Sir Edward Dyer was born in Glastonbury, Somerset, the son of Sir Thomas Dyer and his second wife, the daughter of Lord Poynings. He was educated at either Balliol or Pembroke College, Oxford, or possibly both, but left without taking a degree. Thereafter he spent some time abroad before joining the court of Queen Elizabeth I in 1566 under the patronage of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.
In 1570 he was made steward of Woodstock in Oxfordshire. In 1584 he was sent on a mission to the Netherlands and two years later was asked by the Queen to find lands in Somerset concealed from her. As a reward for his diligence he was given certain of these in 1588. The following year he was sent on a mission to Denmark. He also dabbled in alchemy and in 1890 was arrested in Prague when in search of the philosopher’s stone.
He became MP for Somerset in 1589 until 1593 and was knighted in 1596. It would appear from a contemporary account that he disliked the court scene and, according to the poet and bibliographer William Oldys, was a man not prepared to “stoop to fawn”, which would not have always stood him in good stead in that court environment.
He had a great reputation as a poet among his contemporaries, however, who included his great friends Sir Philip Sidney and Greville Fulke He wrote an elegy on the death of Sir Philip, who willed his books to him and Fulke. Little of Dyer’s work has survived, but what has is of high quality, particularly the poems My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is and The Lowest Trees Have Tops which demonstrate great dexterity and sweetness. He appears to have fallen out of favour on the arrival of the new monarch James I in 1603 and lost his stewardship of Woodstock the following year. He died unmarried and in obscurity in 1607.