The Present State of Wit (1711)
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Gay's concern in his survey of The Present State of Wit is with the productions of wit which were circulating among the coffee houses of 1711, specifically the large numbers of periodical essays which were perhaps the most distinctive kind of "wit" produced in the "four last years" of Queen Anne's reign. His little pamphlet makes no pretence at an analysis of true and false wit or a refining of critical distinctions with regard to wit in its relations to fancy and judgment. Addressed to "a friend in the country", it surveys in a rapid and engaging manner the productions of Isaac Bickerstaff and his followers which are engrossing the interest of London. In other words it is an early example of a popular eighteenth century form of which Goldsmith's more extended Inquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning is the best known instance.