piping upon oaten Reeds, but milking the Kine, tying up the Sheaves, or, if the Hogs are astray, driving them to their Styes … nor doth he [the shepherd] vigilantly defend his Flocks from Wolves [this was a palpable hit at Philips!], because there are none.’ But the execution of the piece went far beyond its avowed object of ridicule, and Gay's eclogues abound with interesting folklore and closely studied rural pictures.
The ‘Shepherd's Week’ was dedicated to Bolingbroke, a circumstance which Swift hints (Pope, Corr. ii. 34) constituted that original sin against the court which subsequently so much interfered with Gay's prospects of preferment. But the allusions in this prologue (in rhyme) seem to show that the sometime mercer's apprentice had by this time made the acquaintance of Arbuthnot, and of some fairer critics whose favour was of greater importance to poetical advancement. ‘No more,’ he says, ‘I'll sing Buxoma and Hobnelia,
But Lansdown fresh as Flow'r of May,
And Berkely Lady blithe and gay,
And Anglesey whose Speech exceeds
The Voice of Pipe or Oaten Reeds;
And blooming Hide, with Eyes so Rare,
And Montague beyond compare.’
‘Blooming Hyde, with eyes so rare,’ it may be remarked, was Lady Jane Hyde, daughter of the Earl of Rochester, and elder sister of the ‘Kitty, beautiful and young,’ afterwards Duchess of Queensberry.
Soon after the publication of the ‘Shepherd's Week’ Gay appears to have resigned his position in the household of the Duchess of Monmouth, and to have obtained the superior appointment of secretary to Lord Clarendon, who in June 1714 was despatched as envoy extraordinary to the court of Hanover. It was the influence of Swift or Swift's friends which procured Gay this post, and there exists a curious rhymed petition from the necessitous poet to Lord-treasurer Oxford for funds to enable him to enter upon his functions. For a brief space we must imagine him strutting ‘in silver and blue’ through the clipped avenues of Herrenhausen, yawning over the routine life of the little German court, and, as he told Swift, perfecting himself in the diplomatic arts of ‘bowing profoundly, speaking deliberately, and wearing both sides of his long periwig before.’ Then the death of the queen (1 Aug.) put an end to Clarendon's mission, and his secretary was once more without employment. He came back to England in September, and a letter from Pope, dated the 23rd of that month, winds up by recommending him to make use of his past position by writing ‘something on the king, or prince, or princess’ (ib. ii. 417). Arbuthnot seems to have given him similar counsel. Gay's easily depressed spirits did not at first enable him to act on this advice, but he shortly afterwards recovered himself sufficiently to compose and publish in November an ‘Epistle to a Lady, occasion'd by the Arrival of Her Royal Highness’ (i.e. the Princess of Wales, who came to England on 13 Oct.), in which he makes direct reference to his hopeless waiting for patronage.
The only outcome of this seems to have been that their royal highnesses came to Drury Lane to see Gay's next effort, the tragi-comi-pastoral farce of the ‘What-d'ye-Call-it,’ a play which belongs in part to the same class as Buckingham's ‘Rehearsal,’ inasmuch as it ridicules the popular tragedies of the day, and especially ‘Venice Preserved.’ The images of this piece were comic, and its action grave, a circumstance which must have been a little confusing to slow people, who, not having the advantage of the author's explanatory preface, could not readily see the joke. To Pope's deaf friend Henry Cromwell, who was unable to hear the words, and only distinguished the gravity of the gestures, it was, we are told, unintelligible. One of the results of this ambiguity was the publication by Lewis Theobald and Griffin the player of a ‘Key to the What-d'ye-Call-it,’ in which the travestied passages are quoted and the allusions traced. But there is originality and some wit in the little piece, which was published in March 1715, and it contains one of Gay's most musical songs, that beginning ‘'Twas when the seas were roaring.’
In the summer of 1715 (ib. ii. 458) Lord Burlington sent Gay to Devonshire, an expedition which he has pleasantly commemorated in the epistle entitled ‘A Journey to Exeter.’ In January of the following year he published his ‘Trivia: or, the Art of Walking the Streets of London,’ a poem, in the ‘advertisement’ of which he acknowledges the aid of Swift; and it is indeed not improbable that ‘Trivia’ was actually suggested by the ‘Morning’ and ‘City Shower’ which Swift had previously contributed to Steele's ‘Tatler.’ As a poem it has no permanent merit, but it is a mine of not-yet-overworked information respecting the details of outdoor life under Anne. Lintot paid Gay 43l. for the copyright, and from a passage in one of Pope's letters to Caryll (ib. ii. 460 n.) he must have made considerably more by the sale of large-paper copies. ‘We have had the interest,’ says Pope, ‘to procure him [Gay] subscriptions of a guinea a book to a pretty tolerable number. I believe it may be worth