1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Gay

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 151.



As a poet, Gay hardly rises above mediocrity; but he was the inventor of the English Ballad Opera, and some of his Fables are excellent, having a philosophical and moral purpose far beyond that of ordinary verses. His Trivia, or The Art of Walking the Streets of London, has some witty lines; and his Epistle to Pope on the Completion of his Translation of Homer's Iliad is still worth reading as a rapid sketch of Pope's fashionable acquaintances. the fable of The Hare and Many Friends is supposed to be drawn from Gay's own experience; for he sought court favor, and was grievously disappointed.

Pope says that Gay "was a natural man, without design, who spoke what he thought, and just as he thought it." Swift was deeply attached to him, and Pope characterizes Gay as

Of manners gentle, of affections mild;
In wit, a man; simplicity, a child.

Gay's mortal remains were interred in Westminster Abbey, where a handsome monument was erected to his memory by the Duke and Duchess of Queensbury.