James Gay

"Poet-Laureate of Canada and Master of All Poets"

Born: 1810 in Devonshire, England
Died: 1891 in Guelph, Ontario

James Gay moved to Guelph in 1834 and had many job titles over the years: carpenter, gunsmith, umbrella repairer, blacksmith, hotelkeeper. He is best remembered, however, for the one thing he couldn't do well: write poetry.

Gay called himself the "Poet-Laureate of Canada and Master of All Poets" and believed that his only real competitor was Alfred, Lord Tennyson. He wrote to Tennyson on several occasions, reassuring him that "there ought to be no rivalry between us two." Tennyson never replied.

James Gay is buried in an unmarked grave at Woodlawn Cemetery in Guelph.

Some samples of Gay's poetry:

"A poet's mind is clear and bright,
No room for hatred, malice or spite."


"I came on earth a natural born poet,
And for the good of my fellow-men the world will know it;
My talents received are too bright understand,
Even to be buried in the sand."

Suggested reading:

The Four Jameses by William Arthur Deacon

Sources include:

Colombo, John Robert. 1000 Questions About Canada. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2001.


By Name · G
By Province · Ontario
By Claim to Fame · Literature

Added 22 April 2002.