John Dyer


John Dyer (October 1699 –December 1757) was a Welsh poet who wrote in the English language.

The son of a solicitor, he was born at Aberglasney, in Carmarthenshire. He was sent to Westminster School and was intended for a career in 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 poets native vale of Towy. A visit to Italy bore fruit in The Ruins of Rome (1740), a descriptive piece in 545 lines of Miltonic blank verse.

Dyer was ordained an Anglican priest in 1741, and, held 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 William Shakespeare.

In 1757 Dyer published his longest work, the didactic blank-verse epic, The Fleece, in four books, dealing with the tending of sheep, the shearing and preparation of the wool, weaving, and trade in woollen manufactures. He died at Coningsby of consumption. His poems were collected by Dodsley in 1770, and by Edward Thomas in 1903 for the Welsh Library, vol. iv.