1814 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. George Crabbe

Leigh Hunt, in Feast of the Poets (1814) 46-48n.



Mr. Crabbe is unquestionably a man of genius, possessing imagination, observation, originality: he has even powers of the pathetic and the terrible, but with all these fine elements of poetry, is singularly deficient in taste, his familiarity continually bordering on the vulgar, and his seriousness on the morbid and the shocking. His versification, where the force of his thoughts does not compel you to forget it, is a strange kind of bustle between the lameness of Cowper and the slip-shod vigour of Churchill, though I am afraid it has more of the former than the latter. When he would strike out a line particularly grand or melodious, he has evidently no other notion of one than what Pope or Darwin has given him. Yet even in his versification, he has contrived, by the colloquial turn of his language and his primitive mention of persons by their christian as well as surname, to have an air of his own; and indeed there is not a greater mannerist in the whole circle of poetry, either in a good or bad sense. His main talent, both in character and description, lies in strong and homely pieces of detail, which he brings before you as clearly and to the life as in a camera obscura, and in which he has been improperly compared to the Dutch painters, for in addition to their finish and identification, he fills the very commonest of his scenes with sentiment and an interest.