1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. George Crabbe

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 244-45.



Of humble parentage, Crabbe (1754-1832), a native of Alborough, Suffolk, was educated for the medical profession; but he left it for literature, and went to try his fortune in London. After various efforts to get into notice by his poetry, in a state of great destitution he wrote to Edmund Burke. Touched by his appeal, Burke made an appointment with him, looked at his poems, got a publisher for him, advanced him money, gave him a room at Beaconsfield, and suggested his entering the Church, which advice he adopted. After various changes he obtained the living of Trowbridge, in Wilts. In 1819 he published his Tales of the Hall. Murray gave him 3000 for these and the copyright of his other poems.

"Nature's sternest painter, yet the best," was the somewhat overstrained compliment bestowed by Lord Byron upon Crabbe. The English poor — their woes, weaknesses, and sins — form his almost unvarying theme. The distinguishing feature of his poetry is the graphic minuteness of its descriptive passages. He knew how untrue and exaggerated are most of the pictures of rural life that figure in poetry, and he undertook to exhibit it in its naked reality. In his style he produces the poetical effect by language of the most naked simplicity almost utterly divested of the conventional ornaments of poetry. His chief works, which range in date from 1783 to 1818, are The Village, The Parish Register, The Borough, Tales in Verse, Tales of the Hall.

In his domestic circumstances Crabbe was fortunate. He married the lady of his choice, and had sons, one of whom wrote an admirable memoir of him. At three-score and ten the venerable poet was busy, cheerful, affectionate, and eager in charity and kind offices to the poor. He was a great lover of the sea, and his marine landscapes are fresh and striking.