1795 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Dyer

John Anderson, in Works of the British Poets (1795) 9:548.



The character of Dyer was very amiable and respectable. He was beloved by his friends, for the gentleness and sweetness of his disposition. He was respected by the world, as a man of superior endowments. With Hill and Savage he lived in habits of familiar intimacy; and joined in the poetical praises of a lady celebrated in their verses by the name of Clio, afterwards Mrs. Sansom. Savage has an Epistle to Dyer, occasioned by seeing his picture of the celebrated Clio, and another "In answer to his from the Country." He was distinguished by the friendship of Akenside, and carried on a correspondence with Mr. Duncombe, the friend of Hughes, and other men of letters and taste.

As a poet, Dyer ranks with Denham, Garth, Pope, and Thomson, his predecessors in descriptive poetry. He had peculiar and powerful talents for that species of composition, inferior only perhaps to the talents of Thomson. Some of his descriptions, however, sufficiently evince that he had studied manners and passions, as well as the external beauties of nature, and could have excelled in compositions of higher dignity and utility, that lay open to the constitution of man, and that imitate characters and sentiments. It is not diminution of his genius, that he preferred the species of poetry which has given immortality to Lucretius, Virgil, and Thomson. Of English poets, none have excelled Dyer, in one of the greatest and most pleasing arts of descriptive poetry, the disposition of every object so as it may give occasion for some observation on human life. This oblique instruction is the distinguishing excellence of Cooper's Hill. This is the great charm of the incomparable Elegy written in a Country Church-Yard.