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ACIS AND GALATEA.
Fatigu 'd at last, a calm retreat I chose
RURAL SPORTS. TO POPE.
PRINTED FOR, ÅND UNDER THE DIRECTION OF,
THE LIFE OF
John Gay, an original põetic genius, was descended of an ancient family, which derived its name from Gilbert le Gay of Hampton Gay in Oxfordshire, who, in right of his wife, the daughter and heir of the family of Curtoyse, or Curtis, became possessed of the lordship of Goldworthy in Devonshire, the ancient seat of the name of Gay for many generations. Our Author was born in the year of the revolution 1688, near Barnstaple in that county, and put to the freeschool there under an excellent master, who, being bred at Westminster, taught in the method of that school. Thus he had the advantage of being imbued with a just taste of the classics : but the family-estate being much reduced, his fortune was not sufficient to support him as a gentleman, * and therefore his friends chose to breed him to some genteel trade. Accordingly he was put apprentice to a silk-mercer in
In his Rural Sports he says,
London: but this step was taken without consulting the youth's taste and temper. The condition of an apprentice appeared too illiberal : he was not made, it seems, for a counter castor. The shop soon became his aversion: he was seldom seen it it: and in a few years his master, upon the offer of a small consideration, willingly consented to give up his indențures. Having thus purchased the ease of his mind, he indulged himself freely and fully in that course of life to which he was irresistibly drawn by Nature. Genius concurred with inclination; poetry was at once his delight and his talent; and he suffered not his Muse to be disturbed by any disagreeable attention to the expence of cultivating it.
These qualities recommended him to such company and acquaintance as he most affected, and, among others, to Dean Swift and Mr. Pope, who were exceedingly struck with the open sincerity and undisguised simplicity of his manners, and the easiness of his temper. To this last gentleman he addressed the first fruits of his Muse, entitled Rural Sports, a Georm? gic, prin ed in 1711. This piece discovered a richi poetical vein, peculiar to himself, and met with some agree ble a: testations of its merit, that would have been enjoyed with a higher relish, had not the pleasure been interrupted by the ill state of his finances, which, by an uncommon degree of thoughtlessness and culli
bility were reduced now to a low ebb. Our Poet's purse was an unerring barometer of his spirits, which, sinking with it, left him in theapprehensionof a servile dependence, a condi:ion he dreaded above any thing that could befall him. However, the clouds were shortly dispelled by the kindness of the Duchess of Monmouth, who appointed him her Secretary in 1712, with a handsome salary. This seasonable favour seating him in a coach, though not his own, kindled his Muse into a new pregnancy. He first produced his celebrated poem called Trivia ; or, the Art of walking the Streets. And the following year, at the instance of Mr. Pope, he formed the plan of his Pastorals. There is not perhaps in history a more remarkable example of the force of friendship in an author, than was the undertaking and finishing this inimitable poem. Mr. Pope, in his subscription of the Hanover club to his translation of the Iliad, had been ill used by Mr. Philips their Secretary, and his rival in this species of poetry: the translator highly resented the affront, and meditating revenge, intimates to his friend, Gay, how greatly it was in his power to pluck the bays from this envied rival's forehead. Our Author im
* These are the words of Dean Swift many years afterwards, who there observes, that Providence never designed him, for this reason, to be above two-andtweniy. Letter 33, in Pope's Works, vol, ix. edit. 1742.