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Life And Letters Of John Gay (1685-1732)   By: (1874-1932)

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First Page:

[Illustration: JOHN GAY

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

LIFE AND LETTERS OF

JOHN GAY(1685 1732)

AUTHOR OF "THE BEGGAR'S OPERA" BY LEWIS MELVILLE

PUBLISHED IN LONDON BY DANIEL O'CONNOR, NINETY GREAT RUSSELL STREET, W.C.I: 1921

BY THE SAME AUTHOR.

THE LIFE OF WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY.

THE THACKERAY COUNTRY.

SOME ASPECTS OF THACKERAY.

VICTORIAN NOVELISTS.

THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF LAURENCE STERNE.

THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WILLIAM BECKFORD OF FONTHILL.

THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF WILLIAM COBBETT.

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

THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF PHILIP DUKE OF WHARTON.

THE FIRST GEORGE.

"FARMER GEORGE."

"THE FIRST GENTLEMAN OF EUROPE."

AN INJURED QUEEN: CAROLINE OF BRUNSWICK.

THE BEAUX OF THE REGENCY.

SOME ECCENTRICS AND A WOMAN.

THE SOUTH SEA BUBBLE.

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

THE WELLESLEY PAPERS.

BATH UNDER BEAU NASH.

BRIGHTON: ITS FOLLIES, ITS FASHIONS, AND ITS HISTORY.

ROYAL TUNBRIDGE WELLS.

To GEORGE MAIR

PREFACE

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... Continue reading book >>




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