The Anglo-Welsh poet John Dyer (1699 – 1757) is one of the great restless, enquiring figures of eighteenth-century British culture. A painter as well as a poet, he was a member of the talented Aaron Hill circle, and is sometimes described as the ‘godfather’ of the picturesque movement. His most famous poem Grongar Hill (1726), lovingly describes the Carmenthenshire landscape of his youth. After training asa painter under Jonathan Richardson in London, Dyer visited Italy, and went on to become a travelling painter in the Welsh-English border counties. He was later a working farmer, before serving as a parish priest in Leicestershire and Lincolnshire. The major poem of his middle years, The Ruins of Rome (1740), marks an important moment in the history of attitudes to classical civilisation. Dyer’s last great poem, The Fleece (1757), an epic account of the textile industry, is the high point of the English georgic tradition of agricultural poetry. The recent rediscoveries of Dyer’s notebooks and paintings, and the restoration of his birthplace and its gardens at Aberglasney, have sparked fresh interest in Dyer. This edition, marking the tercentenary of his birth, is the first new selection of his writings since 1930, and the fullest ever printed. It includes all Dyer’s shorter poems, substantial extracts from The Ruins of RomeI and The Fleece, verse fragments and plans and a selection of letters and prose.John Goodridge is a Professor of English at Nottingham Trent University.
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