1690 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Edward Dyer

Anthony Wood, Athenae Oxonienses (1690-91; 1721) 1:322-23.



EDWARD DYER was of the same Family, as it seems, with those of his Name living in Somersetshire, and received some of his Academical Education in Oxon, particularly, as I conceive in Bal. Coll. or Broadgate's-hall, where his natural inclinations to Poetry and other polite Learning, as also his Excellency in bewailing and bemoaning the perplexities of Love, were observ'd by his Contemporaries. But leaving the University without a Degree, he travelled beyond the Seas, and at his return being esteemed a well-bred Gentleman, was taken into the Service of the Royal Court, being then look'd upon as a most ingenious Person, rank'd with some of the most noted Poets living in the reign of Qu. Elizabeth, and a contributor with the chief of them, out of his Writings, to the Collection of choice Flowers and Descriptions that were published about the beginning of K. James I. At riper Years he studied and labour'd much in Chymistry, was esteemed by some a Rosie-crucian, and a great Devotee to Dr. John Dee and Edw. Kelly Astrologers and Chymists, especially the last, whom he confidently believed to have obtained the grand secret called the Elixir. The Qu. knew and had a great respect for him and his excellent parts, and having spent some time in foreign Countries, she therefore employed him in several Embassies beyound the Seas, particularly to Denmark in 1589; And in his passage thither, he called on the said Dee and Kelley who were then near or in Bohemia, and being with Kelley alone in his Elaboratory, he saw him put of the base Mettal into the Cr[u]cible, and after it was set a little upon the Fire and a very small quantity of the Vessel (i.e. Elixir) put in and stirred with a stick of Wood, it came forth in great proportion perfect Gold. This very thing after his (Sir Edw. Dyer's) return, he aver'd openly at the Archbishop's Table at Lambeth before several learned Persons. After his said return the Qu. being well satisfied with the Services he had done to the Crown, she conferr'd on him the Chancellorship of the Garter, upon the Death of Sir Jo. Wolley, in the beginning of 1596, and at that time the Degree of Knighthood, being then esteemed by all to be a grave and wise Gentleman. He hath written,

Pastoral Odes and Madrigals — Some of these are in the Collection before mentioned, as also

A Description of Friendship — This is a Poem, and is in the Ashmolean Musaeum, numb. 781. p. 139. What other things he has written I cannot tell, and therefore I shall only say that he died some Years after K. James I. came to the Crown, and was succeeded in his Chancellorship of the Garter by Sir Joh. Herbert, Knight, principal Secretary of State.