1871 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Gay

Whitwell Elwin, Note in Works of Pope, ed. Elwin and Courthope (1871-1889) 7:432n.



"Gay," says Johnson, "was the general favourite of the whole association of wit; but they regarded him as a playfellow rather than a partner, and treated him with more fondness than respect." His want of fortitude and sturdiness interfered with the respect, and his unassuming, gentle, pliant disposition attracted the fondness. "I have not, and fear never shall have, a will of my own," he wrote to Mrs. Howard Aug. 1723, and in the Fable of the Hare he says, "he complied with everything, and that his care was never to offend." With this lack of masculine independence, he was nevertheless honest in his friendships, and straightforward in his language. The stain on his character is the tone of libertinism which runs through most of his works, and which could only have come from a man of dissolute principles.