1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Edward Dyer

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 12:533-34.



SIR EDWARD DYER, a poet of the Elizabethan age, was of the same family with those of his name in Somersetshire, and was born probably about 1540. He was educated at Oxford, either in Baliol college or Broadgate's hall, when he discovered a propensity to poetry, and polite literature, but left it without a degree, and travelled abroad. On his return, having the character of a well-bred man, he was taken into the service of the court. He now obtained considerable celebrity as a poet, and was a contributor to the "English Helicon," and not to the "Collection of Choice Flowers and Descriptions," as Wood says, in which last his name does not appear. Queen Elizabeth had a great respect for his abilities, and employed him in several embassies, particularly to Denmark in 1589; and on his return from thence, conferred on him the chancellorship of the garter, on the death of sir John Wolley, 1596, and at the same time she knighted him; but like other courtiers be occasionally suffered by her caprices. He was at one time reconciled to her, by her majesty's being taught to believe that he was sinking to the grave under the weight of her displeasure. Sir Edward partook of the credulity of the times, studied chemistry, and was thought to be a Rosicrusian. He was at least a dupe to the famous astrologers, Dr. Dee and Edward Kelly, of whom he has recorded, that in Bohemia he saw them put base metal in a crucible, and after it was set on the fire, and stirred with a stick of wood, it came forth in great proportion pure gold.

He wrote pastoral odes and madrigals, some of which are in "England's Helicon," first published at the close of queen Elizabeth's reign, and lately republished in the "Bibliographer." He wrote also a "Description of Friendship," a poem in the Ashmolean Museum, where also, from Aubrey's MS. we learn that he almost entirely spent an estate of £4000 a year. There is a letter of his to sir Christopher Hatton, dated Oct. 9, 1572, in the Harleian MSS. and another to the earl of Leicester, dated May 22, 1586, in the Cottonian collection, and some of his unpublished verses are in a MS collection, formerly belonging to Dr. Rawlinson, now in the Bodleian library. Sir Edward died some years after James came to the throne, and was succeeded in his chancellorship of the garter by sir John Herbert, knt. principal secretary of state.