Academic and Writing
Following university study in Strasbourg, Moorman joined the staff of the Yorkshire College, Leeds in 1898; the Yorkshire College subsequently became the University of Leeds in 1904. When a new Chair was instituted in 1912, Moorman was appointed the university's first Professor of English Language.
Moorman edited the 1912 edition of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale for the Arden Shakespeare project, published by Methuen, and in 1915 edited The Poetical Works of Robert Herrick for Oxford University Press. Moorman was associated with the Workers' Educational Association and compiled several books of traditional Yorkshire stories and poems, some in the Yorkshire dialect, alongside scholarly works such as The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire, The Publications of the Thoresby Society, and 18 (Leeds: The Thoresby Society, 1910).
In his 1914 essay for the English Association, ‘English Place Names and the Teutonic Sagas’, Moorman suggested his research indicated that Yorkshire was not settled by Angles or Saxons after the end of rule Roman in AD 383, but by a different Germanic tribe, the Geats. As a consequence, he claimed, it is possible the first work of English literature, Beowulf, believed to have been composed by Geats, was written in Yorkshire. This interest in Yorkshire's cultural and linguistic history was to be of particular interest to one of Moorman's students at Leeds University, the poet, novelist and art critic Herbert Read. Read described Moorman as 'the most inspiring teacher in the university.' As a result of his enthusiasm for Moorman, Read also wrote two Yorkshire dialect plays which he gave as a gift to Moorman some time shortly before the First World War.
BBC and Folk Music
Moorman's own plays were performed several times on BBC Radio, including The Ewe Lamb, broadcast on the BBC Home Service (Midlands and North) on 31 December 1931, and Throp's Wife, on the BBC Home Service (North) on 3 October 1938. In this listing for this in the BBC's listings magazine, Radio Times, it was stated:
That brilliant and indefatigable student of the words and idioms of Yorkshire folk speech, the late F. W. Moorman , who was Professor of English Language in Leeds University, once told how, intrigued by the' saying 'As thrang as Throp's wife ' and long baffled in his search for its origin, he journeyed through the West Riding in search of someone who could explain the phrase. The explanation came from an old Yorkshireman met in a West Riding inn at Cowling Hill.
Moorman's poem 'The Dalesman's Litany' also became a standard in folk music circles, appearing on Tim Hart and Maddy Prior's album, Folk Songs of Old England Vol. 1 in 1968, again on Cliff Hasla's 1976 album Here's A Health to the Man and the Maid, and again in 2011 in Moore Moss Rutter's eponymous album, Moore Moss Rutter.
First stanza from Moorman's 'The Dalesman's Litany':
- From Hull, Halifax, and Hell, good Lord deliver us (a Yorkshire Proverb.)
- It's hard when fowks can't find their wark
- Wheer they've bin bred an' born;
- When I were young I awlus thowt
- I'd bide 'mong t' roots an' corn.
- But I've bin forced to work i' towns,
- So here's my litany
- Frae Hull, an' Halifax, an' Hell,
- Gooid Lord, deliver me!
Moorman drowned in the River Skirfare,: 5 'while bathing with his children at Hawkswick, Upper Wharfedale' on September 8, 1919. The Leeds student newspaper The Gryphon published poems in his memory by Dorothy Una Ratcliffe and one 'W.G.': 6, 12 He was succeeded at Leeds in 1920 by J. R. R. Tolkien.
- A. N. Shinman, The University of Leeds: The First Half-Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1954), p. 34.
- A. J. Taylor, 'History at Leeds 1877-1974: The Evolution of a Discipline', Northern History, 10 (1975), 141-64 (at p. 154 n. 43).
- A. N. Shinman, The University of Leeds: The First Half-Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1954), pp. 123-24.
- F. W. Moorman, 'English Place Names and the Teutonic Sagas', in Oliver Elton (ed.), English Association Essays and Studies, vol.5 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1914) p.75f
- Herbert Read, The Contrary Experience (London: Faber and Faber, 1963) p.166
- 'Broadcasting', in The Times (UK newspaper), 31 December 1931, p.6
- 'Broadcasting', in The Times (UK newspaper), 3 October 1938, p.3
- 'Two Northern Dialect Classics', in The Radio Times, 30 September 1938, p.32
- A. J. Grant, 'Frederic William Moorman', The Gryphon, second series, 1.1 (November 1919), 5-7.
- 'Prof. Moorman Drowned', in The Times (UK newspaper), 10 September 1919, p.7.
- The Gryphon, second series, 1.1 (November 1919).
- The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien: A Selection, ed. by Humphrey Carpenter (London: Allen and Unwin, 1981), no. 46.