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not known. The report is, that he was soon weary of either the restraint or servility of his occupation, and easily persuaded his master to discharge him.
The dutchess of Monmouth, remarkable for inflexible perseverance in her demand to be treated as a princess, in 1712 took Gay into her fervice as fecretary : by quitting a shop for such service, he might gain leisure, but he certainly advanced little in the boast of independence. Of his leisure he made fo good use, that he published next year a poem on Rural Sports, and inscribed it to Mr. Pope, who was then rising faft into repuxation. Pope was pleased with the honour; and when he became acquainted with Gay, found such attractions in his manners and conversation, that he seems to have received him into his inmoft confidence ; and a friendship was formed between them which lasted to their separation by death, without any
known abatement on either part. Gay was the general favourite of the whole affociation of wits; but they regarded him as a play-fellow rather than a partner, and treated him with more fondness than respect,
Next year he published The Shepherd's Week, fix English Pastorals, in which the images are drawn from real life, such as it appears among
the rusticks in parts of England remote from London. Steele in some papers of the Guardian had praised Ambrose Philips, as the Pastoral writer that yielded only to Theocritus, Virgil
, and Spenser. Pope, who had also published Pastorals, not pleased to be overlooked, drew up a comparison of his own compositions with those of Philips, in which he covertly gave himself the preference, while he seemed to disown it, Not content with this, he is supposed to have incited Gay to write the Shepherd's Week, to shew, that if it be necessary to copy nature with minuteness, rural life must be exhibited such as grossness and ignorance have made it.' So far the plan was reasonable ; but the Pastorals are introduced by a Proeme, written with such imitațion as they could attain of obsolete language, and by consequence in a style that was never spoken nor written in any age or in any place.
But the effect of reality and truth became conspicuous, even when the intention was to phew them groveling 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 dispute,
In 1713 he brought a comedy called The Wife of Bath upon the stage, but it received no applause ; he printed it, however; and seventeen years after, having altered it, and, as he thought, adapted it more to the publick taste, he offered it again to the town; but, though he was flushed with the success of the Beggar's Opera, had the mortification to see it again
In the last
of queen Anne's life, Çay was made secretary to the earl of Clarendon, ambaffador to the court of Hanover. This was a station that naturally gave him hopes of kindness from every party ; but the Queen's death put an end to her favours, and he had dedicated his Shephera's Week to Bolingbroke, which Swift considered as the crime that obstructed all kindness from the houfe of Ha
He did not, however, omit to improve the right which his office had given him to the notice of the royal family. On the arrival of the princess of Wales he wrote a poem, and obtained so much favour that both the Prince and Princess went to see his What
call it, a kind of mock-tragedy, in which the images were comick, and the action grave; so that, as Pope relates, Mr. Cromwell, who could not hear what was said, was at a loss how to reconcile the laughter of the audience with the solemnity of the scene.
Of this performance the value certainly is but little; but it was one of the lucky trifles that give pleasure by novelty, and was so much favoured by the audience that envy appeared against it in the form of criticism; and Griffin a player, in conjunction with Mr. Theobald, a man afterwards more remarkable, produced a pamphlet called the Key to the What d’ye call it; which, says Gay, calls me a blockhead, and Mr. Pope a knave.
But Fortune has always been inconstant. Not long afterwards (1717) he endeavoured to entertain the town with Three Hours after
Marriage ; a comedy written, as there is fufficient reason for believing, by the joint affiftance of Pope and Arbuthnot. pose of it was to bring into contempt Dr. Woodward the Foffilist, a man not really or justly contemptible. It had the fate which fuch outrages deserve : the scene in which Woodward was directly and apparently ridiculed, by the introduction of a mummy and à crocodile, disgusted the audience, and the performance was driven off the stage with general condemnation.
Gay is represented as a man easily incited to hope, and deeply depressed when his hopes were disappointed. This is not the character of a hero; but it may naturally supply fomething more generally welcome, a soft and civil companion. Whoever is apt to hope good from others is diligent to please them; but he that believes his powers strong enough to force their own way, commonly tries only to please himself.
He had been simple enough to imagine that those who laughed at the What a’ye call it would raise the fortune of its author; and