John Gay

(1699—1745) writer on philosophy

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John Gay was born at Meal in Devon and died on 8 July 1745. He was educated at Torrington, at Blundell's School, Tiverton, and at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, which he entered in 1717 (BA, 1722; MA, 1725). He was ordained deacon in 1722 and priest in 1723. In 1724 he was elected to one of two ten-year Fellowships at Sidney Sussex founded by Peter Blundell, an early benefactor of the College as well as founder of the School. He proved his versatility in the course of the next five years, holding every College office other than Master. Throughout, he was Hebrew Lecturer. In 1725 he was additionally Steward, Keeper of the Common Chest and Cathechist; in 1726, Praelector, Ecclesiastical History Lecturer and Cathechist; in 1727, Dean and Greek Lecturer; in 1728, Mathematics Lecturer; and, in 1729, Praelector. Dyer in 1824 refers to contemporaries describing him as ‘eminent as a metaphysician and biblical critic’. Paley quoted Edmund Law's opinion of him: ‘In the Bible, and in the writings of Mr. Locke, no man, he used to say, was so well versed’. There is no mention of Gay's name in the College Office Book after 7 May 1730. He vacated his Fellowship in 1732 on becoming vicar of Wilshamstead, Bedfordshire, and became additionally vicar of Hawnes in 1739. His death six years later left his family in poverty. The Master of Sidney, F.S. Parris, wrote to an unidentified correspondent, evidently representing a charity, asking for help for Gay's family, reporting ‘I call'd there the other day, and found him just dead. He left a widow and five children’ and reckoning that his total estate was worth no more than £150. The plea seems to have worked: at least, his eldest son, James, entered the College in 1752.


From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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