Fun Facts Friday: John Gay

June 30, 2023

John Gay (30 June, 1685 – 4 December, 1732) was a poet and dramatist from England. Mr. Gay is known for his 1728 ballad The Beggar’s Opera.

Fun Facts about John Gay:

Fun Facts Friday: John Gay
Books by John Gay*

  1. John Gay was the youngest of five children born to William and Katherine Gay in Branstaple, England. The family was not rich, but they were certainly living comfortably.
  2. After finish grammar school, Mr. Gay who did not inherit any property after his parents’ death, was apprenticed to a silk merchant in London. He didn’t like the job and was soon back home.
  3. Mr. Gay was dependent on patrons his whole life. While he could work, he was mostly semi-employed by the upper class. Many of his works were written to impress and win favors with them.
  4. Even though John Gay’s first play, The Mohocks, which was published in 1812 had issues with the censors, his second play The Wife of Bath, which he wrote a year later was produced at the Drury Lane Theater.
  5. When Mr. Gay dedicated his 1713 poem Rural Sports to Alexander Pope, the two became close friends.
  6. He formed the core of the Scriblerus Club,Club in 1713 with his friends, Alexander Pope, John Arbuthnot, and Jonathan Swift. These were Tory writers, supporters first minister Robert Harley.
  7. In 1728 he found critical and commercial success with his play The Beggar’s Opera, which supposedly satirized Sir Robert Walpole, the prime minister. The play ran for 62 performance and inspired many imitations including the Threepenny Opera (1928).
  8. The Beggar’s Opera was the height of John Gay’s career, even though he wrote a sequel, Polly, it never found the same success. He moved to Queensberry estate in Burlington Gardens, provide by the Duke of Queensberry, spending the last years of his life in semi-isolation and poverty after losing his money to bad investments.
  9. John Gay is buried in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey. His epitaph was written by Alexander Pope, followed by his own mocking words from The Beggar’s Opera: “Life is a jest; and all things show it / I thought so once; but now I know it.”

  10. To this day, John Gay is credited with writing the first successful ballad opera. The characters he created, including Pully Peachum and Captain Macheath are ingrained in our culture.

Books by John Gay*

Zohar – Man of la Book
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books


The Beggar’s Opera: Biography | University of Michigan

John Gay | The British Library

John Gay | Poetry Foundation

John Gay – Wikipedia

John Gay: British Poet, Playwright & Satirist | Britannica

John Gay | Westminster Abbey

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Fun Facts Friday: John Gay
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Fun Facts Friday: John Gay
John Gay (30 June, 1685 – 4 December, 1732) was a poet and dramatist from England. Mr. Gay is known for his 1728 ballad The Beggar’s Opera.
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Man of la Book - A Bookish Blog
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