Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dykes, John Bacchus

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DYKES, JOHN BACCHUS (1823–1876), musician and theologian, son of William Hey Dykes of Hull, and grandson of the Rev. Thomas Dykes [q. v.], incumbent of St. John's in the same town, was born on 10 March 1823. When ten years old he played the organ in his grandfather's church. Shortly after 1840 his father moved to Wakefield, where Dykes attended the proprietary school until October 1843, when he entered at St. Catharine's College, Cambridge. Here he distinguished himself as an amateur musician; he was instrumental in founding the University Musical Society, at whose early concerts his performances of comic songs were a great feature (Grove, Dict. of Music, iv. 204 a). He graduated senior optime in January 1847, and in the same year was ordained deacon to the curacy of Malton, Yorkshire. In 1849 he was appointed minor canon and precentor of Durham, and the university of Durham conferred on him the honorary Mus.Doc. degree. In 1862 Dykes was appointed vicar of St. Oswald's, Durham, when he resigned the precentorship, though still retaining his minor canonry. His latter years were embittered by disputes with his diocesan. Dykes was a high-churchman, with pronounced views on doctrinal and liturgical questions. The bishop was a low-churchman, who was determined to suppress what he regarded as heresy. The struggle was carried on with much bitterness on both sides. The bishop refused to license the vicar's curates, and Dykes was left with all the care of a great parish on his unaided hands. At last the stress was too great for him. His mental and bodily health broke down about the end of 1874, and, though at times he rallied, he never regained his strength and gradually sank until he died at St. Leonards, 22 Jan. 1876. He was buried in the churchyard of St. Oswald's on 28 Jan.

Dykes's literary works consist of sermons, published singly and in Fowle's ‘Plain Preaching for a Year;’ an ‘Introduction on the Manner of Performing Divine Service, prefixed to the Annotated Book of Common Prayer;’ ‘Eucharistic Truth and Ritual, a Letter to the Bishop of Durham’ (1874); and contributions to the ‘Theologian and Ecclesiastic’ and ‘Literary Churchman.’ But it is by his hymn-tunes that he will be chiefly remembered. Most of these appeared first in ‘Hymns Ancient and Modern,’ of which collection they are by far the best and most popular of the modern compositions. They are characterised by remarkable melodic beauty and also by the excellent way in which they are written for the words to which they are set. Though their style is perhaps too much that of the part-song, yet, judged from the point of view of most similar modern compositions, they are undoubtedly the best of their kind. Dykes also wrote several services and anthems. He was married in 1850 to Susan, daughter of G. Kingston, esq., by whom he had two sons and four daughters, all of whom survived him.

[Obituary notices in Literary Churchman and other papers; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

W. B. S.