John Gay, engraved print

John Gay, engraved print

As the text with this portrait shows, John Gay, who was born in 1688, is most famous for his ballad opera,The Beggar's Opera, first produced in 1728. It wasn't his first attempt at writing for the stage. He had tried satire, comedy and pastoral, including The Mohocks in 1712 and The What d'ye Call It, 1715, and had also written some poetry. However, none of this had gone down particularly well with audiences. The Beggar's Opera took the town by storm. Gay himself seems to have been a charming man, but quite shy. He presented himself to the world as a simple countryman, but the modesty hid a sharp eye and a sly sense of humour. The portrait captures these qualities, as does the epitaph he wrote for himself. He worked with, and was friends with, many of the great writers of his day such as Alexander Pope, to whom this plate is dedicated.