Dyer, Samuel

, a man of great learning, and the friend and associate of the literati of the last age, was born about 1725, and educated at Northampton, under Dr. Doddridge, and for some time had the additional benefit of being instructed by the learned Dr. John Ward, professor of rhetoric in Gresham -college. He afterwards studied under professor Hutcheson at Glasgow, and to complete his education, his father, an eminent jeweller in London, sent him, by the advice of Dr. Chandler, to Leyden, where he remained two years. He became an excellent classical scholar, a great mathematician and natural philosopher, was well versed iti the Hebrew, and a master of the Latin, Italian, and French languages. Added to these endowments, he was of a temper so mild, and in his conversation so modest and unassuming, that he gained the attention and affection of all around him. In all questions of science, Dr. Johnson looked up to him; and in his life of Dr. Watts (where he calls him “the late learned Mr. Dyer”) has cited an observation of his, that Watts had confounded the idea of space with that of empty space, and did not consider, that though space might be without matter, yet matter, being extended, could not be without space.

Mr. Dyer appears to have been intended by his early friends for the ministry among the dissenters, but discovered an averseness to the pastoral office, which sir John Hawkins insinuates to have proceeded from an unfavourable change in his religious sentiments. Various literary


In the Gent. Mag 1797, p. 433, Mr. Gaunt is said to have married the grand-daughter, not the daughter of the poet.

| schemes appear to have been suggested to him, none of which he undertook, except in 1758, the revisal of the English edition of Plutarch’s Lives. In this he translated anew only the lives of Demetrius and Pericles. In 1759 he became a commissary in the army in Germany, and continued in that station to the end of the seven years war, after which he returned to England, and on the formation of the Literary Club, (composed of Dr. Johnson and his friends) in 1764, he was the first member electee! into that society, with whom he continued to associate, and by whom he was highly esteemed to the time of his death, in Sept. 1772. From an excellent portrait of this gentleman by sir Joshua Reynolds, a mezzotinto print was scraped by his pupil Marchi, of which a copy was imposed on the public as the portrait of Dyer the poet.

Sir John Hawkins, in his life of Johnson, has given a very unfavourable sketch of Mr. Dyer’s character, representing him as an infidel and a sensualist. These charges Mr. Malone, in a long note on his Life of Dryden, has minutely examined, with a view to refute them, but in our opinion is more to be praised for the intention than the execution of this desirable purpose. Sir John Hawkins seems to have drawn his facts from personal knowledge of Dyer. Mr. Malone does not pretend to this, and while he expresses a just indignation at sir John’s charging Mr. Dyer with infidelity (supposing the charge to be false) he tells us that he himself had no means of knowing what Mr. Dyer’s religious sentiments were. There is nothing conclusive, therefore, to be expected from one who is led, from whatever motive, to deny assertions without being able to prove that they are untrue. Mr. Malone is the first, if we mistake not, who himself asserted what he has not in the least attempted to prove, viz. that Dyer was the author of Junius’s letters. This indeed he qualifies among his errata, by saying that Dyer was not the sole author, but the principal author but even here he offers no kind of proof, nor, since the publication of the late edition of those celebrated letters will it probably be thought that he had any to offer, more worthy of attention than the conjectures which have ascribed these letters to a Boyd or a Wilmot. 1


Hawkins’s Life of Johnson. Malone’s Dryden, vol. I. p. 222, and vol II. 137. Woodfall’s edition of lunius’s Letters, vol. I. p. 100.