EDWARD MOORE, an English poetical and miscellaneous writer, was the grandson of the rev. John Moore of Devonshire, one of the ejected non-conformists, who died Aug. 23, 1717, leaving two sons in the dissenting ministry. Of these, Thomas, the father of our poet, removed to Abingdon in Berkshire, where he died in 1721, and where Edward was born March 22, 1711-12, and for some time brought up under the care of his uncle. He was afterwards placed at the school of East Orchard in Dorsetshire, where he probably received no higher education than would qualify him for trade. For some years he followed the business of a linen-draper, both in London and in Ireland, but with so little success that he became disgusted with his occupation, and, as he informs us in his preface, "more from necessity than inclination," began to encounter the vicissitudes of a literary life. His first attempts were of the poetical kind, which still preserve his name among the minor poets of his country. In 1744, he published his "Fables for the Female Sex," which were so favourably received as to introduce him into the society of some learned and some opulent contemporaries. The hon. Mr. Pelham was one of his early patrons; and, by his "Trial of Selim," he gained the friendship of lord Lyttelton, who felt himself flattered by a compliment turned with much ingenuity, and decorated by wit and spirit. But as, for some time, Moore derived no substantial advantage from patronage, his chief dependance was on the stage, to which, within five years, he supplied three pieces of considerable, although unequal, merit. "The Foundling," a comedy, which was first acted in 1748, was decried from a fancied resemblance to the "Conscious Lovers." His "Gil Blas," which appeared in 1751, met with a more severe fate, and, not withstanding the sprightliness of the dialogue, not altogether unjustly. "The Gamester," a tragedy, first acted Feb. 7, 1753, was our author's most successful attempt, and is still a favourite. In this piece, however, he deviated from the custom of the modern stage, as Lillo had in his "George Barnwell," by discarding blank verse; and perhaps nothing short of the power by which the catastrophe engages the feelings, could have reconciled the audience to this innovation. But his object was the misery of the life and death of a gamester, to which it would have been difficult to give a heroic colouring; and his language became what would be most impressive, that of truth and nature. Davies, in his Life of Garrick, seems inclined to share the reputation of the "Gamester" between Moore and Garrick. Moore acknowledges, in his preface, that he was indebted to that inimitable actor for "many popular passages," and Davies believes that the scene between Lewson and Stukely, in the fourth act, was almost entirely his, because he expressed, during the time of action, uncommon pleasure at the applause given to it. Whatever may be in this conjecture, the play, after having been acted to crowded houses for eleven nights, was suddenly withdrawn, The report of the day attributed this to the intervention of the leading members of some gaming clubs. Davies thinks this a mere report "to give more consequence to those assemblies than they could really boast." From a letter, in our possession, written by Moore to Dr. Warton, it appears that Garrick suffered so much from the fatigue of acting the principal character as to require some repose. Yet this will not account for the total neglect, for some years afterwards, of a play, not only popular, but so obviously calculated to give the alarm to reclaimable gamesters, and perhaps bring the whole gang into discredit. The author mentions, in his letter to Dr. Warton, that he expected to clear about four hundred pounds by his tragedy, exclusive of the profits by the sale of the copy.
It is asserted by Dr. Johnson, in his life of lord Lyttelton, that, in return for Moore's elegant compliment, "The Trial of Selim," his lordship paid him with "kind words, which, as is common, raised great hopes, that at last were disappointed." It is possible, however, that these hopes were of another kind than it was in his lordship's power to gratify; and it is certain that he substituted a method of serving Moore, which was not only successful for a considerable time, but must have been agreeable to the feelings of a delicate and independent mind. About the years 1751-2, periodical writing began to revive in its most pleasing form, but had hitherto been executed by men of learning only. Lord Lyttelton projected a paper, in concert with Dodsley, which should unite the talents of certain men of rank, and receive such a tone and consequence from that circumstance, as mere scholars can seldom hope to command or attain. Such was the origin of the "World," for every paper of which Dodsley stipulated to pay Moore three guineas, whether the papers were written by him, or by the volunteer contributors. Lord Lyttelton, to render this bargain more productive to the editor, solicited and obtained the assistance of the earls of Chesterfield, Bath, and Corke, and of Messrs. Walpole, Cambridge, Jenyns, and other men of rank and taste, who gave their assistance, some with great regularity, and all so effectually as to render the "World" far more popular than any of its contemporaries.
In this work, Moore wrote sixty-one papers, in a style easy and unaffected, and treated the whims and follies of the day with genuine humour. His thoughts are often original, and his ludicrous combinations argue a copious fancy. Some of his papers, indeed, are mere playful exercises which have no direct object in view, but in general, in his essays, as well as in all his works, he shews himself the friend of morality and public decency. In the last number, the conclusion of the work is made to depend on a fictitious accident which had occasioned the author's death. When the papers were collected into volumes for a second edition, Moore superintended the publication, and actually died while this last number was in the press; a circumstance which induces the wish that death may be less frequently included among the topics of wit.
During the publication of the World, and probably before, Moore wrote some lighter pieces and songs for the public gardens. What his other literary labours were, or whether he contributed regularly to any publications, is not known. A very few weeks before his death he projected a Magazine, in which Gataker and some other of his colleagues in the "World" were to be engaged. His acknowledged works are not numerous, consisting only of the poems here noticed, and of his three plays. These were published by him, in a handsome quarto volume, in 1756, by subscription, dedicated to the duke of Newcastle, brother to his deceased patron Mr. Pelham. The subscribers were very numerous, and included many persons of the highest rank and talents, but he did not long enjoy the advantages of their liberality. He died Feb. 28, 1757, at his house at Lambeth, of an inflammation on his lungs, the consequence of a fever improperly treated.
In 1750, he married Miss Hamilton, daughter of Mr. Charles Hamilton, table-decker to the princesses; a lady who had herself a poetical turn. By this lady, who in 1758 obtained the place of necessary-woman to the queen's apartments, and who still survives, he had a son Edward, who died in the naval service in 1773. Moore's personal character appears to have been unexceptionable, and his pleasing manners and humble demeanour rendered his society acceptable to a very numerous class of friends. His productions were those of a genius somewhat above the common order, unassisted by learning. His professed exclusion of Greek and Latin mottoes from the papers of the World (although they were not rejected when sent), induces us to think that he had little acquaintance with the classics, and there is indeed nothing in any of his works that indicates the study of a particular branch of science. When he projected the Magazine above mentioned, he told the Wartons, "in confidence, that he wanted a dull plodding fellow of one of the universities, who understood Latin and Greek."
Of his poetry, simplicity and smoothness appear to be the leading features; hence he is easily intelligible, and consequently instructive, and his "Fables" have always been popular. All his pieces are of the light kind, produced with little effort, and to answer temporary purposes. We find nowhere indications that he could have succeeded in the higher species of poetry. His songs have much originality of thought, but sometimes a looseness of expression which would not now be tolerated. The "Trial of Selim" is an ingenious and elegant panegyric, but it ought to have sufficed to have once versified the forms of law. The "Trial of Sarah *** alias Slim Sal," has too much the air of a copy. He ranks but low as a writer of odes, yet "The Discovery," addressed to Mr. Pelham, has many beauties, and among those the two last stanzas may be safely enumerated.