Moyle, Walter, Esq.

, an ingenious and learned English writer, was son of sir Walter Moyle, and born in Cornwall in 1672. After he had made a considerable progress in school-learning, he was sent to Oxford; and thence removed to the Temple, where he applied himself chiefly to such parts of the law as led to the knowledge of our constitution and government; “for there was a drudgery,” says Mr. Hammond, “in what he called law-lucrative, which he could never submit to.” He came into the world with a firm zeal for the protestant settlement, and a great contempt of those who imagined that the liberty of our constitution and the reformation could subsist under a popish king; nor did he ever vary from these sentiments. From the Temple he removed to Covent- Garden, in order to be nearer the polite and entertaining part or the town and here it was, as Dryden observes in his “Life of Lucian,” that “the learning and judgment above his age, which every one discovered in Mr. Moyle, were proofs of those abilities he has shewn in his country’s service, when he was chosen to serve it in the senate, as his father sir Walter had done.

In 1697 he joined with Mr. Trenchard in writing a | pamphlet entitled “An Argument, shewing that a standing Army is inconsistent with a free Government, and absolutely destructive to the constitution of the English Monarchy.” The same year, at the request of Dr. Davenant, he translated Xenophon’s “Discourse upon improving the Revenue of the State of Athens,” and sent it to him, to be annexed to his “Discourses on the public Revenues and Trade of England.” Moyle tells Davenant, in the dedication of this translation, that he “fancies it Will be no unwelcome entertainment to him, to find his own admirable observations upon these matters confirmed by the authority of one of the greatest men that ever antiquity produced, and the only ancient author upon this subject which is now extant. This admirable maxim, that the true wealth and greatness of a nation consists in numbers of people well-employed, is every where inculcated throughout the whole course of this treatise.” And I believe,“he adds,Xenophon was the first author that ever argued by political arithmetic, or the art of reasoning upon things by figures; which has been improved by some able heads of our own nation, and carried to the highest perfection by your own successful inquiries.“As to the translation, Davenant has given the following account of it in the thirty-fourth page of his work:” It was made English by a young gentleman, whose learning and ripe parts promise greater matters hereafter; since, in his first essay, he has shewn himself so great a master, both in his own and the Greek language. And it is hoped this example will excite other persons of his age, rank, and fortune, to study the business of trade, and the revenues of their country. The original is highly esteemed by all the learned world; and the reader will find Xenophon has suffered nothing in this version."

He was for some time a member of parliament for the borough of Saltash, where he always acted a very honourable and disinterested part; but he was so bent upon his private studies, that he never had any relish for that station. His favourite study was history; from which he collected and loved to speculate upon the forms, constitutions, and laws, of governments. In parliament he appeared, however, most to advantage in questions respecting the improvement and regulation of trade, foreign and domestic; the employment of the poor, which has so near a connection with the augmenting of our domestic trade: and he took great | patois in promoting a bill for the encouraging of seameo y and the effectual and speedy manning of the royal navy.

He afterwards retired to his seat at Bake in Cornwall, where, it is said, he read all the original authors, both Greek and Latin, that is, those who wrote before the birth of Christ, and about 440 years after. From the year 440 to 1440 was a long, but dark period of time; and he aimed only to preserve a thread of the history of that middle age. The schoolmen and scholastic divinity which flourished then, be neglected; but it appears, that, in the latter part of his life, he extended his researches to ecclesiastical history. It was his custom frequently to make a review of the best systems in all sciences, being used to say, that 41 it was necessary for every man who applies himself to matters of learning, to have a general knowledge of the elements of them;" and hence he was incessantly collecting fundamental maxims, and forming divisions in all parts of learning. Early in life he contrived a scheme of so disposing books in his library, that they might give him, even by their disposition, a regular and useful view of all the several walks of learning and knowledge. In order to this, a distribution was made of them into four grand divisions; the first containing theology, the second law, the third arts and sciences, and the fourth history. He penetrated deep into all the authors he read; and he was very nice in the choice of them. An exactness of reasoning was his peculiar talent, to which was joined an uncommon vivacity of expression. He used often to regret the not having the advantage of travelling abroad; but, to make amends for this, he read the best accounts he could get of all the parts of the world, and made his reflections upon them.

Mr. Moyle died June 9, 1721, aged forty-nine. In 1726 his unpublished Works were printed in 2 vols. 8vo, and dedicated to his brother Joseph Moyle, esq. by Thomas Serjeant, esq. The first volume contains, l.“An Essay upon the Constitution of the Roman Government, in two parts.” 2. “A Charge to the Grand Jury at Leskard, April 1706.” 3. “Letters to Dr. William Musgrave, of Exeter, upon subjects of Criticism and Antiquity.” 4. “A Dissertation upon the Age of Philopatris, a dialogue, commonly attributed to Lncian, in several letters to Mr. K.” 5. “Letters from and to Mr. Moyle upon various subjects.” The second volume contains, 1. “Remarks | upon Prideaux’s Connection of the Old and New Testament, &c. in several letters between the doctor and himself.” In Prideaux’s third letter to his cousin Moyle, for so he addresses him, he tells him that “he is sure his book will no where find a more observing and judicious reader than himself; that he had sufficient experience of this in his learned remarks on the former part; and that they had instructed him for the making of seme alterations against another edition:” and, in a fourth letter, he “thanks him heartily for the observations he had sent him of his mistakes, in the last part of his history. I must confess,” says he, “That about Octavius’s posterity is a very great one. It is a downright blunder of my old head, and I am glad so accurate and learned a reader has not observed more of them. This makes me hope that no more such have escaped me.” This volume also contains, 2. “The Miracle of the Thundering Legion examined, in several letters between Mr. Moyle and Mr. K.” On this subject Mr. Moyle was completely sceptical.

In 1727 was published by his friend Antony Hammond, esq. a third volume, in 8vo, entitled “The whole Works of Walter Moyle, esq. that were published by himself.” The editor complains that, “when his. posthumous works came from the press, these valuable tracts of his, which were printed in his life-time, and passed his last hand, should be dropt, as it were, in oblivion, as they must have been, had they been covered in those volumes, wherein they were by himself originally interspersed; and observes, that the principal intention of collecting them was to do justice to the memory of Mr. Moyle.” We have already mentioned two of the pieces which compose this volume; the rest are, “An Essay on the Lacedemonian Government, addressed to Antony Hammond, esq. in 1698.” “Translations from Lucian,” first printed in 17 10. “Letters between Mr. Moyle and several of his friends,” first printed in 1695. There is also a translation of Lucian’s “Philopatris,” by Dr. Drake, which is here inserted, on account of there being so much criticism concerning it in the first volume of Mr. Moyle’s posthumous works above mentioned. 1

1 Life prefixed to his Works. Biog. Brit.