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OHN GAY, descended from an old family that had been 1
long in possession of the manour of Goldworthy' in Devonshire, was born in 1688 at or near Barnstaple”, where he was educated by Mr. Luck, who taught the school of that town with good reputation, and, a little before he retired from it, published a volume of Latin and English verses ?. Under such a master he was likely to form a taste for poetry. Being born without prospect of hereditary riches he was sent to London in his youth and placed apprentice with a silk-mercer 4.
How long he continued behind the counter, or with what 2 degree of softness and dexterity he received and accommodated 5 the Ladies, as he probably took no delight in telling it, is not known. The report is that he was soon weary of either the
'Goldworthy does not appear in Rayner. A Miscellany of New the Villare. JOHNSON. For the Vil Poems to which are added lare see ante, ROWE, I n. 3. 'Gold Poemata quaedam Latina by Robert worthy was held by Gilbert le Gay, Luck, master of Barnstaple School, is of Hampton Gay, Oxon., by match advertised in Gent. Mag. 1736, p. 176. of a daughter and heir of Curtoyse. 4 He thus described himself in This lordship was the ancient dwell 1713:ings of the name of Gay many de But I, who ne'er was blest by scents. Now (1630] it belongs to the Fortune's hand, Coffins.' Risdon's Survey of Devon, Nor brightened ploughshares in 1811, p. 243.
paternal land, In the Barnstaple register is the Long in the noisy town have been following entry :- John, the son of immured, William Gay, was baptised the 16th Respired its smoke, and all its cares day of September, 1685. N. & l. endured.' Eng. Poets, xxxvi. 4. 6 S. xii. 227; (Barnstaple Parish Reg. Gibbon, after stating that our 1538–1812, ed. Thos. Wainwright, most respectable families have not 1903.)
disdained the counting-house, or [ He was born in Barnstaple in even the shop,' adds that his greatthe year 1688 (?) and was the youngest grandfather, the son of a country child of Mr. William Gay, the second gentleman, did not aspire above son of John Gay, Esq., of Frithelstock the station of a linen-draper in near Great Torrington, of an ancient Leadenhall Street.' Memoirs, pp. 9, and worthy family. Gay's Chair, II. See also ib. p. 273 for a note 1820, p. 12; which has a Memoir of on 'gentility and trade.' Gay said to be from a M$. life, left s For Johnson's use of accommoby his nephew the Rev. Joseph Baller.] date and accommodation see Bos
3 According to Biog. Brit. p. 2182, well's Johnson, v. 310; John. Letters, his master's name was William
restraint or servility of his occupation, and easily persuaded his
master to discharge him!. 3 The dutchess of Monmouth, remarkable for inflexible persever
ance in her demand to be treated as a princess, in 1712 took Gay into her service as secretaryo: by quitting a shop for such service he might gain leisure, but he certainly advanced little in the boast of independence. Of his leisure he made so good use that he published next year a poem on Rural Sports 3, and inscribed it to Mr. Pope, who was then rising fast into reputation6. Pope was pleased with the honour; and when he became acquainted with Gay found such attractions in his manners and conversation that he seems to have received him into his inmost confidence, and a friendship was formed between them which lasted to their separation by death, without any known abatement on either parts. Gay was the general favourite of the whole association of wits; but they regarded him as a play-fellow rather than a partner, and treated him with more fondness than respect.
I'He grew so fond of reading post, GAY, 7 n. and study that he frequently neglected 3 Eng. Poets, xxxvi, 1; post, GAY, to exert himself in putting off silks 28. and velvets to the ladies.' Ayre's · The full extent of your country Life of Pope, ii. 97.
skill,' Swift wrote to him in 1732, 'is She was heiress of the Earl of in fishing for roaches, or gudgeons Buccleugh, and wife of Charles Il's at the highest.' Swift's Works, xvii. natural son, the Duke of Monmouth. 476. Gay replied :-'I have this Dryden, in a Dedication, speaks of season shot nineteen brace of par
the rank which you hold in the tridges.' 16. xviii. 38. The Duchess Royal Family.' Works, ii. 286. of Queensberry added to his letter:He called her ‘his first and best When he began to be a sportsman patroness.' Ib. viii. 136. 'She is had like to have killed a dog; and one of the wisest and craftiest of her now every day I expect he will kill sex, and has much wit.' EVELYN, himself.' . Ib. Diary, ii. 87. Lady Cowper (Diary, * Pope this year (1713) was 'in p. 125) wrote of her in 1716:- She the full bloom of reputation.' Post, had all the life and fire of youth, and POPE, 74. it was marvellous to see that the 5 In 1725 Gay received £35 175. 6d. many afflictions she had suffered had for assisting Pope in correcting the not touched her wit and good nature. press' in his Shakespeare. Nichols's For Scott's praise of her see Dryden's Lit. Hist. ii. 714; Gent. Mag. 1787, Works, ix. 228 n., and the Introduction to The Lay of the Last Minstrel. Ó He wrote to Mrs. Howard in
Aaron Hill' (Works, i. 326) de 1723 :-'I have not, and fear never scribed Gay as 'a domestic of the shall have, a will of my own.' Pope's Duchess. He was her secretary
Works (Elwin and Courthope), vii. about the year 1713." (By domestic 432. he meant an inmate of the house.) He describes himself in The Hare On June 8, 1714, Gay wrote to Swift: and Many Friends: - I am quite off from the Duchess.' A Hare, who in a civil way, Swift's Works, xvi. 113. See also Complied with everything like Gay,
Next year he published The Shepherd's Week”, six English 4 Pastorals, in which the images are drawn from real life such as it appears among the rusticks in parts of England remote from London. Steele, in some papers of The Guardian, had praised Ambrose Philips as the Pastoral writer that yielded only to Theocritus, Virgil, and Spenser. Pope, who had also published Pastorals, not pleased to be overlooked, drew up a comparison of his own compositions with those of Philips, in which he covertly gave himself the preference, while he seemed to disown it ? Not content with this he is supposed to have incited Gay to write The Shepherd's Week to shew, that if it be necessary to copy nature with minuteness, rural life must be exhibited such as grossness and ignorance have made it. So far the plan was reasonable; but the Pastorals are introduced by a Proeme, written with such imitation as they could attain of obsolete language, and by consequence in a style that was never spoken nor written in any age or in any place.
But the effect of reality and truth became conspicuous, even 5 when the intention was to shew them groveling and degraded 3. These Pastorals became popular, and were read with delight, as just representations of rural manners and occupations, by those who had no interest in the rivalry of the poets, nor knowledge of the critical dispute.
In 1713 he brought a comedy called The Wife of Bath upon 6 the stage, but it received no applause *; he printed it however ; and seventeen years after, having altered it and, as he thought, adapted it more to the publick taste, he offered it again to the
Was known by all the bestial train, *These Pastorals were originally Who haunt the wood, or graze the intended, I suppose, as a burlesque plain;
on those of Philips's; but, perhaps Her care was never to offend; without designing it, Gay has hit the And every creature was her friend.' true spirit of pastoral poetry,' GOLD
Eng. Poets, xxxvii. 118. SMITH, Works, iii. 437. Parnell, according to Goldsmith, 'In attempting the burlesque Gay used to give Gay the money he made copied nature, and his unexpected by his writings. Goldsmith's Works, success might have taught his con
temporaries a better taste. Few * In 1714. Eng. Poets, xxxvi. 45. poets seem to have possessed so quick * Post, POPE, 68, 285; A. PHILIPS, and observing an eye.' SOUTHEY, 18.
Specimens, &c., i. 298. Wordsworth, who rarely speaks * ... Steele gave it a 'puff preof Johnson but with censure, praises liminary' in The Guardian, May 8, this remark. Poetical Works, 1857, 1713, No. 50. vi. 368.
town; but, though he was flushed with the success of The Beggar's
Opera, had the mortification to see it again rejected '. 7 In the last year of queen Anne's life, Gay was made secretary
to the earl of Clarendon, ambassador to the court of Hanover ? This was a station that naturally gave him hopes of kindness from every party; but the Queen's death put an end to her favours“, and he had dedicated his Shepherd's Week to Bolingbroke, which Swift considered as the crime that obstructed all
kindness from the house of Hanover 5. 8 He did not, however, omit to improve the right which his
office had given him to the notice of the royal family. On the arrival of the princess of Wales he wrote a poem?, and obtained
* On Nov. 9, 1729, Gay wrote to On June 26 Arbuthnot wrote to Swift:-' I have employed my time Swift :-'Gay had £100 in due time, in new writing a damned play, which and went away a happy man.' ló. I wrote several years ago, called p. 123. The Wife of Bath' Swift's Works, Ante, ADDISON, 100. xvii. 263 ; Pope's Works (Elwin and * She was dead when Clarendon Courthope), vii. 165. Swift replied : delivered his credentials. Pope's *I have heard of The Wife of Bath Works (E. & C.), vi. 211 n. I think in Shakespeare. If you 5 Swift wrote to Gay in 1723: wrote one it is out of my head.' 16. 'Tell me, are you not under original p. 167. Swift apparently thought sin by the dedication of your
Eclogues that one of Shakespeare's plays bore to Lord Boling broke?' Works, xvi. that name. On March 3 of the next 390. Gay describes himself in the year Gay wrote:—My old vamped Prologue as going to Court:play got me no money, for it had no 'There saw I St. John, sweet of success.' Ib. p. 183; Swift's Works, mien, xvii. 277. Both versions were printed. Full steadfast both to Church and
Gay wrote to Swift on June 8, Queen.' Eng. Poets, xxxvi. 55. 1714:- I am every day attending Walpole, in 1722, made hima my Lord Treasurer for his bounty in Commissioner of the Lottery, worth order to set me out; which he has £150 a year. Pope's Works (Elwin promised me upon the following and Courthope), vii. 106. 'He enpetition, which I sent him by Dr. joyed this office from 1722 till 1731, Arbuthnot :
even during the noise made by The “The Epigrammatical Petition of Beggar's Opera. CROKER, ib. John Gay.
p. 426 n. See post, GAY, 16 n. I'm no more to converse with the In 1729 he wrote to Swift :swains,
* You have often twitted me in the But go where fine people resort; teeth for hankering after the Court." One can live without money on Swift's Works, xvii. 263. plains,
? To a Lady, Occasioned by the But never without it at Court. Arrival of Her Royal Highness the If, when with the swains I did Princess of Wales. He says (Eng. gambol,
Poets, xxxvi. 164):I array'd me in silver and blue; Places, I found, were daily given When abroad and in Courts I shall away, ramble,
And yet no friendly Gazette menPray, my lord, how much money tioned Gay. will do ?”
I asked a friend what method to Swift's Works, xvi. 113. pursue ;
so much favour that both the Prince and Princess went to see his What d'ye call it, a kind of mock-tragedy, in which the images were comick and the action grave"; so that, as Pope relates, Mr. Cromwell, who could not hear what was said, was at a loss how to reconcile the laughter of the audience with the solemnity of the scene?.
Of this performance the value certainly is but little; but it 9 was one of the lucky trifles that give pleasure by novelty, and was so much favoured by the audience that envy appeared against it in the form of criticism; and Griffin a player, in conjunction with Mr. Theobald ?, a man afterwards more remarkable, produced a pamphlet called the Key to the What d'ye call it, which, says Gay, 'calls me a blockhead, and Mr. Pope a knavet
But Fortune has always been inconstant. Not long after- 10 wards (1717) he endeavoured to entertain the town with Three Hours after Marriage, a comedy written, as there is sufficient reason for believing, by the joint assistance of Pope and Arbuthnots. One purpose of it was to bring into contempt Dr. Woodward, the Fossilist', a man not really or justly He cried, “I want a place as well as d'ye Call it, wherein he with much you."
judgment and learning calls me a Johnson, in his Dictionary, accents blockhead, and Mr. Pope a knave.' Gazette as Gay does.
His grand charge is against The * Gay says in the Preface :-—I Pilgrim's
Pilgrim's Progress being read, have not called it a tragedy, comedy, which, he says, is directly levelled at pastoral, or farce, but left the name Cato's reading Plato.' Pope's Works entirely undetermined in the doubtful (Elwin and Courthope), vi. 227. See appellation of The What
d'ye Call it, also ib. p. 225 n., and p. 414 for a ... but I added to it A Tragi-Comi- duplicate of this in a forged letter to Pastoral Farce, as it comprised all Congreve. For Cato see ante, ADDIthose several kinds of drama.' The SON, 152. ballad 'Twas when the seas were Gay in the Preface mentions the roaring is in Act ii. sc. 8.
assistance of two friends. An un· Pope tells this in a letter dated dated letter of his to Pope, if genuine, March 3, 1714-5. He adds : The proves that they were Pope and Ara ... pit and gallery people received it buthnot. Pope's Works (Elwin and at first with great gravity and sedate- Courthope), vii. 419. ness, some few with tears; but after Johnson speaks of 'Mr. Janes the third day they also took the hint, the fossilist.' 'Works, ix. 45. John and have ever since been loud in their Jeans, Gough's Brit. Topog., 1780, claps. ... Mr. Gay will have made ii. 634 ; see also N.& l., 10 S. ii. 54. about £100 of this farce.' Pope's The fossilist of the eighteenth century Works (Elwin and Courthope), vi. 223. became the geologist of the next.
3 Warburton's Pope, vii. 223. For Neither term is in Johnson's DictionTheobald see post, POPE, 126, 145. ary.
* Gay wrote in April 1715: The bridegroom of Gay's play is “There is a sixpenny criticism lately named Fossile. In the Epilogue it published upon the tragedy of What is said :