John Gay

Gay, John, 1685–1732, English playwright and poet, b. Barnstaple, Devon. Educated at the local grammar school, he was apprenticed to a silk mercer for a brief time before commencing his literary career in London. The first of his writings to have any real merit were the mock pastoral, The Shepherd's Week (1714), and Trivia (1716), an amusing description of London life. He is remembered chiefly today for his ballad opera, The Beggar's Opera (1728), a lighthearted story of highwaymen and thieves, which satirizes both the corruption of contemporary genteel society and the then current fashion for Italian opera. Its sequel, Polly, written the following year, was suppressed by Sir Robert Walpole since it (like The Beggar's Opera ) ridiculed his government. Gay was also the author of two books of verse called Fables (1727, 1738), which were very popular in his generation.

See his poetical works edited by G. C. Faber (1926, repr. 1969); study by P. A. Spacks (1965).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

More on John Gay from Fact Monster:

  • John Rich - Rich, John Rich, John, 1692–1761, English actor-manager. Rich introduced pantomime to ...
  • ballad opera - ballad opera ballad opera, in English drama, a play of comic, satiric, or pastoral intent, ...
  • John Christopher Pepusch - Pepusch, John Christopher Pepusch, John Christopher , 1667–1752, German musician, who lived ...
  • Thomas D'Urfey - D'Urfey, Thomas D'Urfey, Thomas , 1653–1723, English songwriter and dramatist. His ...
  • Barnstaple - Barnstaple Barnstaple , town (1991 pop. 24,490), Devon, SW England, on the Taw River estuary. The ...

See more Encyclopedia articles on: English Literature, 1500 to 1799: Biographies