An Ode to the Innkeeper

James Gay, 1890

James Gay, Keeper and Poet

[A] Few words for our Town Innkeepers.
I hope you won’t get tight,
Carry out your business decently from morning until night
So as our visitors by the thousands will return and have to say,
They’ve been treated in our town of Guelph
in a kind and friendly way.
- James Gay, Guelph, 1875

Within these few simple lines, local poet James Gay, a hotelkeeper himself, captured the ambivalence of the community towards the hotelkeeper’s trade. While the Victorian city relied on the keeper’s services, those same services challenged the order and respectability of the community. The poet warned local keepers to manage their own affairs amidst a trade that its opponents cast as the root of all social evils. Yet, he also expressed a hope that the keeper could provide a convivial atmosphere that would reflect positively on the community as a whole.

An Ode to the Innkeeper