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ferent according to the different opinions of its readers. Swift commended” it for the excellence of its morality, as a piece that “placed vices of all kinds in the strongest and most odious light;" but others, and among them Dr. Herring, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, censured it as giving encouragement not only to vice but to crimes, by making a highwayman the hero, and dismissing him at last unpunished. It has been even said, that, after the exhibition of the 'Beggar's Opera,' the gangs of robbers were evidently multiplied.
Both these decisions are surely exaggerated. The play, like many others, was plainly written only to divert, without any moral purpose, and is therefore not likely to do good; nor can it be conceived, without more speculation than life requires or admits, to be productive of much evil. Highwaymen and house-breakers seldom frequent the playhouse, or mingle in any elegant diversion ; nor is it possible for any one to imagine that he may rob with safety, because he sees Macheath reprieved upon the stage."
This objection, however, or some other rather political than moral, obtained such prevalence, that when Gay produced a second part under the name of ‘Polly,' it was prohibited by the Lord Chamberlain; and he was forced to recompense his repulse by a subscription, which is said to have been so liberally bestowed, that what he called oppression ended in profit. The publication was so much favoured, that though the first part gained him four hundred pounds, near thrice as much was the profit of the second."
He received yet another recompense for this supposed hardship, in the affectionate attention of the Duke and Duchess of Quecnsberry, into whose house he was taken, and with whom he passed the remaining part of his life." The Duke, considering his want of
Tonson and Watts, for ninety guineas, “ all that the sole right and title of and in and to the copy and copyright of two books, the one entitled 'Fifty Fables,' the other ‘The Beggar's Opera,' &c."-Gont.': Mag. for Moy, 1824, p. 410.
26 • The Intelligencer,' No. 8.
27 Compare Johnson in ‘Boswell,' ed. Croker, 1848, p. 453, and the Letters of the Magistrates of Bow Street, and Colman the manager, in Peake's .Colman,' I. 817.
38 Spence by Singer, p. 214. He made much more by the first part than 4001. See Gay to Swift, 15 Feb. 1727-8 (Scott, xvii. 176, 2nd ed.), and ‘Notes and Queries,'1. 179.
** The Duchess of Queensberry (Catherine Hyde by birth, and the Kitty of Prior and Horace Walpole) took a more active interest in the refusal of the licence than Johnson would seem te have been aware of. Both the Duke and Duchess were forbid the Court on account of Gay,
economy, undertook the management of his money, and gave it to
whereupon, Thursday, Feb. 27, 1728-9, the Duchess made a bold answer to Mr. Stanhope, the Vice-Chamberlain, and on his "scrupling to carry it by word of mouth," she wrote as follows :
"The Duchess of Queensberry is surprised and well pleased that the King has given her so agreeable a command as forbidding her the Court, where she never came for diversion, but to bestow a very great civility on the King and Queen. She hopes that by so unprecedented an order as this, the King will see as few as she wishes at his Court, particularly such as dare to think and speak truth.
I dare not do otherwise, nor ought not; nor could I have imagined but that it would have been the highest compliment I could possibly pay the King and Queen, to endeavour to support truth and innocence in their house.
C. QUEENSBERBY. P.S. Particularly when the King and Queen told me they had not read Mr. Gay's play, I have certainly done right then to justify my own behaviour, rather than act like his Grace of Grafton, who has neither made use of truth, honour, or judgment in this whole affair, either for himself or his friends"
(This I transcribe from the MS. copy sent to Dean Swift, and now before me.)
“ Among the remarkable occurrences of this winter, I cannot help relating that of the Duchess of Queensberry being forbid the Court, and the occasion of it. One Gay, a poet, had writien a ballad opera, which was thought to reflect a little upon the Court, and a good deal upon the Minister. It was called “The Beggar's Opera,' had a prodigious run, and was so extremely pretty in its kind, that even those who were most glanced at in the sati e had pru. dence enough to disguise their resentment by chiming in with the universal applause with which it was performed. Gay, who had attached himself to Mrs. Howard and been disappointed of preferment at Court, finding this couched satire upon those to whom he imputed his disappointment succeed so well, wrote a second part to this opera, less pretty but more abusive, and so little disguised that Sir Robert Walpole resolved, rather than suffer himself to be produced for thirty nights together upon the stage in the person of a highwayman, to make use of his friend the Duke of Grafton's authority, as Lord Chamberlain, to put a stop to the representation of it. Accerdingly, this theatrical Craftsman was prohibited at every playhouse. Gay, irritated at this bar thrown in the way both of his interest and his revenge, zested the work with some supplemental invectives, and resolved to print it by subscription. The Duchess of Queensberry set herself at the head of this undertaking, and solicited every mortal that came in her way, or in whose way she could put herself, to subscribe. To a woman of her quality, proverbially beautiful, and at the top of the polite and fashionable world, people were ashamed to refuse a guinea, though they were afraid to give it. Her solicitations were so universal and so pressing, that she came even into the Queen's apartment, went round the Drawing-room, and made even the King's servants contribute to the printing of a thing which the King had forbid being acted. The King, when he came into the Drawing-room, seeing her Grace very busy in a corner with three or four men, asked her what she had been doing. She answered, 'What must be agreeable, she was sure, to anybody so humane as his Majesty, for it was an act of charity, and a charity to which she did not despair of bringing his Majesty to contribute.' Enough was said for each to understand the other. ..... Most people blamed the Court upon this occasion. What the Duchess of Queensberry did was certainly impertinent; but the manner of resenting it was thought impolitic."-Lord Harvey's Memoirs, 1. 120.
The interest which the Duchess continued to take in Gay was of an earlier date than Johnson supposes, for Mrs. Bradshaw, writing from Bath to Mrs. Howard, in 1721, says, “I met Mr. Gay by chance, and told him your message; he is always with the Duchess of Queens berry, for we are too many for him."-Suffolk Papers.
him as he wanted it." But it is supposed that the discountenance of the Court sunk deep into his heart, and gave him more discontent than the applauses or tenderness of his friends could overpower. He soon fell into his old distemper, an habitual colic, and languished, though with many intervals of ease and cheerfulness, till a violent fit at last seized him, and carried him to the grave, as Arbuthnot reported, with more precipitance than he had ever known." He died on the 4th of December, 1732, and was buried in Westminster Abbey." The letter which brought an account of his death to Swift was laid by for some days unopened, because when he received it he was impressed with the preconception of some misfortune."
After his death was published a second volume of Fables, more political than the former. His opera of 'Achilles' was acted," and the profits were given to two widow sisters, who inherited what he left, as his lawful heirs; for he died without a will, though he had gathered three thousand pounds." There have appeared likewise
Nor was she unmindful of him when do more. “I often want poor Mr. Gay," she writes to Mrs. Howard, Sept. 28, 1784, "and on this occasion extremely. Nothing evaporates sooner than joy untold, or even told, unless to one so entirely in your interest as he was, who bore at least an equal sbare in every satisfaction or dissatisfaction that attended us. I am not in the spleen, though I write thus; on the contrary, it is a sort of pleasure to think over his good qualities; his loss was really great, but it is a satisfaction to have once known so good a man. As you were as much his friend as I, it is needless to ask your pardon for dwelling so long on this subject."-Suffolk Papers, il. 109.
** Spence by Singer, p. 214.
31 Pope and Arbuthnot to Swift, Dec. 5, 1782. He died of an inflammation, and as Arbuthnot believed, at last a mortification of the bowels. He had thoughts of marriage shortly before his death, and was looking after a Mrs. Drelincourt. (See Scott's Swift, xvii 809, 870, and 832, 2nd edit.)
* Where a monument, with a medallion by Rysbrack, and an epitaph in verse by Pope, was erected to his memory by the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry. “He was interred in Westminster Abbey," Arbuthnot writes to Swift," as if he had been a peer of the realm." (Scott's Swift, xviil. 70; 2nd ed.)
There is a good large mezzotinto of him in a cap after a picture by Aikman. The print nas the following dedication : "To Alexander Pope, Esq., this plate is most humbly inscribed by his servant B. Dickenson.” He appears also to have sat to Zincke.
My portrait mezzotinto is published from Mrs. Howard's painting.--Gay to Swift, July 6, 1728. (Scott, xvil. 199, 2nd ed.)
There is a print of Hogarth representing Pope putting his hand into the pocket of a large fat personage, with a bordbook at his girdle. The fat fellow is Gay, and the hornbook refers to his Pebles, written for the young Duke of Cumberland. -Wartor's Pope, ix. 211.
** On the letter itsell, Swift wrote “ On my dear friend Mr. Gay's death ; received December 15th, but not read till the 20th, by an impulse foreboding some misfortune.” Note from *Dublin Edit.' in Pope's Works, vol. iv., part iil. p. 167, ed. 1742.
" At Covent Garden 10th Feb. 1732-8, and ran about twenty nights, • Spence by Singer, p. 215. The amount was 60007., which was equally divided between VOL. II.
under his name a comedy called the Distrest Wife,' and the Reo hearsal at Gotham,' a piece of humour.
The character given him by Pope " is this : that "he was a natural man, without design, who spoke what he thought, and just as he thought it ;" and that “he was of a timid temper, and fearful of giving offence to the great ;" which caution however, says Pope," was of no avail.“
As a poet he cannot be rated very high. He was, as I once heard a female critic
remark, " of a lower order.” He had not in any great degree the mens divinior, the dignity of genius. Much however must be allowed to the author of a new species of composition, though it be not of the highest kind. We owe to Gay the Ballad Opera ; a mode of comedy which at first was supposed to delight only by its novelty, but has now by the experience of half a century been found so well accommodated to the disposition of a popular audience, that it is likely to keep long possession of the stage. Whether this new drama was the product of judgment or of luck, the praise of it must be given to the inventor; and there are many writers read with more reverence, to whom such merit of originality cannot be attributed.
His first performance, the 'Rural Sports,' is such as was easily planned and executed; it is never contemptible, nor ever excellent. The 'Fan' (1714) is one of those mythological fictions which antiquity delivers ready to the hand, but which, like other things that lie open to every one's use, are of little value. The attention naturally retires from a new tale of Venus, Diana, and Minerva.
His Fables' seem to have been a favourite work ; for having published one volume, be left another behind him. Of this kind of Fables, the authors do not appear to have formed any distinct or settled notion. Phædrus evidently confounds them with Tales, and Gay both with Tales and Alegorical Prosopopaias. A Fable, or
his sisters (two widows) Katherine Baller and Joanna Fortescuo. (See Memotr by Rev. Joseph Baller, before 'Gay's Chair,' 12mo., 1820.)
96 Spence by Singer, p. 214. 37 Spence by Singer, p. 160.
30 Gay was a great eater. “As the French philosopher used to prove his existence by cogito, ergo sum, the greatest proof of Gay's existence is edi, ergo ost."—(CONGRATB, in a leto ter to Pope.) Spence by Singer, p. 18.
" Johnson's own wise. - Mrs. Pioasi's Anecdotes, p. 125.
Apologue, such as is now under consideration, seems to be, in its genuine state, & narrative in which beings irrational, and sometimes inanimate, arbores loquuntur, non tantum fera, are, for the purpose of moral instraction, feigned to act and speak with human interests and passions. To this description the compositions of Gay do not always conform. For a Fable he gives now and then a Tale, or an abstracted Allegory; and from some, by whatever name they may be called, it will be difficult to extract any moral principle. They are, however, told with liveliness; the versification is smooth; and the diction, though now and then a little constrained by the measure or the rhyme, is generally happy.
To ‘Trivia' [1716) may be allowed all that it claims ; it is sprightly, various, and pleasant. The subject is of that kind which Gay was by nature qualified to adorn; yet some of his decorations may be justly wished away. An honest blacksmith might have done for Patty what is performed by Vulcan. The appearance of Closcina is nauseous and superfluous; a shoeboy could have been produced by the casual cohabitation of mere mortals. Horace's rule is broken in both cases, there is no dignus vindice nodus, no difficulty
; that required any supernatural interposition. A pattern may be made by the hammer of a mortal ; and a bastard may be dropped by a human strumpet. On great occasions, and on small, the mind is repelled by useless and apparent falsehood."
Of his little poems the public judgment seems to be right; they are neither much esteemed, nor totally despised. The story of the Apparition is horrowed from one of the tales of Poggio. Those that please least are the pieces to which ‘Gulliver' gave occasion ; for who can much delight in the echo of an unnatural fiction ?
Dione' is a counterpart to Amynta,' and 'Pastor Fido,' and other trifles of the same kind, easily imitated, and unwortby of imitation. What the Italians call comedies from a happy conclusion, Gay calls a tragedy from a mournful event ; but the style of the Italians and of Gay is equally tragical. There is something in the poetical Arcadia so remote from known reality and speculative possibility, that we can never support its representation through a long work. A Pastoral of an hundred lines may be endured ; but ** Molly Mogs, one of Gay's celebrities, died in 1766. (See 'Gent.'s Mag.' for 1766, p. 151.)