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Gay, John

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Born: 1685 AD
Died: 1732 AD, at 47 years of age.

Nationality: English
Categories: Dramatist, Poets, Satirists

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1685 - Gay was born in Barnstaple, England on June 30, 1685.

 

1714 - Gay wrote The Shepherd's Week, a series of six pastorals drawn from English rustic life. Pope had urged him to undertake this task in order to ridicule the Arcadian pastorals of Ambrose Philips, who had been praised by The Guardian (1713), to the neglect of Pope's claims as the first pastoral writer of the age and the true English Theocritus. Gay's pastorals completely achieved this goal, but his ludicrous pictures of the English country lads and their loves were found to be entertaining on their own account.

 

1715 - Probably with some help from Pope, he produced What d'ye call it?, a dramatic skit on contemporary tragedy, with special reference to Thomas Otway's Venice Preserved. It left the public so ignorant of its real meaning that Lewis Theobald and Benjamin Griffin published a Complete Key to what d'ye call it to explain it.

 

1716 - Appeared his Trivia, or the Art of Walking the Streets of London, a poem in three books, for which he acknowledged having received several hints from Swift. It contains graphic and humorous descriptions of the London of that period.

 

1717 - In January 1717 he produced the comedy of Three Hours after Marriage, which was grossly indecent without being amusing, and was a complete failure. He had assistance from Pope and John Arbuthnot, but they allowed it to be assumed that Gay was the sole author.

 

1720 - Gay had numerous patrons, and in 1720 he published Poems on Several Occasions by subscription, taking in £1000 or more. In that year James Craggs, the secretary of state, presented him with some South Sea stock. Gay, disregarding the advice of Pope and other of his friends, invested all of his money in South Sea stock, and, holding on to the end of the South Sea Bubble, he lost everything. The shock is said to have made him dangerously ill. His friends did not fail him at this juncture. He had patrons in William Pulteney, afterwards earl of Bath, in the third earl of Burlington, who constantly entertained him at Chiswick or at Burlington House, and in the third earl of Queensberry. He was a frequent visitor with Pope, and received unvarying kindness from William Congreve and Arbuthnot.

 

1727 - Wrote for Prince William, afterwards duke of Cumberland, his famous Fifty-one Fables in Verse, for which he naturally hoped to gain some preferment, although he has much to say in them of the servility of courtiers and the vanity of court honours. He was offered the situation of gentleman-usher to the Princess Louisa, who was still a child. He refused this offer, which all his friends seem to have regarded, for no very obvious reason, as an indignity. He had never rendered any special services to the court.

 

1729 - He wrote a sequel, Polly, relating the adventures of Polly Peachum in the West Indies; its production was forbidden by the Lord Chamberlain, no doubt through the influence of Walpole. This act of "oppression" caused no loss to Gay. It proved an excellent advertisement for Polly, which was published by subscription in 1729, and brought its author several thousand pounds. The Duchess of Queensberry was dismissed from court for enlisting subscribers in the palace.

 

1732 - The Duke of Queensberry gave Gay a home, and the duchess continued her affectionate patronage until Gay's death, which took place on December 4, 1732. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.


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Page last updated: 11:04pm, 08th Nov '06

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