Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Williams, Moses

WILLIAMS, MOSES (1686–1742), Welsh antiquary, son of Samuel Williams, vicar of Llan Dyfrïog and rector of Llan Gynllo, Cardiganshire, and his wife Margaret, daughter of Jenkin Powel Prytherch, was born at Glaslwyn, in the parish of Llan Dysul, on 2 March 1685–6. From Carmarthen grammar school he went to University College, Oxford, matriculating on 31 March 1705. If he was the ‘M. Williams’ who translated from the French for ‘Archæologia Britannica’ (1707) ‘the Breton Grammar and Vocabulary of Manoir’ (p. 180), the influence of Edward Llwyd [q. v.] secured for him at this time a post as sub-librarian at the Ashmolean Museum. Having graduated B.A. in 1708, he was ordained deacon on 2 March 1708–9 at St. James's, Westminster, by Bishop Trimnell, and (having been meanwhile curate of Chiddingstone, Kent) priest on 31 May 1713, at Fulham, by Bishop Ottley. He received in 1715 the vicarage of Llan Wenog, Cardiganshire, which he held until his death. On 19 March 1716–17 he was instituted to the vicarage of Defynog, Brecknockshire, and in 1718 was incorporated at Cambridge, graduating M.A. from King's College. He was elected a member of the Royal Society in 1724. In 1732 he exchanged Defynog for the rectory of Chilton Trinity and St. Mary's, Bridgewater, where he spent the rest of his life. He died in 1742, and was buried on 2 March at St. Mary's. He married, in 1718, Margaret Davies of Cwm Wysg in the parish of Defynog.

Samuel Williams was known as a translator, and his son's first efforts were in the same direction. The two issued in 1710 a revised edition of John Davies's translation into Welsh of the Thirty-nine articles; in the following year Moses published in London three translations, one of Nelson's manual for charity schools, one of Welchman's didactic treatise for tillers of the soil, and one of a volume of family prayers. ‘Cydymaith i'r Allor’ (London, 1715) was also a translation. But the studies which from an early age fascinated him, in a measure, no doubt, as the result of his association with Llwyd, were Welsh philology and antiquities. A letter addressed to him in May 1714 shows that at that time he was setting out for Wales in order to collect material for a Welsh dictionary, a work which never appeared (Cambrian Reg. ii. 536–9). In 1717 he published, through the king's printers, a catalogue of the books printed in Welsh up to that date, which formed the basis of the ‘Llyfryddiaeth y Cymry’ of William Rowlands [q. v.] A Latin index to the works of Welsh poets followed in 1726 (London). Meanwhile he had been invited by William Wotton [q. v.] to assist him in his labours in connection with the laws of Hywel the Good; ‘Leges Wallicæ,’ published in 1730 after Wotton's death, though nominally edited by William Clarke (1696–1771) [q. v.], no doubt owed much of its merit to the learning of Williams, whose assistance in the preparation of the text is expressly acknowledged. The editions of the Welsh bible and prayer-book which appeared in 1718 and 1727 passed under his supervision. He was a diligent collector of old Welsh books and manuscripts; after his death his library came into the possession of William Jones of London (father of Sir William Jones), and then passed by will to the Earl of Macclesfield. It now forms part of the Shirburn Castle collection.

[Jones's Hist. of Breconshire; Llyfryddiaeth y Cymry; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714; Archæologia Cambrensis, 4th ser. ix. 237.]

J. E. L.