« НазадПродовжити »
and men; and when he was jilted in that little court affair of which we have spoken, his warm-hearted patrons the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry' (the
1“I can give you no account of Gay," says Pope, curiously, “since he was raffled for, and won back by his Duchess.” Works, Roscoe's Ed., vol. ix. p. 392.
Here is the letter Pope wrote to him when the death of Queen Anne brought back Lord Clarendon from Hanover, and lost him the Secretaryship of that nobleman, of which he had had but a short tenure.
Gay's court prospects were never happy from this time. – His dedication of the “Shepherd's Week” to Bolingbroke, Swift used to call the "original sin ” which had hurt him with the house of Hanover :
“ Sept. 23, 1714. “DEAR MR. GAY, - Welcome to your native soil! welcome to your friends! thrice welcome to me! whether returned in glory, blest with court interest, the love and familiarity of the great, and filled with agreeable hopes; or melancholy with dejection, contemplative of the changes of fortune, and doubtful for the future; whether returned a triumphant Whig or a desponding Tory, equally all haill equally beloved and welcome to me! If happy, I am to partake in your elevation ; if unhappy, you have still a warm corner in my heart, and a retreat at Binfield in the worst of times at your service. If you are a Tory, or thought so by any man, I know it can proceed from nothing but your gratitude to a few people who endeavoured to serve you, and whose politics were never your concern. If you are a Whig, as I rather hope, and as I think your principles and mine (as brother poets) had ever a bias to the side of liberty, I know you will be an honest man and an inoffensive one. Upon the whole, I know you are incapable of being so much of either party as to be good for nothing. Therefore, once more, whatever you are or in whatever state you are, all hail!
“One or two of your own friends complained they had heard nothing from you since the Queen's death; I told them no man living loved Mr. Gay better than I, yet I had not once written to him in all his voyage. This I thought a convincing proof how truly one may be a friend to another without telling him so every month. But they had reasons, too, themselves allege in your excuse, as men who really value one another will never want such as make their friends and themselves easy. The late universal concern in public affairs threw us all into a hurry of spirits : even I, who am more a philosopher than to expect anything from any reign, was borne away with the current, and full of the expectation of the successor. During your journeys, I knew not whither to aim a letter after you; that was a sort of shooting flying : add to this the demand Homer had upon me, to write fifty verses a day, besides learned notes, all which are at a conclusion for this year. Rejoice with me, O my friend!
“Kitty, beautiful and young," of Prior,) pleaded his cause with indignation, and quitted the court in a huff, carrying off with them into their retirement their kind gentle protégé. With these kind lordly folks, a real Duke and Duchess, as delightful as those who harboured Don Quixote, and loved that dear old Sancho, Gay lived, and was lapped in cotton, and had his plate of chicken, and his saucer of cream, and frisked, and barked, and wheezed, and grew fat, and so ended.
He became very melancholy and lazy, sadly plethoric, and only occasionally diverting in his latter days. But everybody loved him, and the remembrance of his pretty little tricks; and the raging old Dean of St. Patrick's, chafing in his banishthat my labour is over; come and make merry with me in much feasting. We will feed among the lilies (by the lilies I mean the ladies). Are not the Rosalindas of Britain as charming as the Blousalindas of the Hague ? or have the two great Pastoral poets of our nation renounced love at the same time? for Philips, immortal Philips, hath deserted, yea, and in a rustic manner kicked his Rosalind. Dr. Parnell and I have been inseparable ever since you went. We are now at the Bath, where (if you are not, as I heartily hope, better engaged) your coming would be the greatest pleasure to us in the world. Talk not of expenses : Homer shall support his children. I beg a line from you, directed to the Post-house in Bath. Poor Parnell is in an ill state of health.
“Pardon me if I add a word of advice in the poetical way. Write something on the King, or Prince, or Princess. On whatsoever foot you may be with the court, this can do no harm. I shall never know where to end, and am confounded in the many things I have to say to you, though they all amount but to this, that I am, entirely, as ever,
“ Your," &c. Gay took the advice " in the poetical way," and published" An Epistle to a Lady, occasioned by the arrival of her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales.” But though this brought him access to court, and the attendance of the Prince and Princess at his farce of the “ What d'ye call it ?” it did not bring him a place. On the accession of George II., he was offered the situation of Gentleman Usher to the Princess Louisa (her Highness being then two years old); but “ by this offer,” says Johnson, “ he thought himself insulted.”
1 “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, Edit, ergo est.” CONGREVE, in a Letter to Pope. Spence's Anecdotes.
ment, was afraid to open the letter which Pope wrote him, announcing the sad news of the death of Gay.
Swift's letters to him are beautiful; and having no purpose but kindness in writing to him, no party aim to advocate, or slight or anger to wreak, every word the Dean says to his favourite is natural, trustworthy, and kindly. His admiration for Gay's parts and honesty, and his laughter at his weaknesses, were alike just and genuine. He paints his character in wonderful pleasant traits of jocular satire. “I writ lately to Mr. Pope,” Swift says, writing to Gay: "I wish you had a little villakin in his neighbourhood; but you are yet too volatile, and any lady with a coach and six horses would carry you to Japan.” “If your ramble," says Swift, in another letter," was on horseback, I am glad of it, on account of your health; but I know your arts of patching up a journey between stage-coaches and friends' coaches for you are as arrant a cockney as any hosier in Cheapside. I have often had it in my head to put it into yours, that you ought to have some great work in scheme, which may take up seven years to finish, besides two or three under-ones that may add another
1 Swift endorsed the letter —“On my dear friend Mr. Gay's death; received Dec. 15, but not read till the 20th, by an impulse foreboding some misfortune.”
“ It was by Swift's interest that Gay was made known to Lord Bolingbroke, and obtained his patronage.” — Scott's Swift, vol. i. p. 156. Pope wrote on the occasion of Gay's death, to Swift, thus :
“[Dec. 5, 1732.] “... One of the nearest and longest ties I have ever had is broken all on a sudden by the unexpected death of poor Mr. Gay. An inflammatory fever hurried him out of this life in three days. . . He asked of you a few hours before when in acute torment by the inflammation in his bowels and breast. His sisters, we suppose, will be his heirs, who are two widows. . . . Good God I how often are we to die before we go quite off this stage? In every friend we lose a part of ourselves, and the best part. God keep those we have left I few are worth praying for, and one's self the least of all.”
thousand pounds to your stock, and then I shall be in less pain about you. I know you can find dinners, but you love twelvepenny coaches too well, without considering that the interest of a whole thousand pounds brings you but half-a-crown a day.” And then Swift goes off from Gay to pay some grand compliments to her Grace the Duchess of Queensberry, in whose sunshine Mr. Gay was basking, and in whose radiance the Dean would have liked to warm himself too.
But we have Gay here: before us, in these letters lazy, kindly, uncommonly idle; rather slovenly, I'm afraid; for ever eating and saying good things; a little round French abbé of a man, sleek, soft-handed, and soft-hearted.
Our object in these lectures is rather to describe the men than their works; or to deal with the latter only in as far as they seem to illustrate the character of their writers. Mr. Gay's “Fables," which were written to benefit that amiable Prince, the Duke of Cumberland, the warrior of Dettingen and Culloden, I have not, I own, been able to peruse since a period of very early youth; and it must be confessed that they did not effect much benefit upon the illustrious young Prince, whose manners they were intended to mollify, and whose natural ferocity our gentle-hearted Satirist perhaps proposed to restrain. But the six pastorals called the “Shepherd's Week," and the burlesque poem of “Trivia," any man fond of lazy literature will find delightful at the present day, and must read from beginning to end with pleasure. They are to poetry what charming little Dresden china figures are to sculpture: graceful, minikin, fantastic; with a certain beauty always accompanying them. The pretty little personages of the pastoral, with gold clocks to their stockings, and fresh satin ribbons to their crooks and waistcoats and bodices, dance their
loves to a minuet-tune played on a bird-organ, approach the charmer, or rush from the false one daintily on their red-heeled tip-toes, and die of despair or rapture, with the most pathetic little grins and ogles; or repose, simpering at each other, under an arbour of pea-green crockery; or piping to pretty flocks that have just been washed with the best Naples in a stream of Bergamot. Gay's gay plan seems to me far pleasanter than that of Phillips — his rival and Pope's - a serious and dreary idyllic cockney; not that Gay's “Bumkinets” and “Hobnelias” are a whit more natural than the would-be serious characters of the other posture-master; but the quality of this true humourist was to laugh and make laugh, though always with a secret kindness and tenderness, to perform the drollest little antics and capers, but always with a certain grace, and to sweet music you may have seen a Savoyard boy abroad, with a hurdy-gurdy and a monkey, turning over head and heels, or clattering and pirouetting in a pair of wooden shoes, yet always with a look of love and appeal in his bright eyes, and a smile that asks and wins affection and protection. Happy they who have that sweet gift of nature! It was this which made the great folks and court ladies free and friendly with John Gay - which made Pope and Arbuthnot love him - which melted the savage heart of Swift when he thought of him and drove away, for a moment or two, the dark frenzies which obscured the lonely tyrant's brain, as he heard Gay's voice with its simple melody and artless ringing laughter.
What used to be said about Rubini, qu'il avait des larmes dans la voix, may be said of Gay, and of one
1 “Gay, like Goldsmith, had a musical talent. 'He could play on the fute,' says Malone,' and was, therefore, enabled to adapt so happily some of the airs in the “ Beggar's Opera.""— Notes to Spence.