers were employed on it (Bowyer, Woodfall, & Roberts,) but the whole of the Business was transacted by Bowyer, without either of the other Printers ever seeing the Author: and the Names of an uncommon number of reputable Booksellers appeared in the Title Page. The Book was finished at the Press on March 24th 173
23 and 100 Copies were that day delivered to the Author: on the 29th a number of them was delivered to the several Booksellers mentioned in the Title Page: and in four days after, all that were unsold, amounting to 890 of these Copies, were recalled, and were delivered to Dr. Madden, to be destroyed. The current report is, that the Edition was suppressed on the day of publication: and tht it is now exceeding scarce is certain. The reasons for the extraordinary circumstances attending the printing and suppressing These Memoirs, are not very evident, and still remain a Mystery.
Dierdre Ní Chuanacháin suggests that the reason for the suppression was the “politcal and literary milieu” of the times. Nevertheless, at least one copy of the work survived and is hailed as the first literary work to actually write of the future, albeit as a satire and critcism of 18th century Great Britain.
But as I am determined to give ſuch Readers and all Men, ſo full, and fair, and convincing an Account of my ſelf and that celeſtial Spirit I receiv’d theſe Papers from, and to anſwer all Objections ſo entirely, as to put Ignorance, and even Malice it ſelf to Silence: I am confident, the ingenuous and candid part of the World, will ſoon throw off ſuch mean narrow ſpirited Suſpicions, as unjuſt and ungenerous.
Samuel Madden, Master Traveller
For me, the important point is that the work is presented as a series of future letters that were delivered (time travel!) to the author by “an infallible Guide,” an angel who also served to aid in the translation of the unfamiliar 20th century English to that of the current times. Is this perhaps the first definitive instance of backward time travel?