1878 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Dyer

Charles and Mary Cowden Clarke, in Recollections of Writers (1878) 12-13.



Once when he came to see us he told us of his having lately spent some time among a wandering tribe of gypsies, he feeling much desire to know something of the language and habits of this interesting race of people, and believing he could not do better than by joining them in one of their rambling expeditions. He once wrote a volume of French poems. During a long portion of his life his chief income was derived from the moderate emolument he obtained by correcting works of the classics for the publishers; but on the death of Lord Stanhope, to whose son he had been tutor, he was left residuary legatee by that nobleman, which placed him in comparatively easy circumstances. Dyer was of a thoroughly noble disposition and generous heart; and beneath that strange book-worm exterior of his there dwelt a finely tender soul, full of all warmth and sympathy. On one occasion, during his less prosperous days, going to wait at the coach-office for the Cambridge stage, by which he intended to travel thither, he met an old friend in distress. Dyer gave him the half-guinea meant for his own fare, and walked down to Cambridge instead of going by coach. His delicacy, constancy, and chivalry of feeling equalled his generosity: for, many years after, when my father died, George Dyer asked for a private conference with me, told me of his youthful attachment for my mother, and inquired whether her circumstances were comfortable, because in case, as a widow, she had not been left well off he meant to offer her his hand. Hearing that in point of money she had no cause for concern, he begged me to keep secret what he had confided to me, and he himself never made farther allusion to the subject. Long subsequently, he married a very worthy lady: and it was great satisfaction to us to see how the old student's rusty suit of black, threadbare and shining with the shabbiness of neglect, the limp wisp of jaconot muslin, yellow with age, round his throat, the dusty shoes, and stubby beard, had become exchanged for a coat that shone only with the lustre of regular bathing, a snow-white cravat neatly tied on, brightly blacked shoes, and a close-shaven chin — the whole man presenting a cosy and burnished appearance, like one carefully and affectionately tended.