his inactive habits and tastes as a gourmand did not improve it. But his personal charm as a companion must have been exceptional, for he seems to have been a universal favourite, and Pope, Swift, and Arbuthnot (with none of whom he ever quarrelled) were genuinely attached to him
Blest be the great! for those they take away,
And those they left me; for they left me Gay,
sings Pope in the ‘Epistle to Arbuthnot,’ ll. 255–6; and Swift, in his ‘Verses on his own Death,’ gives him as mourner the next place to Pope:—
Poor Pope will grieve a month, and Gay
A week, and Arbuthnot a day.
The lamentations of Gay's associates over his ‘unpensioned’ condition (‘Gay dies unpension'd with a hundred friends,’ Dunciad, iii. 330) require to be taken by the modern reader with a grain of salt. Gay had never rendered any services to entitle him to those court favours which he wasted his life in expecting, and on more than one occasion must have made himself a persona ingrata to those in power. Beginning as a mere mercer's apprentice, from such slender poetical credentials as ‘Wine’ and ‘Rural Sports,’ he became the friend of all the best-known writers of his age, from Bolingbroke to Broome, and the companion of dukes and earls. Between their real and their fictitious value, his works succeeded on the whole remarkably well, and, ‘Polly’ excepted, he seems to have had no difficulty in getting his plays produced. If he was unrewarded by an ungrateful court (his apartments in Whitehall and his lottery commissionership counting apparently for nothing), it must be remembered that for the most part he lived in clover in great houses, and that he left at his death a very fair fortune acquired by his pen, which, but for his own imprudence, might have been at least half as much again. That he was disappointed in an advancement he rather desired than deserved can only be made a grievance by those who (like Swift) are constantly seeking for pretexts to quarrel with the acts of their political opponents.
Of Gay's works the ‘Beggar's Opera’ and the ‘Fables’ (the second series of which, already referred to, was published by Knapton in 1738 from the manuscripts in the hands of the Duke of Queensberry) are best known. Stockdale's edition of the ‘Fables,’ 1793, upon which Blake worked, and Bewick's edition of 1779 are still prized by collectors. Next to these come ‘Trivia’ and the ‘Shepherd's Week,’ which must always retain a certain value for their touches of folklore and their social details. As a song-writer Gay is very successful, his faculty in this way being greatly aided by his knowledge of music (cf. Warton, Pope, 1797, i. 149). Of his ‘Epistles’ the brightest is that imitating Canto 46 of the ‘Orlando Furioso,’ in which he welcomes Pope's return from Troy (i.e. when he had completed his translation of the ‘Iliad’), and it deserves mention as an example of ottava rima earlier than Tennant, Frere, or Byron. It was first printed in ‘Additions to the Works of Pope’ [by George Steevens?], 1776, i. 94–103. There is also a certain Hogarthian vigour in the eclogue called ‘The Birth of the Squire.’ But those who to-day read his life will probably wonder at his poetical reputation even in his own time, although it is impossible to deny to him the honour of adding several well-known quotations (e.g. ‘While there's life there's hope,’ and ‘Dearest friends must part’) to the current common-places of what his contemporaries dignified by the title of ‘polite conversation.’
[Coxe's Life, 2nd ed. 1797; Biog. Brit. art. ‘Gay;’ Pope's Correspondence by Elwin and Courthope, passim; Spence's Anecdotes; Johnson's Lives, ed. Cunningham, 1854, ii. 283–98; Thackeray's English Humourists, 1858, pp. 181–93; Life by Underhill, prefixed to Gay's Poetical Works (1893). Some passages in the present memoir are borrowed from brief memoirs of Gay by the present writer prefixed to his Fables in the Parchment Library, 1882, and to the selection from his verses in Ward's Poets, 1880, Addison to Blake. A genuine chair of the poet, a woodcut of which forms the frontispiece to Gay's Chair (1820), belonged to George Godwin, F.S.A. [q. v.], and was sold in April 1888, after Godwin's death. A worthless Life (with a portrait) was published by Curll in 1733. Mr. W. H. K. Wright, borough librarian, Plymouth, is at present (1889) engaged upon a bibliography of Gay.]
GAY, JOHN (1813–1885), surgeon, was born at Wellington, Somersetshire, in 1813, and after a successful studentship at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, became M.R.C.S. in 1834, and in 1836 was appointed surgeon to the newly established Royal Free Hospital, with which he was connected for eighteen years. In 1856 he became surgeon of the Great Northern Hospital, of which he was senior surgeon at the time of his death, which took place on 15 Sept. 1885, after two years' partial paralysis. He left a widow, one daughter, and two sons. Besides contributions to the medical press and an elaborate article on ‘Cleft Palate’ in Costello's ‘Cyclopædia of Surgery,’ Gay wrote several important practical memoirs, which are enumerated below. His work on femoral rupture (1848) described a new mode of operating, modified from that of Mr. Luke. Sir W. Fergusson, in his ‘Practical Surgery,’ says of