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dressed to Laurence, Earl of Rochester: "I would plead (says he) a little merit, and some hazards of my life from the common enemies; my refusing advantages offered by them, and neglecting my beneficial studies, for the King's only think I merit not to starve.
service; but I
I never applied
myself to any interest, contrary to your Lordship's; and on some occasions, perhaps not known to you, have not been unserviceable to the memory and reputation of my lord, your father. After this, my Lord, my conscience assures me, I may write boldly, though I cannot speak to you. I have three sons, growing to man's estate. I breed them all up to learning, beyond my fortune; but they are too hopeful to be neglected, though I want. Be pleased to look on me with an eye of compassion: some small employment would render my condition easy. The King is not unsatisfied of me: the Duke has often promised me his assistance; and your Lordship is the conduit through which their favours pass. Either in the Customs, or the Appeals of the Excise, or some other way, means cannot be wanting, if you please to have the will. 'Tis enough for one age to have neglected Mr. Cowley, and starved Mr. Butler; but neither of them had the happiness to live till your Lordship's ministry. In the mean time, be pleased to give me a gracious and a speedy answer to my present request of half a year's pension for my necessities. I am going to write somewhat by his Majesty's command; and cannot stir into the country for my health and studies, till I secure my
family from want." I know not what was the issue of this application; but am willing to hope that one part of his request was immediately attended to, though another was certainly neglected; for he never obtained either of the offices he solicited, or any other equivalent.--The work alluded to was probably the translation of Maimbourg's HISTORY OF THE LEAGUE, which he published in 1684.
The old version of the Lives of Plutarch, by Sir Thomas North, having become somewhat obsolete, a new translation of that most instructive and valuable work was undertaken by a "mob of gentlemen," many of them bred at Cambridge, and friends of our author. Among the translators the most eminent were, Creech, Duke, Knightly Chetwood, John Caryll, Rymer, Dr. Brown, the traveller, Dr. William Oldys, and Mr. Somers, afterwards Lord Chancellor. To this work Dryden contributed, it should seem, the prefatory Advertisement,* and a very pleasing Life of that amiable historian, to whom we are more indebted for the characters of the most celebrated persons of Greece and Rome, and a thousand interesting circumstances relating to them, than to all the ancients besides. This translation, of which the first volume was published in 1683, though very unequally and imper
6 See the Letters in this volume, N° V. The letter in question appears to have been written in 1684.
* See vol. ii. p. 424, n. 6; and vol. iii. p. 388, n. 7. 7 The first volume of Plutarch's Lives, with the Life
ectly executed, continued, with all its defects, to be generally read from that time to the year 1758, when the proprietor put it into the hands of Samuel Dyer, Esq., a man of excellent taste and profound erudition; whose principal literary work, under a Roman signature, when the veil with which for near thirty-one years it has been inveloped, shall be removed, will place him in a high rank among English writers, and transmit a name, now little known, with distinguished lustre to posterity. He revised the whole of the former translation, comparing it with, and correcting it by, the Greek original; but translated only two of the lives anew.* A very good version of Plutarch's Lives having since been made, that Mr. Dyer did not do more, is the less to be regretted.
of Plutarch, was entered in the Stationers' Books by Jacob Tonson, April 25, 1683.
* Demetrius and Pericles.
Though I was not acquainted with this gentleman, nor ever saw him, I take this opportunity of vindicating his fame; having learned from the late Sir Joshua Reynolds, and other respectable persons, that he was a very learned, virtuous, and amiable man. He was born about the year 1725; was bred at Northampton, under the care of Dr. Doddridge; and for some time had the benefit of being instructed by the learned Dr. John Ward, Professor of Rhetorick in Gresham College. He afterwards studied under Professor Hutcheson at Glasgow; from which place he was removed to Leyden, where he completed his education. In 1759 he became a Commissary in our army in Germany, and continued in that station to the end of the seven years' war: after which, he returned into England; and, on the formation of the LITERARY CLUB in 1764,
Having a few years before translated some of the Epistles of Ovid, Dryden proceeded now to he was the first member elected into that very respectable Society; with whom he continued to associate, and by whom he was highly esteemed, to the time of his death, in September, 1772.-From an excellent portrait of this gentleman, painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, a mezzotinto print was scraped by his pupil Marchi; of which a copy was made for the edition of the ENGLISH POETS, published by the booksellers of London in 1779, and erroneously prefixed to the works of John Dyer, the author of THE FLEECE, and other poetical compositions.
Mr. Samuel Dyer is acknowledged, even by an enemy, to have been" an excellent classical scholar, a great mathematician and natural philosopher, well versed in the Hebrew, and master of the Latin, French, and Italian languages. Added to these endowments, he was of a temper so mild, and in his conversation so modest and unassum. ing, that he engaged the attention and affection of all around him. In all questions of science, Dr. Johnson looked up to him; and in his Life of Watts among the Poets, [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.'
Such is the testimony borne to Mr. Dyer's worth and attainments, by one who was once his intimate friend; but he has added to it such a representation of his moral character, as, if it were correct, ought to brand his name to all posterity. Some of the charges brought against him are extremely curious. 1. That having been intended and bred by his parents for the ministry, he did not become a dissenting teacher. 2. That he did not translate Dr. Daniel Williams's religious tracts into Latin. 3. That he frequently partook of dinners, and suppers, and
clothe with English verse detached portions of Virgil, Horace, and Theocritus; and adding to
card-parties, at the houses of his friends. 4. That he began to translate a book from the French, but abandoned that work. 5. That he would not undertake to write the life of Erasmus. 6. That the tenderness of his heart so far got the better of his regard to decorum, that he frequently visited a dear male friend and fellow-student, who happened to be seized with a malignant disorder, in a house of ill fame. 7. That he was much captivated by the learning, wit, politeness, and elegance of his friend; qualifications of which, we are told, Mr. Dyer, as a philosopher, ought not to have been emulous.-To such accusations no answer is necessary; but two others, of a very different complexion, require to be stated in the author's own words:
"It was whispered to me by one who seemed pleased that he was in the secret, that Mr. Dyer's religion was that of Socrates. What farther advances he made in Theism, I could not learn; nor will I venture to assert that which some expressions that I have heard drop from him led me to fear, viz. that he denied, in the philosophical sense of the term, the freedom of the human will, and settled in materialism and its consequent tenets.'
On this statement it is only necessary to observe, that there is no man whose orthodoxy may not be questioned, if such evidence as is here produced, be admitted. What Mr. Dyer's religious opinions were, I have no means of knowing; but common charity forbids our assent to so vague, conjectural, and unsupported a charge; nor is it by any means probable, that so excellent an understanding as Mr. Dyer is known to have possessed, should have been bewildered or shaken by the gloomy sophistry of Deists or Infidels. Very different kind of proof than