Open main menu

MOULTON, WILLIAM FIDDIAN (1835–1898), biblical scholar, born at Leek, Staffordshire, on 14 March 1835, was the second son of James Egan Moulton, a Wesleyan minister, who died in 1866, and Catherine, daughter of William Fiddian, a well-known Birmingham brass-founder of Huguenot descent. His grandfather had been, like his father, a methodist preacher ; and among his ancestors was John Bakewell, Wesley's friend. William was educated at Woodhouse Grove school, near Leeds, and Wesley College, Sheffield, of which he afterwards became a master. After having taught for a year in a private school at Devonport, he in 1854 went as an assistant master to Queen's College, Taunton, where he remained for four years. While at Taunton he graduated B.A. with mathematical honours at London University in 1854, and M.A. two years later, when he was awarded the gold medal for mathematics and natural philosophy. Subsequently he also won the university prizes for Hebrew, Greek, and Christian evidences. In 1858 he entered the Wesleyan ministry, and was appointed a classical tutor at Wesley College, Richmond, Surrey. He held that position for sixteen years, during which he gave much of his time to biblical studies. On the suggestion of a correspondent, Dr. Ellicott, afterwards bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, Moulton published in 1870 a translation of Winer's 'Grammar of New Testament Greek,' accompanied with valuable notes, in which several errors were corrected and not a little original scholarship was shown. A new edition appeared in 1876, and a complete recast of the whole work had been begun under his supervision at the time of Moulton's death. In the year in which the first edition of Winer was issued, Moulton was invited to become one of the committee of revisers of the Jsew Testament. He was only thirty-five, by far the youngest of the company. He acted throughout with the Cambridge group, who preferred linguistic accuracy to literary picturesqueness. Yet he was especially responsible for the renderings from older English versions which were inserted from collations of black-letter Bibles made by his wife. He afterwards acted as secretary to the Cambridge committee for the revision of the Apocrypha.

Meanwhile Moulton bad in 1872 been chosen at an unprecedentedly early age a member of the Legal Hundred of the Wesleyan connexion. Two years later, in 1874, he was appointed the first head-master of the newly founded Leys school, Cambridge, where he entered upon his duties in February 1875, and remained for the rest of his life. In 1874 he received the degree of D.D. from Edinburgh, and in 1877 was made an honorary M.A. of Cambridge. While devoting the greater part of his time to his duties as head of a public school and taking great interest in the work of teaching, Moulton still continued his literary labours. In 1878 he published a 'History of the English Bible,' a popular exposition of the researches undertaken in connection with his labours as a reviser. It had originally been printed in the form of articles in Cassell's 'Bible Educator;' a second edition appeared in 1882, and was followed by others. He contributed to Bishop Ellicott's 'Commentaries' the volume on Hebrews (1879), and, in conjunction with William Milligan [q. v. Suppl.], that on St. John's Gospel (1880) in Schaff's International Series. In 1879 he wrote a preface to Rush's 'Synthetic Latin Delectus,' in 1889 an introduction to the life of the Rev. B. Hellier, and in 1893 a preface to Pocock's 'Methodist New Testament Commentary.' Moulton and Geden's 'Concordance to the Greek Testament' (1897) was revised by him, though he was obliged to leave most of the actual work to Professor Geden and his own son, the Rev. James Hope Moulton. At the time of his death he had very nearly completed the marginal references to the revised version of the New Testament. In 1890 he was president of the Wesleyan conference, and preached the memorial sermon on John Wesley, which was printed. In addition to his educational and literary work, he also undertook in his later years the duties of a justice of the peace at Cambridge.

Moulton died suddenly while walking near the Leys school on 5 Feb. 1898. He was held in high estimation for his personal character, and enjoyed the friendship of eminent Anglican divines, and others outside his own communion. As a Greek scholar he was among the foremost of his time, while he was also a learned hebraist, an able mathematician, and a devoted student of English literature. He gained the affection as well as the respect of his pupils, and under him the Leys school early attained an excellent standing among public schools. He was also an admirable preacher. Moulton married a daughter of the Rev. Samuel Hope, and left two sons, the Rev. James Hope Moulton, sometime fellow of King's College, Cambridge, and the Rev. William Fiddian Moulton, formerly fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge.

[William F. Moulton: a Memoir by his son, W. Fiddian Moulton, 1899; Methodist Times, 10 Feb. 1898 (by Mr. P. W. Bunting, the bishop of Durham, Judge Waddy, and others); Methodist Recorder, 17 Feb. 1898 (with portrait), by Rev. J. H. Moulton; British Weekly, 10 Feb. (by the Rev. Professor G. Findlay and the Rev. T. G. Selby); Leys Fortnightly (special number); Sunday Magazine, April 1898 (illustrated); West Cambs. Free Churchman, March 1898; Times, 7 Feb. 1898; Men of the Time, 14th edit.]

G. Le G. N.