Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Jeremiah Dyson MP PC (1722-1776) 1760c.

Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA (1723-92)

Jeremiah Dyson MP PC (1722-1776), Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA
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Oil on canvas
18th Century
30 x 25 inches 76.2 x 63.5 cm
 
Provenance:
Christie''s February 28th 1891 (lot 72) Bt. Thomas 15 4s 6d Christie''s July 25th 1891 (lot 103, Lord Ely owner) Bt. Colnaghi 44 2s.
Literature:
Graves and Cronin A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA 1899 vol I p272.
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It is not known whether Dyson''s father was a tailor, as Walpole alleges. It is certain, however, that he left his son a considerable amount of money at his death, which Dyson employed in a legal education (Edinburgh c. 1740-42, Ley den 1742-44) and then in advancing himself in liberal Whig society in London.
In 1748 the post of Clerk to the House of Commons fell vacant. Dyson, who by this time held a subordinate place in the administration of the Commons, purchased the office for 6,000 on February 10th and assumed the duties of the position five days later. The high price was due to the fact that the Clerk might then sell a number of subordinate offices for his own profit, including that of a proxy should he not wish to carry out his duties personally. Dyson appointed his juniors solely on merit, and when he retired from the Clerkship in 1762, refused to sell the office ushering in the meritocratic appointment which survives to this day.
The accession of George III found him casting aside his liberalism to side with the Tory government of the day, in which Dyson found his closest associates among the group known as ''the King''s friends.'' Two years later Dyson resigned the clerkship in order to assume a more partisan role in the House. He was returned for Yarmouth in December 1762, which seat he represented until 1768 when he sat for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis. His final constituency was Horsham, which he represented from 1774 until his death some two years later.
His political subtlety earned him the nickname of ''the Jesuit of the House'', whilst his feverish activity and business caused amusement among his fellow members. In January 1769 Colonel Barre compared Dyson to Mungo, the Negro servant in a popular comic opera, The Padlock by Isaac Bickerstaffe. The nickname stuck, and was employed in a range of contemporary pamphlets and engravings.

Nonetheless, he continued to advance in favour, and by the end of 1768 he had been named a Lord of the Treasury. Upon his leaving that office in March 1774 he was made Cofferer to the Household and appointed to the Privy Council.
His almost constant support of the Tories earned him the contempt of the satirists and the pamphleteers, but on one notable occasion he voted with the Whigs, displaying some wit in the process. In opposition to a Bill expressing thanks to Dr Nowell for a high prerogative sermon on King Charles''s Day 1772 he remarked, noting Charles James Fox, General Keppel and Colonel Fitzroy at the division, ''If King Charles''s grandsons vote against him, sure I may.''
By this date he had been suffering some ill-health, and in October of 1774 he suffered a stroke, which prevented him from further attending to the business of the House. He died some two years later on September 16th 1776. He was succeeded by his son, also named Jeremiah, who for some while pursued his father''s career as Clerk Assistant to the House of Commons.
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