John Gay was an English dramatist and poet. He is best remembered for The Beggar’s Opera — a satirical ballad opera that was first performed in 1728.
Gay was born and educated in Barnstaple, England. He was apprenticed to a silk mercer, but left the profession to seek further education. Gay started a career writing satirical pastoral stories and began a friendship with Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift.
He was appointed as a secretary to the British Ambassador to the court of Hanover shortly before the death of Queen Anne. Losing his employment with the death of the Queen, Gay turned to writing plays instead.
He was supported by several patrons. His fortunes varied dramatically throughout his lifetime, having been both very poor and quite rich.
Gay died at the age of 47, and Pope wrote the epitaph on his tomb. The words are:
Life is a jest, and all things show it,
I thought so once, but now I know it.