Miscellany — December 2009

In search of Lyoï . . .

While working on the biographical notes of more obscure figures, the name of Lyoï kept catching my eye — partly because it was near the end of entries under a letter, and partly because it is rather an unusual name. The original edition gave a quotation from an 18th-century letter which mentions "un avocat napolitain, nommé M. Lyoï, homme fort gai, d'une tournure singulière et franche" and notes that he went into exile as a result of defending the freemasons in Naples.

Armed with this information and a year, 1775, I launched out into the Internet, trying various searches without success. The next stage was to try variant spellings of the name, as 18th-century orthography — particularly of names — tends to be fairly approximate. Nothing for "Lioi"; but "Lioy" with "Naples" gave me numerous references to Diodato Lioy, author of a work of legal philosophy, Philosophie du droit. It was not easy to find further information about Diodato, but the legal connection suggested that this was a good start.

In order to see if I could find more about the circumstances of Lioy's exile, I tried his name with the date 1775 and found a publication in Google Books, Histoire de la persécution intentée en 1775 aux francs-maçons de Naples, suivie de pièces justificatives (1780), written by a certain Félix Lioy. This sounded a much better avenue, and the unfortunate Diodato was retired in favour of his more likely cousin.

From here things began to move faster. Felix Lioy (sic, no accent) appears in the Freemason's magazine for 1795, and a few more details could be gleaned from this (admittedly partisan) source; he also appears in the catalogue of the Biblioteca Palatino in Florence as the author of a Memoria per l'economia della farina (1800), published in Palermo — a somewhat unexpected offering from an exiled lawyer.

After various attempts to track down Lioy further, a search for his Memoria brought up a further memorandum, written this time by a certain "Felice Lioy, amministratore dei beni della Magione di Palermo", perhaps the same as the "Félix Lioy" who had written the French-language pamphlet. A search for Felice Lioy gave numerous results (there is a Felice Lioy on Facebook), but "La Massoneria settecentesca nel Regno di Napoli", an article by Ed Stolper in the Rivista Massonica of 1976, finally provided a full biography of the elusive lawyer, linking together the exile, the 1775 publication and the 1800 Palermo memorandum, and adding numerous details including place and date of birth and death, and hitherto unsuspected links with the royal family of Naples.

Felice Lioy is not a major figure in Electronic Enlightenment — we have a small fragment of one letter by him — but he was fun to research, and knowing what we now know about him he becomes a new link in a network connecting Germany, Switzerland, France and the Netherlands with the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily — a network that will soon become much more complex with the numerous Italian scholars and other figures to be incorporated into EE via the correspondence of Ludovico Antonio Muratori (coming in 2009/2010).

— Peter Damian-Grint
Correspondence Editor
Electronic Enlightenment Project
© 2009 University of Oxford

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