Moyle, Walter (1672-1721) (DNB00)

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MOYLE, WALTER (1672–1721), politician and student, born at Bake in St. Germans, Cornwall, on 3 Nov. 1672, was the third, but eldest surviving son of Sir Walter Moyle, who died in September 1701, by his wife Thomasine, daughter of Sir William Morice [q. v.], who was buried at St. Germans on 22 March 1681–2. He was a grandson of John Moyle, the friend of Eliot. After having been well grounded in classical learning, probably at Liskeard grammar school, he matriculated from Exeter College, Oxford, on 18 March 1688–9, and a set of verses by him was inserted in the university collection of poems for William and Mary, 1689, but he left Oxford without taking a degree. About 1708 he contributed towards the erection of the new buildings at Exeter College opposite the front gate and stretching eastwards, and his second son was a fellow of the college (Boase, Exeter Coll., 1893 ed., pp. viii, 90). On 26 Jan. 1690–1 he was specially admitted at the Middle Temple, and gave himself up to the study of constitutional law and history. At first Moyle frequented Maynwaring's coffee-house in Fleet Street and the Grecian near the Temple, but to be nearer the realms of fashion he removed to Covent Garden, and became a regular companion of the wits at Will's. About 1693 he translated four pieces by Lucian, which were included (i. 14–66) in the version issued in 1711 under the direction of Dryden, who, in the ‘Life of Lucian,’ praised Moyle's ‘learning and judgment above his age.’ Dryden further, in his ‘Parallel of Poetry and Painting’ (Scott's ed. xvii. 312), called Moyle ‘a most ingenious young gentleman, conversant in all the studies of humanity much above his years,’ and acknowledged his indebtedness to Moyle for the argument on the reason why imitation pleases, as well as for ‘all the particular passages in Aristotle and Horace to explain the art of poetry by that of painting’ (which would be used when there was time to ‘retouch’ the essay). Dryden again praised him in the ‘Discourse on Epick Poetry’ (cf. ‘Memoir of the Rev. Joshua Parry,’ pp. 130–2). Moyle appreciated the rising merit of Congreve. Charles Gildon [q. v.] published in 1694 a volume of ‘Miscellaneous Letters and Essays’ containing ‘An Apology for Poetry,’ in an essay directed to Moyle, and several letters between him, Congreve, and John Dennis are included in the latter's collections of ‘Letters upon Several Occasions,’ 1696, and ‘Familiar and Courtly Letters of Voiture, with other Letters by Dryden, Wycherley, Congreve,’ 1700, and reprinted in Moyle's ‘Works’ in 1727. So late as 1721 Dennis issued two more volumes of ‘Original Letters,’ containing two addressed to Moyle in 1720 in terms of warm affection, although he had been absent from London for ‘twenty tedious years.’

Moyle sat in parliament for Saltash from 1695 to 1698. He was a zealous whig, with a keen desire to encourage British trade, and a strong antipathy to ecclesiastical establishments. In conjunction with John Trenchard he issued in 1697 ‘An Argument showing that a Standing Army is inconsistent with a Free Government, and absolutely destructive to the Constitution of the English Monarchy,’ which was reprinted in 1698 and 1703, and included in the ‘Pamphleteer,’ x. 109–40 (1817). It caused such ‘offence at court that Mr. Secretary Vernon ordered the printer to attend him to discover the author,’ and it produced several other pamphlets, the most famous being Lord Somers's ‘A Letter ballancing the necessity of keeping of a Land-Force in Times of Peace.’

Moyle's favourite study was history, and he speculated in his retirement from public life, in 1698, on the various forms and laws of government. He had read all the classical authors, both Greek and Latin, with the intention of compiling a history of Greece, and at a later period of life he ‘launched far into ecclesiastical history.’ His constant regret was that he had not travelled abroad, but to compensate for this loss he devoured every book of travel or topographical history. In the autumn of 1713 he finished a new library at Bake, and was eager to stock it with the best works and editions. He was a student of botany and ornithology, making great collections on the birds of Cornwall and Devon, helping Ray, as is acknowledged in the preface in the second edition of the ‘Synopsis Methodica Stirpium Britannicarum,’ and promising to send Dr. Sherard a catalogue of his specimens for insertion in the ‘Philosophical Transactions,’ but a lingering illness did not permit him to carry this design into effect. The books in his study were full of notes, and the margins of his copy of Willoughby's ‘Ornithology’ were crowded with observations. Unfortunately the whole of his library and manuscripts was destroyed by fire in 1808. Moyle died at Bake on 10 June 1721, and was buried at St. Germans on 13 June, a monument being placed to his memory at the end of the north aisle, near the chancel. He married at Bideford, Devonshire, 6 May 1700, Henrietta Maria, daughter of John Davie of that town. She died on 9 Dec. 1762, aged 85, and was buried at St. Germans on 15 Dec. They had issue two sons and one daughter.

After Moyle's death Thomas Sergeant edited the ‘Works of Walter Moyle, none of which were ever before published,’ 1726, 2 vols. It contained in the first volume: 1. ‘Essay on the Constitution of the Roman Government.’ 2. ‘A Charge to the Grand Jury at Liskeard, April 1706.’ 3. ‘Letters to Dr. William Musgrave of Exeter.’ 4. ‘Dissertation on the age of Philopatris, a Dialogue commonly attributed to Lucian.’ 5. ‘Letters to and from Tancred Robinson, Sherard, and others.’ The second volume comprised: 6. ‘Remarks upon some Passages in Dr. Prideaux's Connection.’ 7. ‘Miracle of the Thundering Legion examin'd, in several Letters between Moyle and K——’ [Richard King of Topsham, near Exeter]. This collection was followed in the subsequent year by a reprint by Curll of ‘The Whole Works of Walter Moyle that were Published by Himself,’ to which was prefixed some account of his life and writing by Anthony Hammond (1668–1738) [q. v.] It contained, in addition to several works already mentioned: 1. ‘Xenophon's Discourse on the Revenue of Athens,’ which was translated at Charles Davenant's request, and after it had been included in his ‘Discourses on the Publick Revenues and the Trade of England,’ 1698, was reprinted in Sir William Petty's ‘Political Arithmetic,’ 1751, in Davenant's ‘Works’ in 1771, and in the ‘Works of Xenophon’ translated by Ashley Cooper and others, 1831. 2. ‘An Essay on Lacedæmonian Government,’ which was included, with three other tracts by him, in ‘A Select Collection of Tracts by W. Moyle,’ printed at Dublin in 1728 and Glasgow in 1750.

The ‘Essay on the Roman Government,’ which was inserted in Sergeant's collection, was reprinted by John Thelwall in 1796, and, when translated into French by Bertrand Barrière, was published at Paris in 1801. The series of ‘Remarks on some Passages in Dr. Prideaux's Connection’ was included in the French editions of that work which were published in 1728, 1732, 1742, and 1744. Moyle's ‘Examination of the Miracle of the Thundering Legion’ was attacked in separate publications by the Rev. William Whiston and the Rev. Thomas Woolston, and Thomas Hearne, in his volume of ‘John of Glastonbury,’ referred to some of Moyle's criticisms on the ‘Shield’ of Dr. Woodward (Rel. Hearnianæ, ed. 1869, ii. 265, 290), but he was defended by Curll in ‘An Apology for the Writings of Walter Moyle,’ 1727. His ‘Remarks on the Thundering Legion’ were translated into Latin by Mosheim and published at Leipzig in 1733, discussed, with Moyle's ‘Notes on Lucian,’ in N. Lardner's ‘Collection of Ancient Testimonies to the Truth of the Christian Religion,’ ii. 229, 241–50, 355–69, and they formed the text of some letters from Charles Yorke to Warburton in ‘Kilvert's Selection from the Papers of Warburton,’ 1841, pp. 124 seqq.

Two letters from Moyle to Horace Walpole on the passage of the Septennial Bill are printed in Coxe's ‘Sir Robert Walpole,’ ii. 62–4. Several of his communications are inserted in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ for 1837, 1838, and 1839, and forty-five letters on ancient history which passed between him and two local correspondents in Devonshire are preserved in manuscript at St. John's College, Cambridge. There are frequent references to him in Sherard's correspondence (Nichols, Illustrations of Literature, i. 308–89, and Dr. Richard Richardson, Letters, pp. 154–250). Charles Hopkins addressed an ode to him (Epistolary Poems, 1694), and John Glanvill published a translation of Horace, bk. i. ode 24, which he prepared on his death (Poems, 1725, pp. 205–6). Moyle's friends praised his ‘exactness of reasoning’ and his subtle irony, and Warburton gave him the praise of great learning and acuteness (Divine Legation, bk. ii.; notes in Works, ed. 1788, i. 464). His portrait, engraved by Vertue, was prefixed to the 1726 edition of his works.

[Vivian's Visitations of Cornwall, p. 335; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Granger and Noble's Biog. Hist. 1806; Gosse's Congreve, pp. 32–3, 40, 79– 883; Biog. Britannica; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. i. 375–7, iii. 1289–90; Parochial Hist. of Cornwall, ii. (1868) 42, 53; Cardinal Newman's Miracles, 1870, pp. 241 sq.]

W. P. C.