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Second Son of Robert Dyer, of Aberglasney, in Caermarthenshire-Educated at Westminster
-Studies Poetry and Painting-Publishes 'Grongar Hill,' a Poem-Enters into Holy Orders -Publishes The Ruins of Rome, The Fleece,' &c.—Made Rector of Coningsby, in Lin. colnshire-Death and Burial at Coningsby.
JOAN DYER, of whom I have no other account to give than his own letters, published with Hughes's correspondence, and the notes added by the editor, have afforded me, was born in 1700,' the second son of Robert Dyer, of Aberglasney, in Caermarthenshire, a solicitor of great capacity and note.
He passed through Westminster School under the care of Dr. Freind, and was then called home to be instructed in his father's profession. But his father died soon, and he took no delight in the study of the law, but having always amused himself with drawing, résolved to turn painter, and became pupil to Mr. Richardson, an artist then of high reputation, but now  better known by his books than by his pictures.
Having studied awhile under his master, he became, as he tells his friends, an itinerant painter, and wandered about South Wales and the parts adjacent ;' but he mingled poetry with painting, and about 1727 (in 1726] printed 'Grongar Hill' in Lewis's Miscellany."
1 Rather in 1898 or 1699, as I am informed by Mr. W. Hylton Dyer Longstat, who has the papers of the poet. The poet's mother was Catherine Cocks, of Comins, Worcestershire, by Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Edmond Bennet, of Mapleton, Herefordshire. The father aled between 1716 and 1720.
• The altarpiece at Newtown in Monmouthshire : "The Last Supper ' is said to be by Dyer. Mr. Dyer Longstaff has a portrait of the poet in the day-cap of the period and a green robe.
: Miscellaneous Poems, by several hands.' Published by D. Lewis. London: printed by J. Watts, 1726, 8vo. A diferent and, as I take it, an earller version appeared the same year In · Miscellaneous Poems and Translations, by several Hands.' Published by Richard Savage, son of the late Earl Rivers, London, 1726, 8vo. "The Country Walk,' and five other Poems by Dyer ("Grongar HW 'Included), aro printed in darnge's Miscellany, with Dyer's name to them.
Being, probably, unsatisfied with his own proficiency, he, like other painters, travelled to Italy; and coming back in 1740, published" · The Ruins of Rome.'
If his poem was written soon after his retorn, he did not make much use of his acquisitions in painting, whatever they might be ; for decline of health and love of study determined him to the church. He therefore entered into orders; and, it seems, married about the same time a lady of the name of Ensor, “whose grandmother,” says he, "was a Shakespeare, descended from a brother of everybody's Shakespeare ;" by her, in 1756, he had a son and three daughters living.
His ecclesiastical provision was a long time but slender. His first patron, Mr. Harper, gave him, in 1741, Calthorp, in Leicestershire, of eighty pounds a year, on which he lived ten years, and then exchanged it for Belchford, in Lincolnshire, of seventy-five. His condition now began to mend. In 1751 Sir John Heathcote gave him Coningsby (in Lincolnshire), of one hundred and forty pounds & year ; and in 1755 the Chancellor added Kirby, of one hundred and ten. He complains that the repair of the house at Coningsby, and other expenses, took away the profit. In 1757 he published The Fleece,' his greatest poetical work, of which I will not suppress a ludicrous story. Dodsley, the bookseller,' was one day mentioning it to a critical visitor, with more expectation of success than the other could easily admit. In the conversation the author's age was asked ; and being represented as advanced in life, “ He will,” said the critic, “be buried in woollen.” •
He did not indeed long survive that publication, nor long enjoy the increase of his preferments ; for in 1758 he died.'
• Anonymously. In March 1740, .The Ruins of Rome, a Poem,' London: printed for Lar. ton Gilliver, at Homer's Head in Fleet Street, 1740, 4to.
Lord Hardwicke. o • The Fleece; a Poem in Four Books,' by John Dyer, LL.B. London: printed for R. and J. Dodsley in Pall-Mall, 1757, 4to. i. e, Robert Dodsley.
8 "Odious ! in woollen ! 'twould a saint provoke !"
Were the last words that poor Narcissa spoke.-Pope. • with July, 1758. His brothers were Robert (died 1752), Thomas, some time perpetual curate of Paddington (died 1780), and a third whose name is unknown. ("Gent.'s Mag.' for lug. 1847, p. 114.) The youngest and last surviving daughter, a Mr. Hewit, died, in May -1890, at Coventry.
Dyer is not a poet of bulk or dignity sufficient to require an elaborate criticism. "Grongar Hill' is the happiest of his productions: it is not indeed very accurately written ; but the scenes which it displays are so pleasing, the images which they raise so welcome to the mind, and the reflections of the writer so consonant to the general sense or experience of nankind, that when it was once read, it will be read again."
The idea of The Ruins of Rome' strikes more, but pleases less, and the title raises greater expectation than the performance gratifies. Some passages, however, are conceived with the mind of a poet; as when in the neighbourhood of dilapidating edifices, he says,
The Pilgrim oft,
Rattling around, loud thund'ring to the moon.” Of The Fleece,' which never became popular, and is now universally neglected, I can say little that is likely to recall it to attention. The woolcomber and the poet appear to me such discordant natures, that an attempt to bring them together is to couple the ser pent with the fowl." When Dyer, whose mind was not unpoetical, has done his utmost, by interesting his reader in our native commodity, by interspersing rural imagery and incidental digressions, by clothing small images in great words, and by all the writer's arts of delusion, the meanness naturally adhering, and the irreverence habitually annexed to trade and manufacture, sink him ander insuperable oppression ; and the disgust which blank verse, encumbering and encumbered, superadds to an unpleasing subject, soon repels the reader, however willing to be pleased."
10 of English poets, perhaps none have excelled the Ingenlous Mr. Dyer in this oblique in. struction, into which he frequently steals imperceptibly in his little descriptive poem entitled "Grongar Hill,' where he disposes every object so as it may give occasion for some observation on human life. Denham himself is not superior to Mr. Dyer in this particular.-Jos. WARTON: Essay on Pope, i. 85, ed. 1782.
1 He (Johnson) spoke slightly of Dyer's 'Fleece.' "The subject, Sir, cannot be made poetical. How can a man write poetically of serges and druggets? Yet you will hear many people talk to you gravely of that excellent poem 'The Fleece.'”-Boswell by Orokor, ed. 1848, p. 485.
is in 'The Gent.'s Mag.' for January 1885, p. 47, is a letter from Dyer to Dodaley, dated May, 1757, sending some corrections for a future edition of 'The Fleece.'
Let me, however, honestly report whatever may counterbalance this weight of censuré. I have been told that Akenside, who, upon & poetical question, has a right to be heard, said, "That he would regulate his opinion of the reigning taste by the fate of Dyer's • Fleece ;' for, if that were ill received, he should not think it any longer reasonable to expect fame from excellence.” 18
18 Ils 'Fleece,' which I had the pleasure of reading in manuscript with Dr. Akenside, is written in a pure and classical taste, and with many happy Imitations of Virgil. Jos. WarTON: Essay on Pope, l. 86, ed. 1782.
Mr. Dyer (here you will despise me highly) has more of poetry in his imagination than ab most any of our number ; but rough and injudicious.--GRAY to Walpole, n. d. (He is critbcising Dodsley's Collection.)
Dyer has found warm admirers in our own time in Bowles and Wordsworth.
The pilot steers
W. L BOWLA.