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John Dyer Biography | Poet

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DYER, JOHN (c. 1700-1758), British poet, the son of a solicitor, was born in 1699 or 1700 at Aberglasney, in Carmarthenshire. He was sent to Westminster school and was destined for the law, but on his father’s death he began to study painting. He wandered about South Wales, sketching and occasionally painting portraits. In 1726 his first poem, Grongar Hill, appeared in a miscellany published by Richard Savage, the poet. It was an irregular ode in the so-called Pindaric style, but Dyer entirely rewrote it into a loose measure of four cadences, and printed it separately in 1727. It had an immediate and brilliant success. Grongar Hill, as it now stands, is a short poem of only 150 lines, describing in language of much freshness and picturesque charm the view from a hill overlooking the poet’s native vale of Towy. A visit to Italy bore fruit in The Ruins of Rome (1740), a descriptive piece in about 600 lines of Miltonic blank verse. He was ordained priest in 1741, and held successively the livings of Calthorp in Leicestershire, Belchford (1751), Coningsby (1752), and Kirby-on-Bane (1756), the last three being Lincolnshire parishes. He married, in 1741, a Miss Ensor, said to be descended from the brother of Shakespeare. In 1757 he published his longest work, the didactic blank-verse epic of The Fleece, in four books, discoursing of the tending of sheep, of the shearing and preparation of the wool, of weaving, and of trade in woollen manufactures. The town took no interest in it, and Dodsley facetiously prophesied that “Mr Dyer would be buried in woollen.” He died at Coningsby of consumption, on the 15th of December 1758.

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