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Title: Life And Letters Of John Gay (1685-1732)
Author: Melville, Lewis, 1874-1932
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Life And Letters Of John Gay (1685-1732)" ***

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[Illustration: JOHN GAY

_From a sketch by Sir Godfrey Kneller in the National Portrait Gallery.
Photo by Emery Walker Ltd._]


JOHN GAY(1685-1732)


W.C.I: 1921








       *       *       *       *       *


THE BERRY PAPERS: Being the Life and Letters of Mary and Agnes Berry.









THE WINDHAM PAPERS. With an Introduction by the Earl of Rosebery, K.G.







John Gay was a considerable figure in the literary and social circles
of his day. He was loved by Pope; Swift cared for him more than for
any other man, and the letter in which Pope conveyed to him the sad
tidings of Gay's death bears the endorsement: "On my dear friend Mr.
Gay's death. Received December 15th [1732], but not read till the
20th, by an impulse foreboding some misfortune." Gay was on intimate
terms with Arbuthnot and Lord Burlington, and Henrietta Howard, Lady
Suffolk, was devoted to him and consulted him in the matter of her
matrimonial troubles. He was the _protégé_ of the Duke and Duchess of
Queensberry. His "Fables" and "The Beggar's Opera" have become
classics; his play "Polly" made history. Though he persistently
regarded himself as neglected by the gods, it is nevertheless a fact
that the fates were unusually kind to him. A Cabinet Minister made him
a present of South Sea stock; Walpole appointed him a Commissioner of
Lotteries; he was granted an apartment in Whitehall; Queen Caroline
offered him a sinecure post in her Household. Because he thought Gay
ill-used, the greatest man of letters of the century quarrelled with
Lady Suffolk; for the same reason a Duchess insulted the King and
wiped the dust of the Court from her shoes, and a Duke threw up his
employment under the Crown. All his friends placed their purses and
their houses at Gay's disposal, and competed for the pleasure of his
company. Never was there a man of letters so petted and pampered.

It is somewhat strange that there should be no biography of a man so
well-known and so much beloved. It is true that no sooner was the
breath out of his body than Curll published a "Life." "Curll (who is
one of the new horrors of death) has been writing letters to everybody
for memoirs of his (Gay's) life," Arbuthnot wrote to Swift, January
13th, 1733: "I was for sending him some, which I am sure might have
been made entertaining, by which I should have attained two ends at
once, published truth and got a rascal whipped for it. I was
over-ruled in this."[1] Curll obtained no assistance from Gay's
friends, and his book, issued in 1733, is at once inadequate and
unreliable. Of Curll, at whose hands so many of Gay's friends had
suffered, the poet had written in the "Epistle to the Right Honourable
Paul Methuen, Esquire":--

  Were Prior, Congreve, Swift, and Pope unknown,
  Poor slander-selling Curll would be undone.

Of some slight biographical value is the "Account of the Life and
Writings of the Author," prefixed to the volume of "Plays Written by Mr.
Gay," published 1760; but there is little fresh information in the
"Brief Memoir" by the Rev. William (afterwards Archdeacon) Coxe, which
appeared in 1797. More valuable is the biographical sketch by Gay's
nephew, the Rev. Joseph Baller, prefixed to "Gay's Chair" (1820); but
the standard authorities on Gay's life are Mr. Austin Dobson
("Dictionary of National Biography," Vol. XXI., 1890) and Mr. John
Underwood ("Introductory Memoir" to the "Poems of John Gay" in the
"Muses' Library," 1893).

Among Gay's correspondents were Pope, Swift, Lady Suffolk, Arbuthnot,
the Duchess of Queensberry, Oxford, Congreve, Parnell, Cleland, Caryll
and Jacob Tonson, the publisher. Unpublished letters to Caryll and
Tonson, and to and from Lady Suffolk, are in the British Museum; letters
which have appeared in print are to be found in the correspondence of
Pope, Swift, and Lady Suffolk, in Nichols' "Literary Anecdotes of the
Eighteenth Century," and in the Historical Commission's Report on the
MSS. of the Marquis of Bath. Biographical information is also to be
found, as well as in the works mentioned above, in Gribble's "Memorials
of Barnstaple," Mrs. Delany's "Autobiography," Hervey's "Memoirs,"
Colley Cibber's "Apology," and Spence's "Anecdotes"; in the works and
biographies of Pope, Swift, Steele, Addison, and Aaron Hill; in
contemporary publications such as "A Key to 'The What D'ye Call It,'" "A
Complete Key to the New Farce 'Three Hours After Marriage,'" Joseph
Gay's "The Confederates"; and in numerous works dealing with dramatic
productions and dramatic literature. A bibliography is printed in the
"Cambridge History of English Literature" (Vol. IX., pp. 480-481; 1912);
and a more detailed bibliography is being compiled by Mr. Ernest L. Gay,
Boston, Mass., U.S.A., who has informed the present writer that he "has
collected about five hundred editions of Gay's works, and also over five
hundred playbills of his plays, running from the middle of the
eighteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth century." The most
valuable criticisms of Gay as a man of letters are by Johnson in the
"Lives of the Poets" and Thackeray in the "English Humourists of the
Eighteenth Century." An interesting article on Gay by Mr. H.M. Paull
appeared in the _Fortnightly Review_, June, 1912.

I am much indebted for assistance given to me during the preparation of
this work by Sydney Harper, Esq., of Barnstaple, the happy possessor of
Gay's chair; Professor J. Douglas Brude, of the University of Tennessee;
C.J. Stammers, Esq.; and Ernest L. Gay, Esq., of Boston, Mass., U.S.A. I
am especially grateful to W.H. Grattan Flood, Esq., Mus.D., who has
generously sent me his notes on the sources of the tunes in "The
Beggar's Opera," which are printed in the Appendix to this volume. The
extracts from Gay's poetical works in this volume have been taken, by
permission of the publishers, Messrs. George Routledge and Sons, Ltd.,
from the "Poems of John Gay," edited by Mr. John Underwood, in "The
Muses' Library." Mr. John Murray has kindly allowed me to quote
correspondence to and from Gay printed in the standard edition of Pope's
works, edited by the late Rev. Whitwell Elwin and Professor Courthope,
and published by him.


[Footnote 1: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVIII, p. 65.]


CHAP.                                              PAGE

PREFACE                                             vii

I.--EARLY YEARS                                       1

II.--GAY COMMENCES AUTHOR                             7

BATH"--ETC.                                          18




MRS. HOWARD                                          65

VIII.--"THE BEGGAR'S OPERA"                          78

IX.--"POLLY"                                         92

X.--CORRESPONDENCE (1729)                           105

XI.--CORRESPONDENCE (1730)                          115

XII.--CORRESPONDENCE (1731)                         126

XIII.--DEATH                                        133

FLOOD, Mus.D.                                       150

OF JOHN GAY                                         156

JUNE 7th, 1920                                      162

INDEX                                               163




The Gays were an old family, who settled in Devonshire when Gilbert le
Gay, through his marriage with the daughter and heiress of Curtoyse,
came into possession of the manor of Goldsworthy, in Parkham. This they
held until 1630, when it passed out of their hands to the Coffins.[1]
Subsequently they were associated with the parish of Frittelstock, near
Great Torrington. In the Parish Registers of Barnstaple the name appears
from time to time: in 1544 is recorded the death of Richard Gaye, and
later of John Gaye, "gentill man," and Johans Gay. From other sources it
is known that Richard Gay was Mayor of the town in 1533, and Anthony Gay
in 1638.[2] The records of the family have not been preserved, but at
some time early in the seventeenth century there was at Frittelstock one
John Gay, whose second son, William, was the father of the poet.

William Gay resided at Barnstaple, and since he lived in a large house,
called the Red Cross, at the corner of Joy Street, facing Holland
Street, it is reasonable to assume that he was in easy circumstances. He
married a daughter of Jonathan Hanmer, the leading Nonconformist divine
of the town, and by her had five children. The first-born was a girl,
who died in 1685; then came Katherine, born in 1676, who married
Anthony Baller, whose son Joseph issued in 1820 the slim volume bearing
the title of "Gay's Chair";[3]in 1778, Jonathan; and three years later,
Joanna, who married John Fortescue--possibly a relation of William
Fortescue, afterwards Master of the Rolls, who is still remembered as a
friend of Pope. The youngest child was John, the subject of this memoir,
stated by his earlier biographers to have been born in 1688, but now
known, from an entry in the Barnstaple Parish Register, to have been
baptised in the Old Church on September 16th, 1685.

Mrs. Gay died in 1694, her husband a year later; and the custody of the
four surviving orphaned children devolved upon their uncles. William
Gay's brothers were John and Richard, who resided at Frittelstock;
James, Rector of Meeth; and Thomas, who lived at Barnstaple. Mrs. Gay's
only brother was John Hanmer, who succeeded to his father's pastoral
office among the Congregational or Independent Dissenters at Barnstaple.
Jonathan, the elder son of William Gay, who inherited the family
property, was intended for the Church, but "severe studies not well
suiting his natural genius, he betook himself to military pursuits,"[4]
and, probably about the time of his father's death, entered the army.
Who took charge of the two girls is not known; but it is on record that
John, after his father's death, and then in his tenth year, went to live
at Barnstaple with his paternal uncle, Thomas Gay. It is interesting to
note that in 1882, "among the pieces of timber carted away from the
Barnstaple Parish Church [which was then undergoing restoration] has
been found a portion of a pew, with the name 'John Gay,' and the date,
1695, cut upon it.... No other John Gay appears in the Parish

Gay attended the Free Grammar School at Barnstaple, and among his
schoolfellows there with whom he cemented an enduring friendship, were
William Fortescue, to whom reference has been made above, and Aaron
Hill.[6] William Raynor was the headmaster when Gay first went to the
Grammar School, but soon he removed to Tiverton, and was succeeded by
the Rev. Robert Luck. Luck subsequently claimed that Gay's dramatic
instincts were developed by taking part in the amateur theatricals
promoted by him, and when in April, 1736, he published a volume of
verse, he wrote, in his dedication to the Duke of Queensberry.[7] Gay's
patron and friend:--

  "O Queensberry! could happy Gay
    This offering to thee bring,
  ''Tis he, my Lord' (he'd smiling say),
    'Who taught your Gay to sing.'"

These lines suggest that an intimacy between Gay and Luck existed long
after their relations as pupil and master had ceased, but it is doubtful
if this was the case. It is certainly improbable that the lad saw much
of the pedagogue when he returned to Barnstaple for a while as the guest
of the Rev. John Hanmer, since Luck was a bitter opponent of the
Dissenters and in open antagonism to John Hanmer.

How long Gay remained at the Grammar School is not known. There are,
indeed, no records upon which to base a narrative of his early years. It
is, however, generally accepted that, on leaving school, he was
apprenticed to a silk-mercer in London. This was not so unaccountable a
proceeding then as appears to-day, for we know from Gibbon's "Memoirs"
that "our most respectable families have not disdained the
counting-house, or even the shop;... and in England, as well as in the
Italian commonwealths, heralds have been compelled to declare that
gentility is not degraded by the exercise of trade": for example, the
historian's great grandfather, son of a country gentleman, became a
linen-draper in Leadenhall Street.

Gay had no taste for trade, and did not long remain in this employment.
According to one authority, "he grew so fond of reading and study that
he frequently neglected to exert himself in putting oft silks and
velvets to the ladies";[8] while his nephew, the Rev. Joseph Bailer,
says: "Young Gay, not being able to bear the confinement of a shop, soon
felt a remarkable depression of spirits, and consequent decline of
health; he was, therefore, obliged to quit that situation, and retire to
Barnstaple, in the hope of receiving benefit from his native air."[9] No
doubt the mercer was willing enough to cancel the indentures of an
apprentice so unsatisfactory as Gay probably was. Anyhow, Gay returned
to Barnstaple, and stayed awhile with his maternal uncle, the Rev. John

It has been said that it was during this visit to Barnstaple that Gay
began to write verses; and as most men who take to poetry began to
dabble in ink in their youth, this statement may well be accepted.
Only, so far no bibliographer has traced any of these early writings.
Some poems, said to have been written by him in these days have been
printed in the volume to which reference has already been made, "Gay's
Chair: Poems never before printed, written by John Gay.... With a
Sketch of his Life from the MSS. of the Rev. Joseph Bailer, his
nephew. Edited by Henry Lee ... 1820," but the authenticity of these
cannot definitely be accepted. A chair, said to have been the property
of Gay at Barnstaple, was sold early in the nineteenth century to
Henry Lee, who sent it to be repaired. "On taking out the drawer in
front, which was somewhat broken," so runs the story, "I found at the
back part of the chair a concealed drawer, ingeniously fastened with a
small wooden bolt;... it was full of manuscript papers, some of which
appeared to have slipped over, as I found them stuck to the bottom or
seat of the chair."[10] The poems in question are: "The Ladies'
Petition to the Honorable the House of Commons," the longest and most
ambitious of the pieces; "To Miss Jane Scott," "Prediction,"
"Comparisons," "Absence," "Fable," "Congratulation to a Newly-married
Pair," "A Devonshire Hill," "Letter to a Young Lady," and "To My
Chair." Of this small collection, Mr. John Underhill, who includes it
in his admirable edition of Gay's poems in the "Muses' Library,"
writes: "The evidence in support of their authenticity is (1) the fact
that they were found in a chair which was always spoken of by Gay's
'immediate descendants' as 'having been the property of the poet, and
which, as his favourite easy chair, he highly valued'; and (2) that
'The Ladies' Petition' was printed nearly _verbatim_ from a manuscript
in the handwriting of the poet ... If really Gay's, they [the verses]
may, we think, a great many of them, be safely regarded as the
production of his youth, written, perhaps, during the somewhat
extended visit to Devonshire which preceded his introduction to the
literary world of Pope. The least doubtful piece, 'The Ladies'
Petition' was probably 'thrown off' upon the occasion of his visit to
Exeter in 1715."

If the verses are genuine, they have such biographical interest as is
afforded by an allusion to a youthful love-affair. There are lines "To
Miss Jane Scott":--

  The Welsh girl is pretty.
     The English girl fair,
  The Irish deem'd witty,
     The French _débonnaire_;

  Though all may invite me,
     I'd value them not;
  The charms that delight me
     I find in a SCOT.

It is presumedly to the same young lady he was referring in the verses
written probably shortly after he returned to London after his visit to


    Augustus, frowning, gave command.
    And Ovid left his native land;
    From Julia, as an exile sent.
    He long with barb'rous Goths was pent.

  So fortune frown'd on me, and I was driven
  From friends, from home, from Jane, and happy Devon!
  And Jane, sore grieved when from me torn away;--
  loved her sorrow, though I wish'd her--GAY.

That another girl there was may be gathered from the "Letter to a Young
Lady," who was not so devoted as Jane Scott, for the poet writes:

  Begging you will not mock his sighing.
  And keep him thus whole years a-dying!
  "Whole years!"--Excuse my freely speaking.
  Such tortures, why a month--a week in?
  Caress, or kill him quite in one day,
  Obliging thus your servant, JOHN GAY.

[Footnote 1: Risdon: _Survey of Devon_ (1811), p. 243.]

[Footnote 2: Gribble: _Memorials of Devonshire_.]

[Footnote 3: _Gay's Chair_, p. 12.]

[Footnote 4: _Gay's Chair_, p. 13.]

[Footnote 5: _Notes and Queries_, N.S. VI, 488, December 16th, 1882,
from the _North Devon Herald_ of December 7th.]

[Footnote 6: Aaron Hill (1685-1750), dramatist and journalist.]

[Footnote 7: Charles Douglas, third Duke of Queensbury and second Duke
of Dover (1698-1777), married Catherine, second daughter of Henry Hyde,
Earl of Clarendon and Rochester.]

[Footnote 8: Ayre: _Pope_, pp. 11, 97.]

[Footnote 9: _Gay's Chair_, p. 13.]

[Footnote 10: _Gay's Chair_, p. 5.]




Gay's health was improved by his stay in his native town, and presently
he returned to London, where, according to the family tradition, he
"lived for some time as a private gentleman."[1] Mr. Austin Dobson has
pointed out that this is "a statement scarcely reconcilable with the
opening in life his friends had found for him";[2] but it may be urged
against this view that Gay and his sisters had each a small
patrimony.[3] If it is assumed that he returned to the metropolis after
he came of age in September, 1706, he may have been possessed of a sum
of money, small, no doubt, but sufficient to provide him with the
necessaries of life for some little time. When his brother, Jonathan,
who had been promoted lieutenant at Cologne by Marlborough, under whom
he served at Hochstadt and elsewhere, and captain by Queen Anne,
committed suicide in 1709, after a quarrel with his colonel, John may
have inherited some further share of the paternal estate.

When Gay was one-and-twenty, ginger was hot in his mouth. Wine, woman,
and song appealed to him. It is not on record that he had any
love-affair, save those indicated in the verses in "Gay's Chair"; but
the indelicacy of many passages in his writings suggests that he was
rather intimately acquainted with the bagnios of the town. No man whose
sense of decency had not been denied could possibly have written the
verses "To a Young Lady, with some Lamphreys," and this, even after
making allowance for the freedom of the early eighteenth century. He
certainly frequented the coffee-houses of Covent Garden and Pall Mall.
Also, he roamed about the metropolis, and became learned in the highways
and byways, north and south, and east and west--a knowledge which bore
excellent fruit in "Trivia."

  But I, who ne'er was bless'd by Fortune's hand,
  Nor brighten'd plough-shares in paternal land.
  Long in the noisy town have been immured,
  Respired its smoke, and all its cares endured.
  Where news and politics divide mankind,
  And schemes of state involve th' uneasy mind.[4]

Gay was then, as ever, a great eater. "As the French philosopher used
to prove his existence by _cogito, ergo sum_," Congreve wrote to Pope
long after, "the greatest proof of Gay's existence is _edit, ergo
est_."[5] He ate in excess always, and not infrequently drank too
much, and for exercise had no liking, though he was not averse from a
ramble around London streets. As the years passed, he became fat, but
found comfort in the fact that some of his intimates were yet more
corpulent. To this, he made humorous reference in "Mr. Pope's Welcome
from Greece":--

  And wondering Maine so fat, with laughing eyes,
  (Gay, Maine and Cheney,[6] boon companions dear,
  Gay fat, Maine fatter, and Cheney huge of size).

Gay had a passion for finery. To this foible Pope, in the early days of
his acquaintance with the young man, made reference in a letter to
Swift, December 8th, 1713: "One Mr. Gay, an unhappy youth, who writes
pastorals during the time of Divine Service, whose case is the more
deplorable, as he hath miserably lavished away all that silver he should
have reserved for his soul's health, in buttons and loops for his
coat." Gay was not only well aware of this weakness, but he deplored it,
though he could never contrive to overcome it. He made allusion to it in
some lines known as the "Epigrammatical Petition," addressed to Lord
Oxford,[7] in June, 1714, and also in the prologue to "The Shepherd's

  I sold my sheep and lambkins too,
     For silver loops and garments blue:
  My boxen hautboy sweet of sound,
     For lace that edged mine hat around;
  For Lightfoot and my scrip I got
     A gorgeous sword, and eke a knot.

Gay now renewed his acquaintance with his old schoolfellow, Aaron
Hill, who, it is said, though on doubtful authority, employed him as
an amanuensis when setting on foot the project of answering questions
in a paper, styled the _British Apollo, or, Curious Amusements for the
Ingenious_.[8] The first number of this publication appeared on March
13th, 1708, and it was issued on Wednesdays and Fridays until March
16th, 1711. Gay referred to it in his pamphlet, "The Present State of
Wit," published in May 1711: "Upon a review of my letter, I find I
have quite forgotten the _British Apollo_, which might possibly have
happened from its having of late retreated out of this end of the town
into the country, where I am informed, however, that it still
recommends itself by deciding wagers at cards and giving good advice
to shopkeepers and their apprentices." Whether or no Gay ever
contributed to the _British Apollo_, it seems likely that it was
through the good offices of Hill that in May, 1708, Gay's poem,
"Wine," was published by William Keble at the Black-Spread-eagle in
Westminster Hall, who, about the same time, brought out a translation
by Nahum Tate, the Poet Laureate, and Hill, of a portion of the
thirteenth book of Ovid's "Metamorphoses."

"Wine," a subject on which Gay, even at the age of twenty-two, could
write with some authority, secured a sufficient popularity to be paid
the doubtful compliment of piracy in 1709, by Henry Hill, of
Blackfriars, on whom presently the author neatly revenged himself in his
verses, "On a Miscellany of Poems to Bernard Lintott," by the following

  While neat old Elzevir is reckon'd better
  Than Pirate Hill's brown sheets and scurvy letter.

This blank-verse poem, which may have been suggested by John Philips'
"Cider," published in 1708, is written in the mock-heroic strain, and
although it has no particular value, shows some sense of humorous
exaggeration, of which Gay was presently to show himself a master.

  Of happiness terrestrial, and the source
  Whence human pleasures flow, sing, Heavenly Muse,
  Of sparkling juices, of th' enlivening grape,
  Whose quick'ning taste adds vigour to the soul.
  Whose sov'reign power revives decaying Nature,
  And thaws the frozen blood of hoary age,
  A kindly warmth diffusing--youthful fires
  Gild his dim eyes, and paint with ruddy hue
  His wrinkled visage, ghastly wan before--
  Cordial restorative to mortal man,
  With copious hand by bounteous gods bestow'd.

These are the opening lines. The concluding passage describing the
tippling revellers leaving the tavern suggests, as has more than once
been pointed out, the hand that afterwards wrote "Trivia."

  Thus we the winged hours in harmless mirth
  And joys unsullied pass, till humid night
  Has half her race perform'd; now all abroad
  Is hush'd and silent, now the rumbling noise
  Of coach or cart, or smoky link-boy's call
  Is heard--but universal Silence reigns:
  When we in merry plight, airy and gay.
  Surprised to find the hours so swiftly fly.
  With hasty knock, or twang of pendent cord.
  Alarm the drowsy youth from slumb'ring nod;
  Startled he flies, and stumbles o'er the stairs
  Erroneous, and with busy knuckles plies
  His yet clung eyelids, and with stagg'ring reel
  Enters confused, and muttering asks our wills;
  When we with liberal hand the score discharge,
  And homeward each his course with steady step
  Unerring steers, of cares and coin bereft.

So far as is known, Gay preserved a profound silence for three years
after his publication of "Wine," and then, on May 3rd, 1711, appeared
from his pen, "The Present State of Wit, in a Letter to a Friend in
the Country," sold at the reasonable price of three-pence. This
attracted the attention of Swift. "Dr. Freind[9] ... pulled out a
two-penny pamphlet just published, called 'The State of Wit', giving
the characters of all the papers that have come out of late," he wrote
in the "Journal to Stella," May 12: "The author seems to be a Whig,
yet he speaks very highly of a paper called the _Examiner_, and says
the supposed author of it is Dr. Swift. But, above all things, he
praises the _Tatlers_ and _Spectators_, and I believe Steele and
Addison were privy to the printing of it. Thus is one treated by the
impudent dogs." In this unambitious little sketch, as the author puts
it, he gives "the histories and characters of all our periodical
papers, whether monthly, weekly or diurnal," and it is, therefore, of
value to the student of the early days of English journalism. He
claimed to write without political bias: "I shall only promise that,
as you know, I never cared one farthing either for Whig or Tory, so I
shall consider our writers purely as they are such, without any
respect to which party they belong." In "The Present State of Wit"
most of the better-known periodical writers are introduced. Dr.
William King is mentioned, not he who was the Archbishop of Dublin,
nor he who was the Principal of St. Mary Hall, Oxford, but he of whom
it was said that he "could write verses in a tavern three hours after
he could not speak," who was the author of the "Art of Cookery" and
the "Art of Love," and who in 1709 had fluttered the scientific
dovecotes by parodying the "Philosophical Transactions" in the _Useful
Transactions in Philosophy and Other Sorts of Learning_, of which,
however, only three numbers were issued. John Ozell was pilloried as
the author of the _Monthly Amusement_, which was not, as the title
suggests, a periodical, but was merely a title invented to summarise
his frequent appearances in print. "It is generally some French novel
or play, indifferently translated, it is more or less taken notice of,
as the original piece is more or less agreeable." Defoe takes his
place in the gallery as the editor and principal contributor to the
weekly _Poor Review_, that is, the _Weekly Review_ (which was
published weekly from February 19th, 1704, until 1712) which, says
Gay, "is quite exhausted and grown so very contemptible, that though
he has provoked all his brothers of the quill round, none of them will
enter into a controversy with him."

The periodical publications of the day are passed under review: the
_Observer_, founded in 1702 by John Tutchin, and after his death five
years later, conducted by George Ridpath, editor of the _Flying Post_,
until 1712, when it had almost entirely ceased to please, and was
finally extinguished by the Stamp Tax; the weekly _Examiner_, set up
in August, 1710, in opposition to the Whig _Taller_, numbering among
its contributors Dr. King, St. John, Prior, Atterbury, and Freind, and
managed by Swift from No. 14 (October 26th, 1710); the _Whig
Examiner_, the first issue of which appeared on September 14th, 1710,
its five numbers being written by Addison; the _Medley_, another Whig
paper, which ran from August, 1710, to August, 1711, and was edited by
Arthur Mainwaring, with the assistance of Steele, Oldmixon, and
Anthony Henley (a wit and a man of fortune, to whom Garth dedicated
"The Dispensary," and who distinguished himself by describing Swift as
"a beast for ever after the order of Melchisedec"). The _Tatter_,
which appeared three times a week from April 12th, 1709, to January
2nd, 1711, was of course mentioned, and well-deserved tributes were
paid to Steele and Addison. Of Addison he wrote with appreciation, but
briefly: "This is that excellent friend to whom Mr. Steele owes so
much, and who refuses to have his pen set before those pieces which
the greatest pens in England would be proud to own. Indeed, they could
hardly add to this gentleman's reputation, whose works in Latin and
English poetry long since convinced the world that he was the greatest
master in Europe of those two languages." Of Steele, Gay wrote at
greater length: "To give you my own thoughts of this gentleman's
writings, I shall, in the first place, observe that there is a noble
difference between him and all the rest of our polite and gallant
authors. The latter have endeavoured to please the age by falling in
with them, and encourage them in their fashionable views and false
notion of things. It would have been a jest, some time since, for a
man to have asserted that anything witty could be said in praise of a
married state, or that devotion and virtue were any way necessary to
the character of a fine gentleman. Bickerstaff ventured to tell the
town that they were a parcel of fops, fools and coquettes; but in such
a manner as even pleased them, and made them more than half-inclined
to believe that he spoke truth. Instead of complying with the false
sentiments and vicious tastes of the age--either in morality,
criticism, or good breeding--he has boldly assured them that they were
altogether in the wrong; and commanded them, with an authority which
perfectly well became him, to surrender themselves to his arguments
for virtue and good sense. It is incredible to conceive the effect his
writings have had on the town; how many thousand follies they have
either quite banished, or given a very great check to! how much
countenance they have added to virtue and religion! how many people
they have rendered happy, by showing them it was their own fault if
they were not so! and, lastly, how entirely they have convinced our
young fops and young fellows of the value and advantages of learning!
He has indeed rescued it out of the hands of pedants and fools, and
discovered the true method of making it amicable and lovely to all
mankind. In the dress he gives it, it is a welcome guest at tea-tables
and assemblies, and is relished and caressed by the merchants on the
'Change. Accordingly there is not a lady at Court, nor a banker in
Lombard Street who is not verily persuaded that Captain Steele is the
greatest scholar and best casuist of any man in England. Lastly, his
writings have set all our wits and men of letters on a new way of
thinking, of which they had little or no notion before: and, although
we cannot say that any of them have come up to the beauties of the
original, I think we may venture to affirm, that every one of them
writes and thinks much more justly than they did some time since."

Gay's agreeable personality secured him many friends. Not later than the
spring of 1711 he made the acquaintance of Henry Cromwell, whom he later
described as "the honest hatless Cromwell with red breeches," by whom he
was introduced to Pope, who was at this time a member of Addison's
circle, and generally recognised as a rising man of letters. Pope
evidently liked Gay, who was his senior by nearly three years, but was
as a child in worldly wisdom. On July 15th, 1711, Pope wrote to
Cromwell, "Pray give my service to all my friends, and to Mr. Gay in
particular";[10] and again, nine days later, addressing the same
correspondent, he said: "My humble services, too, to Mr. Gay, of whose
paper ['The Present State of Wit'] I have made mention to [Erasmus]
Lewis."[11] Gay, ever anxious to please those whom he liked and,
perhaps, especially those who might be of use to him, when writing the
verses, "On a Miscellany of Poems to Bernard Lintott" (which appeared in
that publisher's _Miscellany_ issued in May, 1712), eagerly took
advantage to ingratiate himself with a number of people, in so far as he
could do this by means of compliments. Gay tells the publisher that if
he will only choose his authors from "the successful bards" praised by
the author, then "praise with profit shall reward thy pains"; and--

  So long shall live thy praise in books of fame,
  And Tonson yield to Lintott's lofty name;

but, since an author should not praise one publisher at the expense of
another, he has already had a kindly word for that more celebrated
publisher, Jacob Tonson--"Jacob's mighty name." It may be mentioned in
passing that Gay's "Poems on Several Occasions" bear the joint imprint
of Lintott and Tonson. Gay waxed eloquent in these verses, when
writing of the other contributors to the _Miscellany_, and bestowed
praise upon his brother-poets in no measured quantity:--

    Where Buckingham will condescend to give
  That honour'd piece to distant times must live;
  When noble Sheffield strikes the trembling strings,
  The little loves rejoice and clap their wings.
  Anacreon lives, they cry, th' harmonious swain }
  Retunes the lyre, and tries his wonted strain, }
  'Tis he,--our lost Anacreon lives again.       }
  But when th' illustrious poet soars above
  The sportive revels of the god of love,
  Like Maro's muse he takes a loftier flight,
  And towers beyond the wond'ring Cupid's sight.

    If thou wouldst have thy volume stand the test,
  And of all others be reputed best,
  Let Congreve teach the list'ning groves to mourn,
  As when he wept o'er fair Pastora's urn.[12]

    Let Prior's muse with soft'ning accents move,
  Soft as the strain of constant Emma's love:
  Or let his fancy choose some jovial theme.
  As when he told Hans Carvel's jealous dream;
  Prior th' admiring reader entertains,
  With Chaucer's humour, and with Spenser's strains.[13]

  Waller in Granville lives; when Mira sings
  With Waller's hands he strikes the sounding strings.
  With sprightly turns his noble genius shines,
  And manly sense adorns his easy lines.

     On Addison's sweet lays attention waits,
  And silence guards the place while he repeats;
  His muse alike on ev'ry subject charms,
  Whether she paints the god of love, or arms:
  In him pathetic Ovid sings again,
  And Homer's "Iliad" shines in his "Campaign."
  Whenever Garth shall raise his sprightly song,
  Sense flows in easy numbers from his tongue;
  Great Phoebus in his learned son we see,
  Alike in physic, as in poetry.

     When Pope's harmonious muse with pleasure roves,
  Amidst the plains, the murm'ring streams and groves.
  Attentive Echo, pleased to hear his songs,
  Thro' the glad shade each warbling note prolongs;
  His various numbers charm our ravish'd ears,       }
  His steady judgment far out-shoots his years,      }
  And early in the youth the god appears.            }

It was in reference to these complimentary lines (which Pope saw in
manuscript) that, on December 21st, 1711, Pope wrote to Cromwell: "I
will willingly return Mr. Gay my thanks for the favour of his poem, and
in particular for his kind mention of me."[14] That letter is
interesting also as being the last exchanged between Pope and his old
friend; and it is instructive, as showing how the acquaintance between
the poets was already ripening, that Pope turned to Gay in his distress
at the defection of his earlier friend. "Our friend, Mr. Cromwell, too,
has been silent all this year. I believe he has been displeased at some
or other of my freedoms, which I very innocently take, and most with
those I think my friends," he wrote to Gay on November 13th, 1712. "But
this I know nothing of; perhaps he may have opened to you, and if I know
you right, you are of a temper to cement friendships, and not to divide
them. I really very much love Mr. Cromwell, and have a true affection
for yourself, which, if I had any interest in the world, or power with
those who have, I should not be long without manifesting to you."[15]

If Pope had lost the friendship of Henry Cromwell, he was certainly
anxious to strengthen the bond that was beginning to be forged between
himself and Gay, to whom he wrote again: "I desire you will not, either
out of modesty, or a vicious distrust of another's value for you--those
two eternal foes to merit--imagine that your letters and conversation
are not always welcome to me. There is no man more entirely fond of
good-nature or ingenuity than myself, and I have seen too much of these
qualities in Mr. Gay to be anything less than his most affectionate
friend and real servant."[16] That the intimacy between the poets waxed
apace is evident, for when Pope wrote "A Farewell to London in the year
1715," the concluding stanza was:--

  Adieu to all but Gay alone.
     Whose soul, sincere and free.
  Loves all mankind, but flatters none.
     And so may starve with me.

[Footnote 1: _Gay's Chair_, p. 13.]

[Footnote 2: _Dictionary of National Biography._]

[Footnote 3: _Gay's Chair._]

[Footnote 4: _Rural Sports_.]

[Footnote 5: Spence: _Anecdotes_ (ed. Singer), p. 13.]

[Footnote 6: George Cheyne (1671-1743), physician, practised first at
London, and then at Bath.]

[Footnote 7: "The Epigrammatical Petition" is printed on p. 29 of this

[Footnote 8: "_Key to 'Three Hours after Marriage_,'" p. 7.]

[Footnote 9: John Freind (1675-1728), physician.]

[Footnote 10: Pope: _Works_ (ed. Elwin and Courthope), VI, p. 123.]

[Footnote 11: _Ibid_., VI, p. 124.]

[Footnote 12: A reference to "The Mourning Muse of Alexis: A Pastoral
Lamentary on the Death of Queen Mary." In this piece the Queen is spoken
of as "Pastora."]

[Footnote 13: The references are to "Henry and Emma" and "Hans Carvel."]

[Footnote 14: Pope: _Works_ (ed. Elwin and Courthope), VI, p. 130.]

[Footnote 15: Pope: _Works_ (ed. Elwin and Courthope), VII, p. 408.]

[Footnote 16: _Ibid_., VII, p. 409.]




There has been preserved a letter written by Aaron Hill to Richard
Savage, June 23rd, 1766, which contains information concerning the
life of the poet during the next two years. "I would willingly satisfy
the curiosity of your friend, in relation to Mr. Gay, if it were not
easy to get much further information than I am able to give, from Mr.
Budgell or Mr. Pope; to the first of whom, the beginning of his life
was best known, and to the last, its afternoon and evening," Hill
wrote. "As to your question, whether Mr. Gay was ever a domestic of
the Duchess of Monmouth, I can answer it in the affirmative; he was
her secretary about the year 1713, and continued so, till he went over
to Hanover, in the beginning of the following year, with Lord
Clarendon, who was sent thither by Queen Anne. At his return, upon the
death of that Queen, all his hopes became withered, but Mr. Pope (who
you know, is an excellent planter) revived and invigorated his bays,
and indeed, very generously supported him, in some more _solid_
improvements; for remember a letter, wherein he invited him, with a
very impoetical warmth that, so long as he himself had a shilling, Mr.
Gay should be welcome to sixpence of it, nay, to eightpence, if he
could but contrive to live on a groat."[1]

It is now happily possible to elaborate the information given in this
letter. Owing to the kindly offices of one or other of his friends,
Gay had secured the appointment of domestic secretary to the Duchess
of Monmouth. Anne Scott, Duchess of Buccleuch in her own right, had
in 1663 married the Duke of Monmouth. He was executed for high treason
in 1683, and three years later his widow married Charles, third Baron
Cornwallis. Though she had not long mourned her first husband, she did
not forget that he was on his father's side of the blood royal, and to
the end of her days she preserved a regal state, which, however, did
not make her unpopular at Court. "The Princess," wrote Lady Cowper,
"loved her mightily, and certainly no woman of her years ever deserved
it so well. She had all the life and fire of youth, and it was
marvellous to see that the many afflictions she had suffered had not
touched her wit and good nature, but at upwards of three-score she had
both in their full perfection." Upon this appointment Dr. Johnson
commented: "By quitting a shop for such service Gay might gain
leisure, but he certainly advanced little on the boast of
independence." As has been seen, however, there was an interval of
several years between Gay's apprenticeship and his taking up this
position as the Duchess's amanuensis--for it is doubtful if he ever
attained to an office more responsible than this--he secured board and
lodging, a little pocket money, and no doubt ample leisure. It was
necessary for Gay to earn his livelihood, for he had spent his
patrimony, and the earnings of his pen were as yet negligible. Indeed,
the situation was almost ideal for an impecunious young man of
letters. Anyhow, Gay was delighted, and Pope not less so. "It has been
my good fortune within this month past to hear more things that have
pleased me than, I think, in all my time besides," Pope wrote to Gay,
December 24th, 1712; "but nothing, upon my word, has been so homefelt
a satisfaction as the news you tell me of yourself; and you are not in
the least mistaken when you congratulate me upon your own good
success, for I have more people out of whom to be happy, than any
ill-natured man can boast of." Pope, now well aware of Gay's natural
indolence, was careful in this same letter to urge him to devote
himself to literary labours in his leisure hours. "I shall see you
this winter with much greater pleasure than I could the last, and I
hope as much of your time as your Duchess will allow you to spare to
any friend will not be thought lost upon one who is as much so as any
man," he added. "I must also put you in mind, though you are now
secretary to this lady, you are likewise secretary to nine other
ladies, and are to write sometimes for them too. He who is forced to
live wholly upon those ladies' favours is indeed in as precarious a
condition as any who does what Chaucer says for subsistence; but they
are very agreeable companions, like other ladies, when a man only
passes a night or so with them at his leisure, and away."[2]

Gay, the most amiable of men, never resented advice, perhaps because
he so rarely followed it. In this case, however, he was surprisingly
amenable. During the short time he was in the service of the Duchess
of Monmouth, he drove his quill with some assiduity, and, indeed, at
this period of his life he, who was presently distinguished as the
laziest of men, worked diligently.

Before joining the household of the Duchess, he had written "Rural
Sports: A Georgic," and this was published on January 13th, 1713, by
Jacob Tonson, with an inscription to Pope:--

  You, who the sweets of rural life have known,
  Despise th' ungrateful hurry of the town;
  In Windsor groves your easy hours employ,
  And, undisturb'd, yourself and Muse enjoy.

During 1713 Gay wrote such trifles as papers on "Reproof and Flattery,"
and "Dress," which were printed in the _Guardian_ on March 24th and
September 21st respectively; and some verses, "Panthea," "Araminta," "A
Thought on Eternity," and "A Contemplation on Night," which appeared in
Steele's "Poetical Miscellany." A more ambitious work was "The Fan,"
which had occupied him during the earlier part of the year. He was
greatly interested in its composition, and corresponded with Pope while
it was being written. "I am very much recreated and refreshed with the
news of the advancement of 'The Fan,' which I doubt not will delight the
eye and sense of the fair, as long as that agreeable machine shall play
in the hands of posterity," Pope wrote to him, August 23rd, 1713: "I am
glad your Fan is mounted so soon, but I would have you varnish and glaze
it at your leisure, and polish the sticks as much as you can. You may
then cause it to be borne in the hands of both sexes, no less in Britain
than it is in China, where it is ordinary for a mandarin to fan himself
cool after a debate, and a statesman to hide his face with it when he
tells a grave lie."[3] Again, on October 23rd, Pope wrote: "I shall go
into the country about a month hence, and shall then desire to take
along with me your poem of 'The Fan.'" The most ambitious as yet of
Gay's writings, there are few to-day, however, who will question the
judgment of Mr. Austin Dobson, "one of his least successful efforts,
and, though touched by Pope, now unreadable."

Gay had thus early a leaning to the theatre, where presently he was to
score one of his greatest successes, and he wrote "The Wife of Bath,"
which was produced at Drury Lane on May 12th, 1713. Steele gave it a
"puff preliminary" in No. 50 of the _Guardian_ (May 8th).

Gay was now become known as a man of letters, and had made many friends.
Johnson says: "Gay was the general favourite of the whole association of
wits; but they regarded him as a playfellow rather than as a partner,
and treated him with more fondness than respect."[4] There is some truth
in this view, but of the affection he inspired there is no doubt. To
know him was to love him. Wherein exactly lay his charm it is not easy
now to say; but his gentle good-nature and his utter helplessness seems
to have appealed to those of sterner mould. The extracts already given
from Pope's correspondence show the affection with which he was inspired
for his brother of the pen. Pope took him so completely under his
massive wing that he remarked later, "they would call him one of my
_éleves_."[5] Pope accepted the position, and introduced him to his
circle. He made him known to Swift, and that great man loved him as he
loved no other man; and to Parnell, Arbuthnot, Ford--the "joyous Ford"
of "Mr. Pope's Welcome from Greece"--and Bolingbroke, in all of whom he
inspired an affection, which endured through life. Parnell and Pope
wrote jointly to him, and while in 1714 Pope was still addressing him as
"Dear Mr. Gay," Parnell had already thrown aside all formality and
greeted him as "Dear Gay." His old schoolfellow, William Fortescue,
cleaved to him, and they were in such constant communication that when
Pope wanted to see Fortescue, it was to Gay he appealed to arrange a
meeting. The terms on which Gay was with the set is shown in Pope's
letter to him, written from Binfield, May 4th, 1714: "Pray give, with
the utmost fidelity and esteem, my hearty service to the Dean, Dr.
Arbuthnot, Mr. Ford, and to Mr. Fortescue. Let them also know at
Button's that I am mindful of them."[6] Erasmus Lewis Gay knew now, and
Caryll too, and the rest of the small literary set, who, with gusto,
made him welcome among them. Indeed, when the "Memoirs of Scriblerus"
were in contemplation, and, indeed, begun in 1713, Gay, then
comparatively unknown, was invited to take a hand in the composition
with the greatest men of the day. "The design of the Memoirs of
Scriblerus was to have ridiculed all the false tastes in learning, under
a character of a man of capacity enough, that had dipped into every art
and science, but injudiciously in each," we have been told. "It was
begun by a club of some of the greatest wits of the age. Lord Oxford,
the Bishop of Rochester, Mr. Pope, Congreve, Arbuthnot, Swift, and
others. Gay often held the pen; and Addison liked it well enough, and
was not disinclined to come in to it."[7] It does not transpire whether
Gay had at this time met Swift, but that soon after they were in
correspondence, appears from a letter from Pope to Swift, June 18th,
1714: "I shall translate Homer by the by. Mr. Gay has acquainted you
with what progress I have made in it. I cannot name Mr. Gay without all
the acknowledgments which I shall owe you, on his account."[8]

[Footnote 1: Hill: _Works_ (ed. 1754), I, p. 325.]

[Footnote 2: Pope: _Works_ (ed. Elwin and Courthope), VII, p. 409.]

[Footnote 3: Pope: _Works_ (ed. Elwin and Courthope), VII, p. 412.]

[Footnote 4: Johnson: _Lives of the Poets_ (ed. Hill), III, p. 268.]

[Footnote 5: Spence: _Anecdotes_ (ed. Singer), p. 145.]

[Footnote 6: Pope: _Works_ (ed. Elwin and Courthope), VII, p. 415.]

[Footnote 7: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVI, p. 123.]

[Footnote 8: Spence: _Anecdotes_ (ed. Singer), p. 10.]




The outstanding literary event in Gay's career in 1714 was the pastoral,
"The Shepherd's Week," which was published by R. Burleigh on April 15th,
which contained a "Proeme to the Courteous Reader," and a "Prologue to
the Right Honourable the Lord Viscount Bolingbroke," which was, in fact,
a dedication:--

     Lo, I who erst beneath a tree
  Sung Bumkinet and Bowzybee,
  And Blouzelind and Marian bright,
  In apron blue or apron white,
  Now write my sonnets in a book,
  For my good lord of Bolingbroke.

The author then states that he had heard of the Queen's illness and how
the skill of Arbuthnot had restored her to health:--

  A skilful leech (so God him speed)
  They said had wrought this blessed deed,
  This leech Arbuthnot was yclept,
  Who many a night not once had slept;
  But watch'd our gracious Sov'reign still:
  For who could rest when she was ill?
  O may'st thou henceforth sweetly sleep!
  Shear, swains, oh shear your softest sheep
  To swell his couch; for well I ween,
  He saved the realm who saved his Queen.

     Quoth I, please God, I'll his with glee
  To court, this Arbuthnot to see.

Such loyalty, of course, the hardest heart must touch, but loyalty in
this case had its reward, and the journey to Court was well worth the

     There saw I ladies all a-row
  Before their Queen in seemly show.
  No more I'll sing Buxoma brown,
  Like goldfinch in her Sunday gown;
  Nor Clumsilis, nor Marian bright,
  Nor damsel that Hobnelia hight.
  But Lansdown fresh as flowers of May,
  And Berkely lady blithe and gay,
  And Anglesea, whose speech exceeds
  The voice of pipe or oaten reeds;
  And blooming Hyde, with eyes so rare,
  And Montague beyond compare.
  Such ladies fair wou'd I depaint
  In roundelay or sonnet quaint.

But charming as were these ladies, there was still a better sight in
store for the visitor:--

     There saw I St. John, sweet of mien.
  Full steadfast both to Church and Queen.
  With whose fair name I'll deck my strain,
  St. John, right courteous to the swain.

     For thus he told me on a day,
  Trim are thy sonnets, gentle Gay,
  And certes, mirth it were to see
  Thy joyous madrigals twice three,
  With preface meet and notes profound.
  Imprinted fair, and well y-bound.
  All suddenly then home I sped,
  And did ev'n as my Lord had said.

It was not Bolingbroke who inspired the pastorals, though he accepted
the dedication. The true history of the origin of "The Shepherd's Week"
is well set out by Mr. Underhill. "These pastorals, it should be
explained, were written at the instigation of Pope," he has written.
"The sixth volume of Tonson's 'Miscellany' had concluded with Pope's
Pastorals and begun with those of Ambrose Philips. A few years after its
publication a writer in the _Guardian_[1] (probably Tickell[2])
discussed the Pastoral in a series of papers, and gave the most
extravagant praise to Philips. 'Theocritus,' he remarked, 'left his
dominions to Virgil; Virgil left his to his son Spenser; and Spenser was
succeeded by his eldest born, Philips.' Pope was not mentioned, and he
set himself to redress the injustice by a device of characteristic
subtlety. He wrote a sixth paper, in which he continued to illustrate
the true principles of pastoral poetry from Philips' practice, but in
such a way as to show the judicious reader by the examples given either
the absurdity of Philips or the superior merit of Pope. The article was
anonymously or pseudonymously forwarded to the _Guardian_, and was in
due course published. Philips was furious, and providing himself with a
birch rod, threatened to flog Pope. The latter, not content with his
ingenious revenge, prevailed upon his friend Gay to continue the warfare
and to burlesque Philips' performances in a series of realistic
representations of country life."[3] Gay entered into the sport with
joy--it was a game after his own heart, and one for which his talent was
particularly fitted. He begins his "Proeme to the Gentle Reader" with a
most palpable hit: "Great marvel hath it been (and that not unworthily)
to diverse worthy wits, that in this our island of Britain, in all rare
sciences so greatly abounding, more especially in all kinds of poesie
highly flourishing, no poet (though other ways of notable cunning in
roundelays) hath hit on the right simple eclogue after this true ancient
guise of Theocritus, before this mine attempt. Other Poet travelling in
this plain highway of Pastoral I know none." Presently comes an attack
but little disguised on Philips: "Thou will not find my shepherdesses
idly piping on oaten reeds, but milking the kine, tying up the sheaves,
or if the hogs are astray driving them to their styes. My shepherd
gathereth none other nosegays but what are the growth of our own fields,
he sleepeth not under myrtle shades, but under a hedge, nor doth he
vigilantly defend his flocks from wolves, because there are none, as
maister Spenser well observeth:--

  Well is known that since the Saxon King
  Never was wolf seen, many or some,
  Nor in all Kent nor in Christendom."

Yet a third extract from this satirical "Proeme" must be given, and
this in connection with the language of these eclogues: "That
principally, courteous reader, whereof I would have thee to be
advertised (seeing I depart from the vulgar usage) is touching the
language of my shepherds; which is soothly to say, such as is neither
spoken by the country maiden or the courtly dame; nay, not only such as
in the present times is not uttered, but was never uttered in times
past; and, if I judge aright, will never be uttered in times future. It
having too much of the country to be fit for the court, too much of the
court to be fit for the country; too much of the language of old times
to be fit for the present, too much of the present to have been fit for
the old, and too much of both to be fit for any time to come. Granted
also it is, that in this my language, I seem unto myself, as a London
mason, who calculateth his work for a term of years, when he buildeth
with old material upon a ground-rent that is not his own, which soon
turneth to rubbish and ruins. For this point, no reason can I allege,
only deep learned examples having led me thereunto."

All this is pretty fooling; but Gay, who in the beginning intended "The
Shepherd's Week" to be merely a burlesque, according to the suggestion
of Pope, was carried away by his interest in the subject-matter, and
produced a poem of undoubted value as a picture of rural life in his own
day. With it he won approval as an original poet in his own day, and
three centuries after critics still write in praise of it.

"These Pastorals were originally intended, I suppose, as a burlesque on
those of Philips'; but, perhaps without designing it, Gay has hit the
true spirit of pastoral poetry," Goldsmith said; and Dr. Johnson wrote:
"The effect of reality of truth became conspicuous, even when the
intention was to show them grovelling and degraded. 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 disputes."[4]
Southey, too, had a kind word to say: "In attempting the burlesque Gay
copied nature, and his unexpected success might have taught his
contemporaries a better taste. Few poets seem to have possessed so quick
and observing an eye"[5]; and, coming to the present critics, Mr. Austin
Dobson utters commendation: "The object went far beyond its avowed
object of ridicule, and Gay's eclogues abound with interesting folk-lore
and closely studied rural pictures."[6]

With all his unworldliness Gay always had an eager, if not very keen,
eye on the main chance, and finding himself surrounded by men of
influence, he not unnaturally, in a day when men of letters often found
their reward in Government places or in sinecures, looked to his
acquaintances to further his interests. Great Britain was at this time
represented at the Court of Hanover by a Mission which was from 1709 in
charge of the Secretary, J. D'Alais, except when Special Missions were
dispatched. Lord Rivers was Minister Plenipotentiary in 1710, and Thomas
Harley went there as Ambassador Extraordinary in July, 1712, and again
in the following February. Henry Paget, first Lord Burton, was appointed
Ambassador in April, 1714, but resigned before he set forth, and Lord
Clarendon was nominated in his stead.


  London, June 8th, 1714.

"Since you went out of town, my Lord Clarendon was appointed
Envoy-Extraordinary to Hanover in the room of Mr. Paget, and by making
use of those friends, which I entirely owe to you, he has accepted me
for his Secretary. This day, by appointment, I met his Lordship at Mr.
Secretary Bromley's office; he then ordered me to be ready by Saturday.
I am quite off from the Duchess of Monmouth. Mr. Lewis was very ready to
serve me upon this occasion, as were Dr. Arbuthnot and Mr. Ford. I am
every day attending my Lord Treasurer [Oxford] for his bounty, in order
to set me out, which he has promised me upon the following petition,
which I sent him by Dr. Arbuthnot:--

  I'm no more to converse with the swains,
     But go where fine folk resort:
  One can live without money on plains.
     But never without it at Court.

  If, when with the swains I did gambol,
     I array'd me in silver and blue:
  When abroad, and in Courts, I shall ramble,
     Pray, my Lord, how much money will do?

We had the honour of the Treasurer's company last Saturday, when we sat
upon Scriblerus. Pope is in town and has brought with him the first book
of Homer. I am this evening to be at Mr. Lewis's with [Dr. Benjamin
Pratt] the Provost [of Dublin College], Mr. Ford, Parnell, and Pope."

"It is thought my Lord Clarendon will make but a short stay at Hanover.
If it was possible that any recommendation could be procured to make me
more distinguished than ordinary, during my stay at that Court, I should
think myself very happy if you could contrive any method to prosecute
it, for I am told that their civilities very rarely descend so low as to
the Secretary. I have all the reason in the world to acknowledge this as
wholly owing to you. And the many favours I have received from you,
purely out of your love for doing good, assures me you will not forget
me during my absence. As for myself, whether I am at home or abroad,
gratitude will always put me in mind of the man to whom I owe so many

       *       *       *       *       *

These tidings were confirmed to Swift by Arbuthnot, who wrote from St.
James's on June 12th: "You know that Gay goes to Hanover, and my Lord
Treasurer has promised to equip him. Monday is the day of departure, and
he is now dancing attendance for money to buy him shoes, stockings, and
linen. The Duchess [of Monmouth] has turned him off, which I am afraid
will make the poor man's condition worse instead of better."[8] As
Arbuthnot reported fourteen days later, Gay received a hundred pounds
from the Treasury, and "went away a happy man."[9] Lord Clarendon,
whose mission it was formally to offer to the Elector George Lewis the
condolences of Queen Anne on the death of his aged mother, the Electress
Sophia, the heiress-presumptive to the British throne, who had passed
away on June 8th, 1714, arrived at Hanover on July 16th.

Despite Gay's forebodings, the civilities of the Court of Hanover did
happily "descend so low as to the Secretary." That he was presented to
the royal circle and held converse with the highest in the land, is
clear from a sentence in a letter from Arbuthnot to Swift, August 13th,
1714: "I have a letter from Gay, just before the Queen's death. Is he
not a true poet, who had not one of his own books to give to the
Princess that asked for one?"[10] Here it was that Gay first made the
acquaintance of Henrietta Howard, afterwards Countess of Suffolk, with
whom he was presently on a footing of intimate friendship.


  Hanover, August 16th, 1714.

"You remember, I suppose, that I was to write you abundance of letters
from Hanover; but as one of the most distinguished qualities of a
publician is secrecy, you must not expect from me any arcanas of state.
There is another thing that is necessary to establish the character of a
politician, which is to seem always to be full of affairs of State; to
know the consultations of the Cabinet Council when at the same time his
politics are collected from newspapers. Which of these two causes my
secrecy is owing to I leave you to determine. There is yet one thing
more that is extremely necessary for a foreign minister, which he can no
more be without than an artisan without his tools; I mean the terms of
his art. I call it an art or a science because I think the King of
France has established an academy to instruct the young Machiavelians of
his country in the deep and profound science of politics. To the end I
might be qualified for an employment of this nature, and not only be
qualified myself, but (to speak in the style of Sir John Falstaff) be
the cause of qualification in others, I have made it my business to read
memoirs, treatises, etc. And as a dictionary of law-terms is thought
necessary for young beginners, so I thought a dictionary of terms of
State would be no less useful for young politicians. The terms of
politics being not so numerous as to swell into a volume, especially in
times of peace (for in times of war all the terms of fortifications are
included), I thought fit to extract them in the same manner for the
benefit of young practitioners as a famous author has compiled his
learned treatise of the law, called the 'Doctor and Student.' I have not
made any great progress in this piece; but, however, I will give you a
specimen of it, which will make you in the same manner a judge of the
design and nature of this treatise.

"_Politician_: What are the necessary tools for a Prince to work with?

"_Student_: Ministers of State.

"_Politician_: What are the two great qualities of a Minister of

"_Student_: Secrecy and despatch.

"_Politician_: Into how many parts are the Ministers of State divided?

"_Student_: Into two. First, Ministers of State at home; secondly,
Ministers of State abroad, who are called Foreign Ministers.

"_Politician_: Very right. Now as I design you for the latter of these
employments I shall waive saying anything about the first of these.
What are the different degrees of Foreign Ministers?

"_Student_: The different degrees of Foreign Ministers are as follows:
First, Plenipotentiaries; second, Ambassadors-Extraordinary; third,
Ambassadors in ordinary; fourth, Envoys-Extraordinary; fifth,
Envoys-in-ordinary; sixth, Residents; seventh, Consuls; and eighth,

"_Politician_: How is a Foreign Minister to be known?

"_Student_: By his credentials.

"_Politician_: When are a Foreign Minister's credentials to be

"_Student_: Upon his first admission into the presence of the Prince
to whom he is sent, otherwise called his first audience.

"_Politician_: How many kinds of audience are there?

"_Student_: Two, which are called a public audience and a private

"_Politician_: What should a Foreign Minister's behaviour be when he
has his first audience?

"_Student_: He should bow profoundly, speak deliberately, and wear
both sides of his long periwig before, etc.

"By these few questions and answers you may be able to make some
judgment of the usefulness of this politic treatise. Wicquefort, it is
true, can never be sufficiently admired for his elaborate treatise of
the conduct of an Ambassador in all his negotiations; but I design
this only as a compendium, or the Ambassador's Manual, or _vade

"I have writ so far of this letter, and do not know who to send it to;
but I have now determined to send it either to Dr. Arbuthnot, the Dean
of St. Patrick's, or to both. My Lord Clarendon is very much approved of
at Court, and I believe is not dissatisfied with his reception. We have
not very much variety of divisions; what we did yesterday and to-day we
shall do to-morrow, which is to go to Court and walk in the gardens at
Herrenhausen. If I write any more my letter will be just like my
diversion, the same thing over and over again."[11]

Lord Clarendon stayed at Hanover even a shorter time than he had
expected. On July 30th Lord Oxford was dismissed, and the white staff
was given to the Duke of Shrewsbury, one of whose first acts was to
recall the Tory Ambassador. Two days later Queen Anne died, and the
Elector George Lewis succeeded to her throne under the style of George
I. Lord Clarendon returned at once to England, and with him came Gay,
saddened by the blasting of his hopes of advancement.

He was welcomed back by his friends, and received in particular an
enthusiastic greeting from Pope, who wrote on September 23rd: "Welcome
to your native soil! Welcome to your friend! Thrice welcome to me!
whether returned in glory, blessed with Court interest, the love and
familiarity of the great, and filled with agreeable hopes, or melancholy
with dejection, contemplative of the changes of fortune, and doubtful
for the future--whether returned a triumphant Whig or a desponding Tory,
equally all hail! equally beloved and welcome to me! If happy, I am to
share in your elevation; if unhappy, you have still a warm corner in my
heart and a retreat at Binfield in the worst of times at your service."
In this same letter Pope, always anxious to assist Gay, added: "Pardon
me if I add a word of advice in the practical way. Write something on
the King, or Prince or Princess. On whatever foot you may be with the
Court, this can do no harm."[12]

       *       *       *       *       *

The change of Government having dashed to the ground his hopes of
advancement in the diplomatic service, Gay thought that he could not do
better than follow Pope's suggestion. Like the majority of men of
letters of his day, and not having the independence of spirit of Swift
and Pope, he hungered after a patron--a Minister might be good, but
Ministers go out of office, and a member of the reigning family would be
better. Remembering the kindly welcome given him at Hanover by the royal
lady who was now Princess of Wales, he had indulged in a dream that a
place would be offered him in her household. "Poor Gay is much where he
was, only out of the Duchess [of Monmouth]'s family and service,"
Arbuthnot wrote to Swift, October 19th, 1714. "He has some confidence in
the Princess and Countess of Picborough; I wish it may be significant to
him. I advised him to make a poem upon the Princess before she came
over, describing her to the English ladies; for it seems that the
Princess does not dislike that. (She is really a person that I believe
will give great content to everybody). But Gay was in such a grovelling
condition as to the affairs of this world, that his Muse would not stoop
to visit him."[13]

No proposal, however, being made to him, Gay, following the advice of
Pope and Arbuthnot, proceeded to remind the new Court of his existence,
and in November published "A Letter to a Lady, occasioned by the arrival
of Her Royal Highness "--the "Lady" being, it is generally assumed, Mrs.
Howard. In these verses he gave the assurance that he had desired the
elements to arrange for the Princess an agreeable passage to England:--

  My strains with Carolina's name I grace.
  The lovely parent of our royal race.
  Breathe soft, ye winds, ye waves in silence sleep;
  Let prosp'rous breezes wanton o'er the deep,
  Swell the white sails, and with the streamers play,
  To waft her gently o'er the wat'ry way.

With true poetic exaggeration he extolled Caroline's virtues, and then,
so that there should be no excuse for misunderstanding, said in plain
terms that he had desired a post at Court, and made it perfectly clear
that he was still prepared to accept such employment, if so be as it was
coupled with suitable remuneration:--

  Since all my schemes were baulk'd, my last resort,
  I left the Muses to frequent the Court;
  Pensive each night, from room to room I walk'd,
  To one I bow'd, and with another talk'd;
  Inquir'd what news, or such a lady's name,
  And did the next day, and the next, the same.
  Places I found, were daily giv'n away,
  And yet no friendly _Gazette_ mention'd Gay.

Gay's protestations of delight at the accession to the throne of the
House of Hanover would probably have been regarded as more sincere if,
unfortunately, he had not a few months before dedicated "The Shepherd's
Week" to Bolingbroke. His very outspoken hint in the "Letter to a Lady"
was ignored; but Caroline, who liked eulogy as much as anyone, received
him kindly; and when in February, 1715, he produced "The What D'ye Call
It" at Drury Lane Theatre, she and her consort attended the first
performance. But still, no place was found for him at Court. "Tell me,"
Swift asked him so much later as 1723, "are you not under original sin
by the dedication of your Eclogue to Lord Bolingbroke?"

[Footnote 1: _The Guardian_, No. 32; April 17th, 1713.]

[Footnote 2: Dr. Johnson in his "Lives of the Poets" attributes the
authorship to Steele (_Works_, ed. Hill), III, p. 269.]

[Footnote 3: Introductory Memoir by John Underhill, in his edition of
the _Poems of John Gay_ ("The Muses' Library"), I, xxxi.]

[Footnote 4: _Works_ (ed. Hill), III, p. 269.]

[Footnote 5: _Specimens_, I, p. 298.]

[Footnote 6: _Dictionary of National Biography_, article, Gay.]

[Footnote 7: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVI, p. 113.]

[Footnote 8: _Ibid_., XVI, p. 117.]

[Footnote 9: _Ibid_., XVI, p. 123.]

[Footnote 10: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVI, p. 193.]

[Footnote 11: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVI, p. 204.]

[Footnote 12: Pope: _Works_ (ed. Elwin and Courthope), VII, p. 415.]

[Footnote 13: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVI, p. 213.]



     "The What D'ye Call It"--An Epistle to the Right Honourable the
     Earl of Burlington--"Trivia, or, The Art of Walking the Streets of
     London"--"Three Hours After Marriage."

Undismayed by the failure of his first play, "The Wife of Bath," Gay
made another bid for theatrical success with "The What D'ye Call It,"
which was performed at Drury Lane Theatre in February, 1715, and
published in March of that year. In the preface Gay wrote: "I have not
called it a tragedy, comedy, pastoral, or farce, but left the name
entirely undetermined in the doubtful appellation of 'The What D'ye Call
It' ... but I added to it 'A Tragi-Comi-Pastoral Farce,' as it contained
all these several kinds of drama." Pope saw the play and wrote about it
to Congreve, March 19th, 1715: "The farce of 'The What D'ye Call It' has
occasioned many different speculations in the town, some looking upon it
as a mere jest upon the tragic poets, others as a satire upon the late
war. Mr. Cromwell, hearing none of the words, and seeing the action to
be tragical, was much astonished to find the audience laugh, and says
the Prince and Princess [of Wales] must doubtless be under no less
amazement on the same account. Several Templars and others of the more
vociferous kind of critics went with a resolution to hiss, and confessed
they were forced to laugh so much that they forgot the design they came
with. The Court in general has come in a very particular manner into the
jest, and the three nights, notwithstanding two of them were Court
nights, were distinguished by very full audiences of the first quality.
The common people of the pit and gallery received it at first with great
gravity and sedateness, and some few with tears; but after the third day
they also took the hint, and have ever since been very loud in their
claps. There are still sober men who cannot be of the general opinion,
but the laughers are so much the majority that one or two critics seemed
determined to undeceive the town at their proper cost, by writing
dissertations against it to encourage them in this laudable design. It
is resolved a preface shall be prefixed to the farce, in vindication of
the nature and dignity of this new way of writing."[1] The fact is that,
as Johnson put it, "the images were comic and the action grave," and
there were many mock-heroic passages which parodied tragedies, including
Addison's "Cato" and Otway's "Venice Preserved," well-known in that day.
Also it contained several ballads, of which perhaps the best is "'Twas
when the seas were roaring" (Act II., Scene 8).

"The What D'ye Call It" was not a piece of much value, but it pleased
the audience, and Gay was highly delighted. "Now my benefit night is
over, it should be my first care to return my thanks to those to whom I
am mostly obliged, and the civilities I have always received from you,
and upon this occasion too, claims this acknowledgment," the author
wrote to Caryll on March 3rd: "'The What D'ye Call It' met with more
success than could be expected from a thing so out of the common taste
of the town. It has been played already five nights, and the galleries,
who did not know at first what to make of it, now enter thoroughly into
the humour, and it seems to please in general better than at first. The
parts in general were not so well played as I could have wished, and in
particular the part of Filbert, to speak in the style of the French
Gazette. Penkethman did wonders; Mrs. Bicknell performed miraculously,
and there was much honour gained by Miss Younger, though she was but a
parish child."[2] Filbert was played by Johnson, Jonas Dock by
Penkethman, Joyce ("Peascod's daughter, left upon the parish") by Miss
Younger, and Kitty by Mrs. Bicknell, mentioned by the author in "Mr.
Pope's Welcome from Greece":--

  And frolic Bicknell, and her sister young.

The welcome given by the public to the play brought in its train some
annoyance to the author: "I find success, even in the most trivial
things, raises the indignation of scribblers," he wrote to Parnell on
March 18th, "for I, for my 'What D'ye Call It' could neither escape the
fury of Mr. Burnet or the German doctor. Then, where will rage end when
Homer is to be translated? Let Zoilus hasten to your friend's
assistance, and envious criticism shall be no more."[3] A more biting
attack than that of Thomas Burnet's _Grumbler_ (No. 1, February 14th,
1715) or that of Philip Horneck in "The High German Doctor" was the "Key
to 'The What D'ye Call It,'" written by the actor Griffin in
collaboration with Lewis Theobald. About this Gay wrote to Caryll in
April: "There is a sixpenny criticism lately published upon the tragedy
of 'The What D'ye Call It,' wherein he with much judgment and learning
calls me a blockhead and Mr. Pope a knave. His grand charge is against
'The Pilgrim's Progress' being read, which, he says, is directly
levelled at Cato's reading Plato. To back this censure he goes on to
tell you that 'The Pilgrim's Progress' being mentioned to be the eighth
edition makes the reflection evident, the tragedy of 'Cato' being just
eight times printed. He has also endeavoured to show that every
particular passage of the play alludes to some fine part of the tragedy,
which he says I have injudiciously and profanely abused."[4]

Still, Gay could really afford to laugh at those who attacked or
parodied him, for the play brought him, if not fame, at least
notoriety. It also brought him some much-needed money. Pope told Caryll
in March that Gay "will have made about £100 out of this farce"; and it
is known that for the publishing rights Lintott gave him on February
14th £16 2s. 6d.

Gay, now a popular dramatist as well as an intimate friend of many of
the leading men in literary circles, became known to people of high
social rank, who, like his brethren of the pen, took him up and made a
pet of him. In the summer of 1715 Lord Burlington, the "generous
Burlington" of "Mr. Pope's Welcome from Greece," invited him to
accompany him to Devonshire, and Gay repaid the compliment by describing
his "Visit to Exeter" in a poetical "Epistle to the Right Honourable the
Earl of Burlington," the first lines of which are:--

  While you, my Lord, bid stately piles ascend,
  Or in your Chiswick bowers enjoy your friend;
  Where Pope unloads the boughs within his reach,
  The purple vine, blue plum, and blushing peach;
  I journey far.--You know fat bards might tire.
  And, mounted, sent me forth your trusty squire.

During his stay in Devonshire Gay began the composition of "Trivia, or
The Art of Walking the Streets of London." It was to this that Pope made
allusion when writing to Caryll, January 10th, 1716: "Gay's poem [is]
just on the brink of the press, which we have had the interest to
procure him subscription of a guinea a book to a tolerable number. I
believe it may be worth £150 to him on the whole."[5] In addition to the
subscriptions, Gay received from Lintott £43 for the copyright of the
book, the copies of which were sold to the public at one shilling and
sixpence each; and as, with humorous exaggeration, Arbuthnot wrote to
Parnell: "Gay has got as much money by his 'Art of Walking the Streets'
that he is ready to set up his equipage; he is just going to the bank to
negotiate some exchange bills."[6] The "Advertisement" prefaced to the
poem runs:--

"The world, I believe, will take so little notice of me that I need not
take much of it. The critics may see by this poem that I walk on foot,
which probably may save me from their envy. I should be sorry to raise
that passion in men whom I am so much obliged to, since they allowed me
an honour hitherto only shown to better writers: that of denying me to
be author of my own works. I am sensible this must be done in pure
generosity; because whoever writ them, provided they did not themselves,
they are still in the same condition. Gentlemen, if there be any thing
in this poem good enough to displease you, and if it be any advantage to
you to ascribe it to some person of greater merit, I shall acquaint you
for your comfort, that among many other obligations, I owe several hints
of it to Dr. Swift. And if you will so far continue your favour as to
write against it, I beg you to oblige me in accepting the following

  --Non tu, in triviis, indocte, solebas
  Stridenti miserum stipula disperdere carmen?"

Whether Swift gave any direct assistance is doubtful. Mr. Austin
Dobson thinks that it is not improbable that "Trivia" was actually
suggested by the "Morning" and "City Shower" which Swift had
previously contributed to Steele's _Tatler_. Probably these are among
the "several hints" which Gay had in mind.

"Trivia" was published on January 26th, 1716, and was the one
outstanding feature in the year in the biography of Gay. In the
following March 26th there appeared a volume of "Court Poems,"
published by J. Roberts, who advertised them as from the pen of Pope,
though the preface makes the authorship doubtful between Pope, Gay,
and a Lady of quality, who was Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. To the
volume Lady Mary Wortley Montagu contributed "The Drawing Room," Pope
"The Basset Table," and Gay "The Toilet." This last has been
attributed to Lady Mary, and it has actually been printed among her
poems; but, according to Pope, it is "almost wholly Gay's," there
being "only five or six lines in it by that lady."

In 1716 Gay paid a second visit to Devonshire, and during the year he
composed the "sober eclogue," "The Espousal," which probably arose out
of a suggestion of Swift. "There is an ingenious Quaker[7] in this
town, who writes verses to his mistress, not very correct, but in a
strain purely what a poetical Quaker should do, commending her looks
and habit, etc." Swift wrote to Pope on August 30th, 1716: "It gave me
a hint that a set of Quaker pastorals might succeed if our friend Gay
could fancy it, and I think it a fruitful subject. Pray hear what he
says. I believe farther, the pastoral ridicule is not exhausted, and
that a porter, footman, or chairman's pastoral might do well; or what
think you of a Newgate pastoral, among the whores and thieves
there?"[8] This letter is of especial importance in the biography of
Gay, as it may well have sown in his mind the seed of "The Beggar's

About this time Gay was labouring on another play, "Three Hours After
Marriage," which he wrote in collaboration with Pope and Arbuthnot. It
is a sorry piece of work, and unworthy of any one, much less of the
three distinguished men associated in the authorship. In the Epilogue
it is written:--

  Join then your voices, be the play excused
  For once, though no one living is abused;

but as a matter of fact one purpose of the play was, as Dr. Johnson
said, "to bring into contempt Dr. Woodward, the fossilist, a man not
really or justly contemptible." Woodward was the author of a "History of
Fossils," and his name survives in the Woodwardian Professorship of
Geology at Cambridge. He was introduced as Dr. Cornelius in "Martin

  Who nature's treasures would explore,
     Her mysteries and arcana know.
  Must high as lofty Newton soar,
     Must stoop as delving Woodward low.

The bridegroom in the play is called Fossile, and there was no mistaking
the intention. Dr. Woodward had many friends, and these made known their
disgust in the most unmistakable manner when "Three Hours After
Marriage" was produced on January 16th, 1717, at Drury Lane Theatre. It
ran for seven nights. "It had the fate which such outrages deserved,"
Dr. Johnson has written; "the scene in which Woodward was directly and
apparently ridiculed by the introduction of a mummy and a crocodile,
disgusted the audience, and the performance was driven off the stage
with general condemnation."[9] The farce was not only dull, it was
vulgar. And the geologist (played by Johnson) was not the only person
introduced for the purpose of ridicule. Dennis was brought in as Sir
Tremendous, and it was believed that Phoebe Clinket (played by Mrs.
Bicknell) was intended for Anne Finch, Countess of Winchelsea, who, says
Mr. Austin Dobson, "was alleged to have spoken contemptuously of Gay."
Of this farce, Mr. Dobson writes: "It is perhaps fairer to say that he
bore the blame, than that he is justly charged with its errors of
taste"; and it is very probable that, while Gay generously accepted
responsibility, Pope and Arbuthnot were equally culpable. "Too late I
see, and confess myself mistaken in relation to the comedy; yet I do not
think had I followed your advice and only introduced the mummy, that the
absence of the crocodile had saved it," Gay wrote to Pope. "I cannot
help laughing myself (though the vulgar do not consider it was designed
to look ridiculous) to think how the poor monster and mummy were dashed
at their reception; and when the cry was loudest I thought that if the
thing had been written by another I should have deemed the town in some
measure mistaken; and, as to your apprehension that this may do us
future injury, do not think it; the Doctor [Arbuthnot] has a more
valuable name than can be hurt by anything of this nature, and yours is
doubly safe. I will, if any shame there be, take it all to myself, as
indeed I ought, the notion being first mine, and never heartily approved
of by you.... I beg of you not to suffer this, or anything else, to hurt
your health. As I have publicly said that I was assisted by two friends,
I shall still continue in the same story, professing obstinate silence
about Dr. Arbuthnot and yourself."[10]

The publication in book form of "Three Hours After Marriage" by Lintott,
who paid £16 2s. 6d. for the copyright, a few days after the production,
did nothing to arrest the torrent of abuse. "Gay's play, among the rest,
has cost much time and long suffering to stem a tide of malice and
party, that certain authors have raised against it," Pope wrote to
Parnell. Amongst those foremost among the attackers was Addison, who
perhaps had not forgotten or forgiven the parody of some of the lines in
his play "Cato," which was introduced by Gay in "The What D'ye Call It."
Gay, the most easy-going of men, was always stirred by criticism, and in
this case he, with unusual energy, sat down to reply to his detractors.
"Mr. Addison and his friends had exclaimed so much against Gay's 'Three
Hours After Marriage' for obscenities, that it provoked him to write 'A
Letter from a Lady in the City to a Lady in the Country' on that
subject," so runs a passage in Spence's Anecdotes of Pope. "In it he
quoted the passages which had been most exclaimed against, and opposed
other passages to them from Addison's and Steele's plays. These were
aggravated in the same manner that they served his, and appeared worse.
Had it been published it would have made Addison appear ridiculous,
which he could bear as little as any man. I therefore prevailed upon
Gay not to print it, and have the manuscript now by me."[11] In Spence's
Anecdotes there is another passage bearing on the same matter: "A
fortnight before Addison's death, [12] Lord Warwick [13] came to Gay and
pressed him in a very particular manner 'to go and see Mr. Addison,'
which he had not done for a great while. Gay went, and found Addison in
a very weak way. He received him in the kindest manner and told him,
'that he had desired this visit to beg his pardon, that he had injured
him greatly, but that if he lived he should find that he would make it
up to him.' Gay, on his going to Hanover, had great reason to hope for
some good preferment; but all his views came to nothing. It is not
impossible but that Mr. Addison might prevent them, from his thinking
Gay too well with some of the great men of the former Ministry. He did
not at all explain himself, in which he had injured him, and Gay could
not guess at anything else in which he could have injured him so
considerably."[14] It seems, however, more probable that Addison really
had in mind the part he had taken in connection with "Three Hours After
Marriage." Two critical publications, "A Complete Key to 'Three Hours
After Marriage,'" and "A Letter to John Gay, Concerning his late Farce,
entitled a Comedy," annoyed Gay; while Pope, too, and, in a minor
degree, Arbuthnot, were attacked for their share in the farce. John
Durand Breval, writing over the signature of Joseph Gay, published in
1717 "The Confederates: A Farce," in which he introduced a humorous
caricature print of Pope, Gay and Arbuthnot, so that, says Professor
Courthope, "Pope, at the height of his fame, found himself credited,
though he seems to have had little to do with it, with the past
paternity of a condemned play."[15] Another incident, recorded by
Professor Courthope, further angered Pope: "While he was still sore at
the mishap, Colley Cibber, playing in 'The Rehearsal,' happened to make
an impromptu allusion to the unlucky farce, saying that he had intended
to introduce the two kings of Brentford, 'one of them in the shape of a
mummy, and t'other in that of a crocodile.' The audience laughed, but
Pope, who was in the house, appeared (according to Cibber's account)
behind the scenes and abused the actor in unmeasured terms for his
impertinence. Cibber's only reply was to assure the enraged poet that,
so long as the play was acted, he should never fail to repeat the same
words. He kept his promise, thus committing the first of that series of
offences which, in the poet's vindictive memory, marked him down for
elevation to the throne of Dulness which was rendered vacant by the
deposition of King Tibbald."[16] There is a rumour that Gay, in revenge
for Cibber's banter of "Three Hours After Marriage," personally
chastised the actor-dramatist,[17] but there is nothing definitely known
about this. Anyhow, Gay was so irritated by the failure of this play
that he did not produce anything at a theatre during the next seven

How Gay managed to exist through the three years after the production of
"Three Hours After Marriage" is one of the stumbling blocks for the
biographer. Of literary achievement during this period his life was
barren. It is true that when he was abroad or in the country he was a
guest, but even with this his expenses must have amounted to something.
As he earned nothing by his pen, unless his friends provided him with
money as well as giving him hospitality, it looks as if some relative
must have died and left him a small sum. "As for Gay," Pope wrote to
Caryll, June 7th, 1717, "he is just on the wing for Aix-la-Chapelle,
with Mr. Pulteney, the late Secretary (at War)."[18] Pulteney who had
resigned office when there was a split in the Ministry, had in December,
1714, married a very beautiful woman, Anne Maria Gumley, daughter of a
wealthy glass manufacturer. With them Gay went abroad for some months,
and perhaps the solution of the problem above stated, is that while he
went nominally as their guest, he was actually paid a salary as
companion or secretary.

It is evident from Gay's "Epistle to the Right Honourable William
Pulteney, Esq." (published in 1717) that the party stayed some while at
Paris, for therein is an account of that city, an account in which the
author betrays a sad insularity; and he was certainly at Aix in
November. "I should not forget to acknowledge your letter sent from Aix.
You told me that writing was not good with the waters, and I find since,
you are of my opinion, that it is as bad without the waters. But, I
fancy, it is not writing, but thinking, that is so bad with the waters;
and then you might write without any manner of prejudice if you write
like our brother poets of these days." Pope wrote to him on November
8th: "... That Duchess [of Hamilton],[19] Lord Warwick, Lord Stanhope,
Mrs. Bellenden, Mrs. Lepell, and I cannot tell who else, had your
letters ... I would send my services to Mr. Pulteney, but that he is out
at Court, and make some compliment to Mrs. Pulteney, if she was not a

From this letter it is evident that Gay was becoming well known in
fashionable circles, and it is also clear that he had friends in the
Court circle. "Gay is well at Court, and more than ever in the way of
being served than ever.... Gay dines daily with the Maids of Honour,"
Pope had written to Martha Blount in December, 1716; and Gay, who would
rather have had a place in the Household with nothing to do and no
responsibility than anything else in the world, was not the man to
refrain from endeavouring to improve the occasion. Mrs. Howard he had
first met at Hanover, and in London contrived to turn the
acquaintanceship into friendship. Knowing Gay's character and his
ambition, it is probably doing him no injustice to say that he was first
drawn to the lady by the belief that she might further his aims.
However, it is only fair to say that he soon came to like her for
herself, and long after he was convinced that she could be of no service
to him he remained a very loyal and intimate friend. He was taken
entirely into her confidence, as will presently be seen, and she even
called him in to assist her when she was conducting an elaborate and
stilted epistolatory flirtation with Lord Peterborough. It was most
probably she who introduced him to Mrs. Bellenden, Mrs. Lepell, and the
other ladies of the Court. Of Mrs. Howard and Gay, Dr. Johnson wrote:
"Diligent court was paid to Mrs. Howard, afterwards Countess of Suffolk,
who was much beloved by the King and Queen, to engage her interest for
his promotion; but solicitations, verses, and flatteries were thrown
away; the lady heard them and did nothing." This, however, is manifestly
unfair, for it is now known that Mrs. Howard's influence was negligible.

To the ladies of the Court and others of Pope's friends, Gay paid
tribute in "Mr. Pope's Welcome from Greece":--

  What lady's that to whom he gently bends?
    Who knows her not? Ah, those are Wortley's eyes.
  How art thou honour'd, number'd with her friends;
    For she distinguishes the good and wise.
  The sweet-tongued Murray near her side attends:
    Now to my heart the glance of Howard flies;
  Now Hervey, fair of face, I mark full well
    With thee, youth's youngest daughter, sweet Lepell.

  I see two lovely sisters hand in hand,
    The fair-hair'd Martha and Teresa brown;
  Madge Bellenden, the tallest of the land;
    And smiling Mary, soft and fair as down.
  Yonder I see the cheerful Duchess stand,
    For friendship, zeal, and blithesome humours known:
  Whence that loud shout in such a hearty strain?
    Why all the Hamiltons are in her train.
  See next the decent Scudamore advance
    With Winchelsea, still meditating song,
  With her perhaps Miss Howe came there by chance.
    Nor knows with whom, nor why she comes along.

Gay was now on intimate terms with Lord Harcourt, whom he presently
introduced into "Mr. Pope's Welcome from Greece":--

  Harcourt I see, for eloquence renown'd,
    The mouth of justice, oracle of law!
  Another Simon is beside him found,
    Another Simon like as straw to straw;

and early in 1718 he visited him, first at Cockthorpe and then at
Stanton Harcourt, at which latter seat Pope was staying, working on the
fifth volume of the "Iliad." In the following year Gay again crossed the
Channel, possibly for the second time with the Pulteneys, but the only
record of this trip is to be found in the following letter:--


  Dijon, September 8th, 1719.

"If it be absolutely necessary that I make an apology for my not
writing, I must give you an account of very bad physicians, and a fever
which I had at Spa, that confined me for a month; but I do not see that
I need make the least excuse, or that I can find any reason for writing
to you at all; for can you believe that I would wish to converse with
you if it were not for the pleasure to hear you talk again? Then why
should I write to you when there is no possibility of receiving an
answer? I have been looking everywhere since I came into France to find
out some object that might take you from my thoughts, that my journey
might seem less tedious; but since nothing could ever do it in England I
can much less expect it in France.

"I am rambling from place to place. In about a month I hope to be at
Paris, and in the next month to be in England, and the next minute to
see you. I am now at Dijon in Burgundy, where last night, at an
ordinary, I was surprised by a question from an English gentleman whom I
had never seen before; hearing my name, he asked me if I had any
relation or acquaintance with _myself_, and when I told him I knew no
such person, he assured me that he was an intimate acquaintance of Mr.
Gay's of London. There was a Scotch gentleman, who all supper time was
teaching some French gentlemen the force and propriety of the English
language; and, what is seen very commonly, a young English gentleman
with a Jacobite governor. A French marquis drove an Abbé from the table
by railing against the vast riches of the Church, and another marquis,
who squinted, endeavoured to explain transubstantiation: 'That a thing
might not be what it really appeared to be, my eyes,' says he, 'may
convince you. I _seem_ at present to be looking on you; but, on the
contrary, I see quite on the other side of the table.' I do not believe
that this argument converted one of the heretics present, for all that I
learned by him was, that to believe transubstantiation it is necessary
not to see the thing you seem to look at.

"So much I have observed on the conversation and manners of the
_people_. As for the _animals_ of the country, it abounds with bugs,
which are exceedingly familiar with strangers; and as for _plants_,
garlick seems to be the favourite production of the country, though
for my own part I think the vine preferable to it. When I publish my
travels at large I shall be more particular; in order to which,
to-morrow I set out for Lyons, from thence to Montpelier, and so to
Paris; and soon after I shall pray that the winds may be favourable, I
mean, to bring you from Richmond to London, or me from London to
Richmond; so prays, etc., JOHN GAY.

"I beg you, madam, to assure Miss Lepell and Miss Bellenden, that I am
their humble servant."[21]

[Footnote 1: Pope: _Works_ (ed. Elwin and Courthope), IV, p. 412.]

[Footnote 2: Pope: _Works_ (ed. Elwin and Courthope), VI, p. 223.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid_., VII, p. 455.]

[Footnote 4: _Ibid_., VI, p. 227.]

[Footnote 5: Pope: _Works_ (ed. Elwin and Courthope), VI, p. 237.]

[Footnote 6: Pope: _Works_ (ed. Elwin and Courthope), VII, p. 460.]

[Footnote 7: George Rooke, a Dublin linendraper.]

[Footnote 8: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVI, p. 251.]

[Footnote 9: Johnson: _Works_ (ed. Hill), II, p. 271.]

[Footnote 10: Pope: _Works_ (ed. Elwin and Courthope), VII, p. 418.]

[Footnote 11: Spence: _Anecdotes_ (ed. Singer), p. 202.]

[Footnote 12: Addison died on June 17th, 1719.]

[Footnote 13: Stepson of Addison.]

[Footnote 14: Spence: _Anecdotes_ (ed. Singer), p. 149.]

[Footnote 15: _Life of Pope_, p. 126.]

[Footnote 16: _Life of Pope_, p. 126.]

[Footnote 17: Cibber's _Apology_ (ed. Lowe).]

[Footnote 18: Pope: _Works_ (ed. Elwin and Courthope), VI, p. 244.]

[Footnote 19: Daughter of Lord Gerard, widow of the Duke of Hamilton,
who in 1712 was killed in a duel with Lord Mohun.]

[Footnote 20: Pope: Works (ed. Elwin and Courthope) VII. p. 420.]

[Footnote 21: _B.M._, Add MSS., 22626, f. 22.]



     "Poems on Several Occasions"--Gay Invests His Earnings in the South
     Sea Company--The South Sea "Bubble" Breaks, and Gay Loses all His
     Money--Appointed a Commissioner of the State Lottery--Lord Lincoln
     Gives Him an Apartment in Whitehall--At Tunbridge
     Wells--Correspondence with Mrs. Howard.

Gay in 1720 was in his thirty-fifth year, and he had commenced author
some twelve years before this date. During this period his output had
been very small, and his success not conspicuous. As a dramatist he had
been a complete failure--his first play, "The Wife of Bath," was
still-born, and the others, "The What D'ye Call It" and "Three Hours
After Marriage," had practically been hooted off the stage, and had
brought him in their train a considerable degree of unpopularity. Of his
poems, the only ones of any marked merit were "The Shepherd's Week," and
"Trivia," and even these were unambitious, though not without merit. Gay
now bethought him of collecting his poems, published and unpublished,
and they were issued in two quarto volumes early in 1720, with the joint
imprint of Jacob Tonson and his old publisher, Bernard Lintott, and with
a frontispiece by William Kent.

The "Poems on Several Occasions," as the collection was styled, were
issued by subscription. His friends supported him admirably. Lord
Burlington and Lord Chandos each put down his name for fifty copies,
Lord Bathurst for ten copies; in all Gay made more than £1,000 by the
publication. To this success he alluded in his "Epistle to the Right
Honourable Paul Methuen, Esq."[1]

  Yet there are ways for authors to be great;
  Write ranc'rous libels to reform the State;
  Or if you choose more sun and readier ways,
  Spatter a minister with fulsome praise:
  Launch out with freedom, flatter him enough;
  Fear not, all men are dedication-proof.
  Be bolder yet, you must go farther still,
  Dip deep in gall thy mercenary quill.
  He who his pen in party quarrels draws,
  Lists an hired bravo to support the cause;
  He must indulge his patron's hate and spleen,
  And stab the fame of those he ne'er has seen.
  Why then should authors mourn their desp'rate case?
  Be brave, do this, and then demand a place.
  Why art thou poor? exert the gifts to rise,
  And vanish tim'rous virtue from thy eyes.

  All this seems modern preface, where we're told
  That wit is praised, but hungry lives and cold:
  Against th' ungrateful age these authors roar,
  And fancy learning starves because they're poor.
  Yet why should learning hope success at Court?
  Why should our patriots virtue's cause support?
  Why to true merit should they have regard?
  They know that virtue is its own reward.
  Yet let me not of grievances complain.
  Who (though the meanest of the Muse's train)
  Can boast subscriptions to my humble lays,
  And mingle profit with my little praise.

What to do with the thousand pounds--a sum certainly far larger than any
of which he had ever been possessed--Gay had not the slightest idea. He
had just enough wisdom to consult his friends. Erasmus Lewis, a prudent
man of affairs, advised him to invest it in the Funds and live upon the
interest; Arbuthnot advised him to put his faith in Providence and live
upon the capital; Swift and Pope, who understood him best, advised him
to purchase an annuity. Bewildered by these divergent counsels, he did
none of these things. Just when he was confronted with the necessity of
making up his mind, Pope's friend, James Craggs the younger, of whom he
wrote in "Mr. Pope's Welcome from Greece":--

  Bold, generous Craggs, whose heart was ne'er disguised,

made him a present of some stock of the South Sea Company, at the same
time, no doubt, telling him that in all probability it would rise in
value. Here was a chance, dear to the heart of this hunter after
sinecures, of getting something for nothing--or next to nothing. With
his thousand pounds he purchased more South Sea stock. At what price Gay
bought it is impossible to say, but it is not unlikely that Craggs'
present was made in April, 1720, when the first money-subscription was
issued at the price of £300 for each £100 stock. The poet's good fortune
was at this moment in the ascendant. A mania for speculation burst over
the town, and everybody bought and sold South Sea stock. In July it was
quoted at £1,000. If Gay had then sold out he would have realised a sum
in the neighbourhood of £20,000. His friends implored him to content
himself with this handsome profit, but in vain. As Dr. Johnson put it,
"he dreamed of dignity and splendour, and could not bear to obstruct his
own fortune."[2] He who a few months ago had been practically penniless,
could not now bring himself to be satisfied with an income of about a
thousand a year. Realising that it was impossible entirely to overcome
his obduracy, his friends then begged him at least to sell so much as
would produce even a hundred a year in the Funds, "which," Fenton said
to him, "will make you sure of a clean shirt and a shoulder of mutton
every day." Gay was not to be moved from his resolve to become a great
capitalist. Arguments were of no avail. The wilful man finally had his
way. Almost from the moment he refused to yield to his friends'
entreaties the price of South Sea stock declined rapidly. The "Bubble"
burst, and in October South Sea stock was unsaleable at any price. Gay
lost not only his profit but his capital, and was again reduced to

Gay spoke his mind about the "Bubble" in "A Panegyrical Epistle to Mr.
Thomas Snow, Goldsmith, near Temple Bar: Occasioned by his Buying and
Selling of the Third Subscriptions, taken in by the Directors of the
South Sea Company, at a thousand per cent," which was published by
Lintott in 1721:--

    O thou, whose penetrative wisdom found
  The South-Sea rocks and shelves, where thousands drown'd,
  When credit sunk, and commerce gasping lay,
  Thou stood'st; nor sent one bill unpaid away.
  When not a guinea chink'd on Martin's boards,
  And Atwill's self was drain'd of all his hoards,
  Thou stood'st (an Indian king in size and hue)
  Thy unexhausted shop was our Peru.

    Why did 'Change-Alley waste thy precious hours,
  Among the fools who gaped for golden showers?
  No wonder if we found some poets there,
  Who live on fancy, and can feed on air;
  No wonder they were caught by South-Sea schemes
  Who ne'er enjoy'd a guinea but in dreams;
  No wonder they their third subscription sold,
  For millions of imaginary gold:
  No wonder that their fancies wild can frame       }
  Strange reasons, that a thing is still the same,  }
  Tho' changed throughout in substance and in name. }
  But you (whose judgment scorns poetic flights)
  With contracts furnish boys for paper kites.

One of the immediate results of the disaster was Gay's inability to
fulfil his obligations to one of the publishers of his "Poems on Several


  Friday morning [_circa_ October, 1720].

"Sir,--I received your letter with the accounts of the books you had
delivered. I have not seen Mr. Lintott's account, but shall take the
first opportunity to call on him. I cannot think your letter consists of
the utmost civility, in five lines to press me twice to make up my
account just at a time when it is impracticable to sell out of the
stocks in which my fortune is engaged. Between Mr. Lintott and you the
greatest part of the money is received, and I imagine you have a
sufficient number of books in your hands for the security of the rest.
To go to the strictness of the matter, I own my note engages me to make
the whole payment in the beginning of September. Had it been in my
power, I had not given you occasion to send to me, for I can assure you
I am as impatient and uneasy to pay the money I owe, as some men are to
receive it, and it is no small mortification to refuse you so reasonable
a request, which is that I may no longer be obliged to you."[3]

       *       *       *       *       *

The loss of his fortune was, of course, a very severe blow to Gay, but
as ever, his friends gathered round him. Instead of being angry with him
for his folly--but no one of his friends was ever angry with him--they
looked upon him, and treated him, just as a spoilt child who had
disobediently tried to get over a hedge and had scratched himself in the
endeavour. They put their heads together to find "something" for him.
Gay, of course, was not easy to deal with; it was difficult to make him
listen to reason. He could not be brought to believe that it was not his
due to receive something for nothing. He had been secretary to Lord
Clarendon's brief Mission to Hanover; why had not diplomacy something to
offer him? The Princess of Wales had asked for a copy of a set of his
verses; was there no place for him at Court? He had praised members of
the Royal Family in verse; was there somewhere--somehow--a sinecure in
the Household for him? It seems that Gay really could not understand the
position. Could not Mrs. Howard do something in his interest? Could not
the friends of Pope do aught to secure that little post? Or Lord
Burlington, or Lord Bathurst, or William Pulteney, or some one of the
rest? He became petulant, and it is a tribute to his charm that not one
of these persons was ever disgusted with him, but continued to feed him,
keep him, and pet him, and made their friends and their friends' friends
do likewise. In fact, this delightful, whimsical, helpless creature
leant upon all who were stronger, and each one upon whom he leant loved
him to his dying day.

Gay's health, which was never robust, gave way under his bitter
disappointment, and in 1721 he went in the early autumn to Bath, where
Mrs. Bradshaw wrote to Mrs. Howard, September 19th: "He is always with
the Duchess of Queensberry." In the following year he was again ill, and
went again to recuperate at the Somersetshire watering place.


  London, December 22nd, 1722.

"After every post-day, for these eight or nine years, I have been
troubled with an uneasiness of spirit, and at last I have resolved to
get rid of it and write to you. I do not deserve you should think so
well of me as I really deserve, for I have not professed to you that I
love you as much as ever I did; but you are the only person of my
acquaintance, almost, that does not know it. Whomever I see that comes
from Ireland, the first question I ask is after your health ... I think
of you very often; nobody wishes you better, or longs more to see you
... I was there [at Bath] for near eleven weeks for a colic that I have
been troubled with of late; but have not found all the benefit I
expected ... I lodge at present at Burlington House, and have received
many civilities from many great men, but very few real benefits. They
wonder at each other for not providing for me, and I wonder at them all.
Experience has given me some knowledge of them, so that I can say, that
it is not in their power to disappoint me."[4]

This was certainly ungrateful of Gay, but allowance may perhaps be made
for him on the ground that he was, as Coxe has written, "of a sanguine
disposition, was easily raised and as easily depressed. He mistook the
usual civilities of persons of distinction for offers of assistance, and
argued from the common promises of a Court certain preferment." He
accordingly always suffered from mortification, about which he was prone
to discourse. This was a foible well known to his friends, and even Pope
could not refrain from gently chaffing him: "I wish you joy of the birth
of the young Prince,[5] because he is the only prince we have from whom
you have had no expectations and no disappointments."[6]


  Dublin, January 8th, 1723.

"Although I care not to talk to you as a divine, yet I hope you have not
been the author of your colic. Do you drink bad wine or keep bad
company?... I am heartily sorry you have any dealings with that ugly
distemper, and I believe our friend Arbuthnot will recommend you to
temperance and exercise ...

"I am extremely glad he [Pope] is not in your case of needing great
men's favour, and could heartily wish that you were in his.

"I have been considering why poets have such ill success in making their
court, since they are allowed to be the greatest and best of all
flatterers. The defect is, that they flatter only in print or in
writing, but not by word of mouth; they will give things under their
hand which they make a conscience of speaking. Besides, they are too
libertine to haunt antechambers, too poor to bribe porters and footmen,
and too proud to cringe to second-hand favourites in a great family.

"Tell me, are you not under original sin by the dedication of your
Eclogues to Lord Bolingbroke?

"I am an ill judge at this distance, and besides am, for my case,
utterly ignorant of the commonest things that pass in the world; but if
all Courts have a sameness in them (as the parsons phrase it), things
may be as they were in my time, when all employments went to
Parliament-men's friends, who had been useful in elections, and there
was always a huge list of names in arrears at the Treasury, which would
at least take up your seven years' expedient to discharge even one-half.

"I am of opinion, if you will not be offended, that the surest course
would be to get your friend [Lord Burlington] who lodgeth in your house
to recommend you to the next Chief Governor who comes over here, for a
good civil employment, or to be one of his secretaries, which your
Parliament-men are fond enough of, when there is no room at home. The
wine is good and reasonable; you may dine twice a week at the
Deanery-house; there is a set of company in this town sufficient for one
man; folks will admire you, because they have read you, and read of you;
and a good employment will make you live tolerably in London, or
sumptuously here; or, if you divide between both places, it will be for
your health."[7]

       *       *       *       *       *

Gay's friends, who had persistently been on the look-out to help him, at
last met with some small measure of success. "I am obliged to you for
your advice, as I have been formerly for your assistance in introducing
me into business," Gay wrote to Swift from London, February 3rd, 1723.
"I shall this year be Commissioner of the State Lottery, which will be
worth to me a hundred and fifty pounds. And I am not without hopes that
I have friends that will think of some better and more certain provision
for me."[8] In addition to this post, the Earl of Lincoln was persuaded
to give him an apartment in Whitehall. The Commissionship and the
residence to some small extent soothed Gay's ruffled vanity, and were
beyond question convenient.


  London, February 3rd, 1723.

"As for the reigning amusements of the town, it is entirely music; real
fiddles, bass-viols and hautboys; not poetical harps, lyres and reeds.
There's nobody allowed to say, I sing, but an eunuch or an Italian
woman. Everybody is grown now as great a judge of music, as they were in
your time of poetry, and folks that could not distinguish one tune from
another now daily dispute about the different styles of Handel,
Bononcine, and Attilio. People have now forgot Homer and Virgil and
Cæsar, or at least they have lost their ranks. For in London and
Westminster, in all polite conversations, Senesino is daily voted to be
the greatest man that ever lived.

"Mr. Congreve I see often; he always mentions you with the strongest
expressions of esteem and friendship. He labours still under the same
affliction as to his sight and gout; but in his intervals of health he
has not lost anything of his cheerful temper. I passed all the last
season with him at Bath, and I have great reason to value myself upon
his friendship, for I am sure he sincerely wishes me well. Pope has just
now embarked himself in another great undertaking as an author, for of
late he has talked only as a gardener. He has engaged to translate the
Odyssey in three years, I believe rather out of a prospect of gain than
inclination, for I am persuaded he bore his part in the loss of the
South Sea. I supped about a fortnight ago with Lord Bathurst and Lewis
at Dr. Arbuthnot's."[9]

       *       *       *       *       *

During the summer of 1723 Gay, still troubled with the colic, went to
Tunbridge Wells, where he carried on a vigorous correspondence with Mrs.


  Richmond Lodge, July 5th, 1723.

"I was very sorry to hear, when I returned from Greenwich, that you had
been at Richmond the same day; but I really thought you would have
ordered your affairs in such a manner that I should have seen you before
you went to Tunbridge. I dare say you are now with your friends, but not
with one who more sincerely wishes to see you easy and happy than I do;
if my power was equal to theirs the matter should soon be determined.

"I am glad to hear you frequent the church. You cannot fail of being
often put in mind of the great virtue of patience, and how necessary
that may be for you to practise I leave to your own experience. I
applaud your prudence (for I hope it is entirely owing to it) that you
have no money at Tunbridge. It is easier to avoid the means of
temptation than to resist them when the power is in our own hands....

"The place you are in has strangely filled your head with cures and
physicians; but (take my word for it) many a fine lady has gone there to
drink the waters without being sick, and many a man has complained of
the loss of his heart who has had it in his own possession. I desire you
will keep yours, for I shall not be very fond of a friend without one,
and I have a great mind you should be in the number of mine."


  Tunbridge Wells, July 12th, 1723.

"The next pleasure to seeing you is hearing from you, and when I hear
you succeed in your wishes I succeed in mine--so I will not say a word
more of the house.

"We have a young lady, Mary Jennings, here that is very particular in
her desires. I have known some ladies who, if ever they prayed and
were sure their prayers would prevail, would ask an equipage, a title,
a husband or matadores; but this lady, who is but seventeen and has
but thirty thousand pounds, places all her wishes in a pot of good
ale. When her friends, for the sake of her shape and complexion, would
dissuade her from it, she answers, with the truest sincerity, that by
the loss of shape and complexion she can only lose a husband, but that
ale is her passion. I have not as yet drank with her, though I must
own I cannot help being fond of a lady who has so little disguise of
her practice, either in her words or appearance. If to show you love
her you must drink with her she has chosen an ill place for followers,
for she is forbid with the waters. Her shape is not very unlike a
barrel, and I would describe her eyes, if I could look over the
agreeable swellings of her cheeks, in which the rose predominates; nor
can I perceive the least of the lily in her whole countenance. You see
what £30,000 can do, for without that I could never have discovered
all these agreeable particularities. In short, she is the _ortolan_,
or rather _wheat-ear_, of the place, for she is entirely a lump of
fat; and the form of the universe itself is scarce more beautiful, for
her figure is almost circular. After I have said all this, I believe
it will be in vain for me to declare I am not in love, and I am afraid
that I have showed some imprudence in talking upon this subject, since
you have declared that you like a friend that has a heart in his
disposal. I assure you I am not mercenary and that £30,000 have not
half so much power with me as the woman I love."


  Richmond Lodge, July 22nd, 1723.

"I have taken some days to consider of your _wheat-ear_, but I find I
can no more approve of your having a passion for that, than I did of
your turning parson. But if ever you will take the one, I insist upon
your taking the other; they ought not to be parted; they were made
from the beginning for each other. But I do not forbid you to get the
best intelligence of the ways, manners and customs of this wonderful
_phenomène_, how it supports the disappointment of bad ale, and what
are the consequences to the full enjoyment of her luxury? I have some
thoughts of taking a hint from the ladies of your acquaintance who
pray for matadores, and turn devotees for luck at ombre, for I have
already lost above £100 since I came to Richmond.

"I do not like to have you too passionately fond of everything that
has no disguise. I (that am grown old in Courts) can assure you
sincerity is so very unthriving that I can never give consent that you
should practise it, excepting to three or four people that I think may
deserve it, of which number I am. I am resolved that you shall open a
new scene of behaviour next winter and begin to pay in coin your debts
of fair promises. I have some thoughts of giving you a few loose hints
for a satire, and if you manage it right, and not indulge that foolish
good-nature of yours, I do not question but I shall see you in good
employment before Christmas."


  Tunbridge Wells, August, 1723.

"I have long wished to be able to put in practice that valuable worldly
qualification of being insincere. One of my chief reasons is that I hate
to be particular, and I think if a man cannot conform to the customs of
the world, he is not fit to be encouraged or to live in it. I know that,
if one would be agreeable to men of dignity one must study to imitate
them, and I know which way they get money and places. I cannot indeed
wonder that the talents requisite for a great statesman are so scarce in
the world, since so many of those who possess them are every month cut
off in the prime of their life at the Old Bailey.

"Another observation I have made upon courtiers is that if you have any
friendship with any particular one, you must be entirely governed by his
friendship and resentments, not your own; you are not only to flatter
him but those that he flatters, and, if he chances to take a fancy to
any man whom you know that he knows to have the talents of a statesman,
you are immediately to think both of them men of the most exact honour.
In short, you must think nothing dishonest or dishonourable that is
required of you, because, if you know the world, you must know that no
statesman has or ever will require anything of you that is dishonest or

"Then you must suppose that all statesmen, and your friend in particular
(for statesmen's friends have always seemed to think so) have been, are,
and always will be guided by strict justice, and are quite void of
partiality and resentment. You are to believe that he never did or can
propose any wrong thing, for whoever has it in his power to dissent from
a statesman, in any one particular, is not capable of his friendship.
This last word, friendship, I have been forced to make use of several
times, though I know that I speak improperly, for it has never been
allowed a Court term. This is some part of a Court creed, though it is
impossible to fix all the articles, for as men of dignity believe one
thing one day and another the next, so you must daily change your faith
and opinion; therefore the mood to please these wonderful and mighty men
is never to declare in the morning what you believe until your friend
has declared what he believes--for one mistake this way is utter

"I hope these few reflections will convince you that I know something of
the art of pleasing great men. I have strictly examined most favourites
that I have known, and think I judge right, that almost all of them have
practised most of these rules on their way to preferment. I cannot
wonder that great men require all this from their creatures, since most
of them have practised it themselves, or else they had never arrived to
their dignities.

"As to your advice that you give me in relation to preaching and
marrying and ale, I like it extremely, for this lady [Mary Jennings]
must be born to be a parson's wife, and I never will think of marrying
her till I have preached my first sermon. She was last night at a
private ball--so private that not one man knew it till it was over, so
that Mrs. Carr was disturbed at her lodgings by only a dozen ladies, who
danced together without the least scandal.

"I fancy I shall not stay here much longer, though what will become of
me I know not, for I have not, and fear never shall have, a will of my


  August, 1723.

"After you have told me that you hate writing letters, it would be very
ungrateful not to thank you for so many as you have written for me.
Acting contrary to one's inclinations, for the service of those one
likes, is a strong proof of friendship; yet, as it is painful, it ought
never to be exacted but in case of great necessity. As such I look upon
that correspondence in which I have engaged you.

"Perhaps you think I treat you very oddly, that while I own myself
afraid of a man of wit [Lord Peterborough] and make that a pretence to
ask your assistance, I can write to you myself without any concern; but
do me justice and believe it is that I think it requires something more
than wit to deserve esteem. So it is less uneasy for me to write to you
than to the other, for I should fancy I purchased the letters I received
(though very witty) at too great an expense, if at the least hazard of
having my real answers exposed.

"The enclosed[10] will discover that I did not make use of every
argument with which you had furnished me; but I had a reason, of which I
am not at this time disposed to make you a judge. Conquest is the last
thing a woman cares to resign; but I should be very sorry to have you in
the desperate state of my _Knight-errant_. No! I would spare you, out
of self-interest, to secure to me those I have made by your assistance."


  August 22nd [1723].

"I am very much pleased to find you are of my opinion. I have always
thought that the man who will be nothing but a man of wit oftener
disobliges than entertains the company. There is nothing tries our
patience more than that person who arrogantly is ever showing his
superiority over the company he is engaged in. He and his fate I think
very like the woman whose whole ambition is only to be handsome. _She_
is in continual care about her own charms and neglects the world; and
_he_ is always endeavouring to be more witty than all the world, which
makes them both disagreeable companions.

"The warmth with which I attack wit will, I am afraid, be thought to
proceed from the same motive which makes the old and ugly attack the
young and handsome; but if you examine well all those of the character
I have mentioned you will find they are generally but pretenders to
either wit or beauty, and in justification of myself I can say, and
that with great sincerity, I respect wit with judgment, and beauty
with humility, whenever I meet it.

"I have sent the enclosed[11] and desire an answer. I make no more
apologies, for I take you to be in earnest; but if you can talk of
sincerity without having it, I am glad it is in my power to punish
you, for sincerity is not only the favourite expression of my
knight-errant, but it is my darling virtue.

"If I agree with you, that wit is very seldom to be found in
sincerity, it is because I think neither wit nor sincerity is often
found; but daily experience shows us it is want of wit, and not too
much, makes people insincere."

[Footnote 1: Paul Methuen (1672-1757), diplomatist; Comptroller of the
Household 1720-1725; K.B., 1725.]

[Footnote 2: _Lives of the Poets_ (ed. Hill), III, p. 273.]

[Footnote 3: _B.M._, Add. MSS., 28275, f. 8.]

[Footnote 4: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVI, p. 385.]

[Footnote 5: George William, born November 2nd, 1717, died February 6th,

[Footnote 6: _Works_ (ed. Elwin and Courthope), VII, p. 422.]

[Footnote 7: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVI, 390.]

[Footnote 8: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVI, p. 398.]

[Footnote 9: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVI, p. 297.]

[Footnote 10: Probably a letter from Lord Peterborough to Mrs. Howard.]

[Footnote 11: Probably a copy of a letter from Mrs. Howard to Lord




During 1723 Gay wrote a tragedy, "The Captives," which at the end of the
year he read to the royal circle at Leicester House. "When the hour
came," Johnson has recorded, "he saw the Princess [of Wales] and her
ladies all in expectation, and, advancing with reverence, too great for
any other attention, stumbled at a stool, and, falling forward, threw
down a weighty Japanese screen. The Princess started, the ladies
screamed, and poor Gay, after all the disturbance, was still to read his
play."[1] "The Captives" was produced at Drury Lane Theatre in January,
1724, and according to the _Biographica Dramatica_ was "acted nine
nights with great applause," the third, or author's night, being by the
command of the Prince and Princess of Wales. According, however, to
Fenton, "Gay's play had no success. I am told he gave thirty guineas to
have it acted on the fifth night."[2] When it was published, Gay
prefaced it with the following dedication:--



"The honour I received from your Royal Highness in being permitted to
read this play to you before it was acted, made me more happy than any
other success that could have happened to me. If it had the good fortune
to gain your Royal Highness's approbation, I have often been reflecting
to what to impute it, and I think it must have been the catastrophe of
the fall, the rewarding virtue and the relieving the distressed. For
that could not fail to give some pleasure in fiction, which, it is
plain, gives you the greatest in reality, or else your Royal Highness
would not (as you always have done) make it your daily practice.

"I am, Madam,
"Your Royal Highness's most dutiful
and most humbly devoted servant,

Of what Gay did, or where he went during 1724, next to nothing is known.
Presumably he spent most of his time in his apartment at Whitehall,
eating much and drinking more than was good for him, and, to judge by
results, writing nothing. The only trace of him during 1724 is in the
following letter:--


  [Bath, 1724.]

"Since I came to the Bath I have written three letters; the first to
you, the second to Mr. Pope, and the third to Mr. Fortescue. Every post
gives me fresh mortification, for I am forgot by everybody. Dr.
Arbuthnot and his brother went away this morning, and intend to see
Oxford on their way to London. The talk of the Bath is the marriage of
Lord Somerville and Mrs. Rolt. She left the Bath yesterday. He continues
here but is to go away to-day or to-morrow; but as opinions differ I
cannot decide whether they are married or no. Lord Essex gives a private
ball in Hamson's great room to Mrs. Pelham this evening, so that in all
probabilities some odd bodies being left out, we shall soon have the
pleasure of being divided into fractions. I shall return to London with
Lord Scarborough, who hath not as yet fixed his time of leaving the
Bath. Lord Fitzwilliam this morning had an account that a ticket of his
was come up £500. Lady Fitzwilliam wonders she has not heard from you,
and has so little resolution that she cannot resist buttered rolls at
breakfast, though she knows they prejudice her health.

"If you will write to me you will make me cheerful and happy, without
which I am told the waters will have no good effect. Pray have some
regard to my health, for my life is in your service."

       *       *       *       *       *

There is no mention of Gay during the first nine months of the year
1724, after which it has been possible to gather scant information.
Apparently, encouraged by the kindly interest displayed by the Princess
of Wales, Gay, still obsessed with his desire for a place, went
frequently to Court. "I hear nothing of our friend Gay, but I find the
Court keep him at hard meat. I advised him to come over here with a
Lord-Lieutenant,"[3] Swift wrote to Pope, September 29th, 1725. To this
Pope replied on October 15th: "Our friend Gay is used as the friends of
Tories are by Whigs, and generally by Tories too. Because he had humour
he was supposed to have dealt with Dr. Swift; in like manner as when
anyone had learning formerly, he was thought to have dealt with the
devil. He puts his whole trust at Court in that lady whom I described to
you."[4] "That lady," presumably was Mrs. Howard. But Gay, unable to
secure the interest of the politicians, and getting weary of waiting on
his friends, suddenly bethought himself of making a direct appeal to
royalty. "Gay is writing tales for Prince William,"[5] Pope wrote to
Swift on December 10th. "Mr. Philips[6] will take this very ill for two
reasons, one that he thinks all childish things belong to him, and the
other because he will take it ill to be taught that one may write things
to a child without being childish." Than which last few prettier
compliments have been paid to Gay.

Though they had long been in correspondence, Swift and Gay had not yet
met. Swift, of course, had often in his mind a visit to London--he
admitted the temptation, but resisted it. "I was three years reconciling
myself to the scene, and the business to which fortune had condemned me,
and stupidity was what I had recourse to,"[7] he had written to Gay from
Dublin, January 8th, 1723. "Besides, what a figure should I make in
London, while my friends are in poverty, exile, distress, or
imprisonment, and my enemies with rods of iron?" At last, however, in
March, 1726, he did come to London, and he was the guest of Gay, whom he
subsequently referred to as "my landlord at Whitehall." He saw much of
Gay. "I have lived these two months past for the most part in the
country, either at Twickenham with Mr. Pope, or rambling with him and
Mr. Gay for a fortnight together. Yesterday Lord Bolingbroke and Mr.
Congreve made up five at dinner at Twickenham,"[8] Swift wrote to
Tickell from London on July 7th. Like the rest, Swift came to love Gay
dearly, and Gay was no whit less attracted to the great man, who
promised on his next visit to stay again in Whitehall. "My landlord," he
wrote in a letter addressed jointly to Pope and Gay, October 15th, 1726,
"who treats me with kindness and domesticity, and says that he is laying
in a double stock of wine."[9] Swift had been introduced to Mrs.
Howard--it may be by Gay--and she too wished to entertain him. "I hope
you will get your house and wine ready, to which Mr. Gay and I are to
have access when you are at Court; for, as to Mr. Pope, he is not worth
considering on such occasions,"[10] he wrote to her from Dublin,
February 1st, 1727.

Gay had become more and more on good terms with the Duke and Duchess of
Queensberry, especially with the Duchess, who treated him as a sort of
pet lap-dog. "Since I wrote last," Gay told Swift in a letter dated
September 16th, 1726, "I have been always upon the ramble. I have been
in Oxfordshire with the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry, and at
Petersham, and wheresoever they would carry me; but as they will go to
Wiltshire[11] without me on Tuesday next, for two or three months, I
believe I shall then have finished my travels for this year, and shall
not go further from London than now and then to Twickenham."[12] It was
as well that Gay remained in London, else probably his "Fables" would
never have appeared. Gay, who had begun to compose the "Fables" in 1725,
was, according to the habit of the man, not to be hurried. "I have of
late been very much out of order with a slight fever, which I am not yet
quite free from," he wrote to Swift in October, 1726. "If the engravers
keep their word with me I shall be able to publish my poems soon after
Christmas." But of course the engravers did not keep their word. Swift,
a more energetic person, became almost fractious at the repeated delays
in the publication, and wrote to Pope on November 17th: "How comes Gay
to be so tedious? Another man can publish fifty thousand lies sooner
than he can publish fifty fables."[13] And still there were delays. "My
Fables are printed," he told Swift on February 18th, 1727; "but I cannot
get my plates finished, which hinders the publication. I expect nothing
and am likely to get nothing."[14] At last, in the spring, the volume
appeared, with the imprint of J. Tonson and J. Watts, and with this
dedication: "To His Highness William Duke of Cumberland these new
Fables, invented for his amusement, are humbly dedicated by His
Highness's most faithful and most obedient servant, John Gay."

       *       *       *       *       *

Gay, of course, expected some reward for this courtier-like attention to
the son of the Prince and Princess of Wales, and the poet and his
friends again believed that his future was assured when they heard that
Her Royal Highness had said, or at least was reported to have said, that
she should "take up the hare"--an allusion to the "Fable" of "The Hare
and Many Friends":--

    A Hare who in a civil way,
  Complied with ev'ry thing, like Gay,
  Was known by all the bestial train,
  Who haunt the wood, or graze the plain.
  Her care was never to offend.
  And ev'ry creature was her friend.

On June 12th, 1727, George I. died, and Gay felt sure that at last the
hour had struck when the "place" so long and diligently sought, would be
bestowed on him. The new Queen did not, indeed, forget him; she did what
in his eyes was far worse, she offered him the sinecure post of
Gentleman Usher to the Princess Louisa,[15] then two years old, with a
salary of £200 a year. Gay's disappointment was bitter, and for a person
usually so placid, his indignation tremendous. What ground for hope he
had had, he, as Dr. Johnson has said, "had doubtless magnified with all
the wild expectation and vanity,"[16] "The Queen's family is at last
settled," Gay wrote bitterly to Swift on October 22nd, "and in the list
I was appointed Gentleman Usher to the Princess Louisa, the youngest
Princess, which, upon account that I am so far advanced in life, I had
declined accepting, and have endeavoured, in the best manner I could, to
make my excuses by a letter to her Majesty. So now all my expectations
are vanished and I have no prospect, but in depending wholly upon
myself and my own conduct. As I am used to disappointments I can bear
them, but as I can have no more hopes I can no more be disappointed, so
that I am in a blessed condition."[17] Pope, than whom no man loved Gay
better, could not bring himself to sympathise with his irate brother


  October 6th, 1727.

"I have many years ago magnified, in my own mind, and repeated to you, a
ninth beatitude, added to the eight in the Scripture: "Blessed is he who
expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed. I could find in my
heart to congratulate you on this happy dismission from all Court
dependance. I dare say I shall find you the better and the honester man
for it many years hence; very probably the healthfuller, and the
cheerfuller into the bargain. You are happily rid of many cursed
ceremonies, as well as of many ill and vicious habits, of which few or
no men escape the infection, who are hackneyed and trammelled in the
ways of a Court. Princes, indeed, and Peers (the lackies of Princes) and
Ladies (the fools of Peers) will smile on you the less; but men of worth
and real friends will look on you the better. There is a thing, the only
thing which kings and queens cannot give you, for they have it not to
give--liberty, which is worth all they have, and which as yet Englishmen
need not ask from their hands. You will enjoy that, and your own
integrity, and the satisfactory consciousness of having not merited such
graces from Courts as are bestowed only on the mean, servile,
flattering, interested and undeserving. The only steps to the favour of
the great are such complacencies, such compliances, such distant
decorums, as delude them in their vanities, or engage them in their
passions. He is their greatest favourite who is the falsest; and when a
man, by such vile graduations arrives at the height of grandeur and
power, he is then at best but in a circumstance to be hated, and in a
condition to be hanged for serving their ends. So many a Minister has
found it."

"I can only add a plain uncourtly speech," Pope wrote again to Gay ten
days later. "While you are nobody's servant you may be anybody's friend,
and, as such, I embrace you in all conditions of life. While I have a
shilling you shall have sixpence, nay, eightpence, if I can contrive to
live upon a groat." But if Pope took the matter calmly, Swift, on the
other hand, completely lost his temper and wrote as if voluntary
attendance at Court made it obligatory upon the Queen to provide for the


  Dublin, November 27th, 1727.

"I entirely approve your refusal of that employment, and your writing to
the Queen. I am perfectly confident you have a firm enemy in the
Ministry. God forgive him, but not till he puts himself in a state to be
forgiven. Upon reasoning with myself, I should hope they are gone too
far to discard you quite, and that they will give you something; which,
although much less than they ought, will be (as far as it is worth)
better circumstantiated; and since you already just live, a middling
help will make you just tolerable. Your lateness in life (as you so soon
call it) might be improper to begin the world with, but almost the
eldest men may hope to see changes in a Court. A Minister is always
seventy; you are thirty years younger; and consider, Cromwell did not
begin to appear till he was older than you."[18]

       *       *       *       *       *

Swift could not forgive the Court for the offer, Mrs. Howard for not
exerting her influence to get a better post for her protégé. "I desire
my humble service to Lord Oxford, Lord Bathurst, and particularly to
Miss Blount, but to no lady at Court. God bless you for being a greater
dupe than I. I love that character too myself, but I want your charity,"
he wrote to Pope, August 11th, 1729; but Pope replying on October 9th
said: "The Court lady[19] I have a good opinion of. Yet I have treated
her more negligently than you would do, because you will like to see the
inside of a Court, which I do not ... after all, that lady means to do
good and does no harm, which is a vast deal for a courtier."

       *       *       *       *       *

More than once Swift took up his pen to avenge his friend for the slight
that he considered had been passed upon him. In "A Libel on the Rev. Mr.
Delany and His Excellency Lord Cartaret," he wrote in 1729:--

  Thus Gay, the hare with many friends.
  Twice seven long years the Court attends;
  Who, under tales conveying truth,
  To virtue form'd a princely youth;
  Who paid his courtship with the crowd,
  As far as modest pride allow'd;
  Rejects a servile usher's place,
  And leaves St. James's in disgrace.

Two years later he returned to the attack in "An Epistle to Mr. Gay ":--

  How could you, Gay, disgrace the Muse's train,
  To serve a tasteless Court twelve years in vain!
  Fain would I think our female friend sincere,
  Till Bob,[20] the poet's foe, possess'd her ear.
  Did female virtue e'er so high ascend,
  To lose an inch of favour for a friend?
  Say, had the Court no better place to choose
  For thee, than make a dry-nurse of thy Muse?
  How cheaply had thy liberty been sold,
  To squire a royal girl of two years old:
  In leading strings her infant steps to guide,
  Or with her go-cart amble side by side!

It is a little difficult at this time of day to understand Swift's
indignation. Gay was already in the enjoyment of a sinecure of £150 a
year; he was offered another of £200 a year--for the post of
Gentleman-Usher involved no duties save occasional attendance at Court,
and to this the poet had shown himself by no means averse. A total gift
of £350 a year for nothing really seems rather alluring to a man of
letters, and it is difficult to understand why Gay refused the offer,
unless it was, as the editors of the standard edition of Pope's
Correspondence suggest: "The affluent friends who recommended Gay to
reject the provisions were strangers to want, and with unconscious
selfishness they thought less of his necessities than of venturing their
spleen against the Court."

       *       *       *       *       *

Swift, unable effectively to vent his anger on Caroline, chose to regard
Mrs. Howard as the cause of the mortification of his friend. Mrs.
Howard, however, not only had nothing to do with the offer of the place
of Gentleman-Usher to Gay, the patronage being directly in the Queen's
hands, but, as has been indicated, was unable to secure for him, or
anyone else, a place at Court of any description. Certainly she was in
blissful ignorance of having given offence, for as Gay wrote to the Dean
so late as February 15th, 1728: "Mrs. Howard frequently asks after you
and desires her compliments to you."

All the matters affected not a whit the relations between Mrs. Howard
and Gay; against her he had no ill-feeling, and their correspondence
continued on the same lines of intimacy as before.


  October, 1727.

"I hear you expect, and have a mind to have, a letter from me, and
though I have little to say, I find I don't care that you should be
either disappointed or displeased. Tell her Grace of Queensberry I don't
think she looked kindly upon me when I saw her last; she ought to have
looked and thought very kindly, for I am much more her humble servant
than those who tell her so every day. Don't let her cheat you in the
pencils; she designs to give you nothing but her old ones. I suppose she
always uses those worst who love her best, Mrs. Herbert excepted; but I
hear she has done handsomely by her. I cannot help doing the woman this
justice, that she can now and then distinguish merit.

"So much for her Grace; now for yourself, John. I desire you will mind
the main chance, and be in town in time enough to let the opera[21] have
play enough for its life, and for your pockets. Your head is your best
friend; it could clothe, lodge and wash you, but you neglect it, and
follow that false friend, your heart, which is such a foolish, tender
thing that it makes others despise your head that have not half so good
a one upon their own shoulders. In short, John, you may be a snail or a
silk-worm, but by my consent you shall never be a _hare_ again.

"We go to town next week. Try your interest and bring the duchess up by
the birthday. I did not think to have named her any more in this letter.
I find I am a little foolish about her; don't you be a great deal so,
for if _she_ will not come, do you come without her."

       *       *       *       *       *

Gay was not the man to keep his feelings of disappointment to himself,
and his feelings were so widely known that at the time the following
copy of verses was handed about in manuscript [22]:--

  A mother who vast pleasure finds,
  In forming of the children's minds;
  In midst of whom with vast delight,
  She passes many a winter's night;
  Mingles in every play to find,
  What bias nature gives her mind;
  Resolving there to take her aim.
  To guide them to the realms of fame;
  And wisely make those realms their way,
  To those of everlasting day;
  Each boist'rous passion she'd control,
  And early humanise the soul,
  The noblest notions would inspire,
  As they were sitting by the fire;
  Her offspring, conscious of her care,
  Transported hung around her chair.
  Of Scripture heroes would she tell,
  Whose names they'd lisp, ere they could spell;
  Then the delighted mother smiles,
  And shews the story in the tiles.
  At other times her themes would be,
  The sages of antiquity;
  Who left a glorious name behind,
  By being blessings to their kind:
  Again she'd take a nobler scope,
  And tell of Addison and Pope.

  This happy mother met one day,
  A book of fables writ by Gay;
  And told her children, here's treasure,
  A fund of wisdom, and of pleasure.
  Such decency! such elegance!
  Such morals! such exalted sense!
  Well has the poet found the art,
  To raise the mind, and mend the heart.
  Her favourite boy the author seiz'd,
  And as he read, seem'd highly pleas'd;
  Made such reflections every page,
  The mother thought above his age:
  Delighted read, but scarce was able,
  To finish the concluding fable.
  "What ails my child?" the mother cries,
  "Whose sorrows now have fill'd your eyes?"
  "Oh, dear Mamma, can he want friends
  Who writes for such exalted ends?
  Oh, base, degenerate human kind!
  Had I a fortune to my mind,
  Should Gay complain; but now, alas!
  Through what a world am I to pass;
  Where friendship's but an empty name,
  And merit's scarcely paid in fame."
  Resolv'd to lull his woes to rest.
  She told him he should hope the best;
  That who instruct the royal race.
  Can't fail of some distinguished place.
  "Mamma, if you were queen," says he,
  "And such a book was writ for me;
  I know 'tis so much to your taste,
  That Gay would keep his coach at least."
  "My child, what you suppose is true,
  I see its excellence in you;
  Poets whose writing mend the mind,
  A noble recompense should find:
  But I am barr'd by fortune's frowns.
  From the best privilege of crowns;
  The glorious godlike power to bless,
  And raise up merit in distress."

  "But, dear Mamma, I long to know.
  Were that the case, what you'd bestow?"
  "What I'd bestow," says she, "My dear,
  At least five hundred pounds a year."

[Footnote 1: Johnson: _Lives of the Poets_ (ed. Hill), III, p. 274.]

[Footnote 2: Letter to Broome, January 30th, 1724 (Pope: _Works_ (ed.
Elwin and Courthope, VIII, p. 75.))]

[Footnote 3: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 6.]

[Footnote 4: _Ibid_., XVII, p. 8.]

[Footnote 5: William Augustus (1721-1765), third son of George III;
created Duke of Cumberland, 1726.]

[Footnote 6: Ambrose Philips, the poet.]

[Footnote 7: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVI, 389.]

[Footnote 8: _Ibid_., XIX. p. 283.]

[Footnote 9: _Ibid_., XVII, p. 99.]

[Footnote 10: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 94.]

[Footnote 11: To Amesbury, the principal seat of the Duke of

[Footnote 12: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 66.]

[Footnote 13: _Ibid_., XVII, p. 81.]

[Footnote 14: _Ibid_., XVII, p. 96.]

[Footnote 15: Louisa (1724-1751), the youngest of George II's children.
She married in 1743, Frederick, Prince (afterwards King) of Denmark,]

[Footnote 16: Johnson: _Lives of the Poets_ (ed. Hill), III, p. 274.]

[Footnote 17: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVIII, p. 42.]

[Footnote 18: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 161.]

[Footnote 19: Mrs. Howard.]

[Footnote 20: Sir Robert Walpole.]

[Footnote 21: An allusion to "The Beggar's Opera," which Gay was then

[Footnote 22: Printed for the first and only time in "An Account of the
Life and Writings of the Author," in _Plays Written by Mr. John Gay_,




The opera to which allusion is made in Mrs. Howard's letter of October,
1727, was "The Beggar's Opera," upon which Gay had been actively engaged
for some time past, and which was then nearing completion. "You
remember," Gay wrote to Swift, October 22nd, 1727, "you were advising me
to go into Newgate to finish my scenes the more correctly. I now think I
shall, for I have no attendance to hinder me; but my opera is already
finished."[1] To which Swift replied from Dublin on November 27th: "I am
very glad your opera is finished, and hope your friends will join the
readers to make it succeed, because you are ill-used by others."[2]

It was natural that Swift should be especially interested in "The
Beggar's Opera," because the first suggestion of it had come from Swift
in a letter to Pope, written as far back as August 30th, 1716[3] "Dr.
Swift had been observing once to Mr. Gay, what an odd pretty sort of
thing a Newgate Pastoral might make," Pope once remarked. "Gay was
inclined to try at such a thing for some time, but afterwards thought
it would be better to write a comedy on the same plan. This was what
gave rise to 'The Beggar's Opera.' He began on it, and when first he
mentioned it to Swift, the Doctor did not much like the project. As he
carried it on, he showed what he wrote to both of us; and we now and
then gave a correction, or a word or two of advice; but it was wholly of
his own writing. When it was done neither of us thought it would
succeed. We showed it to Congreve, who, after reading it over, said: 'It
would either take greatly or be damned confoundedly."[4]

Dilatory as Gay always was, he contrived to finish his opera by about
the end of the year. "John Gay's opera is just on the point of
delivery," Pope wrote to Swift in January, 1728. "It may be called,
considering its subject, a jail-delivery. Mr. Congreve, with whom I have
commemorated you, is anxious as to its success, and so am I. Whether it
succeeds or not, it will make a great noise, but whether of claps or
hisses I know not. At worst, it is in its own nature a thing which he
can lose no reputation by, as he lays none upon it."[5] Not only Swift,
Pope, and Congreve were doubtful as to the opera's chance of success.
Colley Cibber refused it for Drury Lane Theatre, and even when it was
accepted by John Rich for his theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, Quin had
such a poor opinion of it, that he refused the part of Captain Macheath.
Very sound was the judgment of Rich, immortalised by Pope in "The
Dunciad" (Book III, lines 261-264):--

  Immortal Rich! how calm he sits at ease,
  'Midst snows of paper, and fierie tale of pease;
  And proud his Mistress's orders to perform,
  Rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm;

and the opera, to repeat a well-known _mot_ of the day, "made Gay
rich and Rich gay."

"The Beggar's Opera" was produced on January 29th, 1728, with the
following cast:--

  _Peachum_   ... ... ... ... ... MR. HIPPISLEY
  _Lockit_    ... ... ... ... ... MR. HALL
  _Macheath_  ... ... ... ... ... MR. WALKER
  _Filch_     ... ... ... ... ... MR. CLARK
  _Jemmy Twitcher_... ... ... ... MR. H. BULLOCK
  _Mrs. Peachum_  ... ... ... ... MRS. MARTIN
  _Polly Peachum_ ... ... ... ... Miss FENTON
  _Lucy Lockit_   ... ... ... ... MRS. EGLETON
  _Diana Trapes_  ... ... ... ... MRS. MARTIN

At the first performance the fate of the opera hung for some time in the
balance. Quin is recorded as having said that there was a disposition to
damn it, and that it was saved by the song, "O ponder well! be not
severe!" the audience being much affected by the innocent looks of
Polly, when she came to those two lines which exhibit at once a painful
and ridiculous image--

  O ponder well! be not severe!
  For on the Rope that hangs my Dear
  Depends poor Polly's Life.[6]

Pope, too, and the rest of Gay's friends were present. "We were all at
the first night of it, in great uncertainty of the event; till we were
very much encouraged by hearing the Duke of Argyll, who sat in the
next box to us, say: "It will do--it must do!--I see it in the eyes of
them," he said. "This was a good while before the first act was over,
and so gave us ease soon; for the Duke (besides his own good taste)
has a more particular knack than any one now living, in discovering
the taste of the public. He was quite right in this, as usual, the
good nature of the audience appeared stronger and stronger every set,
and ended in a clamour of applause."[7]

The success of the opera was due to many causes. Some liked it for its
barely veiled allusions on politicians. "Robin of Bagshot, _alias_
Gorgon, _alias_ Bluff Bob, _alias_ Carbuncle, _alias_ Bob Booty," was
very obviously intended for Walpole and his "dear charmers" for his
wife and Molly Skerrett. It may well be believed that the song, "How
happy could I be with either" brought down the house; and the
highwayman must have evoked a hearty laugh with--

  And the statesman, because he's so great,
  Thinks his trade as honest as mine.

Certainly the songs had much to do in the matter of pleasing the
audience. As a literary work, "The Beggar's Opera" has no great claims,
but there is a spontaneous humour about it that has charm. But it was
the _milieu_ that, acting on the hint thrown out years before by Swift,
Gay chose that appealed to the public taste. Highwaymen and women of the
town are not romantic figures, but Gay made the highwaymen handsome and
lively, and the women of the town beautiful and attractive, and over
them all he cast a glamour of romance and sentimentalism. Even Newgate
seemed a pleasing place, for in this fantasy the author was careful to
omit anything of the horrors of a prison in the early eighteenth
century. Gay, in fact, did for the stage with "The Beggar's Opera" what,
a century later Bulwer Lytton and Harrison Ainsworth did for the reading
public with "Ernest Maltravers," "Jack Sheppard," and the rest.

The morality of the opera was much discussed. Swift took the field, and
wrote in its favour in the _Intelligencer_ (No. 3):--

"It is true, indeed, that Mr. Gay, the author of this piece, has been
somewhat singular in the course of his fortune, for it has happened that
after fourteen years attending the Court, with a large stock of real
merit, a modest and agreeable conversation, a hundred promises, and five
hundred friends, he has failed of preferment, and upon a very weighty
reason. He lay under the suspicion of having written a libel, or
lampoon, against a great minister. It is true, that great minister was
demonstratively convinced, and publicly owned his conviction, that Mr.
Gay was not the author; but having lain under the suspicion, it seemed
very just that he should suffer the punishment; because in this most
reformed age, the virtues of a prime minister are no more to be
suspected than the chastity of Cæsar's wife.

"It must be allowed, that 'The Beggar's Opera' is not the first of Mr.
Gay's works, wherein he has been faulty with regard to courtiers and
statesmen. For, to omit his other pieces, even in his 'Fables,'
published within two years past, and dedicated to the Duke of
Cumberland, for which he was promised a reward, he has been thought
somewhat too bold upon the courtiers. And although it be highly probable
he meant only the courtiers of former times, yet he acted unwarily, by
not considering that the malignity of some people might misinterpret
what he said to the disadvantage of present persons and affairs.

"But I have now done with Mr. Gay as a politician and shall consider him
henceforth only as the author of 'The Beggar's Opera,' wherein he has,
by a turn of humour entirely new, placed vices of all kinds in the
strongest and most odious light, and thereby done eminent service, both
to religion and morality. This appears from the unparalleled success he
has met with. All ranks, parties, and denominations of men, either
crowding to see his opera, or reading it with delight in their closets;
even Ministers of State, whom he is thought to have most offended (next
to those whom the actors represented) appear frequently at the theatre,
from a consciousness of their own innocence, and to convince the world
how unjust a parallel, malice, envy, and disaffection to the Government
have made.

"I am assured that several worthy clergymen in this city went privately
to see 'The Beggar's Opera' represented; and that the fleering coxcombs
in the pit amused themselves with making discoveries, and spreading the
names of those gentlemen round the audience.

"I shall not pretend to vindicate a clergyman who would appear openly
in his habit at the theatre, with such a vicious crew as might probably
stand round him, at such comedies and profane tragedies as are often
represented. Besides, I know very well, that persons of their function
are bound to avoid the appearance of evil, or of giving cause of
offence. But when the Lords Chancellors, who are Keepers of the King's
Conscience; when the Judges of the land, whose title is reverend; when
ladies, who are bound by the rules of their sex to the strictest
decency, appear in the theatre without censure; I cannot understand why
a young clergyman, who comes concealed out of curiosity to see an
innocent and moral play, should be so highly condemned; nor do I much
approve the rigour of a great prelate, who said, 'he hoped none of his
clergy were there.' I am glad to hear there are no weightier objections
against that reverend body, planted in this city, and I wish there never
may. But I should be very sorry that any of them should be so weak as to
imitate a Court chaplain in England, who preached against 'The Beggar's
Opera,' which will probably do more good than a thousand sermons of so
stupid, so injudicious, and so prostitute a divine.

"In this happy performance of Mr. Gay, all the characters are just, and
none of them carried beyond nature, or hardly beyond practice. It
discovers the whole system of that commonwealth, or that _imperium in
imperio_ of iniquity established among us, by which neither our lives
nor our properties are secure, either in the highways, or in public
assemblies, or even in our own houses. It shows the miserable lives, and
the constant fate, of those abandoned wretches: for how little they sell
their lives and souls; betrayed by their whores, their comrades, and the
receivers and purchasers of those thefts and robberies. This comedy
contains likewise a satire, which, without enquiring whether it affects
the present age, may possibly be useful in times to come; I mean, where
the author takes the occasion of comparing the common robbers of the
public, and their various stratagems of betraying, undermining and
hanging each other, to the several arts of the politicians in times of

"Upon the whole, I deliver my judgment, that nothing but servile
attachment to a party, affectation of singularity, lamentable dulness,
mistaken zeal, or studied hypocrisy, can have the least reasonable
objection against this excellent moral performance of the celebrated Mr.

Of course, if "The Beggar's Opera" is taken as irony, there is really
nothing at all to be said against it; but the majority of any audience
do not understand irony, and to many the whole thing seemed vicious, an
approval of vice, and even an incitement to wrong-doing. Dr. Herring,
afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, preached against the Opera in, it
is said, Lincoln's Inn Chapel, and censured it as giving encouragement
not only to vice but to crimes, by making a highwayman the hero and
dismissing him at last unpunished. In the Preface to Dr. Herring's
"Sermons," it is added that "several street-robbers confessed in Newgate
that they raised their courage at the playhouse by the songs of
Macheath."[8] Others certainly shared the views of the clergyman. When
on September 15th, 1773, at the Old Bailey, fifteen prisoners were
sentenced to death, forty to transportation, and eight to a whipping, it
is recorded that the magistrate, Sir John Fielding, "informed the Bench
of Justices that he had last year written to Mr. Garrick concerning the
impropriety of performing 'The Beggar's Opera,' which never was
represented without creating an additional number of real thieves,"[9]
and that to this effect he not only wrote to Garrick at Drury Lane
Theatre, but also to Colman at Covent Garden Theatre. "Mr. Colman's
compliments to Sir John Fielding," the latter replied, "he does not
think his the only house in Bow Street where thieves are hardened and
encouraged, and will persist in offering the representation of that
admirable satire, 'The Beggar's Opera.'"[10] Sir John Hawkins, Chairman
of the Middlesex Bench of Justices, also held the view that the Opera
was harmful, and in 1776, wrote: "Rapine and violence have been
gradually increasing since its first representation."[11] Dr. Johnson
took a saner view, and one that was subsequently supported by Sir Walter
Scott, and is generally accepted to-day. "Both these decisions are
surely exaggerated," he wrote in reference to the opinions expressed by
Swift and Dr. Herring. "The play, like many others, was plainly written
only to divert, without any moral purpose, and is therefore likely to do
good; nor can it be conceived, without more speculation than life
requires or admits, to be productive of much wit. Highwaymen and
housebreakers seldom frequent the playhouse or mingle in any elegant
diversion; nor is it possible for anyone to imagine that he may rob as
safely because he sees Macheath reprieved upon the stage."[12] And
again, he said: "I do not believe that any man was ever made a rogue by
being present at its representation. At the same time I do not deny that
it may have some influence by making the character of a rogue familiar
and in some degree pleasing."[13]

The success of the piece was immense, and its vogue tremendous. "The
famous 'Beggar's Opera' appeared upon the stage early in the ensuing
season; and was received with greater applause than was ever known:
besides being acted in London sixty-three nights without interruption,
and renewed the next season with equal applause, it spread into all the
great towns of England; was played in many places to the thirtieth and
fortieth time; and at Bath and Bristol fifty times," wrote the anonymous
editor of the 1760 edition of Gay's plays.

"The ladies carried about with them the favourite songs of it in fans,
and houses were furnished with it in screens.... The person who acted
Polly, till then obscure, became all at once the favourite of the town;
her pictures were engraved and sold in great numbers; her life written;
books of letters and verses to her published, and pamphlets made even of
her sayings and jests. Furthermore, it drove out of England, for that
season, the Italian opera, which had carried all before it for several
years."[14] According to Richard's account book, the opera ran at the
theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields for sixty-two (not sixty-three) nights,
of which thirty-two nights were in succession, and these thirty-two
performances realised the total sum of £5,351, Gay's share amounting to
£693.[15] Swift, who was always anxious that Gay should do as well as
possible, wrote to Pope on March 5th: "I hope he [Gay] does not intend
to print his Opera before it is acted; for I defy all your subscriptions
to amount to eight hundred pounds, and yet I believe he lost as much
more, for want of human prudence."[16] The advice, however, came too
late, for Gay had already sold the copyright of the "Fables" and "The
Beggar's Opera" for ninety guineas. The opera was published on February
14th, 1728.

Gay was in these days the happiest man in the world. His play was
successful, he was making money, and he had had his little dig at
Walpole. "John Gay ... is at present so employed in the elevated airs of
his Opera ... that I can scarce obtain a categorical answer ... to
anything," Pope wrote to Swift in February, "but the Opera succeeds
extremely, to yours and my extreme satisfaction, of which he promises
this post to give you a full account."[17]


  Whitehall, February 15th, 1728.

"I have deferred writing to you from time to time, till I could give you
an account of 'The Beggar's Opera.' It is acted at the playhouse in
Lincoln's Inn Fields with such success that the playhouse has been
crowded every night. To-night is the fifteenth time of acting, and it is
thought it will run a fortnight longer. I have ordered Motte[18] to send
the play to you the first opportunity. I have made no interest, neither
for approbation or money: nor has anybody been pressed to take tickets
for my benefit: notwithstanding which, I think I shall make an addition
to my fortune of between six and seven hundred pounds. I know this
account will give you pleasure, as I have pushed through this precarious
affair without servility or flattery.

"As to any favours from great men, I am in the same state you left me,
but I am a great deal happier, as I have no expectations. The Duchess of
Queensberry has signalised her friendship to me upon this occasion in
such a conspicuous manner, that I hope (for her sake) you will take care
to put your fork to all its proper uses, and suffer nobody for the
future to put their knives in their mouths. Lord Cobham says, I should
have printed it in Italian over against the English, that the ladies
might have understood what they read. The outlandish (as they now call
it) Opera has been so thin of late, that some have called it the
Beggar's Opera, and if the run continues, I fear I shall have
remonstrances drawn up against me by the Royal Academy of


  Dublin, February 26th, 1728.

"I wonder whether you begin to taste the pleasures of independency; or
whether you do not sometimes leer upon the Court, _sculo retorto_? Will
you now think of an annuity when you are two years older, and have
doubled your purchase-money? Have you dedicated your opera, and got the
usual dedication fee of twenty guineas? Does W[alpole] think you
intended an affront to him in your opera? Pray God he may, for he has
held the longest hand at hazard that ever fell to any sharper's share,
and keeps his run when the dice are charged. I bought your Opera to-day
for sixpence--a cussed print. I find there is neither dedication nor
preface, both which wants I approve; it is the _grand gout_."


  March 20th, 1728.

"'The Beggar's Opera' has been acted now thirty-six times, and was as
full the last night as the first; and as yet there is not the least
probability of a thin audience; though there is a discourse about the
town, that the directors of the Royal Academy of Music design to solicit
against its being played on the outlandish opera days, as it is now
called. On the benefit day of one of the actresses, last week, they were
obliged to give out another play, or dismiss the audience. A play was
given out, but the people called for 'The Beggar's Opera'; and they were
forced to play it, or the audience would not have stayed.

"I have got by all this success between seven and eight hundred pounds,
and Rich (deducting the whole charge of the house) has cleared already
near four thousand pounds. In about a month I am going to the Bath with
the Duchess of Marlborough and Mr. Congreve; for I have no expectation
of receiving any favours from the Court. The Duchess of Queensberry is
in Wiltshire, where she has had the small-pox in so favourable a way
that she had not above seven or eight on her face; she is now perfectly

"There is a mezzotinto print published to-day of Polly, the heroine of
'The Beggar's Opera,' who was before unknown, and is now in so high
vogue that I am in doubt whether her fame does not surpass that of the
Opera itself."[21]

       *       *       *       *       *

Pope and Swift were keenly interested in Gay's triumph, and in their
correspondence are many references to the piece. "Mr. Gay's Opera has
been acted near forty days running, and will certainly continue the
whole season," Pope wrote to Swift, March 23rd, 1728. "So he has more
than a fence about his thousand pounds; he will soon be thinking of a
fence about his two thousand. Shall no one of us live as we would wish
each other to live? Shall he have no annuity, you no settlement on this
side, and I no prospect of getting to you on the other?"[22]


  Dublin, March 28th, 1728.

"We have your opera for sixpence, and we are as full of it _pro modulo
nostro_ as London can be; continually acting, and house crammed, and the
Lord-Lieutenant several times there, laughing his heart out. I wish you
had sent me a copy, as I desired to oblige an honest bookseller. It
would have done Motte no harm, for no English copy has been sold, but
the Dublin one has run prodigiously.

"I did not understand that the scene of Lockit and Peachum's quarrel was
an imitation of one between Brutus and Cassius, till I was told it.

"I wish Macheath, when he was going to be hanged, had imitated
Alexander the Great, when he was dying. I would have had his
fellow-rogues desire his commands about a successor, and he to answer,
'Let it be the most worthy,' etc.

"We hear a million of stories about the Opera, of the encore at the
song, 'That was levell'd at me,' when two great ministers were in a box
together, and all the world staring at them.

"I am heartily glad your Opera has mended your purse, though perhaps it
may spoil your Court.

"I think that rich rogue, Rich, should in conscience make you a present
of two or three hundred guineas. I am impatient that such a dog, by
sitting still, should get five times more than the author.

"You told me a month ago of £700, and have you not yet made up the
eighth? I know not your methods. How many third days are you allowed,
and how much is each day worth, and what did you get for copy?

"Will you desire my Lord Bolingbroke, Mr. Pulteney, and Mr. Pope, to
command you to buy an annuity with two thousand pounds? that you may
laugh at Courts, and bid Ministers 'hiss, etc.'--and ten to one they
will be ready to grease you when you are fat.

"I hope your new Duchess will treat you at the Bath, and that you will
be too wise to lose your money at play.

"Get me likewise Polly's mezzotinto.

"Lord, how the schoolboys at Westminster and university lads adore you
at this juncture! Have you made as many men laugh as ministers can make

       *       *       *       *       *

Colley Cibber, in his "Apology" said that "Gay had more skilfully
gratified the public taste than all the brightest authors that ever
wrote before him," and although this was undoubtedly a piece of friendly
exaggeration, it is a fact that John Gay was now a personage. "Mr. Gay's
fame continues; but his riches are in a fair way of diminishing; he is
gone to the Bath," Martha Blount wrote to Swift, May 7th;[23] and two
months later, with great pride, Gay told Swift, "My portrait mezzotinto
is published from Mrs. Howard's painting."[24] Indirectly, he secured
further notoriety when, in the summer, Lavinia Fenton, who had played
the heroine in the Opera, ran away with a Duke. "The Duke of Bolton, I
hear," he wrote to Swift from Bath, "has run away with Polly Peachum,
having settled £400 a year on her during pleasure, and upon disagreement
£200 a year."[25] She had played in the whole sixty-three performances
of the Opera, the forty-seventh performance being set aside for her
benefit. The sixty-third performance took place on June 19th, and that
was her last appearance on the boards of a theatre. In 1751, shortly
after the death of his wife, the Duke married her, she being then about
forty-three, and he sixty-six.[26]

[Footnote 1: Swift: _Work_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 157.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., XVII, p. 162.]

[Footnote 3: _See_ p. 41 of this work.]

[Footnote 4: Spence: _Anecdotes_ (ed. Singer), p. 159.]

[Footnote 5: Pope: _Works_ (ed. Elwin and Courthope), VII, p. 111.]

[Footnote 6: Boswell: _Life of Johnson_ (ed. Hill), II, p. 368.]

[Footnote 7: Spence: _Anecdotes_, p. 159.]

[Footnote 8: Dr. Herring: _Sermons_ (1763), p. 5.]

[Footnote 9: _Annual Register_ (1773), I, p. 132.]

[Footnote 10: Genest: _History of the Stage_, III, p. 223.]

[Footnote 11: _History of Music_, V, p. 317.]

[Footnote 12: _Lives of the Poets_ (ed. Hill), III, p. 278.]

[Footnote 13: Boswell: _Life of Johnson_ (ed. Hill), II, p. 367.]

[Footnote 14: _Plays Written by Mr. John Gay: With an Account of the
Life and Writings of the Author_ (1760), VIII.]

[Footnote 15: _Notes and Queries_, First Series, I, 178.]

[Footnote 16: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 216.]

[Footnote 17: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 165.]

[Footnote 18: Benjamin Motte, the bookseller.]

[Footnote 19: The managers and patrons of the Italian Opera, with the
King at their head, had formed themselves into an association under this

[Footnote 20: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 176.]

[Footnote 21: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 180.]

[Footnote 22: _Ibid_., XVII, p. 183.]

[Footnote 23: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 176.]

[Footnote 24: _Ibid_., XVII, p. 189.]

[Footnote 25: _Ibid_., XVII, p. 188.]

[Footnote 26: "The Beggar's Opera" has been revived many times. The last
and most successful revival was produced by Mr. Nigel Playfair in June,
1920. At the moment of going to press the first anniversary of the
revival has just been celebrated. A copy of the programme of the first
performance of this revival is printed, by kind permission of Mr.
Playfair, on page 162 of this work.]




The success of "The Beggar's Opera" heartened Gay, as a first great
success heartens any man. At once he conceived the idea of following up
this triumph with another opera, but, before actually getting to work,
he took things easily. In March he stayed at Cashiobury with Pulteney,
visiting from there Lord Bathurst and the Bolingbrokes. Shortly after he
went to Bath, where he found many friends, including Henrietta, Duchess
of Marlborough.


  Bath, May 16th, 1728.

"I have been at the Bath about ten days, and I have played at no game
but once, and that at backgammon with Mr. Lewis, who is very much your
humble servant. He is here upon account of the ill state of health of
his wife, who has as yet found very little benefit from the waters. Lord
and Lady Bolingbroke are here; and I think she is better than when I
came; they stay, as I guess, only about a fortnight longer. They both
desired me to make their compliments; as does Mr. Congreve, who is in a
very ill state of health, but somewhat better since he came here.... I
do not know how long I shall stay here, because I am now, as I have been
all my life, at the disposal of others. I drink the waters, and am in
hopes to lay in a stock of health, some of which I wish to communicate
to you.... 'The Beggar's Opera' is acted here; but our Polly has got no
fame, though the actors have got money. I have sent [you] by Dr.
Delany, the Opera, Polly Peachum, and Captain Macheath. I would have
sent you my own head (which is now engraving to make up the gang), but
it is not yet finished. I suppose you must have heard that I have had
the honour to have had a sermon preached against my works by a Court
chaplain, which I look upon as no small addition to my fame."[1]


  Bath, July 6th, 1728.

"In five or six days I set out upon an excursion to Herefordshire, to
Lady Scudamore's, but shall return here the beginning of August.... The
weather is extremely hot, the place is very empty; I have an inclination
to study, but the heat makes it impossible."[2]

       *       *       *       *       *

"I suppose Mr. Gay will return from the Bath with twenty pounds more
flesh and two hundred pounds less in money," Swift wrote to Pope on July
16th. "Providence never designed him to be above two-and-twenty, by this
thoughtlessness and cullibility. He has as little foresight of age,
sickness, poverty, or loss of admirers, as a girl of fifteen."[3] From
this it may be deduced that Gay, whenever he was free from an attack of
colic, persevered in the pleasures of the table and of his favourite


  August 2nd, 1728.

"I have heard more than once from our friend at Court, who seemed, in
the letter she writ, to be in high health and spirits. Considering the
multiplicity of pleasures and delights that one is overrun with in those
places, I wonder how anyone has health and spirits enough to support
them. I am heartily glad she has, and whenever I hear so, I find it
contributes to mine. You see, I am not free from dependence, though I
have less attendance than I had formerly; for a great deal of my own
welfare still depends upon hers. Is the widow's house to be disposed of
yet? I have not given up my pretensions to the Dean. If it was to be
parted with, I wish one of us had it. I hope you wish so too, and that
Mrs. Blount and Mrs. Howard wish the same, and for the very same reason
that I wish it."[4]


  Hampton Court, August [1728].

"I am glad you have passed your time so agreeable. I need not tell you
how mine has been employed; but as I know you wish me well, I am sure
you will be glad to hear that I am much better; whether I owe it to the
operation I underwent, or to my medicines, I cannot tell; but I begin to
think I shall entirely get the better of my illness. I have written to
Dr. Arbuthnot, both to give him a particular account, and to ask his
opinion about the Bath. I know him so well that, though in this last
illness he was not my physician, he is so much my friend, that he is
glad I am better. Put him in mind to tell me what he would have me do in
relation to Lady F.; and to send me a direction to write to her.

"I have made Mr. Nash governor to Lord Peterborough, and Lord
Peterborough governor to Mr. Pope. If I should come to the Bath, I
propose being governess to the Doctor [Arbuthnot] and you. I know you
both to be so unruly, that nothing less than Lady P.'s spirit or mine
could keep any authority over you. When you write to Lady Scudamore,
make my compliments to her. I have had two letters from Chesterfield,
which I wanted you to answer for me; and I have had a thousand other
things that I have wanted you to do for me; but, upon my word, I have
not had one place to dispose of, or you should not be without one.... My
humble service to the Duchess of Marlborough and Mr. Congreve."


  London, December 2nd, 1728.

"I have had a very severe attack of a fever, which, by the care of our
friend, Dr. Arbuthnot, has, I hope, almost left me. I have been confined
about ten days, but never to my bed, so that I hope soon to get abroad
about my business; that is, the care of the second part of 'The Beggar's
Opera,' which was almost ready for rehearsal; but Rich received the Duke
of Grafton's commands (upon an information that he was rehearsing a play
improper to be represented), not to rehearse any new play whatever, till
his Grace has seen it. What will become of it I know not; but I am sure
I have written nothing that can be legally suppressed, unless the
setting vices in general in an odious light, and virtue in an amiable
one, may give offence.

"I passed five or six months this year at the Bath with the Duchess of
Marlborough; and then, in the view of taking care of myself, writ this
piece. If it goes on in case of success, I have taken care to make
better bargains for myself."[5]

       *       *       *       *       *

Gay was naturally greatly elated by the success of "The Beggar's Opera."
This recompensed him for the neglect, or, as undoubtedly he regarded it,
the ingratitude of the Court, and, what pleased him as much, it filled
his purse, which he always liked to fill, apparently for the joy of
emptying it as soon as possible. Also, it greatly enhanced his
reputation: from a writer of minor importance, he now took his place as
a personage. After a long apprenticeship, he had at length "arrived."

Thus encouraged, he promptly composed a sequel to "The Beggar's Opera,"
which he called by the name of the heroine of that piece, that is to
say, "Polly." The best summary of "Polly" has been given by Mr. Paull,
in his interesting paper on Gay[6]:--

"Macheath has been transported across the herring-pond ... He succeeds
in escaping from the plantations, and has become the leader of a band of
pirates, under an assumed name, and disguised as a black man. Jenny
Driver is now his mistress (presumably he has forgotten her treachery in
'The Beggar's Opera'). Polly sails across the ocean to find him, but is
entrapped by Mrs. Trapes, a procuress, who sells her to Ducat, a rich
merchant. Mrs. Ducat, who is jealous, helps Polly to escape; she assumes
a boy's dress and continues her search for Macheath. She is captured by
the pirates, and she and Macheath meet, neither recognising the other.
The pirates are attacking the English settlement; the Indians are
helping the settlers. At first the pirates are successful, and the young
Indian Prince is captured, but ultimately they are defeated, Polly
herself capturing Macheath, who is condemned to death by the Indian
Prince. Then she learns from Jenny Driver who the pirate chief is, and
his life is promised her as her reward; but his execution has already
taken place, and she has to console herself with the hand of the Indian
Prince, who has fallen in love with her. Even this skeleton will show
that the novelty and unity of design which counted for so much in 'The
Beggar's Opera' are changed for intricacy of plot. There is no cohesion
in the story: there is no reason why the catastrophe should be brought
about in one way rather than another; what interest there is turns on an
improbable story rather than on the development of character. Evidently
Gay reckoned largely on the opportunities he had afforded himself for
satire on the Court, and for contrasting the noble and untutored savage
with the man tainted by the vices of civilisation."

"Polly" was accepted for production by Rich at the theatre in Lincoln's
Inn Fields: the subsequent proceedings are but told by the author
himself in his Preface, dated March 25th, 1729, to the printed version
of the book of the opera:--

"After Mr. Rich and I were agreed upon terms and conditions for
bringing this piece on the stage, and that everything was ready for a
rehearsal, the Lord Chamberlain sent an order from the country to
prohibit Mr. Rich to suffer any play to be rehearsed upon his stage till
it has been first of all supervised by his Grace. As soon as Mr. Rich
came from his Grace's secretary (who had sent for him to receive the
before-mentioned order) he came to my lodgings and acquainted me with
the orders he had received.

"Upon the Lord Chamberlain's coming to town I was confined by sickness,
but in four or five days I went abroad on purpose to wait upon his
Grace, with a faithful and genuine copy of this piece, excepting the
_errata_ of the transcriber.

"As I have heard several suggestions and false insinuations concerning
the copy, I take this occasion in the most solemn manner to affirm, that
the very copy I delivered to Mr. Rich was written in my own hand, some
months before at the Bath, from my own first foul blotted papers; from
this, that for the playhouse was transcribed, from whence Mr. Steele,
the prompter, copied that which I delivered to the Lord Chamberlain;
and, excepting my own foul blotted papers, I do protest I know of no
other copy whatsoever, than those I have mentioned.

"The copy which I gave into the hands of Mr. Rich had been seen before
by several persons of the greatest distinction and veracity, who will do
me the honour and justice to attest it; so that not only by them, but by
Mr. Rich and Mr. Steele, I can (against all insinuation or positive
affirmation) prove in the most clear and undeniable manner, if occasion
required, what I have here upon my own honour and credit asserted. The
Introduction, indeed, was not shown to the Lord Chamberlain, which, as I
had not then settled, was never transcribed in the playhouse copy.

"It was on Saturday morning, December 7th, 1728, that I waited upon the
Lord Chamberlain. I desired to have the honour of reading the Opera to
his Grace, but he ordered me to leave it with him, which I did upon
expectation of having it returned on the Monday following; but I had it
not till Thursday, December 12th, when I received it from his Grace with
this answer, '_that it was not allowed to be acted, but commanded to be
suppressed_.' This was told me in general, without any reason assigned,
or any charge against me, of my having given any particular offence.

"Since this prohibition, I have been told, that I am accused, in general
terms, of having written many disaffected libels and seditious
pamphlets. As it hath ever been my utmost ambition (if that word may be
used on this ocasion) to lead a quiet and inoffensive life, I thought my
innocence in this particular would never have required a justification;
and as this kind of writing is what I have ever detested, and never
practised, I am persuaded so groundless a calumny can never be believed
but by those who do not know me. But as general aspersions of this sort
have been cast upon me, I think myself called upon to declare my
principles; and I do, with the strictest truth, affirm that I am as
loyal a subject, and as firmly attached to the present happy
establishment, as any of those who have the greatest places or pensions.
I have been informed too, that, in the following play, I have been
charged with writing immoralities; that it is filled with slander, and
calumny against particular great persons, and that Majesty itself is
endeavoured to be brought into ridicule and contempt.

"As I knew every one of these charges was in every point absolutely
false and without the least grounds, at first I was not at all affected
by them; but when I found they were still insisted upon, and that
particular passages, which were not in the play, were quoted, and
propagated to support what had been suggested, I could no longer bear to
lie under those false accusations; so, by printing it, I have submitted
and given up all present views of profit which might accrue from the
stage; which undoubtedly will be some satisfaction to the worthy
gentlemen who have treated me with so much candour and humanity, and
represented me in such favourable colours.

"But as I am conscious to myself, that my only intention was to lash, in
general, the reigning of fashionable vices, and to recommend and set
virtue in as amiable light as I could; to justify and vindicate my own
character, I thought myself obliged to print the Opera without delay, in
the manner I have done.

"As the play was principally designed for representation, I hope, when
it is read, it will be considered in that light; and when all that hath
been said against it shall appear to be entirely misunderstood or
misrepresented; if, some time hence, it should be permitted to appear on
the stage, I think it necessary to acquaint the public that, as far as a
contract of this kind can be binding, I am engaged to Mr. Rich to have
it represented upon his theatre."

       *       *       *       *       *

It cannot be denied that there was adequate ground for the Lord
Chamberlain's _veto_. In "The Beggar's Opera" Gay had beyond all
question lampooned Walpole, and in "Polly" he returned to the attack,
there being no doubt that in the opening scene, Ducat, the West Indian
planter, was intended for the Minister. The production might well have
led to disturbances if both political parties had been represented at
the first performance. Walpole was the least vindictive of men, as
witness his generous attitude towards Sunderland and the other ministers
involved in the scandal of the South Sea "Bubble," but he may well have
thought that Gay was going too far. Gay himself was harmless, but, as
Walpole knew, the author, either consciously or unconsciously, was
acting for the Opposition party; and Walpole, when he thought it worth
while, had a short and effective way with his political enemies.

The prohibition being largely an affair of party, or at least being so
regarded, a battle royal ensued. "Polly" could not be performed in
public, but, there being no censorship of books, it could be printed.
Gay's friends, therefore, decided that the Opera should be published by
subscription. To a man and a woman the Opposition rallied round the
author. The Duchess of Queensberry "touted" for him everywhere, even at
Court. The King at a Drawing-room asked what she was doing. "What must
be agreeable, I am sure," she replied, "to anyone so humane as your
Majesty, for it is an act of charity, and a charity to which I do not
despair of bringing your Majesty to contribute." This, of course, was a
gratuitous piece of impertinence--for the Lord Chamberlain acts as the
official mouthpiece of the Sovereign--and it could not be overlooked.
Another story is: The Duchess was so vehement in her attempt to have the
embargo removed from Gay's play, that she offered to read it to His
Majesty in his closet, that he might be satisfied there was no offence
in it. George II escaped from this dilemma by saying, he should be
delighted to receive her Grace in his closet, but he hoped to amuse her
better than by the literary employment she proposed.[7]

Whatever the true story, the day after the Duchess's interview with the
King (February 27th, 1729), William Stanhope, the Vice-Chamberlain,
carried to the Duchess a verbal message not to come to Court; whereupon
she sat down and wrote a letter for him to take to his Majesty. "The
Duchess of Queensberry," so ran her reply, "is surprised and well
pleased that the King hath given her so agreeable a command as to stay
from Court, where she never came for diversion, but to bestow a great
civility on the King and Queen; she hopes by such an unprecedented order
as this is, that the King will see as few as he wishes at his Court,
particularly such as are to think or speak truth. I dare not do
otherwise, and ought not, nor could have imagined that it would not have
been the very highest compliment that I could possibly pay the King to
endeavour to support truth and innocence in his house, particularly when
the King and Queen both told me that they had not read Mr. Gay's play. I
have certainly done right, then, to stand by my own words rather than
his Grace of Grafton's, who hath neither made use of truth, judgment,
nor honour, through this whole affair, either for himself or his
friends."[8] Stanhope read this, and begged the Duchess to reflect
before sending it. She consented to write another letter, did so, and
handed it to him. He chose the first. The Duke of Queensberry supported
his wife, and although the King pressed him to remain, resigned his
office of Admiral of Scotland--though Gay wrote to Swift,[9] "this he
would have done, if the Duchess had not met with this treatment, upon
account of ill-usage from the Ministers," and that this incident
"hastened him in what he had determined." The affair created an immense
sensation in Court circles. "The Duchess of Queensberry is still the
talk of the town. She is going to Scotland," Mrs. Pendarves wrote to
Mrs. Anne Granville, March 14th, 1729.... "My Lady Hervey told her the
other day that 'now she was banished, the Court had lost its chief
ornament,' the Duchess replied, 'I am entirely of your mind.' It is
thought my Lady Hervey spoke to her with a sneer, if so, her Grace's
answer was a very good one."[10]

One of the immediate results of the campaign was that the apartments
that had been granted to Gay in Whitehall, which belonged to the Crown,
had, by order, to be surrendered. On the other hand, two large editions,
amounting to 10,500 copies, of "Polly, An Opera: being the Second Part
of 'The Beggar's Opera.' Written by Mr. Gay. With the Songs and Basses
engraved on Copper-plates," were printed in 1729, and from the sale Gay
derived between £1,100 and £1,200.[11] In 1777 Colman produced "Polly"
in a revised version, but it failed to attract.

There was an end of Gay's hopes of Court preferment, that was clear to
every one. It was not unexpected. "I wish John Gay success in his
pursuit," Bolingbroke had written to Swift in June, 1727, "but I think
he has some qualities which will keep him down in the world."[12] When
the worst was known, Arbuthnot wrote to Swift on the following November
30th: "There is certainly a fatality upon poor Gay. As for hope of
preferment [at St. James's], he has laid it aside. He has made a pretty
good bargain (that is, a Smithfield one) for a little place in the
Custom-house, which was to bring him in about a hundred a year. It was
done as a favour to an old man, and not at all to Gay. When everything
was concluded, the man repented, and said he would not part with his
place. I have begged Gay not to buy an annuity upon my life; I am sure I
should not live a week."[13]

       *       *       *       *       *

It may be that Gay thought that he might in time live down the disfavour
at Court in which he had been involved by the Duke and Duchess of
Queensberry and his other partisans. He may even have had a momentary
hope, in 1730, when the office of Poet-Laureate was vacant that the
position might be offered to him, who had written "Fables" for a young
Prince. When Colley Cibber was appointed, Gay probably had it brought
home to him that his day as a courtier had passed for good and all.
Certainly he is credited, though on what authority is not known, with a
share in the burlesque, "Ode for the New Year [1731]. Written by Colley
Cibber, Esq.," in which his disappointment is vented in somewhat coarse
expression. This begins,

  This is the day when, right or wrong,
    I, Colley Bays, Esquire,
  Must for my sack indite a song,
    And thrum my venal lyre.

The King is attacked, and there is a disgraceful reference to the

  O may she always meet success
    In every scheme and job,
  And still continue to caress
    That honest statesman Bob.

That Gay was furious there is no question, and he attacked Walpole in
one of the second series of his "Fables" (which appeared posthumously in
1738), entitled "The Vulture, the Sparrow, and Other Birds," which

    In days of yore (my cautious rhymes
  Always except the present times)
  A greedy Vulture, skill'd in game,
  Inured to guilt, unawed by shame,
  Approach'd the throne in evil hour,
  And, step by step, intrudes to power.
  When at the royal eagle's ear.
  He longs to ease the monarch's care.
  The monarch grants. With proud elate,
  Behold him, minister of state!
  Around him throng the feather'd rout;
  Friends must be served, and some must out:
  Each thinks his own the best pretension;
  This asks a place, and that a pension.
    The nightingale was set aside:
  A forward daw his room supplied.[14]
    This bird (says he), for business fit
  Has both sagacity and wit.
  With all his turns, and shifts, and tricks,
  He's docile, and at nothing sticks.
  Then with his neighbours, one so free
  At all times will connive at me.
    The hawk had due distinction shown,
  For parts and talents like his own.
    Thousands of hireling cocks attend him,
  As blust'ring bullies to defend him.
    At once the ravens were discarded,
  And magpies with their posts rewarded.
  Those fowls of omen I detest,
  That pry into another's nest.
  State lies must lose all good intent,
  For they foresee and croak th' event.
  My friends ne'er think, but talk by rote,
  Speak when they're taught, and so to vote.
    When rogues like these (a Sparrow cries)
  To honour and employment rise
  I court no favour, ask no place,
  From such, preferment is disgrace:
  Within my thatch'd retreat I find
  (What these ne'er feel) true peace of mind.

The animus is evident, and it is clear that Gay's sense of humour had
entirely deserted him. A man who had been a hanger-on at Court for more
than ten years, and bidding diligently all the time for a sinecure,
could but arouse laughter when, discarded at length by those in power,
he says proudly, "I court no favour, ask no place."

[Footnote 1: Swift: _Works_, XVII, p. 182.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., XVII, p. 188.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid_., XVII, p. 189.]

[Footnote 4: Pope: _Works_ (ed. Elwin and Courthope), VII, p. 429.]

[Footnote 5: Swift: _Works_, XVII, p. 205]

[Footnote 6: _Fortnightly Review_, June, 1912]

[Footnote 7: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 228 (note).]

[Footnote 8: Hervey: _Memoirs_, I, p. 123.]

[Footnote 9: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 228.]

[Footnote 10: Mrs. Delany: _Memoirs_, I, p. 198.]

[Footnote 11: Nichol: _Literary Anecdotes_, I, p. 405.]

[Footnote 12: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 114.]

[Footnote 13: _Ibid_., XVII, p. 157.]

[Footnote 14: This appears to be a reference to the appointment of
Cibber as Poet Laureate.]




With the composition of "Polly," the literary life of Gay came
practically to an end, although he survived until December 4th, 1732.
During these four years he worked not at all, save occasionally on the
second series of "Fables."

After the prohibition of "Polly," Gay, who had been ill during 1728, had
a severe attack of fever, during which he was attended by the faithful
Arbuthnot, and carefully tended by the Duchess of Queensberry.


  [_circa_ December, 1728.]

"No words can tell you the great concern I feel for you; I assure you it
was not, and is not, lessened by the immediate apprehension I have now
every day lain under of losing my mother. Be assured, no duty less than
that should have kept me one day from attending your condition. I would
come and take a room by you at Hampstead, to be with you daily, were she
not still in danger of death. I have constantly had particular accounts
of you from the doctor [Arbuthnot], which have not ceased to alarm me
yet. God preserve your life, and restore your health! I really beg it
for my own sake, for I feel I love you more than I thought in health,
though I always loved you a great deal. If I am so unfortunate as to
bury my poor mother, and yet have the good fortune to have my prayers
heard for you, I hope we may live most of our remaining days together.
If, as I believe, the air of a better clime, as the southern part of
France, may be thought useful for your recovery, thither I would go with
you infallibly; and it is very probable we might get the Dean [Swift]
with us, who is in that abandoned state already in which I shall shortly
be, as to other cares and duties. Dear Gay, be as cheerful as your
sufferings will permit: God is a better friend than a Court: even any
honest man is a better. I promise you my entire friendship in all

       *       *       *       *       *

Gay gradually got well. "I am glad to hear of your recovery, and the
oftener I hear it, the better, when it becomes easy to you to give it,"
Pope, who remained a regular correspondent, wrote to him in January,
1729. But, though Gay was better in health, his spirits were low.


  [Feb. or March, 1729.]

"My melancholy increases, and every hour threatens me with some return
of my distemper, nay, I think I may rather say I have it on me. Not the
divine looks, the kind favours, and the expressions of the divine
Duchess, who, hereafter, shall be in the place of a queen to me--nay,
she shall be my queen--nor the inexpressible goodness of the Duke, can
in the least cheer me. The Drawing-room no more receives light from
those two stars. There is now what Milton says is in hell--darkness
visible. Oh, that I had never known what a Court was! Dear Pope, what a
barren soil (to me so) have I been striving to produce something out of.
Why did I not take your advice before my writing Fables for the Duke,
not to write them! It is my very hard fate I must get nothing, write for
them or against them. I find myself in such a strange confusion and
depression of spirits that I have not strength enough even to make my
will, though I perceive by many warnings I have no continuing city here.
I begin to look upon myself as one already dead, and desire, my dear Mr.
Pope, whom I love as my own soul, if you survive me, as you certainly
will, that you will, if a stone should mark the place of my grave, see
these words put upon it:--

  Life is a jest, and all things show it,
  I thought so once, but now I know it,

with what more you may think proper. If anyone should ask how I could
communicate this after death, let it be known, it is not meant so, but
my present sentiment in life. What the bearer brings besides this
letter, should I die without a will, which I am the likelier to do, as
the law will settle my small estate much as I should do so myself, let
it remain with you, as it has long done with me, the remembrance of a
dead friend; but there is none like you, living or dead."

Both Swift and Pope remained faithful to Gay, and in their
correspondence there are many allusions to him. "Mr. Gay," wrote Swift
to Pope, "is a scandal to all lusty young fellows with healthy
countenances; and, I think, he is not intemperate in a physical sense. I
am told he has an asthma, which is a disease I commiserate more than
deafness, because it will not leave a man quiet either sleeping or


  From the Duke of Queensberry's,
  Burlington Gardens.
  March 18th, 1729.

"I am but just recovered from the severest fit of sickness that ever
anybody had who escaped death. I was several times given up by the
physicians, and everybody that attended me; and upon my recovery was
judged to be in so ill a condition, that I should be miserable for the
remainder of my life; but contrary to all expectation, I am perfectly
recovered, and have no remainder of the distempers that attacked me,
which were at the same time, fever, asthma, and pleurisy.

"I am now in the Duke of Queensberry's house, and have been so ever
since I left Hampstead; where I was carried at a time that it was
thought I could not live a day. Since my coming to town, I have been
very little abroad, the weather has been so severe.

"I must acquaint you (because I know it will please you) that during my
sickness I had many of the kindest proofs of friendship, particularly
from the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry, who, if I had been their
nearest relation and nearest friend, could not have treated me with more
constant attendance then; and they continue the same to me now.

"You must undoubtedly have heard, that the Duchess took up my defence
with the King and Queen, in the cause of my play, and that she has been
forbid the Court for interesting herself to increase my fortune, by the
publication of it without being acted. The Duke, too, has given up his
employment (which he would have done if the Duchess had not met with
this treatment) upon account of ill-usage from the Ministers; but this
hardened him in what he had determined.

"The play ['Polly '] is now almost printed, with the music, words, and
basses, engraved on thirty-one copper-plates, which, by my friends'
assistance, has a possibility to turn greatly to my advantage. The
Duchess of Marlborough has given me a hundred pounds for one copy; and
others have contributed very handsomely; but as my account is not yet
settled, I cannot tell you particulars.

"For writing in the cause of virtue, and against the fashionable vices,
I am looked upon at present as the most obnoxious person, almost, in
England. Mr. Pulteney tells me I have got the start of him. Mr. Pope
tells me that I am dead, and that this obnoxiousness is the reward for
my inoffensiveness in my former life.

"I wish I had a book ready to send you; but I believe I shall not be
able to complete the work till the latter end of next week....

"I am impatient to finish my work, for I want the country air; not that
I am ill, but to recover my strength; and I cannot leave my work till it
is finished.

"While I am writing this, I am in the room next to our dining-room, with
sheets all around it, and two people from the binder folding sheets. I
print the book at my own expense, in quarto, which is to be sold for six
shillings, with the music.

"You see I do not want industry; and I hope you will allow that I have
not the worst economy.

"Mrs. Howard has declared herself strongly, both to the King and Queen,
as my advocate. The Duchess of Queensberry is allowed to have shown more
spirit, more honour, and more goodness, than was thought possible in our
times; I should have added, too, more understanding and good sense.

"You see my fortune (as I hope my virtue will) increases by oppression.
I go to no Courts, I drink no wine; and am calumniated even by Ministers
of State; and yet am in good spirits.

"Most of the courtiers, though otherwise my friends, refused to
contribute to my undertaking. But the City, and the people of England,
take my part very warmly; and, I am told, the best of the citizens will
give me proofs of it by their contributions.

"I cannot omit telling you, that Dr. Arbuthnot's attendance and care of
me showed him the best of friends. Dr. Hollins, though entirely a
stranger to me, was joined with him, and used me in the kindest and most
handsome manner."[2]

       *       *       *       *       *

In consequence of this hubbub about "Polly," Gay became a notorious
character, as Arbuthnot in a letter to Swift (March 19th, 1729) remarks
very humorously. "John Gay, I may say with vanity, owes his life, under
God, to the unwearied endeavours and care of your humble servant; for a
physician who had not been passionately his friend could not have saved
him," he wrote. "I had, besides my personal concern for him, other
motives of my care. He is now become a public person, a little
Sacheverell; and I took the same pleasure in saving him, as Radcliffe
did in preserving my Lord Chief Justice Holt's wife, whom he attended
out of spite to her husband, who wished her dead.

"The inoffensive John Gay is now become one of the obstructions to the
peace of Europe, the terror of Ministers, the chief author of the
_Craftsmen_, and all the seditious pamphlets which have been published
against the Government. He has got several turned out of their places;
the greatest ornament of the Court [the Duchess of Queensberry] banished
from it for his sake; another great lady [Mrs. Howard] in danger of
being _chasée_ likewise; about seven or eight Duchesses pushing forward,
like the ancient circumcelliones in the Church, who shall suffer
martyrdom upon his account at first. He is the darling of the City. If
he should travel about the country he would have hecatombs of roasted
oxen sacrificed to him. Since he became so conspicuous, Will Pulteney
hangs his head to see himself so much outdone in the career of glory. I
hope he will get a good deal of money by printing his play ['Polly'];
but I really believe he would get more money by showing his person; and
I can assure you, this is the very identical John Gay whom you formerly
knew, and lodged in Whitehall, two years ago."[3]

Gay was now the avowed _protégé_ of the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry,
so he spent the greater part of his closing years either at their
country seat, Middleton Stoney, Amesbury, in Wiltshire, or at their
London house in Burlington Gardens.

Gay, who really asked nothing better than to be a pet of the great in
this world, was happy enough. In May, 1729, he went to Scotland with the
Duke of Queensberry, and his only trouble was that the success of
"Polly" made it attractive to unscrupulous booksellers. "He has about
twenty lawsuits with booksellers for pirating his book,"[4] Arbuthnot
wrote to Swift on May 8th. In the following month, the same
correspondent, reports, "Mr. Gay is returned from Scotland, and has
recovered his strength of his journey."[5]


  August 9th, 1729.

"I desire you would send word whether white currants be proper to make
tarts: it is a point that we dispute upon every day, and will never be
ended unless you decide it.

"The Duchess would be extremely glad if you could come here this day
se'nnight; but if you cannot, come this day fortnight at farthest, and
bring as many unlikely people as you can to keep you company. Have you
lain at Marble Hill since we left Petersham? Hath the Duchess an aunt
Thanet[6] alive again? She says there are but two people in the world
that love and fear me--and those are, Lord Drum[lanrig][7] and Lord
Charles [Douglas].[8] If they were awake, I would make them love those
that I love, and say something civil to you. The Duchess hath left off
taking snuff ever since you have; but she takes a little every day. I
have not left it off, and yet take none; my resolution not being so
strong. Though you are a water-drinker yourself, I daresay you will be
sorry to hear that your friends have strictly adhered to that liquor;
for you may be sure their heads cannot be affected with that.

"General Dormer[9] refused to eat a wheat-ear, because they call it here
a fern-knacker; but since he knew it was a wheat-ear, he is extremely
concerned. You are desired to acquaint Miss Smith that the Duchess was
upon the brink of leaving off painting the first week she came here, but
hath since taken it up with great success. She hopes she will never
think of her and my Lord Castlemaine[10] on the same day.

"The Duke hath rung the bell for supper, and says, 'How can you write
such stuff?'

  And so we conclude,
  As 'tis fitting we should.
  For the sake of our food;
  So don't think this rude.
  Would my name was 'Gertrude,'
  Or 'Simon and Jude.'"

It was an amusement of the Duchess of Queensberry and of Gay to write
joint letters. They thoroughly loved fooling, and frequently indulged
together in that pleasant pastime.

Middleton, August 27th, 1729.

"... What is blotted out was nonsense; so that it is not worth while to
try to read it. It was well meant; the Duchess said it was very obscure,
and I found out that it was not to be understood at all, nor by any
alteration to be made intelligible; so out it went.

"We have this afternoon been reading Polybius. We were mightily pleased
with the account of the Roman wars with the Gauls; but we did not think
his account of the Achaians, and his remarks upon the historian
Philarchus, so entertaining, as for aught we knew it might be judicious.

"I know you will be very uneasy unless I tell you what picture the
Duchess hath in hand. It is a round landscape of Paul Brill, which Mr.
Dormer[11] lent her, in which there are figures very neatly finished. It
is larger than any she hath yet done; by the dead colouring I guess
(though her Grace is not very sanguine) it will in the end turn out very


"I do not understand which of our correspondents this letter is fit for;
for there is neither wit, folly, nor solid sense, nor even a good
foundation for nonsense, which is the only thing that I am well versed
in. There were all these good things in the delightful letter you sent
us; but as all the different hands are not known, they are unanswerable:
for the future, then, pray sign or come,--the latter is best; for
whoever can write so well must speak so; but now I think we had better
always write for the good of posterity."



  Middleton Stoney, November 9th, 1729.

"I have been in Oxfordshire with the Duke of Queensberry for these three
months, and have had very little correspondence with any of our friends.

"I have employed my time in new writing a damned play, which I wrote
several years ago, called 'The Wife of Bath.' As it is approved or
disapproved of by my friends, when I come to town, I shall either have
it acted, or let it alone, if weak brethren do not take offence at it.
The ridicule turns upon superstition, and I have avoided the very words
bribery and corruption. Folly, indeed, is a word that I have ventured to
make use of; but that is a term that never gave fools offence. It is a
common saying, that he is wise that knows himself. What has happened of
late, I think, is a proof that it is not limited to the wise....

"Next week, I believe, I shall be in town; not at Whitehall, for those
lodgings were judged not convenient for me, and were disposed of.
Direct to me at the Duke of Queensberry's, in Burlington Gardens, near

"You have often twitted me in the teeth with hankering after the Court.
In that you mistook me: for I know by experience that there is no
dependence that can be sure, but a dependance upon one's-self. I will
take care of the little fortune I have got.[12]"

[Footnote 1: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 215.]

[Footnote 2: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 232.]

[Footnote 3: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XIX, p. 232.]

[Footnote 4: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 244.]

[Footnote 5: _Ibid_., XVII, p. 245.]

[Footnote 6: The great-aunt (not aunt) was Elizabeth, daughter of
Richard Boyle, first Earl of Burlington, who married Nicholas Tufton,
third Earl of Thanet. Elizabeth's sister, Henrietta, who married
Laurence Hyde, Earl of Rochester, was a grandmother of the Duchess of

[Footnote 7: Henry Douglas (1723-1754), known by the style of Earl of
Drumlanrig, the elder son of Charles Douglas, third Duke of Queensberry.
He predeceased his father.]

[Footnote 8: Lord Charles Douglas (1726-1756), the younger son of the
Duke, who also survived him.]

[Footnote 9: James Dormer (1678-1741), Colonel, 1720;
Envoy-Extraordinary to Lisbon, 1725; Lieutenant-General, 1737; a friend
of Pope.]

[Footnote 10: Sir Richard Child, Bart., of Wanstead (d. 1749), created
Viscount Castlemaine, 1718; and Earl Tylney, 1731.]

[Footnote 11: Mr. Dormer, of Rowsham, elder brother of General Dormer.]

[Footnote 12: Swift: _Works_ (ed Scott), XVII, p. 277.]




There are few or no details to be discovered about Gay at this time,
except such deductions as can be drawn from his correspondence.


  London, March 3rd, 1730.

"I am going very soon into Wiltshire with the Duke of Queensberry. Since
I had that severe fit of sickness, I find my health requires it; for I
cannot bear the town as I could formerly. I hope another summer's air
and exercise will reinstate me. I continue to drink nothing but water,
so that you cannot require any poetry from me. I have been very seldom
abroad since I came to town, and not once at Court. This is no restraint
upon me, for I am grown old enough to wish for retirement....

"I have left off all great folks but our own family; perhaps you will
think all great folks little enough to leave off us, in our present
situation. I do not hate the world, but I laugh at it; for none but
fools can be in earnest about a trifle."[1]

       *       *       *       *       *

Earlier in the year Gay had revised his earliest play "The Wife of
Bath," which had been produced unsuccessfully at Drury Lane Theatre on
May 12th, 1713, and the new version was staged on January 19 of this
year at the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields. "My old vamped play has
got me no money, for it had no success," the author wrote to Swift in
the letter of March 3rd; to which Swift replied from Dublin sixteen days
later: "I had never much hopes of your vamped play, although Mr. Pope
seemed to have, and although it were ever so good; but you should have
done like the parsons, and changed your text--I mean, the title, and the
names of the persons. After all, it was an effect of idleness, for you
are in the prime of life, when invention and judgment go together."


  March 31st, 1730.

"I expect, in about a fortnight, to set out for Wiltshire.... My
ambition, at present, is levelled to the same point that you direct me
to; for I am every day building villakins, and have given over that of
castles. If I were to undertake it in my present circumstances, I
should, on the most thrifty scheme, soon be straightened; and I hate to
be in debt; for I cannot bear to pawn five pounds' worth of my liberty
to a tailor or a butcher. I grant you this is not having the true spirit
of modern nobility, but it is hard to cure the prejudice of education.

"I have been extremely taken up of late in settling a steward's account.
I am endeavouring to do all the justice and service I can for a friend,
so I am sure you will think I am well employed."[2]

       *       *       *       *       *

From this letter it will be seen that Gay was endeavouring to make some
return to his host and hostess for their kindness in looking after him
by acting as a private secretary to the Duchess. But it may be taken for
granted that his duties were merely nominal, and it may equally be taken
for granted that his assistance was of little value, and only accepted
nominally in order to lessen the weight of the obligation under which
they thought--probably erroneously--he might be suffering. Why Gay
should have led a life of dependence unless he liked it, it is not easy
to see, for when he died about thirty months later, he left the then not
inconsiderable sum of £6,000. Gay, who never did to-day what could by
any possibility be postponed, neglected, of course, to make a will. As
he died intestate, his fortune was divided between his surviving
sisters, Katherine Bailer and Joanna Fortescue.

Gay until the end kept up his correspondence with Mrs. Howard, and his
letters to her are often delightful reading, especially when he had
nothing in particular to say, or when he was able to poke kindly fun at
his hostess and protectress.


  May 9th, 1730.

"It is what the Duchess never would tell me--so that it is impossible
for me to tell you--_how she does_: but I cannot take it ill, for I
really believe it is what she never really and truly did to anybody in
her life. As I am no physician and cannot do her any good, one would
wonder how she could refuse to answer this question out of common
civility; but she is a professed hater of common civility, and so I am
determined never to ask her again. If you have a mind to know what she
hath done since she came here, the most material things that I know of
is, that she hath worked a rose, and milked a cow, and those two things
I assure you are of more consequence, I verily believe, than hath been
done by anybody else.

"Mrs. Herbert was very angry with her Grace the night before she left
the town, that she could part with her friends with such an indecent
cheerfulness; she wishes she had seen you at the same time, that she
might have known whether she could have carried this happy indifference
through, or no. She is grown a great admirer of two characters in
Prior's poems, that of "Sauntering Jack and Idle Joan"[3]; and she
thinks them persons worthy imitation: at this very instant she herself
is in their way. She had a mind to write to you, but cannot prevail with
herself to set about it; she is now thinking of Mrs. Herbert, but is too
indolent to tell me to make her compliments to her. Just this minute she
is wishing you were in this very room; but she will not give herself the
trouble to say so to me: all that I know of it is, she looks all this,
for she knows I am writing to you.

"There is, indeed, a very good reason for her present indolence, for she
is looking upon a book which she seems to be reading; but I believe the
same page hath lain open before her ever since I began this letter. Just
this moment she hath uttered these words: 'that she will take it as a
very great favour if you will speak to Mrs. Herbert to speak to Lord
Herbert, that he would speak to anybody who may chance to go by Mr.
Nix's house, to call upon him to hasten his sending the piece of
furniture, which, perhaps as soon as she receives it, may tempt her to
write to somebody or other that very little expects it';--for she loves
to do things by surprise. She would take it kindly if you write to her
against this thing comes here; for I verily believe she will try whether
or no it be convenient for writing, and perhaps she may make the trial
to you; she did not bid me say this, but as she talks of you often, I
think you have a fair chance.

"As soon as you are settled at Marble Hill, I beg you will take the
widow's house for me, and persuade the Duchess to come to Petersham.
But, wherever you are, at present I can only wish to be with you: do
what you can for me, and let me hear from you till the Duchess writes
to you. You may write to me, and if you express any resentment against
her for not writing, I will let her know it in what manner you shall
please to direct me."


  Amesbury, July 4th, 1730.

"I have left off wine and writing; for I really think, that man must be
a bold writer, who trusts to wit without it.

"I took your advice; and some time ago took to love, and made some
advances to the lady you sent me to in Soho, but met no return; so I
have given up all thoughts of it, and have now no pursuit or amusement.

"A state of indolence is what I do not like; it is what I would not
choose. I am not thinking of a Court or preferment, for I think the lady
I live with is my friend, so that I am at the height of my ambition. You
have often told me there is a time of life that every one wishes for
some settlement of his own. I have frequently that feeling about me, but
I fancy it will hardly ever be my lot: so that I will endeavour to pass
away life as agreeably as I can, in the way I am. I often wish to be
with you, or you with me; and I believe you think I say true."[4]


  Twickenham, July 21st, 1730.

"If you consider this letter splenetic, consider I have just received
the news of the death of a friend, whom I esteemed almost as many years
as you--poor Fenton. He died at Easthampstead, of indolence and
inactivity; let it not be your fate, but use exercise. I hope the
Duchess [of Queensberry] will take care of you in this respect, and
either make you gallop after her, or tease you enough at home to serve
instead of exercise abroad.

"Mrs. Howard is so concerned about you, and so angry at me for not
writing to you, and at Mrs. Blount for not doing the same, that I am
piqued with jealousy and envy at you, and hate you as much as if you had
a place at Court, which you will confess a proper cause of envy and
hatred, in any poet, militant or unpensioned."


  Amesbury, August 20th, 1730.

"The Duchess says she cannot say a word more, if I would give her the
world, and that her misery hath got the better of her pleasure in
writing to you. She thanks you for your information, and says, that if
she can bear herself, or think that anybody else can, she intends to
make her visit next week. Now, it is my opinion that she need never have
any scruples of this kind; but as to herself, you know she hath often an
unaccountable way of thinking, and, say what you will to her, she will
now and then hear you, but she will always think and act for herself. I
have been waiting three or four minutes for what she hath to say, and at
last she tells me she cannot speak one word more, and at the same time
is so very unreasonable as to desire you would write her a long letter,
as she knows you love it.

"I have several complaints to make to you of her treatment, but I shall
only mention the most barbarous of them. She hath absolutely forbid her
dog to be fond of me, and takes all occasions to snub her if she shows
me the least civility. How do you think Lord Herbert would take such
usage from you, or any lady in Christendom?

"Now she says I must write you a long letter; but to be sure I cannot
say what I would about her, because she is looking over me as I write.
If I should tell any good of her, I know she would not like it, and I
have said my worst of her already."


"Do not think I am lazy, and so have framed an excuse, for I am really
in pain (at some moments intolerable since this was begun). I think
often I could be mighty glad to see you; and though you deserve vastly,
that is saying much from me (for I can bear to be alone) and upon all
accounts think I am much better here than anywhere else. I think to go
on and prosper mighty prettily here, and like the habitation so well
(that if I could in nature otherwise be forgetful) that would put me in
mind of what I owe to those who helped me on to where I wished to be
sooner than I feared I could be. Pray tell Miss Meadows that I was in
hopes she would have made a dutiful visit to her father. If anyone else
care for my respects, they may accept of them. I will present them to
Lord Herbert, whether he care or not. I hope by this time he is able to
carry himself and Fop wherever he pleases. If I had the same power over
you I would not write you word that I am yours, etc.; but since I can
only write, believe that I am to you everything that you have ever read
at the bottom of a letter, but not that I am so only by way of



  [Amesbury] Saturday, September, 1730.

"I cannot neglect this opportunity of writing to you and begging you to
be a mediator between my lady duchess and me; we having at present a
quarrel about a fishing rod; and at the same time to give her your
opinion whether you think it proper for her to stay here till after
Christmas, for I find that neither place nor preferment will let me
leave her; and when she hath been long enough in one place, prevail with
her, if you can, to go to another. I would always have her do what she
will, because I am glad to be of her opinion, and because I know it is
what I must always do myself."


"To follow one's fancy is by much the best medicine; it has quite cured
my face and left me no pain but the impossibility of being in two places
at once, which is no small sorrow, since one of them would be near you.
But the boys [Lord Drumlanrig and Lord Charles Douglas] are too lean to
travel as yet. Compassion being the predominant fashion of the place, we
are preserved alive with as much care as the partridges, which no one
yet has had the heart to kill, though several barbarous attempts have
been made. If I could write I would for ever, but my pen is so much your
friend that it will only let me tell you that I am extremely so.

"I pray it may not be difficult for my dear Mrs. Howard to forgive, as
to read this provocation. By the next I hope to write plain."



  October, 1730.

"I continue, and ever shall, to wish you all good and happiness. I wish
that some lucky event might set you in a state of ease and independency
all at once, and that I might live to see you as happy as this silly
world and fortune can make anyone. Are we never to live together more as
once we did?"


  October 3rd, 1730.

"I hear you have had a house full of courtiers, and, what is more
extraordinary, they were honest people; but I will take care, agreeably
to your desire, that you shall not increase the number. I wish I could
as easily gratify you in your other request about a certain person [the
Duchess of Queensberry]'s health; but, indeed, John, that is not in my
power. I have often thought it proceeds from thinking better of herself
than she does of anybody else; for she has always confidence to inquire
after those she calls friends, and enough assurance to give them
advice; at the same time, she will not answer a civil question about
herself, and would certainly never follow any advice that was given her:
you plainly see she neither thinks well of their heart or their head. I
believe I have told you as much before; but a settled opinion of
anything will naturally lead one into the same manner of expressing
one's thoughts."


  Dublin, November 10th, 1730.

"I hope you have now one advantage that you always wanted before, and
the want of which made your friends as uneasy as it did yourself; I mean
the removal of that solicitude about your own affairs, which perpetually
filled your thoughts and disturbed your conversation. For if it be true,
what Mr. Pope seriously tells me, you will have opportunity of saving
every groat of the interest you receive; and so, by the time you and he
grow weary of each other, you will be able to pass the rest of your
wineless life in ease and plenty; with the additional triumphal comfort
of never having received a penny from those tasteless, ungrateful people
from which you deserved so much, and which deserve no better geniuses
than those by whom they are celebrated."[5]


  Amesbury, December 6th, 1730.

"The Duchess is a more severe check upon my finances than ever you were;
and I submit, as I did to you, to comply to my own good. I was a long
time before I could prevail with her to let me allow myself a pair of
shoes with two heels; for I had lost one, and the shoes were so decayed
that they were not worth mending. You see by this that those who are the
most generous of their own, can be the most covetous for others. I hope
you will be so good to me as to use your interest with her (for what
ever she says, you seem to have some) to indulge me with the
extravagance suitable to my fortune."[6]


  December 17th [1730].

"You cannot imagine in what due time your letter came; for I had given
you up, and with great pains had very near brought our friend Mr. Gay to
own that nobody cared for us, and a few more thoughts which shall now be
nameless. I am sincerely sorry that you have been ill, and very very
glad that you are better and think of life; for I know none whom one
could more wish to have life than yourself. I do not in the least
approve of your changing your way of thinking of me, for I was convinced
it was a good one, and when such opinions change, it is seldom for the
better; if it could on my account, I declare you would be in the wrong,
for to my knowledge I improve in no one thing. The best thing I can say
for myself is, that I feel no alteration in the regard and inclination I
have to you. I have no comprehension of what I said in my letter; but at
that time my body was distempered, and very likely my mind also.... I
know nothing of coming to town; I only know that when I do I shall not
be sorry to see you; and this is knowing a great deal; for I shall not
be glad to come, and shall only come if it be unavoidable: this is the
blunt truth. I own it would look less like indifference if I had written
some civil lie."


"Everything that is above written is so plain and clear that it needs no
comment; the writer I know to be so strictly addicted to truth, that I
believe every word of it; if it is not written in the fashionable
expression, I conclude you will impute it to her manner. She was really
concerned very much, that, after she knew you were ill, we were so long
before we could get a letter from you: let her contradict this if she
can. You tell her you are riding for your life; I fancy she would do it
for yours, though she will not for her own. I believe that she will not
like that I should say anything more about her; so that I shall leave
you to your own thoughts about what she hath said herself; for I find
she doth not much care to be talked to, and as little likes to be talked
of: if she writes truth, I hope she will allow me the liberty to do the
same.... I have sometimes a great mind to answer the above letter, but I
know she will do what she will; and as little as she likes herself, she
likes her own advice better than anybody's else, and that is a reason,
in my opinion, that should prevail with her to take more care of
herself. I just before said I would say no more upon this subject; but
if I do not lay down the pen, I find I cannot help it. I have no desire
to come to town at all; for if I were there I cannot see you; so that
unless she turns me away I am fixed for life at Amesbury: so that, as to
everything that relates to me, I refer you to her letters."


[Footnote 1: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 292.]

[Footnote 2: 'Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 295.]

[Footnote 3:

  Neither good nor bad, nor fool nor wise,
  They would not learn nor could advise;
  Without love, hatred, joy, or fear,
  They led a kind of--as it were;
  Nor wish'd nor cared, nor laugh'd nor cried:
  And so they lived, and so they died.]

[Footnote 4: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 308.]

[Footnote 5: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 319.]

[Footnote 6: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 333]





  Dublin, April 13th, 1731.

"Your situation is an odd one. The Duchess is your treasurer, and Mr.
Pope tells me you are the Duke's. And I had gone a good way in some
verses on that occasion, prescribing lessons to direct your conduct, in
a negative way, not to do so and so, etc., like other treasurers; how to
deal with servants, tenants, or neighbouring squires, which I take to be
courtiers, parliaments, and princes in alliance, and so the parallel
goes on, but grew too long to please me."[1]


  April 21st, 1731.

"Since I have got over the impediment to a writer, of water drinking, if
I can persuade myself that I have any wit, and find I have inclination,
I intend to write; though, as yet, I have another impediment: for I have
not provided myself with a scheme. Ten to one but I shall have a
propensity to write against vice, and who can tell how far that may
offend? But an author should consult his genius, rather than his
interest, if he cannot reconcile them."[2]


  Amesbury, April 27th, 1731.

"When I was in town (after a bashful fit, for having writ something like
a love-letter, and in two years making one visit), I writ to Mrs.
Drelincourt, to apologise for my behaviour, and received a civil answer,
but had not time to see her. They are naturally very civil: so that I am
not so sanguine as to interpret this as any encouragement. I find by
Mrs. Barber that she interests herself very much in her affair; and,
indeed, from everybody who knows her, she answers the character you
first gave me....

"You used to blame me for over-solicitude about myself. I am now grown
so rich, that I do not think myself worth thinking on."[3]


  Dublin, June 29th, 1731.

"You are the silliest lover in Christendom. If you like Mrs.
[Drelincourt], why do you not command her to take you? If she does not,
she is not worth pursuing; you do her too much honour; she has neither
sense nor taste, if she dares to refuse you, though she had ten thousand

"I cannot allow you rich enough till you are worth £7,000, which will
bring you £300 per annum, and this will maintain you, with the
perquisite of spunging, while you are young, and when you are old will
afford you a pint of port at night, two servants, and an old maid, a
little garden, and pen and ink--provided you live in the country. And
what are you doing towards increasing your fame and your fortune? Have
you no scheme, either in verse or prose? The Duchess should keep you at
hard meat, and by that means force you to write."[4]


  Hampton Court, June 29th, 1731.

"To prevent all further quarrels and disputes, I shall let you know that
I have kissed hands for the place of Mistress of the Robes. Her Majesty
did me the honour to give me the choice of Lady of the Bedchamber, or
that, which I find so much more agreeable to me, that I did not take one
moment to consider of it. The Duchess of Dorset resigned it for me; and
everything as yet promises more happiness for the latter part of my life
than I have yet had a prospect of. Seven nights' quiet sleep, and seven
easy days have almost worked a miracle upon me; for if I cannot say I am
perfectly well, yet it is certain even my pain is more supportable than
it was. I shall now often visit Marble Hill; my time is become very much
my own, and I shall see it without the dread of being obliged to sell it
to answer the engagement I had put myself under to avoid a greater evil.
Mr. H[oward] took possession of body and goods, and was not prevailed
upon till yesterday to resign the former for burial. Poor Lord Suffolk
took so much care in the will he made, that the best lawyers say it must
stand good. I am persuaded it will be tried to the uttermost.

"I have at this time a great deal of business upon my hands, but not
from my Court employment. You must take as a particular favour. The
Duchess of Queensberry shall hear from me soon: she has a most
extraordinary way of making her peace; but she does tell truth, and I
told a lie when I said I hated her; for nothing is more true than that I
love her most sincerely. However, I put it into your hands to tell her
what you think proper; and if she can but feel half for me that I should
for her under the same circumstances, it will be punishment sufficient
for what I have suffered from her neglect of me. I shall certainly see
Highclere this summer, and shall expect some people to meet me there. I
hope the chairs will be done, for I do not know whether I ought to
expect to be preferred before them. If you find her inclined to think me
wrong in any particular, desire her to suspend her judgment till then;
and if not to please me, to satisfy her own curiosity, she may come. I
have taken care of what you desired me. I have done my best; I hope, for
my sake, it will succeed well, for I shall be more concerned, I dare
say, if it should not than you would be."


  July 8th, 1731.

"Your letter was not ill-bestowed, for I found in it such an air of
satisfaction that I have a pleasure every time I think of it. I fancy
(though by her silence she seems to approve of your Ladyship's conduct)
the Duchess will meet you at Highclere; for those that have a real
friendship cannot be satisfied with real relations; they want to inquire
into the minutest circumstances of life, that they may be sure things
are as happy as they appear to be, and that is a curiosity that is

"I do not like lawsuits; I wish you could have your right without them,
for I fancy there never was one since the world began, that, besides the
cost, was not attended with anxiety and vexation. But as you descended
from lawyers,[5] what might be my plague, perhaps may be only your
amusement. Nobody but yourself hath let us know anything about you.
Judge, then, how welcome your ladyship's letter was to me. I find this
change of life of yours is a subject that I cannot so well write upon;
it is a thing that one cannot so well judge of in general. But as for
your Ladyship's conduct in this juncture, my approbation goes for
nothing, for all the world knows that I am partial.

"When you have a mind to make me happy, write to me, for of late I have
had but very little chance, and only chance, of seeing you. If ever you
thought well of me, if ever you believed I wished you well, and wished
to be of service to you, think the same of me, for I am the same, and
shall always be so.

"Mr. Pope, I fear, is determined never to write to me. I hope he is
well. If you see Miss Blount or Mr. Pope, I beg them to accept my


  July 18th, 1731.

"Your friend Mrs. Howard is now Countess of Suffolk. I am still so much
a dupe, that I think you mistake her. Come to Amesbury, and you and I
will dispute this matter, and the Duchess shall be judge. But I fancy
you will object against her; for I will be so fair to you, as to own
that I think she is of my side; but, in short, you shall choose any
impartial referee you please. I have heard from her; Mr. Pope has seen
her; I beg that you would suspend your judgment till we talk over this
affair together; for, I fancy, by your letter, you have neither heard
from her, nor seen her; so that you cannot at present be as good a judge
as we are. I will be a dupe for you at any time; therefore I beg it of
you, that you would let me be a dupe in quiet.

"As to my being manager for the Duke, you have been misinformed. Upon
the discharge of an unjust steward, he took the administration into his
own hands. I own I was called in to his assistance, when the state of
affairs was in the greatest confusion. Like an ancient Roman I came, put
my helping hand to set affairs right, and as soon as it was done, I am
retired again as a private man."[6]


  Kensington, September 5th, 1731.

"I was never more peevish in my life than I have been about this journey
of Bridgeman's. I am sure I took true pains that it should have been
just as the Duchess wished. I find upon enquiry that he did not go as
soon as I expected. He told me of the first letter which he wrote to

"I wish he had told me of Mr. Bloodworth's conversation, for that would
have prevented all mistakes. It is not in my power to do anything more,
for Bridgeman has been absent a week from hence; but if his servants
tell truth, there is no occasion, for they say he is gone to the Duke of

"I shall be very uneasy till I hear how this matter has ended. A letter
from you was not necessary to make me remember you, but a letter was
absolutely necessary to make me think you deserved one. The Duchess did
not tell me why I did not see you at Highclere, but I do believe it was
a good one; because she knows bringing of you there would have pleased
us both. As I never knew what liberty was, I cannot tell you how much I
was delighted with this summer's expeditions. I never see Mr. Pope nor
Mrs. Blount, though I never go to Marble Hill without sending to them.
She has been ill, but was well last time I sent; but you know she has a
peculiar pleasure in refusing her friends.

"Let me hear often from you. I am glad you think of coming to
Twickenham. I hope we shall meet at Marble Hill; but do not fail of
letting me know as soon as possible whether the Duchess is convinced I
was in no wise in fault, and that she does me the justice in believing I
can never willingly be so to me. If you do not leave off _ladyship_, I
shall complain to the Duchess, who shall make you go supperless to bed.
Exercise agrees so well with me, that I cannot advise you not to use it;
but if her Grace feeds you moderately, I should think your exercise
ought to be so. God bless you."


  December 1st, 1731.

"If your ramble was on horse back, I am glad of it on account of your
health; but I know your arts of patching up a journey between
stage-coaches and friends' coaches: for you are as arrant a cockney as
any hosier in Cheapside, and one clean shirt with two cravats, and as
many handkerchiefs, make up your equipage; and as for a nightgown, it is
clear from Homer that Agamemnon rose without one.

"I have often had it in my head to put it into yours, that you ought to
have some great work in scheme, that may take up seven years to finish,
besides two or three under-ones, that may add another thousand pounds to
your stock; and then I shall be in less pain about you.

"I know you can find dinners, but you love twelvepenny coaches too well,
without considering that the interest of a whole thousand pounds brings
you but half-a-crown a day."


  December 1st, 1731

"You used to complain that Mr. Pope and I would not let you speak: you
may now be even with me, and take it out in writing. If you do not send
to me now and then, the post-office will think me of no consequence, for
I have no correspondent but you. You may keep as far from us as you
please; you cannot be forgotten by those who ever knew you, and
therefore please me by sometimes showing I am not forgot by you. I have
nothing to take me off from my friendship to you: I seek no new
acquaintance, and court no favour; I spend no shillings in coaches or
chairs to levées or great visits, and, as I do not want the assistance
of some that I formerly conversed with, I will not so much as seem to
seek to be a dependant.

"As to my studies, I have not been entirely idle, though I cannot say
that I have yet perfected anything. What I have done is something in the
way of those Fables I have already published.

"All the money I get is saving, so that by habit there may be some hopes
(if I grow richer) of my becoming a miser. All misers have their
excuses. The motive to my parsimony is independence."[7]

[Footnote 1: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 358]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., XVII, p. 342.]

[Footnote 3: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 370.]

[Footnote 4: _Ibid_., XVII, p. 382.]

[Footnote 5: Lady Suffolk's great-great-great-grandfather was Sir Henry
Hobart, Chief-Justice of the Common Pleas.]

[Footnote 6: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 385.]

[Footnote 7: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 436.]




As time passed Gay became less satisfied with his condition. It may have
been that his health became worse; or it may be that, like to many men
who are idle and make no effort to work, he became annoyed at the
_ennui_ which is so often the result of an unoccupied life. Anyhow, in
his letters there crept in a note of irritability, which has not
previously been sounded.


  March 13th, 1732.

"I find myself dispirited for want of having some pursuit. Indolence and
idleness are the most tiresome things in the world. I begin to find a
dislike to society. I think I ought to try to break myself of it, but I
cannot resolve to set about it. I have left off almost all my great
acquaintance, which saves me something in chair hire, though in that
article the town is still very expensive. Those who were your old
acquaintance are almost the only people I visit; and, indeed, upon
trying all, I like them best....

"If you would advise the Duchess to confine me four hours a-day to my
own room, while I am in the country, I will write; for I cannot confine
myself as I ought."[1]


  Dublin, May 4th, 1732.

"It is your pride or laziness, more than chair-hire, that makes the town
expensive. No honour is lost by walking in the dark; and in the day,
you may beckon a blackguard boy under a gate [to clean your shoes] near
your visiting place (_experto crede_), save eleven pence, and get half a
crown's-worth of health ...

"I find by the whole cast of your letter, that you are as giddy and
volatile as ever: just the reverse of Mr. Pope, who has always loved a
domestic life from his youth. I was going to wish you had some little
place that you could call your own, but, I profess I do not know you
well enough to contrive any one system of life that would please you.
You pretend to preach up riding and walking to the Duchess, yet from my
knowledge of you after twenty years, you always joined a violent desire
of perpetually shifting places and company, with a rooted laziness, and
an utter impatience of fatigue. A coach and six horses is the utmost
exercise you can bear; and this only when you can fill it with such
company as is best suited to your taste, and how glad would you be if it
could waft you in the air to avoid jolting; while I, who am so much
later in life, can, or at least could, ride five hundred miles on a
trotting horse. You mortally hate writing, only because it is the thing
you chiefly ought to do, as well to keep up the vogue you have in the
world, as to make you easy in your fortune: you are merciful to
everything but money your best friend, whom you treat with

       *       *       *       *       *

In May was first performed at the Haymarket Theatre "Acis and Galatea,"
of which he wrote the "book" and Handel the music; but this was not work
upon which he had been lately engaged--in fact, both words and music had
been ready for ten years. Gay, however, did occasionally put in some
time on literary work, and at his death left the "book" of an opera
"Achilles," which was produced on February 10th, 1733, at the scene of
his triumph with "The Beggar's Opera," the theatre in Lincoln's Inn
Fields; "The Distrest Wife" and a farce, "The Rehearsal at Goatham,"
which last were printed, respectively, in 1743 and 1754. He was at this
time composing very leisurely a second series of "Fables," which were
ready for the press at the time of his death, but did not appear until


  London, May 19th, 1732.

"You seemed not to approve of my writing more Fables. Those I am now
writing have a prefatory discourse before each of them, by way of
epistle, and the morals of them mostly are of the political kind; which
makes them run into a greater length than those I have already
published. I have already finished about fifteen or sixteen; four or
five more would make a volume of the same size as the first. Though this
is a kind of writing that appears very easy, I find it the most
difficult of any I ever undertook. After I have invented one fable, and
finished it, I despair of finding out another; but I have a moral or two
more, which I wish to write upon.

"I have also a sort of a scheme to raise my finances by doing something
for the stage: with this, and some reading, and a great deal of
exercise, I propose to pass my summer.

"As for myself, I am often troubled with the colic. I have as much
inattention, and have, I think, lower spirits than usual, which I impute
to my having no one pursuit in life."[3]


  Amesbury, July 24th, 1732.

"I shall finish the work I intended, this summer,[4] but I look upon the
success in every respect to be precarious. You judge very right of my
present situation, that I cannot propose to succeed by favour: but I do
not think, if I could flatter myself that I had any degree of merit,
much could be expected from that unfashionable pretension.

"I have almost done everything I proposed in the way of Fables; but
have not set the last hand to them. Though they will not amount to half
the number, I believe they will make much such another volume as the
last. I find it the most difficult task I ever undertook; but have
determined to go through with it; and, after this, I believe I shall
never have courage enough to think any more in this way."[5]


  October 2nd, 1732.

"Every man, and every boy, is writing verses on the royal hermitage: I
hear the Queen is at a loss which to prefer; but for my own part I like
none so well as Mr. Poyntz's[6] in Latin. You would oblige my Lady
Suffolk if you tried your muse on this occasion. I am sure I would do as
much for the Duchess of Queensberry, if she desired it. Several of your
friends assure me it is expected from you. One should not bear in mind
all one's life, any little indignity one receives from a Court, and
therefore I am in hopes, neither her Grace of Queensberry will hinder
you, nor you decline it."

       *       *       *       *       *

The "royal hermitage" was a building erected by Queen Caroline in the
grounds of Richmond Palace, and decorated with busts of her favourite
philosophers. This letter of Pope seems extraordinary, and it is a
little difficult to guess what inspired the suggestion contained in it.
"This is but shabby advice," Croker has written, "considering the
general tone of Pope's private correspondence, as well as his published
satires, and seems peculiarly strange in the circumstances in which Gay
himself and the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry, on his account, stood
with the Queen. If it were not for the introduction of Lady Suffolk's
name, I should have thought Pope's advice sheer irony, and a hint for a
libel on the Court. The Duchess and Gay were offended at the
proposition." It may be, however, that Pope thought it possible that
such a poetical effusion as he had in mind might restore Gay to favour
at Court. Gay, who received Pope's letter while he was on a visit to
Orchard Wyndham, the seat of Sir William Wyndham, in Somersetshire,
would do nothing in the matter, as will be seen from his reply.


  October 7th, 1732.

"I am at last returned from my Somersetshire expedition, but since my
return I cannot boast of my health as before I went, for I am frequently
out of order with my colical complaint, so as to make me uneasy and
dispirited, though not to any violent degree. The reception we met with,
and the little excursions we made, were in every way agreeable. I think
the country abounds with beautiful prospects. Sir William Wyndham is at
present amusing himself with some real improvements, and a great many
visionary castles. We are often entertained with sea-views, and sea
fish, and were at some places in the neighbourhood, among which I was
mightily pleased with Dunster Castle, near Minehead. It stands upon a
great eminence, and has a prospect of that town, with an extensive view
of the Bristol Channel, in which are seen two small islands, called the
Steep Holms and Flat Holms, and on the other side we could plainly
distinguish the divisions of fields on the Welsh coast. All this journey
I performed on horseback, and I am very much disappointed that at
present I feel myself so little the better for it. I have indeed
followed riding and exercise for three months successively, and really
think I was as well without it: so that I begin to fear the illness I
have so long complained of, is inherent in my constitution, and that I
have nothing for it but patience.

"As to your advice about writing panegyric, it is what I have not
frequently done. I have indeed done it sometimes against my judgment
and inclination, and I heartily repent of it. And at present, as I have
no desire of reward, and see no just reason of praise, I think I had
better let it alone. There are flatterers good enough to be found, and I
would not interfere in any gentleman's profession. I have seen no verses
on these sublime occasions, so that I have no emulation. Let the patrons
enjoy the authors, and the authors their patrons, for I know myself


  November 16th, 1732.

"I am at last come to London before the family, to follow my own
inventions. In a week or fortnight I expect the family will follow me.

"If my present project[7] succeeds, you may expect a better account of
my own fortune a little while after the holidays; but I promise myself
nothing, for I am determined that neither anybody else, nor myself shall
disappoint me."[8]

       *       *       *       *       *

Neither the production of "Achilles," nor any other earthly project of
Gay's, took place, for, within a few weeks, on December 4th, after three
days' illness, he passed away in his forty-eighth year, at the Duke of
Queensberry's town house in Burlington Gardens.

On the following day, Arbuthnot, who attended him, imparted the sad
tidings to Pope: "Poor Mr. Gay died of an inflammation, and, I believe,
at last a mortification of the bowels; it was the most precipitous case
I ever knew, having cut him off in three days. He was attended by two
physicians besides myself. I believed the distemper mortal from the
beginning."[9] Pope, in his turn, immediately wrote to Swift, and his
letter was found among Swift's papers, bearing the following
endorsement: "On my dear friend Mr. Gay's death. Received December
15th, but not read till the 20th, by an impulse foreboding some


  December 5th, 1732.

"It is not a time to complain that you have not answered me two letters
(in the last of which I was impatient under some fears). It is not now,
indeed, a time to think of myself, when one of the longest and nearest
ties I have ever had, is broken all on a sudden by the unexpected death
of poor Mr. Gay. An inflammatory fever burned him out of this life in
three days. He died last night at nine o'clock, not deprived of his
senses entirely at last, and possessing them perfectly till within five
hours. He asked of you a few hours before, when in acute torment by the
inflammation in his bowels and breast. His effects are in the Duke of
Queensberry's custody. His sisters, we suppose, will be his heirs, who
are two widows; as yet it is not known whether or no he left a will ...

"I shall never see you now, I believe; one of your principal calls to
England is at an end. Indeed, he was the most amiable by far, his
qualities were the gentlest, but I love you as well and as firmly. Would
to God the man we have lost had not been so amiable nor so good: but
that's a wish for our own sakes, not for his. Surely, if innocence and
integrity can deserve happiness, it must be his. Adieu! I can add
nothing to what you will feel, and diminish nothing from it."[10]

       *       *       *       *       *

Gay's body was removed from Burlington House on the morning of December
23rd, to Exeter Change, in the Strand, where it lay in state during the
day. At nine o'clock in the evening, it was taken for burial to
Westminster Abbey in a hearse with plumes of white and black feathers
and appropriate escutcheons, attended by three coaches, each drawn by
six horses. In the first coach was the principal mourner, Gay's nephew,
the Rev. Joseph Bailer, who is responsible for the above account of the
obsequies; in the second coach were the Duke of Queensberry and
Arbuthnot. The pall-bearers were Lord Chesterfield, Lord Cornbury, the
Hon. Mr. Berkeley, General Dormer, Mr. Gore, and Pope. The service was
read by the Dean of Westminster, Dr. Wilcox, Bishop of Rochester. Gay's
remains were deposited in the south cross aisle of the Abbey, over
against Chaucer's tomb.[11] Later a monument was erected to his memory.

             Here lie the ashes of Mr. John Gay,
                     The warmest friend;
                   The most benevolent man:
                        Who maintained
               In low circumstances of fortune;
                In the midst of a corrupt age
               And that equal serenity of mind,
           Which conscious goodness alone can give,
            Through the whole course of his life.

                   Favourite of the Muses,
           He was led by them to every elegant art;
                      Refin'd in taste,
             And fraught with graces all his own;
                  In various kinds of poetry
                      Superior to many,
                      Inferior to none,
                His words continue to inspire,
                   What his example taught,
             Contempt of folly, however adorn'd;
           Detestation of vice, however dignified;
           Reverence of virtue, however disgrac'd.

Charles and Catherine, Duke and Duchess of Queensbury, who loved this
excellent man living, and regret him dead, have caused this monument to
be erected to his memory. Pope, than whom no man loved him better,
composed an epitaph for him:--

  Of manners gentle, of affections mild,
  In wit a man, simplicity a child;
  With native humour, temp'ring virtuous rage,
  Form'd to delight at once, and lash the age.
  Above temptation in a low estate,
  And uncorrupted e'en among the great.
  A safe companion, and an easy friend,
  Unblam'd through life, lamented in thy end:
  These are thy honours! not that here thy bust
  Is mix'd with heroes, or with Kings thy dust;
  But that the worthy and the good shall say,
  Striking their pensive bosoms--Here lies Gay.

Of Gay's posthumous works, there are several references in the
correspondence of his friends. The first mention is concerning
"Achilles," in a letter written from Twickenham by Pope to Caryll: "Poor
Gay has gone before, and has not left an honester man behind him; he has
just put a play into the house, which the Duke of Queensberry will take
care of, and turn to the benefit of his relations. I have read it, and
think it of his very best manner, a true original; he has left some
other pieces fit for the press." Quite in keeping with his character Gay
had made no arrangements for the disposal of the manuscripts he left
behind him. "As to his writings, he left no will, nor spoke a word of
them, or anything else, during his short and precipitate illness, in
which I attended him to his last breath," Pope informed Swift, February
16th, 1733. "The Duke has acted more than the part of a brother to him,
and it will be strange if the sisters do not leave his papers totally at
his disposal, who will do the same that I would with them. He had
managed the comedy (which our poor friend gave to the playhouse a week
before his death) to the utmost advantage for his relations; and
proposes to do the same with some Fables he left unfinished."[12] The
play was much discussed in advance of its representation.

"Mr. Gay has left a posthumous work, which is soon to be acted," Lady
Anne Irvine wrote to Lord Carlisle on January 6th, 1733. "Tis in the
manner of 'The Beggar's Opera,' interspersed with songs; the subject is
Achilles among the women, where he is discovered choosing a sword. The
design is to ridicule Homer's Odysses; 'tis much commended, and I don't
doubt, from the nature of the subject, will be much approved."[13] Gay's
play was put into rehearsal in December, 1732, about a fortnight after
his death,[14] and it was produced at the theatre in Lincoln's Inn
Fields in February, 1723, when a contemporary account says it "met with
a general applause the first night, when there was a noble and crowded
audience,"[15] and Pope wrote to Swift on February 16th: "The play Mr.
Gay left succeeds very well. It is another original of its kind."[16] It
ran for eighteen nights. The cast was as follows:--

_Lycomedes_ ...  ...  ...  ...  ... MR. QUIN
_Diphilus_  ...  ...  ...  ...  ... MR. ASTON
_Achilles_  ...  ...  ...  ...  ... MR. SALWAY
_Ulysses_   ...  ...  ...  ...  ... MR. CHAPMAN
_Diomedes_  ...  ...  ...  ...  ... MR. LAGUERRE
_Ajax_ ...  ...  ...  ...  ...  ... MR. HALL
_Periphas_  ...  ...  ...  ...  ... MR. WALKER
_Agyrtes_   ...  ...  ...  ...  ... MR. LEVERIDGE
_Thetis_    ...  ...  ...  ...  ... MR. BUCHANAN
_Theaspe_   ...  ...  ...  ...  ... MRS. CANTREL
_Deïdamia_  ...  ...  ...  ...  ... MISS NORSA
_Lesbia_    ...  ...  ...  ...  ... MISS BINKS
_Philoe_    ...  ...  ...  ...  ... MISS OATES
_Antemona_  ...  ...  ...  ...  ... MRS. EGLETON

"The Distrest Wife," another of the posthumous plays, was a poor thing,
and Swift was much annoyed that it was staged. "As to our poor friend, I
think the Duke of Queensberry has acted a very noble and generous
part," Swift wrote to Pope, March 31st, 1734. "But before he did it, I
wish there had been so much cunning used as to have let the sisters know
that he expected they would let him dispose of Mr. Gay's writings as
himself and other friends should advise. And I heartily wish his Grace
had entirely stifled that comedy, if it were possible, than do an injury
to our friend's reputation, only to get a hundred or two pounds to a
couple of, perhaps, insignificant women. It has been printed here, and I
am grieved to say it is a very poor performance. I have often chid Mr.
Gay for not varying his schemes, but still adhering to those he had
exhausted; and I much doubt whether the posthumous Fables will prove
equal to the first. I think it is incumbent upon you to see that nothing
more be published of his that will lessen his reputation for the sake of
adding a few pounds to his sisters, who have already got so much by his
death." "The Distrest Wife" was produced at Covent Garden Theatre on
March 5th, 1734,[17] and the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry were
present at the performance. "To-morrow will be acted a new play of our
friend Mr. Gay's; we stay on purpose now for that," the Duchess wrote to
Swift on the previous day.[18] The play was published in 1743, and a
second edition was issued in 1750. It was revived at Covent Garden, in
1772, with some alteration.[19]

In a humorous piece, "The Rehearsal at Goatham," published in 1754,
which was written probably about 1729, Gay ventilated his grievance
against Walpole and the rest, _à propos_ of the suppression of "Polly."
This was Gay's King Charles's Head, and he never forgave the Minister
for this, or for not finding him a place. He made an attack on him,
obvious to all, in "The Vulture, the Sparrow, and Other Birds," which
was included in his second series of "Fables"[20] that appeared
posthumously in 1738.

       *       *       *       *       *

The devotion of Gay's friends survived his death, and they vied with one
another in paying tribute to his memory. "As to himself, he knew the
world too well to regret leaving it; and the world in general knew him
too little to value him as they ought,"[21] the Duchess of Queensberry
wrote to Swift on February 21st, 1733; and, later, she addressed herself
to Lady Suffolk from Amesbury, on September 28th, 1734: "I often want
poor Mr. Gay, and on this occasion extremely. Nothing evaporates sooner
than joy untold, or even told, unless to one so entirely in your
interest as he was, who bore at least an equal share in every
satisfaction or dissatisfaction which attended us. I am not in the
spleen, though I write thus; on the contrary, it is a sort of pleasure
to think over his good qualities: his loss was really great, but it is a
satisfaction to have once known so good a man." Her affection endured
until the end. Although she was then a very old woman, when "Polly" was
produced at the Haymarket Theatre on June 19th, 1777, nothing would
content her but she must be present. Within a few weeks, on the
following July 17th, she passed away.

Lord Bathurst, too, deplored the loss of Gay; he of whom the poet had
written in "Mr. Pope's Welcome from Greece":--

  Bathurst impetuous, hastens to the coast.
  Whom you and I strive who shall love the most.

"Poor John Gay!" he wrote to Swift on March 29th, 1733. "We shall see
him no more; but he will always be remembered by those who knew him,
with a tender concern." Arbuthnot, who also had had tribute paid him in
"Mr. Pope's Welcome from Greece":--

  Arbuthnot there I see, in physic's art,
    As Galen learned or famed Hippocrate;
  Whose company drives sorrow from the heart
    As all disease his medicines dissipate.

knew him well and loved him deeply. "We have all had another loss of our
worthy and dear friend, Mr. Gay," he wrote to Swift on January 13th,
1733. "It was some alleviation of my grief to see him so universally
lamented by almost everybody, even by those who knew him only by
reputation. He was interred at Westminster Abbey, as if he had been a
peer of the realm; and the good Duke of Queensberry, who lamented him as
a brother, will set up a handsome monument upon him. These are little
affronts put upon vice and injustice, and is all that remains in our
power. I believe 'The Beggar's Opera,' and what he had to come upon the
stage, will make the sum of the diversions of the town for some time to

By virtue of their fame, towering high above the rest of the select band
of Gay's dearest friends, were Pope and Swift:--

  Blest be the great! for those they take away,
  And those they left me; for they left me Gay,

Pope had written in the "Epistle to Arbuthnot"; and Gay, as has been
said, had more than once entered the lists and broken a lance on his
brother poet's behalf, as when he parodied Ambrose Philips in "The
Shepherd's Week." His "Mr. Pope's Welcome from Greece," written when
Pope had finished his translation of the "Iliad," was a fine panegyric,
in which he had a sly dig at the rival editor:--

  Tickell, whose skiff (in partnership they say)
  Set forth for Greece, but founder'd on the way.

and in his "Epistle to the Right Honourable Paul Methuen, Esq.," he
pilloried one of his friend's most violent critics:--

    Had Pope with grovelling numbers fill'd his page,
  Dennis had never kindled into rage.
  'Tis the sublime that hurt the critic's ease;
  Write nonsense, and he reads and sleeps in peace.

"You say truly," Pope wrote to Swift, on April 2nd, 1733, "that death is
only terrible to us as it separates us from those we love; but I really
think those have the worst of it who are left by us, if we are true
friends. I have felt more (I fancy) in the loss of Mr. Gay, than I shall
suffer in the thought of going away myself into a state that none of us
can feel this sort of losses. I wished vehemently to have seen him in a
condition of living independent, and to have lived in perfect indolence
the rest of our days together, the two most idle, most innocent,
undesigning poets of our age."[23]

Through the long years Gay was present to the minds of these, his
dearest friends. "Dr. Arbuthnot's daughter is like Gay, very idle, very
ingenuous, and inflexibly honest,"[24] Pope wrote to Swift, May 17th,
1739; and two years earlier, on July 23rd, 1737, Swift had written to
Erasmus Lewis: "I have had my share of affliction in the loss of Dr.
Arbuthnot, and poor Gay, and others.[25] Such devotion, from such very
different people puts it beyond question that Gay was a very lovable
creature. How deeply he returned that devotion it is difficult to
say--gratitude he felt, no doubt, but of love ... a man of such weak
character, a man so devoted to the fleshpots, probably received more
than he could give." Perhaps Swift, whose affections never blinded his
intelligence, had some inkling of this when he said in the "Verses on
His Own Death,"

  Poor Pope will grieve a month, and Gay
  A week, and Arbuthnot a day.

When Gay, in "Mr. Pope's Welcome from Greece," wrote:--

  Thou, too, my Swift, dost breathe Boeotian air,
  When will thou bring back wit and humour here?

the formal tribute is agreeable, but in this set of verses, while there
is much that is complimentary, there is something perfunctory about the
tributes he paid. He wrote of Pope and Swift and the rest as witty or
humorous or generous or clever or learned or honest of mind: they wrote
of the love they bore him. The two great literary giants took him under
their wing, bore with his foibles, humoured him, championed him, and to
the utmost of their power sought to protect their weaker brother of the
pen from the rude buffetings of life.

[Footnote 1: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 498.]

[Footnote 2: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVII, p. 502.]

[Footnote 3: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVIII, p. 3.]

[Footnote 4: Probably a reference to the Opera, "Achilles."]

[Footnote 5: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVIII, p. 23.]

[Footnote 6: S. Poyntz, Governor to the Duke of Cumberland. He married a
niece of Lord Peterborough.]

[Footnote 7: Probably another reference to the Opera "Achilles."]

[Footnote 8: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVIII, p. 51.]

[Footnote 9: _Ibid_., XVIII, p. 54.]

[Footnote 10: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVIII, p. 53.]

[Footnote 11: _Gay's Chair_, p. 24.]

[Footnote 12: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott). XVIII, p. 84.]

[Footnote 13: Historical MSS. Commission Reports--Carlisle MSS.]

[Footnote 14: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVIII, p. 57.]

[Footnote 15: Historical MSS. Com. Reports--Bath MSS., I, p. 95.]

[Footnote 16: _Gentleman's Magazine_, 1773, pp. 78, 85.]

[Footnote 17: Genest: _History of the Stage_, III, p. 428.]

[Footnote 18: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVIII, p. 180.]

[Footnote 19: _Biog. Dram_., II, p. 168.]

[Footnote 20: The "Advertisement" to the volume was as follows: "These
Fables were finished by Mr. Gay, and intended for the Press, a short
time before his death, when they were left, with his other papers, to
the care of his noble friend and patron, the Duke of Queensberry. His
Grace has accordingly permitted them to the Press, and they are here
printed from the originals in the author's handwriting. We hope they
will please equally with his former Fables, though mostly on subjects of
a graver and more political turn. They will certainly show him to have
been (what he esteemed the best character) a man of true honest heart,
and a sincere lover of his country."]

[Footnote 21: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVIII, p. 82.]

[Footnote 22: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Scott), XVIII, p. 95.]

[Footnote 23: Swift: _Works_ (ed. Hill), XVIII, p. 96.]

[Footnote 24: _Ibid_., XIX, p. 200.]

[Footnote 25: _Ibid_., XIX, p. 92.]







     Was written by Sir Chas. Hanbury Williams.

     Was written by Mr. Fortescue, Master of the Rolls.

     Was written by Dean Swift.

     Were written by Lord Chesterfield.

All the songs, except I, VI, XXIV, XXX, and XLIV were written by Gay.


     Old English air first published in 1665.

     Composed by Jeremiah Clarke in 1695.

     Old Irish _air_, 1600. "The Irish Ho Hoane" _cir_. 1610.

     Composed by Bononcini. Published in Playford's _Banquet_. 1688

     Old Irish _air_, 1660. Introduced by Doggett into his _Country
     Wake_, 1696; also known as "The Mouse Trap," 1719.

     Composed by Henry Purcell. _Bonduca_ in 1695.

     Old English. Published by Playford in 1665.

     Old Irish. Adapted by Henry Purcell to "Hail to the Myrtle Shades,"
     in _Theodosius_, 1680. Also adapted to "Rosalind's Complaint," by
     Mr. Baker, in 1727.

     Old Irish air, 1600. Adapted to "May Fair," 1703.

     Sung in Weaver's _Perseus and Andromede_, 1717. Published in
     Playford's _Dancing Master_, in 1719.

     Composed by John Eccles for Congreve's _Love for Love_, 1696.

     Old English. "The Children in the Wood." Seventeenth Century.

     Old French chanson.

     Old English. Published by Playford in 1719.

     Old English air, 1715.

     Old Irish. Atkinson's MS. in 1694. By Farquhar in his _Recruiting
     Officer_, in 1706. Published by Durfey in 1709.

     Old Scotch. Published by Ramsay in 1726, in his "Musick for the
     Songs in the Tea Table Miscellany."

     Old Irish. Quoted by Bishop Wadding in 1680.

     A _French_ Drinking Song. "Que chacun remplisse son verre"; adapted
     by Durfey in 1710.

     Composed by Handel. Produced in 1711.

     Old Irish. Published as "Poor Robin's Maggot" in 1652. Adapted by
     Durfey to a song in _Modern Prophets_ in 1709.

     A _French_ Dance tune. Printed in a Frankfort book of the year
     1664, and by Playford as "Tony's Rant," in 1726.

     Old English. "The Friar and the Nun" (Friar Foxtail). Printed by
     Playford in 1651. Durfey's _Pills_, 1719.

     Old English. Sung in Durfey's _The Wiltshire Maid_.

     Old Irish. Adapted by Durfey in his _Pills_, 1720.

     Old English air, 1720.

     Old Irish. Printed in 1721.

     Composed by Handel. Sung in Gay's _What d'ye call it_ (1715).

     Old English. "The Hemp Dresser." Published by Playford in 1651.

     Composed by Dr. Pepusch. 1716.

     Introduced in Henry Purcell's _Richmond Heiress_, 1693.

XXXII. No name, but evidently intended for HOW SHOULD I YOUR TRUE LOVE
KNOW. Ophelia's song.
     Published by Playford in 1713.

     Old English.

     Composed by Henry Carey. 1720.

     Old Irish. "Molly Roe." Published as "The Rant" in Apollo's
     Banquet, in 1690.

     Old Irish. Printed as "Hyde Park," by Playford, in 1651.

XXXVII. No name given, but evidently CONSTANT BILLY, published in 1726.
     Sir H. Bishop says that it was composed by Geminiani.

     Old English. Printed in 1705.

     Old Irish. Printed as "The Irish Howl," by Playford, in the third
     volume of his _Dancing Master_, in 1726.

     Old Scotch. Printed in _Orpheus Caledonius_. 1725.

     Composed by Henry Purcell. _Fairy Queen_ (1692).

     Old English. Printed in 1720.

     Old English. Melody in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book.

     Old Irish. Printed in 1688. Adapted by Purcell.

     Old English.

     Old English.

     Printed as "Walpole, or the Happy Clown," in 1719. Words by
     Birkhead. The tune also occurs in the Overture.

     Old English.

     Old Scotch. Printed by Playford in 1700.

     Composed by John Wilford. Printed in 1710.

     The tune was printed as "Greenwich Park," by Playford. 1688. Song
     from _The Compleat Academy_ (1685). Music composed by Jeremiah
     Clarke, 1685.

     Old Scotch. Printed in Ramsay's _Tea Table Misc_. 1726.

     Old English. Printed by Playford in 1664.

     Old English. Printed by Playford in 1716.

     Composed by John Barret, 1701.

     Old English.

     Old Scotch. The melody is in the _Skene MS._, 1630.

     Adapted from "The Pilgrim," composed by J. Barret in 1701.

     Composed by Henry Carey, in 1716. N.B.--The air was superseded by
     another in 1790.

     Composed by Henry Purcell. _Bonduca_, 1695.

     Old English. Early Seventeenth century. Printed in 1710.

     Old English. Seventeenth century. Printed in 1652.

     Composed by Frescobaldi (1614). Adapted by Tom Durfey in 1682 or

     Old English. Printed as "Puddings and Pies," by Playford, in 1716.

     Old Irish. "Youghal Harbour," in 1720. Also known as "Ned of the
     Hill" (1700).

     Old English. Seventeenth century.

     Old English. Sixteenth century.

     Composed by Lewis Ramondon. 1710.

     Old Irish. Printed by Playford in 1701. Adapted by Durfey in 1697.


_June 7th_, 1915.




Binfield, November 13      Alexander Pope to John Gay
December 24                Alexander Pope to John Gay


London, January 13         John Gay to Maurice Johnson, junior.
April 23, 1713             John Gay to Maurice Johnson, junior.
August 23                  Alexander Pope to John Gay
October 23                 Alexander Pope to John Gay


Binfield, May 4            Thomas Parnell and Alexander Pope to John Gay
London, June 8             John Gay to Jonathan Swift
Hanover, August 16         John Gay to John Arbuthnot
September 23               Alexander Pope to John Gay


London, March 3            Alexander Pope and John Gay to John Caryll
London, March 18           Alexander Pope and John Gay to Thomas Parnell
[March]                    Alexander Pope and John Gay to John Caryll
April 7                    Alexander Pope and John Gay to William Congreve
London [April]             John Gay and Alexander Pope to John Caryll
July 8                     John Gay to Alexander Pope


_Undated_                  John Gay, Jervis, John Arbuthnot
  (beginning: "I was         and Alexander Pope to Thomas Parnell
  last summer in


_Undated_                  John Gay to Alexander Pope
  (beginning: "Too
  late to see and
  confess myself

London, November 8         Alexander Pope to John Gay


September 8                John Gay to the Hon. Mrs. Howard


[_circa_ October]          John Gay to Jacob Tonson


September 11               Alexander Pope to John Gay
[September or October]     Alexander Pope to John Gay
  (beginning: "I think
  it obliging in you")
London, December 22        John Gay to Jonathan Swift


Dublin, January 8          Jonathan Swift to John Gay
London, February 3         John Gay to Jonathan Swift
July 5                     The Hon. Mrs. Howard to John Gay
July 12                    John Gay to the Hon. Mrs. Howard
July 13                    Alexander Pope to John Gay
July 22                    The Hon. Mrs. Howard to John Gay
Tunbridge Wells, August    John Gay to the Hon. Mrs. Howard
August                     The Hon. Mrs. Howard to John Gay
August 22                  The Hon. Mrs. Howard to John Gay


_Undated_             John Gay to the Hon. Mrs. Howard
  (beginning: "Since
  I came to the Bath")

Saturday night [autumn]    John Gay to Alexander Pope


Thursday, 10 at night      John Gay to Alexander Pope


London, September 16       John Gay to Jonathan Swift
October 15                 Jonathan Swift to Alexander Pope and John Gay
Whitehall, October 22      John Gay to Jonathan Swift
November 17                John Gay and Alexander Pope to
                             Jonathan Swift


Whitehall, February 18     John Gay to Jonathan Swift
London, March 3            John Gay to John Caryll
[October] (beginning: "I   The Hon. Mrs. Howard to John Gay
  hear you expect and
  have a mind to have, a
  letter from me")
Twickenham, October 16     Alexander Pope to John Gay
October 22                 John Gay and Alexander Pope to
                             Jonathan Swift


February 12                John Gay to Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford
Whitehall, February 15     John Gay to Jonathan Swift
February 26                Jonathan Swift to John Gay
March 20                   John Gay to Jonathan Swift
Dublin, March 28           Jonathan Swift to John Gay
Bath, May 16               John Gay to Jonathan Swift
June 15                    The Hon. Mrs. Howard to John Gay
Bath, July 6               John Gay to Jonathan Swift
August 2                   John Gay to Alexander Pope
August                     The Hon. Mrs. Howard to John Gay
London, December 2         John Gay to Jonathan Swift
[December, 1728 or         Alexander Pope to John Gay
  January 1729]
 (beginning: "No words
  can tell you the
  great concern")


[January] (beginning, "I   Alexander Pope to John Gay
  faithfully assure you")
Sunday night [January]     Alexander Pope to John Gay
[January] (beginning: "I   Alexander Pope to John Gay
  am glad to hear of the
[1][February or March]     John Gay to Alexander Pope
  (beginning: "My
  melancholy increases")
From the Duke of           John Gay to Jonathan Swift
  in Burlington
  Gardens, March 18
Dublin, March 19           Jonathan Swift to John Gay
August 9                   John Gay and the Duchess of Queensberry
                              to the Hon. Mrs. Howard
August 27                  John Gay and the Duchess of Queensberry
                              to the Hon. Mrs. Howard
Middleton Stoney,          John Gay to Jonathan Swift
  November 9
Dublin, November 20        Jonathan Swift to John Gay

[Footnote 1: The authenticity of this letter is doubtful.]


London, March 3            John Gay to Jonathan Swift
Dublin, March 19           Jonathan Swift to John Gay
March 31                   John Gay to Jonathan Swift
May 7                      John Gay to the Hon. Mrs. Howard
Amesbury, July 4           John Gay to Jonathan Swift
Twickenham, July 21        Alexander Pope to John Gay
July 31                    The Hon. Mrs. Howard to John Gay
August 18                  Alexander Pope to John Gay
August 20                  John Gay and the Duchess of Queensberry
                              to the Hon. Mrs. Howard
August 22                  The Hon. Mrs. Howard to John Gay
September 3                The Hon. Mrs. Howard to John Gay
September 11               John Gay and the Duchess of Queensberry
                               to the Hon. Mrs. Howard
September 11               Alexander Pope to John Gay
October 1                  Alexander Pope to John Gay
October                    Alexander Pope to John Gay
October 23                 Alexander Pope to John Gay
Amesbury, November 8       John Gay and the Duchess of Queensberry
                              to Jonathan Swift
Dublin, November 10        Jonathan Swift to John Gay
Dublin, November 19        Jonathan Swift to John Gay and the
                              Duchess of Queensberry
Amesbury, December 6       John Gay and the Duchess of Queensberry
                              to Jonathan Swift
December 17                John Gay and the Duchess of Queensberry
                              to Hon. Mrs. Howard


Dublin, March 13           Jonathan Swift to John Gay and the
                              Duchess of Queensberry
March 20                   John Gay to Dean Swift
April 21                   John Gay and the Duchess of Queensbury
                             to Jonathan Swift
Amesbury, April 27         John Gay to Jonathan Swift
Dublin, June 29            Jonathan Swift to John Gay and the
                             Duchess of Queensbury
June 29                    The Countess of Suffolk to John Gay
July 8                     John Gay to the Countess of Suffolk
July 18                    The Duchess of Queensbury and John Gay
                             to Jonathan Swift
"The Country," August 28   Jonathan Swift to John Gay and the
                             Duchess of Queensbury
September 5                The Countess of Suffolk to John Gay
[November]                 John Gay and the Duke of Queensbury to
                             Jonathan Swift
December 1                 Jonathan Swift to John Gay and the
                             Duke and Duchess of Queensbury
December 1                 John Gay and Alexander Pope to Jonathan
December 16                William Cleland to John Gay


London, January 18         John Gay to Jonathan Swift
March 13                   John Gay to Jonathan Swift
Dublin, May 4              Jonathan Swift to John Gay
London, May 16             John Gay to Jonathan Swift
Dublin, July 10            Jonathan Swift to John Gay and the
                             Duchess of Queensberry
Amesbury, July 24          John Gay and the Duchess of
                             Queensberry to Jonathan Swift
Dublin, August 12          Jonathan Swift to John Gay and the
                             Duchess of Queensbury
Amesbury, August 28        John Gay and the Duchess of Queensbury
                             to Jonathan Swift
October 2                  Alexander Pope to John Gay
Dublin, October 3          Jonathan Swift to John Gay and the
                             Duchess of Queensbury
October 7                  John Gay to Alexander Pope
November 16                John Gay to Jonathan Swift


November 3 (beginning:     The Hon. Mrs. Howard to John Gay
  "I have not been
  well ")--B.M., Add.
  MSS., 22626 f. 63
December 7 (beginning:     The Hon. Mrs. Howard to John Gay
  "I write this to quiet
  your conscience ")--B.M.,
  Add. MSS., 22626 f. 64
(Beginning: "Most          John Gay to the Hon. Mrs. Howard
  honoured Roger ")--B.M.,
  Add. MSS., 22626 f. 59
(Beginning: "You oblige    The Countess of Suffolk to John Gay
  me extremely in giving
  me")--B.M., Add.
  MSS., 22626 f. 61
(Beginning: "Pray tell     The Countess of Suffolk to John Gay
  Mr. Pope ")--B.M.,
  Add. MSS.. 22626 f. 62





_New Settings of the Airs and Additional Music by Frederic Austin_.


_PEACHUM_.........................FREDERIC AUSTIN
_LOCKIT_..........................ARTHUR WYNN
_MACHEATH_........................FREDERICK RANALOW
_FILCH_...........................ALFRED HEATHER
_THE BEGGAR_......................ARNOLD PILBEAM
_MRS. PEACHUM_....................ELSIE FRENCH
_POLLY PEACHUM_...................SYLVIA NELIS
_DIANA TRAPES_....................BERYL FREEMAN
_JENNY DIVER_.....................NONNY LOCK


_Members of Macheath's Gang_:


_Women of the Town_:


       *       *       *       *       *


ACT II.  Sc. i.   A TAVERN. Near Newgate
         Sc. ii.  NEWGATE
         Sc. ii.  NEWGATE
         Sc. iii. THE CONDEMN'D HOLD

_Scenes and Costumes designed by C. Lovat Fraser_.

       *       *       *       *       *


"Absence," 5; _quoted_, 6
"Achilles," 134, 135, 141, 142
"Acis and Galatea," 134
Addison, Joseph, 11, 12, 13-14, 16, 23, 37, 44
Alais, J.D'., 28
Anne, Queen, 24, 33
"Araminta," 20
Arbuthnot, Dr., 22, 23, 24, 29, 34, 41, 42, 44, 51, 58, 66, 94, 95,
  105, 109, 146;
  _letters quoted_:
  to Parnell, 39;
  to Pope, 138;
  to Swift, 30, 34, 102, 109, 111, 145
Argyll, Duke of, 80
Aston (actor), 142
Atterbury, Francis, Bishop of Rochester, 12, 23

Baller, Anthony (brother-in-law of the poet), 2
  Mrs. Anthony, _i.e.,_ Gay, Katherine (_q. v._)
  Rev. Joseph (nephew of the poet), 2, 140;
    his "Gay's Chair," _quoted_, 4
Barber, Mrs., 127
Bathurst, Lord, 50, 54, 58, 72, 92, 145;
  letter to Swift, _quoted_, 145,
  "Beggar's Opera, The," 41, 75, 78-91;
  "Notes on the Sources of the Tunes of 'The Beggar's Opera,'" by W.H.
    Grattan Flood, Mus. D., 150;
  programme of the revival at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, June, 1920, 162.
Bellenden, Madge, 47
  Mary, 46, 47, 49
Berkeley, Hon. George, 140
Bicknell, Mrs., 37, 42
Binks, Mrs., 142
Bloodworth, Mr., 131
Blount, Martha, 47, 72, 94, 130, 131
  Teresa, 47
Bolingbroke, Viscount, 12, 24, 25, 35, 68, 90, 92
  Viscountess, 92
Bolton, Duchess of, _see_ Fenton, Lavinia
Bradshaw, Mrs., 55
Bridgeman, 131
_British Apollo_, 9
Bromley, Mr. Secretary, 29
Buchanan (actor), 142
Buckingham, Lord, 15
Budgell, Eustace, 18
Bullock, H., 80
Burlington, Earl of, 39, 50, 54, 57
Burnett, Thomas, 38
Burton, Lord, 28

Cantrel, Mrs., 142
"Captives, The," 65
Caroline, Queen, 30, 34, 36, 67, 70, 103, 136
Caryll, John, 22
Castlemaine, Viscount, 112
Chandos, Lord, 50
Chapman (actor), 142
Chesterfield, Earl of, 140
Cibber, Colley, 45, 79, 102;
  his "Apology," _quoted_, 90
Clarendon, Earl of, 28, 29, 30, 33
Clark (actor), 80
Cobham, Lord, 87
Colman, George, 84, 101
"Comparisons," 5
"Complete Key to 'Three Hours After Marriage'," 44
"Congratulation to a Newly-married Couple," 5
Congreve, William, 15, 23, 58, 68, 79, 92, 94
"Contemplation on Night," 20
Cornbury, Lord, 140
"Court Poems," 40
Courthope, Professor, his "Life of Pope," _quoted_, 44, 45
Craggs, James, the younger, 52
Cromwell, Henry, 14, 16, 17, 36
Cumberland, Prince William Augustus, Duke of, 67, 70

Delany, Dr., 93
"Devonshire Hill, A," 5
"Distrest Wife, The," 134, 142, 143
Dobson, Austin, his article on Gay in "Dictionary of National
  Biography," _quoted_, 7, 28, 42
Dormer, General James, 112, 140
Douglas, Lord Charles, 111, 122
Drelincourt, Mrs., 127
  "Dress," 20
Drumlanrig, Earl of, 111, 122

Egleton, Mrs., 80, 142
"Epigrammatical Petition," 9; _quoted_, 29.
"Epistle to the Right Honourable
  Paul Methuen, Esquire," _quoted_,146
"Epistle to the Right Honourable
  the Earl of Burlington," _quoted_, 39
"Epistle to the Right Honourable
   William Pulteney, Esquire," 46
Essex, Earl of, 66
_Examiner, The_, 11, 12

"FABLE," 5
"Fables" (first series), 69-70
"Fables" (second, series), 135, 144
"Fan, The," 20, 21
Fenton,--, 52, 119
Fenton, Lavinia, Duchess of Bolton, 80, 91
Fielding, Sir John, 84
Fitzwilliam, Countess of, 67
Fitzwilliam, Earl of, 67
Flood, W.H. Grattan, Mus. D. _See_ Grattan Flood, W.H.
_Flying Post, The_, 12
Ford, Charles, 22, 29
Fortescue, John (brother-in-law of the poet), 2
Fortescue, Mrs. John, _i.e._, Gay, Joanna (_q. v._)
Fortescue, William, 2, 3, 22, 66
Freind, Dr. John, 11, 12

Garrick, David, 84
Garth, Dr., 16
Gay, Anthony, 1
  Gilbert le, 1
  Rev. James (uncle of the poet), 2
  Joanna (sister of the poet), 2, 117
  Jonathan (brother of the poet), 2, 7
  Johans, 1
  John (grandfather of the poet), 1
  John (uncle of the poet), 2
  John (the poet), ancestors, 1;
  parentage and family, 1-2;
  birth, 2;
  death of parents, 2;
  lives with his uncle, Thomas Gay, 2;
  attends Free School at Barr staple, 2-3;
  apprenticed to a London silk-mercer, 3;
  in ill-health, 4;
  returns to Barnstaple, 4;
  early writings, 4-5;
  youthful love affair, 5-6;
  in improved health, 7;
  returns to London, 7;
  life in the Metropolis, 7-8;
  love of food, drink, and dress, 8-9;
  "Wine," 9-10;
  "The Present State of Wit," 11-14;
  makes acquaintance with Henry Cromwell and Pope, 14;
  "On a Miscellany of Poems to Bernard Lintott," 14-16;
  becomes intimate with Pope, 17;
  domestic secretary to the Duchess of Monmouth, 18-19;
  "Rural Sports," 20;
  some minor verses, 20;
  "The Fan," 20-21;
  "The Wife of Bath," 21, 113, 115-116;
  his charm, 21-22;
  Pope as his protector and adviser, 22;
  "Memoirs of Scriblerus," 23;
  "The Shepherd's Week," 24-28;
  appointed Secretary to Lord Clarendon's
    Mission to Hanover, 1714, 29;
  letters from Hanover, 29;
  returns to England on death of Queen Anne, 33;
  "A Letter to a Lady," 34-35;
  "The What D'ye Call It," 35, 36-39;
  recognised as a man of letters, 39;
  visit to Exeter with the Earl of Burlington, 39;
  "Trivia," 39-40;
  "Court Poems," 40;
  "The Toilet," 41;
  second visit to Devonshire, 41;
  "Three Hours After Marriage," 41-45;
  visits the Continent with Pulteney, 45-46;
  intimate with the Maids of Honour, 46;
  and with the Hon. Mrs. Howard, 46-47;
  again abroad with Pulteney, 48;
  his literary reputation in 1720, 50;
  "Poems on Several Occasions," 50;
  given a present of South Sea stock,
    and invests his fortune in it, 52;
  loses his money when the "Bubble" bursts, 53;
  financial embarrassment, 53;
  the desire of his friends to aid him, 54;
  the disappointment affects his health, 55;
  recuperates at Bath, 55;
  appointed a Commissioner of the State Lottery and
given an apartment in Whitehall, 57;
  at Tunbridge Wells, 58;
  correspondence with the Hon. Mrs. Howard, 59-64;
  "The Captives," 65;
  dedication to the Princess of Wales, 65;
  again at Bath, 66, 67;
  first meeting with Swift, 68;
  becomes more intimate with the Duke and
    Duchess of Queensberry, 69;
  "The Fables" (first series), 69;
  dedication to Prince William Augustus, 69;
  his expectation of a post at Court, 70;
  offered appointment of Gentleman Usher to the Princess Louisa, 70;
  his indignation, 70;
  refuses the post, 70;
  the opinions of Pope and Swift on the offer, 71-74;
  lampooned, 75-77;
  "The Beggar's Opera," 78-91, 93;
  at Bath, 92-94;
  "Polly," 95-101, 108;
  loses his Commissionship and his apartments in Whitehall, 101;
  an end of hope of Court preferment, 102;
  seriously ill, 105;
  lives with the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry, 110;
  in failing health, 133;
  "Acis and Galatea," 134;
  "Achilles," 134, 141, 142;
  "The Distrest Wife," 134, 142, 143;
  "The Rehearsal at Goatham," 135, 143;
  "Fables" (second series), 135, 144;
  death, 138;
  buried in Westminster Abbey, 139;
  his monument, 140;
  his epitaph written by Pope, 141;
  posthumous works, 141-144;
  his friends' devotion, 145-147;
  _letters quoted_: to Arbuthnot, 31;
    to Caryll, 37, 38;
    to Parnell, 38;
    to Pope, 42, 93, 106, 137;
    to the Countess of Suffolk, 48, 59, 61, 66, 111, 117, 120, 121,
      124, 129;
    to Swift, 9, 29, 55, 57, 58, 69, 70, 72, 74, 78, 87, 92, 93, 107,
      113, 115, 116, 127, 130, 132, 133, 135, 138;
    to Tonson, 53.
  Chronological List of the Correspondence of John Gay, 156.
  References to his writings will be found under the respective titles.
  Katherine (sister of the poet), 1, 117
  Richard, 1
  Richard (uncle of the poet), 2
  Thomas (uncle of the poet), 2
  William (father of the poet), 1
  Mrs. William, _i.e.,_ Hanmer, Miss _(q.v.)_
Gaye, John, 1
  Richard, 1
George I., 30, 33, 70
  II., 36, 100, 103
Gore, Mr., 140
Grafton, Duke of, 95, 97-99, 101
Grattan Flood, W.H., Mus. D.:
  "Notes on the Sources of the Tunes of 'The Beggar's Opera'" 150
Griffin (actor), 38
Gumley, Anne Maria, 46

Hall (actor), 80, 142
Hamilton, Duchess of, 46, 47
Hanmer, Miss (mother of the poet), 1, 2
  Rev. Jonathan (grandfather of the poet), 1
  Rev. John (uncle of the poet), 2, 3, 4
Harcourt, Lord, 48
"Hare and Many Friends, The," _quoted_, 70
Harley, Thomas, 28
Hawkins, Sir John, 85
Henley, Anthony, 12
Herbert, Lord, 118, 120
  Miss, 118
Herring, Dr. (Archbishop of Canterbury), 84
Hervey, Lady, 101
  Miss, 47
"High German Doctor, The," 38
Hill, Aaron, 3, 9;
  letter to Savage, _quoted_, 18
  Henry, 10
Hippisley (actor), 80
Hollins, Dr., 109
Horneck, Philip, 38
Howard, The Hon. Mrs., _see_ Suffolk, Countess of
Howe, Miss, 48

Irvine, Lady Anne, letter to Lord Carlisle, _quoted_, 142

Jennings, Mary, 59
Johnson (actor), 42
  Samuel, his "Lives of the Poets," _quoted_, 18, 21, 28, 42, 47,
    52, 65, 85

Kent, William, 50
King, Dr. William, 11, 12

"Ladies' Petition to the Honourable the House of Commons," 5
Laguerre (actor), 142
Lepell, Miss, 46, 47, 49
"Letter from a Lady in the City to a Lady in the Country, A," 43
"Letter to a Lady, A" 34; _quoted_,34-35
"Letter to a Young Lady," 5; _quoted_, 6
"Letter to John Gay, concerning his late Farce,
    entitled a Comedy," 44
Leveridge (actor), 142
Lewis, Erasmus, 14, 22, 29, 51, 58
Lincoln, Earl of, 57
Lintott, Bernard, 14, 39, 43, 50, 53, 54
Louisa, Princess, 70
Luck, Rev. Robert, 3

Mainwaring, Arthur, 12
Marlborough, Henrietta, Duchess of, 88, 92, 94, 95, 108
Martin, Mrs., 80
Meadows, Miss, 121
_Medley, The_, 12
"Memoirs of Scriblerus," 23, 29
Methuen, Sir Paul, 51
Monmouth, Duchess of, 18-19, 29
Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley, 40, 47
_Monthly Amusement_, 12
Motte, Benjamin, 87, 90
Murray, Miss, 47

Norsa, Miss, 142
Nash, Ricard ("Beau"), 94

Oates, Miss, 142
_Observer, The_, 12
"Ode for the New Year, Written by Colley Cibber, Esq.,"
  _quoted_, 102, 103
Oldmixon, John, 12
"On a Miscellany of Poems to Bernard Lintott," _quoted_, 10,
  14, 15-16
Otway, Thomas, 37
Oxford, Earl of, 29, 33, 72
Ozell, John, 12

"Panegyrical Epistle to Mr. Thomas Snow, Goldsmith,"
  _quoted_, 53
"Panthea," 20
Parnell, Thomas, 22, 29
Paull, H.M., his essay on Gay, _quoted_, 95-96
Pelham, Mrs., 66
Pendarves, Mrs., letter to Mrs. Anne Granville, _quoted_, 101
Penkethman (actor), 37
Peterborough, Earl of, 63, 64, 94
Philips, Ambrose, 25, 26, 27, 28, 67
  John, 10
Playfair, Nigel, 91 _note_
"Poems on Several Occasions," 50
"Polly," 95-101, 108
Pope, Alexander, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, 27, 29, 34, 38, 39, 40, 41,
  43, 44, 45, 51, 54, 58, 66, 68, 79, 80, 90, 107, 123, 130, 131,
  132, 134, 140, 145, 146;
  his epitaph on Gay _quoted_, 141;
  his "Epistle to Arbuthnot" _quoted_, 145;
  his "Farewell to London" _quoted_, 17;
  _letters quoted_: to Martha Blount, 46;
    to Caryll, 39, 45, 141;
    to Congreve, 36;
    to Cromwell, 14, 16;
    to Gay, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22, 33, 46, 71, 105, 119, 122, 136;
    to Parnell, 43;
    to Swift, 8, 23, 67, 73, 79, 86, 89, 139, 141, 142, 146
"Pope's Welcome from Greece, Mr." _quoted, 8_, 47-48, 52, 145,
  146, 147
Poyntz, S., 136
Pratt, Dr. Benjamin, 29
"Prediction," 5
"Present State of Wit, The," 11;
  _quoted_, 9, 12, 13-14
Prior, Matthew, 12, 15
Pulteney, William, 45, 46, 54, 90, 92, 108, 110
  Mrs. William, _see_ Gumley, Anne Maria

Queensberry, Duke of, 69, 101, 115, 140, 141, 143
  Duchess of, 69, 74, 87, 88, 100, 101, 105, 108, 109, 110, 111,
  118, 119, 122, 123, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 133, 136, 140, 143,
  144, 145;
  _letters quoted_: to the Countess of Suffolk, 120, 121, 134,
  to Swift, 144.
Quin, James, 79, 80, 142

Raynor, William, 3
Redpath, George, 12
"Rehearsal at Goatham, The," 135, 143
"Reproof and Flattery," 20
Rich, John, 79, 90, 95, 96
Rivers, Lord, 28
Roberts, J., 40
Rolt, Mrs., 66
Rooke, George, 41
"Rural Sports" 20; _quoted_, 8, 20

Salway (actor), 142
Savage, Richard, 18
Scarborough, Lord, 67
Scott, Jane, 5, 6
Scudamore, Miss, 48
  Lady, 93, 94
Senesimo, 58
"Shepherd's Week, The," 24, 28, 35, 50; _quoted_, 9, 24, 25, 27
Shrewsbury, Duke of, 33
Skerrett, Molly, 80
Smith, Miss, 112
Snow, Thomas, 53
Somerville, Lord, 66
Sophia, Electress, 30
_Spectator, The_, 11
Spence, Joseph, his "Anecdotes of Pope" _quoted_ 43, 44
Stanhope, Lord 46
  William, 100
Steele, Sir Richard, 11, 12, 13-14, 21
Swift, Jonathan, 12, 23, 33, 35, 51, 68, 73, 74, 78, 81, 84, 106,
  his "Libel on the Rev. Mr. Delany and His Excellency Lord
    Cartaret," _quoted_, 73;
  his "Epistle to Mr. Gay," _quoted_, 73;
  Verses on his own Death _quoted_, 147;
  _letters quoted_: to Gay, 56, 68, 88, 89, 116, 123, 126, 127,
     131, 133;
  to Erasmus Lewis, 146;
  to Pope, 41, 67, 68, 69, 73, 78, 86, 93, 107, 143;
  to the Countess of Suffolk, 68;
  to Tickell, 68
Suffolk, Henrietta Howard, Countess of, 30, 46, 47, 54, 67, 68, 74,
  90, 109, 110, 119, 130;
  letters to Gay _quoted_, 59, 60, 63, 64, 74, 94, 122, 128, 130
  Earl of, 128

_Tatler, The_, 11, 12
Thanet, Countess of, 111
"Thought on Eternity, A," 20
"Three Hours After Marriage," 41-42, 43, 44, 50
Tickell, John, 26
"To a Young Lady with some Lamphreys," 8
"To Miss Jane Scott," 5; _quoted_, 5
"To My Chair," 5
"Toilet, The," 41
Tonson, Jacob, 15, 20, 50, 53, 69
"Trivia," 39, 50
Tutchin, John, 12

Underhill, John, _quoted_, 5, 25

"Vulture, the Sparrow, and other Birds, The," _quoted_, 103-104

Walker (actor), 80, 142
Walpole, Sir Robert, 80, 99
Warwick, Earl of, 44, 46
Watts, J., 69
_Weekly Review_, 12
"What D'ye Call It," 35, 36-39, 43, 50
_Whig Examiner, The_, 12
"Wife of Bath, The," 21, 50, 113, 115-116
Wilcox, Dr., Bishop of Rochester, 140
William Augustus, Prince. _See_ Cumberland, Duke of
"Wine," _quoted_, 10-11
Woodward, Dr., 41, 42
Wyndham, Sir William, 137

Younger, Miss, 38

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