“GAY WAS TO DEPICT RUSTIC LIFE WITH THE GILT OFF”
GAY, John. The Shepherd's Week in Six Pastorals. London: Printed: And Sold by Ferd. Burleigh, 1714. Small, slim octavo, 20th-century three-quarter brown morocco, raised bands. $650.
First edition, first printing, of this famous 18th-century rural “proem”, illustrated with 7 engraved plates depicting scenes from the text and numerous woodcut headpieces, tailpieces, and initials, attractively bound by Stikeman.
Shepherd's Week by John Gay, renowned poet and dramatist, is "a series of eclogues into which Pope had decoyed him in order to reinforce his own war with sham pastoral. Gay was to depict rustic life with the gilt off. 'Thou wilt not find my Shepherdesses idly piping upon oaten Reeds, but, if the Hogs are astray, driving them to their Styes.' But the execution of the piece went far beyond its avowed object of ridicule, and Gay's eclogues abound with interesting folklore and closely studied rural pictures" (DNB). The involvement of Pope has long been a topic of literary controversy. Pope wrote in a letter to John Caryll that the poems only occurred as a result of Ambrose Philips withholding payment of the subscription money from Pope's Homer. However, the truth of this statement has long been debated. First, Gay had no real motive for attacking Philips. Moreover, if Gay's pastorals were satire striking out at Philips, then they required extremely close reading to find the satirical elements. Also, Gay had begun writing them prior to the conflict between Pope and Philips. As a result, scholars continue to debate this point. What is known is that the relationship between Pope and Gay was longstanding and undoubtedly influenced aspects of Gay's work. First printing, published by "Ferd. Burleigh." ESTC T13915. Auction description of a similar book affixed to front free endpaper. Pencil notations to endpapers. Evidence of bookplate removal to pastedown. Contemporary owner signature to first page of text.
Faint dampstaining to inner margins of preliminary and concluding pages, a couple tiny spots to text, light wear to binding extremities. A near-fine copy.