John Gay Quotes

John Gay, 1685 – 1732

Born: 30 June 1685, Barnstaple, England
Died: 4 December 1732, Edinburgh, Scotland, Kingdom of Great Britain

Gay started his education at Barnstaple Grammar School and then Blundell’s School. He apprenticed to a silk merchant at London for a time before returning to Barnstaple. He returned to London and took up with a number of the literary lights of the era. He dedicated Rural Ports to Alexander Pope in 1713, starting a lasting friendship. The next year Jonathan Swift helped get him a position as secretary to the ambassador to the court of Hanover, but that fell through with the death of Queen Anne. In 1715 he wrote a heavily satiric drama called What d’ye call it? which was so complex and veiled that an explanatory key was published. On several occasions he published by subscription, including Poems on Several Occasions in 1720. One of his patrons, secretary of state James Craggs, gave him South Sea stock; that year saw the crest of the South Sea Bubble and in his excitement he put all his assets into additional shares and lost everything. This reverse damaged his health but his friends provided for him until he could get back to work. In 1728 his best known work, The Beggar’s Opera was produced. The drama was a great success, running for 62 nights, but as it skewered Sir Robert Walpole it also earned Gay some enemies at court. (Walpole had played a significant part in the South Sea Bubble, Gay wasn’t letting it go.) The next year he wrote a sequel, Polly, its production was forbidden by the Lord Chamberlain, presumably due to Walpole’s influence. This actually helped sell subscriptions to patrons. The Duchess of Queenbsury enlisted subscribers at court and was dismissed from court as a result, the Duke gave Gay a home and the Duchess continued her patronage until Gay’s death.

John Gay quotes:

“Is there no hope?” the sick man said,
  The silent doctor shook his head,
And took his leave with signs of sorrow,
  Despairing of his fee to-morrow.
    John Gay – “The Sick Man and the Angel” Fables (1727)

A justice with grave justices shall sit;
He praises their wisdom, they admire his wit.
    John Gay – “The Birth of the Squire” Poems on Several Occasions (1720)

A man should be religious, not superstitious.
    John Gay – The What D’ye Call It (1715)

A rich rogue nowadays is fit company for any gentleman; and the world, my dear, hath not such a contempt for roguery as you imagine.
    John Gay

A woman scorn’d is pitiless as fate,
For then the dread of shame adds stings to hate.
    John Gay – The What D’ye Call It (1715)

An open foe may prove a curse,
but a pretended friend is worse.
    John Gay

Basically, I no longer work for anything but the sensation I have while working.
    John Gay – “Man, Cat, Dog, and Fly” Fables (1727)

But his kiss was so sweet, and so closely he pressed,
that I languished and pined till I granted the rest.
    John Gay

But money, wife, is the true Fuller’s Earth for reputations, there is not a spot or a stain but what it can take out.
    John Gay

By ignorance is pride increased;
Those most assume who know the least.
    John Gay

Can Love be controlled by advice?
    John Gay

Envy’s a sharper spur than pay.
    John Gay

Excuse me, then! you know my heart;
But dearest friends, alas! must part.
    John Gay – “The Hare and Many Friends” Fables (1727)

Fill ev’ry glass, for wine inspires us,
And fires us
  With courage, love and joy.
  Women and wine should life employ.
Is there ought else on earth desirous?
    John Gay – The Beggar’s Opera (1728)

Fill it up. I take as large draughts of liquor as I did of love. I hate a flincher in either.
    John Gay – The Beggar’s Opera (1728)

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