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He studied grammar and went to work as an apprentice to a silk merchant in London, but, according to Samuel Johnson, “not liking the servility of such a profession”, he returned to Barnstaple to spend a season with his uncle, the Reverend John Hanmer. , before returning to London. The dedication of his Rural Sports (1713) to the poet Alexander Pope won him a great friendship with him, thanks to which he could enter the Club Scriblerus, an informal group of friends that included Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Arbuthnot, Henry St. John and Thomas Parnell, which lasted from 1712 to 1745. At Pope’s request, he wrote a series of six parodic pastorals, The Shepherd’s Week, in which he sketched pictures of English rustic life in order to ridicule Ambrose Philips’ pastoral arcades, and true that he did it. In 1714 he was appointed secretary of the British ambassador in Hannover thanks to the influence of the satirist writer Jonathan Swift, but the death of Queen Anne at three months, the first of August 1714, closed his career as an official because the successor was precisely the Elector George I of Hannover, who, once installed in London, considered this embassy unnecessary.
John Gay became famous as a librettist for The Beggar’s Opera (1728), a kind of original Italian anti-opera with music by Johann Christoph Pepusch whose characters (Captain Macheath, Polly Peachum) became very popular, to the point of having inspired the opera of three cents written by Bertolt Brecht with music by Kurt Weill. In this piece the Italian melodies are ridiculed and the characters are beggars and bandits of the London underworld, in contrast to the characters of the high and arrogant society of that time. As a poet, his best known work is his Fables (“Fables”) in verse, of which he wrote two collections, the first in 1738, being the first English to write them in verse. Some of them were adapted to Spanish by Félix María Samaniego.
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