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18 Mr. Collins's first production is added here from The Poetical
'TO MISS AURELIA C-R,
Lament not Hannah's happy state;
And seize the treasure you regret.
And softly whispers to your charms; “Meet but your lover in my bands,
You'll find your sister in his arms."
OHN DYER, of whom I have no other account to give than 1
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 3.
He passed through Westminster-school under the care of 2 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, resolved 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 3 his friend, an itinerant painter, and wandered about South Wales and the parts adjacento; but he mingled poetry with painting, and about 1727 printed Grongar Hill' in Lewis's Miscellany 8.
Being, probably, unsatisfied with his own proficiency he, like 4
L'A mezzotinto from Reynolds's portrait of Samuel Dyersante, WATTS, 25] has been copied for the Lives of the Poets, as if it were the portrait of John Dyer. Prior's Malone, p. 423.
2 Correspondence of John Hughes, edited by John Duncombe, 3 vols. 2nd ed. 1773. See ante, HUGHES, 17.
Ib. iii. 61. He was born rather in 1698 or 1699. Cunningham's Lives of the Poets, iii. 289.
* Freind was Head Master from 1711 to 1733. Sargeaunt's Westminster School, p. 268. 'Let Freind affect to speak as Terence
spoke.' The Dunciad, iv. 223. Swift wrote to Atterbury, Dean of Westminster, on Aug: 3, 1713–'I envy Dr. Freind that he has you for his inspector; and I envy you for having such a person in your district, and whom you love so well. Shall not I have liberty to be sometimes a
third among you, though I am an Irish Dean!' Works, xvi. 54.
Freind wrote Prior's epitaph. Ante, PRIOR, 44 n. 5.
Ante, COWLEY, 3; POPE, 239.
Hughes Corr. iii. 60. Savage wrote some lines To Mr. John Dyer, A Painter. Eng. Poets, xli. 244. i 16. lviii. 109.
Johnson said of some fine lines to Pope, quoted in Boswell's Johnson, iv. 307 :-'They were written by one Lewis, who was either under-master or an usher of Westminster School, and published a Miscellany in which Grongar Hill first came out.' Malone adds in a note that Lewis's Miscel. lany was printed in 1726. 'Grongar Hill was first printed in Savage's Miscellanies (ante, SAVAGE, 60) as an Ode, and was reprinted in the same year in Lewis's Miscellany, in the form it now bears.' See Appendix S.
other painters, travelled to Italy, and coming back in 1740 published The Ruins of Rome'. 5 If his poem was written soon after his return 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. 6 His ecclesiastical provision was a long time but slender. His
first patron, Mr. Harper, gave him, in 1741, Calthorp 3 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. Sir John Heathcote* gave him Coningsby, of one hundred and forty pounds a years; and in 1755 the Chancelloró added Kirkby, of one hundred and ten. He complains that the repair of the house at Coningsby, and other expences, took away the
profit? 7 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 visiter, with more expectation of success than the other could easily admit. In the conversation the author's age was asked, and being
: The Ruins of Rome, A Poem, Health's cheerful haunt, and the sepr. Is. Gent. Mag. 1740, p. 152; Eng. lected walk Poets, lviii. 115.
Of Heathcote's leisure.' * Hughes Corres. iii. 60. There is
Eng. Poets, lviii. 139. no mention of this descent in Mr. s £120. Hughes Corres. iii. 59; and Sidney Lee's Shakespeare.
the 1st and 2nd editions of the Lives. 3 The village, to quote his own 6 Lord Hardwicke. lines, stands
? Hughes Corres. iii. 60. "Where ever-gliding Avon's limpid 8 Eng. Poets, lviii. 135. • The
Fleece; a Poem, by J. Dyer, LL.B. Thwarts the long course of dusty 4to, pr. 5s.' Gent. Mag. 1757, p. Watling Street,
191. Eng. Poets, lviii. 145. 'Johnson spoke slightingly of Dyer's • 'Heathcote himself, and such large- Fleece. “The subject, Sir, cannot be acred men,
(fen.' made poetical. How can a man write Lords of fat E’sham, or of Lincoln poetically of serges and druggets ? POPE, Imit. Hor., Epis. ii. 2. 240. Yet you will hear many people talk Dyer celebrates
to you gravely of that excellent poem 'the clover'd lawns The Fleece." ;
Boswell's Johnson, ii. And sunny mounts of beauteous 453. Normanton,
Ante, POPE, 220
represented as advanced in life, He will,' said the critick, 'be buried in woollen!'
He did not indeed long survive that publication, nor long 8 enjoy the increase of his preferments, for in 1758 he died ?.
Dyer is not a poet of bulk or dignity sufficient to require an 9 elaborate criticism. Grongar Hills 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 mankind, that when it is once read it will be read again.
The idea of The Ruins of Rome strikes more but pleases less, 10 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
"At dead of night
Aghast the voice of Time disparting towers.' Of The Fleece, which never became popular, and is now 11 universally neglected, I can say little that is likely to recall it to attentions. The woolcomber and the poet appear to me such
: 'The statute of Charles II, which prescribes a dress for the dead, who are all ordered to be buried in woollen, is a law consistent with public liberty, for it encourages the staple trade, on which in great measure depends the universal good of the nation.' BLACKSTONE, Com. 1775, i. 126.
Burke said of Lord Chatham, who was swathed in flannel owing to the gout:
-Like a true obeyer of the laws, he will be buried in woollen.' Burke's Corres. ii. 201. "Odious! in woollen ! 'twould a Saint provoke!
(cissa spoke).' (Were the last words that poor Nar
POPE, Moral Essays, i. 246. ? July 24, 1758. Cunningham's Lives of the Poets, iii. 291. His death is not in Gent. Mag.
3 Eng. Poets, lviii. 109. * In the original
"The pilgrim oft At dead of night, mid his oraison hears,' &c.
The Ruins of Rome, 1740, p. 3.
Johnson gives both orison and oraison in his Dictionary:
Gray, after reading in 1748 Dodsley's Misc., in which were reprinted Grongar Hill and The Ruins of Rome (ed. 1758, i. 214, 220), wrote to Walpole:
Mr. Dyer (here you will despise me highly) has more of poetry in his imagination than almost any of our number; but rough and injudicious.' Letters, i. 183.
'A beautiful instance of the modifying and investive power of imagination may be seen in that noble passage of Dyer's Ruins of Rome where the poet hears the voice of Time.' WORDSWORTH, Memoirs, ii. 477.
5 Horace Walpole wrote on Feb. 3, 1760 :-'I think Mr. Dyer's Fleece a very insipid poem. His Ruins of Rome bad great picturesque spirit, and his Grongar Hill was beautiful. His Fleece I could never get through.' Letters, iii. 284.
discordant natures, that an attempt to bring them together is to 'couple the serpent 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 cloathing 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 under 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. 12 Let me, however, honestly report whatever may counterbalance this weight of censure.
I have been told that Akenside, who,
s 'Sed non ut placidis coeant immitia, The belief that England's pronon ut
sperity depended on preventing the Serpentes avibus geminentur, tigri- exportation of wool is shown in such bus agni.
lines as the following :HORACE, Ars Poet. I. 12. “So may the proud attempts of restIt is not clear why the woolcomber less Gaul and the poet' are of more discordant From our strong borders, like a natures than the cattle-breeder and the poet, whom Virgil brought to- In empty foam retire.' gether in the Georgics. Dyer has
Eng. Poets, lviii. 138. described the
'Ev'n Gallic Abbeville the shining Spacious airy downs and gentle hills, fleece With grass and thyme o'erspread, That richly decorates her loom, acand clover wild.'
quires Eng. Poets, lviii. 138. Basely from Albion, by th' ensnaring He has described too the countries
bribe, where wool is grown, the valleys The bait of avarice, which, with felon where it is spun into thread and fraud, woven, and the trade whereby it is For its own wanton mouth from distributed over the world.
Ib. p. 143. *No common pleasure warms the The poet keeps to the law in his generous mind,
• felon fraud.' See Blackstone's Com. When it beholds the labours of the iv. 154. •These laws,' writes Adam
Smith, 'may be said to be all written How widely round the globe they in blood.' Wealth of Nations, 1811,
are dispers'd, From little tenements by wood or Shenstone, too, upholds the woollen croft,
industry :Through many a slender path, how "Ah! what avails the timorous lambs sedulous,
to guard, As rills to rivers broad, they speed Though nightly cares with daily
labours join, To public roads ...
If foreign sloth obtain the rich reand thence explore ward, Through every navigable wave the If Gallia's craft the ponderous
fleece purloin?' That laps the green earth round.'
Elegy xviii, Eng. Poets, lix. 53. 1b. p. 208. Ante, MILTON, 275.