GAY, MARIE FRANCOISE SOPHIE, MADAME (1776-1852), daughter of M. Nichault de Lavalette (who was attached to the household of Monsieur, afterwards Louis XVIII.), and of Francesca Peretti, a Florentine lady, was born at Paris 1st July 1776. Under the guidance of her father, a man of taste and culture, she received a very careful education. In 1793 she was married to M. Liottier, an exchange broker, but she was divorced from him in 1799, and shortly afterwards was married to M. Gay, receiver-general of the department of the Roer or Ruhr. This union brought her into more intimate relations with many distinguished personages whom she had previously known ; and her circle of acquaintanceship gradually extended, until her salon came to be frequented by all the distinguished litterateurs, musicians, actors, and painters of the time, among whom she made herself remarked by her beauty, her vivacity, and her sprightly wit tempered by fine tact and genuine amiability. Her first literary production was a letter written in 1802 to the Journal de Paris, in defence of Madame de Stael's novel Delphin; and in the same year she published anonymously her first novel Laure d'Estell. Leonie de Afontbreuse, which appeared in 1813, is considered by Sainte-Beuve her best work ; but Anatolie, which appeared in 1815, has perhaps a higher reputation. These and several of her other works, amongst which may be specially named Les Salons dlebres, possess an interest beyond their intrinsic merits - chief of which are purity and elegance of style - for their portraitures of French society especially during the period of the directory and the consulate, and of many of the distinguished personages whose intimacy she enjoyed. Madame Gay wrote several theatrical pieces which had considerable success. She was also an accomplished player on the pianoforte and harp, and composed both the words and music of a number of romances. For an account of her daughter Delphine Gay, Madame de Girardin, see GlEARDIN.
Besides the works already mentioned, she is the author of Les Malhenrs d'un arrant heureux, 1818 ; Theobald, episode de is guerre de Russie, 1828 ; Le Moqueur amoureux, 1830 ; Un Mariage sous i'Eenpire, 1832 ; Scenes du jean dge, 1833 ; Physiologic du ridicule, 1833 ; La Duchesse de Chdteauroux, 1834 ; Souvenirs dune vieille femme, 1834 ; La Comtesse d'Egmont, 1836 ; Marie de Mancini, 1840 ; Marie-Louise d'Orljans, 1842 ; Ellenore, 1844-46 ; Le Faux Frere, 1845 ; Le Comte de (Niche, 1845 ; and Le Mari confident, 1849. See Theophile Gautier, Portraits Contemporains ; and SainteBeuve, Causeries du Liouli, vol. vi.