Martin Madan

5 October 1725–2 May 1790

Martin Madan, in The Gospel Magazine (August 1774).

MARTIN MADAN was born in 1726, and was the eldest son of Col. Martin Madan, of the Guards, and Judith Cowper. He was trained for the law, was admitted to the bar, and entered upon the practice of his profession with the fairest prospects. At this time, he had but little respect for religion and its ministers. Being in company one evening, at a coffee-house in London, he was commissioned by his associates to go and hear John Wesley, and to report to them, for their sport, an account of the man, his manner, and his discourse. As he entered the assembly, Wesley was announcing as his text, “Prepare to meet thy God!” He was deeply impressed at once, and much more as the preacher proceeded with his discourse. He returned to the coffee-house, and was promptly asked, “Have you taken off the old Methodist?” He replied, “No, gentlemen, but he has taken me off.” He forsook them at once, abandoned his old pursuits of worldly pleasure, and eagerly sought to be reconciled to God.

Madan had married a daughter of Sir Bernard Hale, Chief Baron of the Exchequer in Ireland, and his mother-in-law was on familiar terms with Lady Huntingdon, to whom he was speedily introduced. He was thus brought under the influence of that choice circle of godly ministers and others, of which she was the centre. Classically educated, and highly gifted as a speaker, he ardently sought to serve God in the ministry of the Gospel. This was in the summer of 1750. With some difficulty he obtained ordination. His eloquence drew the attention of the populace, and crowds flocked to hear him. He “was rather tall in stature, and of a robust constitution; his countenance was majestic, open, and engaging, and his looks commanding veneration; his delivery is said to have been peculiarly graceful. He preached without notes; his voice was musical, well-modulated, full, and powerful; his language, plain, nervous, pleasing, and memorable; and his arguments strong, bold, rational, and conclusive.”[1]

Madan was appointed to the Chaplaincy of the Lock Hospital, London, and, by his interest among the wealthy, procured the erection of a chapel adjacent to the hospital, where he continued to exercise his ministry to the end of life. By reason of his high social position, he was also appointed the Chaplain of Lord Apsley, afterwards Earl Bathurst, Lord High Chancellor. His services were in great demand everywhere throughout the kingdom, among the adherents of Lady Huntingdon and her chosen preachers. His cousin, William Cowper, the poet, in a letter to Madan’s sister, Mrs. Major Cowper, acknowledges (1763) his obligations to him for counsel in his spiritual troubles.

Madan was passionately devoted to music, and took great interest in hymnology. His Collection of Psalms and Hymns (1760), was well received, and was frequently republished. In [the Appendix to] this Collection is found the favorite hymn, “Now begin the heavenly theme,” etc. It is of uncertain origin, and it cannot be traced farther. The authors’ names are given to none of the hymns, and it is quite probable that some of them were composed by himself. At all events, he took such liberties with the material in his possession, adding, abridging, and rearranging, as well as modifying, in many cases, that the result, in some instances, was an essentially new hymn. He issued, also, a Tune Book, containing “the Music of the Hymns,” commonly known as “The Lock Hospital Collection.” Many of the tunes—Bristol, Castle Street, Denbigh, Halifax, Helmsley, Hotham, Huddersfield, Kingston, Leeds, Nantwich, and others—were his own composition. His passion for music became a snare to him, causing him, at length, to give more attention to it than to the preaching of the word. Oratorios were frequently performed, on Sunday evenings, in his chapel; and to such an extent did he carry the practice of Sunday concerts, vocal and instrumental, as to give great offence to the godly. It is to him that his cousin, William Cowper, in his “Progress of Error,” written in the winter of 1780–1781, refers when he uses the following language:

Occiduus is a pastor of renown;
When he has prayed and preached the Sabbath down,
With wire and catgut he concludes the day,
Quavering and semiquavering care away.
The full concerto swells upon your ear;
All elbows shake. Look in, and you would swear
The Babylonian tyrant, with a nod,
Had summoned them to serve his golden god.

As chaplain of the Lock Hospital, the condition of its patients had long excited his attention, and led, finally, to the publication (1780) of his Thelypthora—a book that gave rise to much controversy. He occupied much of his time, the next few years, in the study of the Latin classics; and in 1789 he published A New and Literal Translation of Juvenal and Persius; with Copious Explanatory Notes, in two volumes. He departed this life, in 1790, in his sixty-fifth year.

by Edwin Hatfield
Poets of the Church (1884)

  1. The Life and Times of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, vol. 1 (London: William Edward Painter, 1839), p. 167.

Featured Hymns & Tunes:


see also:

Hark! the herald angels sing

Collections of Hymns:

A Collection of Psalms and Hymns

1st ed. (1760): PDF
2nd ed. (1763): PDF
3rd ed. (1764): PDF
4th ed. (1765): PDF
5th ed. (1767): PDF
6th ed. (1769): PDF
7th ed. (1771): PDF
8th ed. (1774): PDF
9th ed. (1779): PDF
10th ed. (1783): PDF
11th ed. (1787): PDF

A Collection of Psalm and Hymn Tunes

(ca. 1760–1763, 12 tunes)
(ca. 1763–1765, 36 tunes): WorldCat
(1769, 91 tunes): PDF
(1792, 111 tunes): PDF

Six New Hymn Tunes (1772)

Related Resources:

Edwin F. Hatfield, “Martin Madan,” The Poets of the Church (NY: Anson D.F. Randolph, 1884), pp. 402-405:

John Julian, “Martin Madan,” A Dictionary of Hymnology (London: J. Murray, 1892), pp. 709-710: Google Books

Falconer Madan, The Madan Family and Maddens in Ireland and England (Oxford, 1933): WorldCat

Nicholas Temperley, “Martin Madan,” Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology:

Martin Madan,

Arthur Pollard, “Martin Madan,” Oxford Dictionary National Biography: