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A Short Biographical Sketch of GEORGE CRABBE (1754 to 1832)

by John W. Cousin

CRABBE, GEORGE (1754-1832). —Poet, b. at Aldborough, Suffolk, where his f. was collector of salt dues, he was apprenticed to a surgeon, but, having no liking for the work, went to London to try his fortune in literature. Unsuccessful at first, he as a last resource wrote a letter to Burke enclosing some of his writings, and was immediately befriended by him, and taken into his own house, where he met Fox, Reynolds, and others. His first important work, The Library, was pub. in 1781, and received with favour. He took orders, and was appointed by the Duke of Rutland his domestic chaplain, residing with him at Belvoir Castle. Here in 1783 he pub. The Village, which established his reputation, and about the same time he was presented by Lord Thurlow to two small livings. He was now secured from want, made a happy marriage, and devoted himself to literary and scientific pursuits. The Newspaper appeared in 1785, and was followed by a period of silence until 1807, when he came forward again with The Parish Register, followed by The Borough (1810), Tales in Verse (1812), and his last work, Tales of the Hall (1817-18). In 1819 Murray the publisher gave him £3000 for the last named work and the unexpired copyright of his other poems. In 1822 he visited Sir Walter Scott at Edinburgh. Soon afterwards his health began to give way, and he d. in 1832. C. has been called "the poet of the poor." He describes in simple, but strong and vivid, verse their struggles, sorrows, weaknesses, crimes, and pleasures, sometimes with racy humour, oftener in sombre hues. His pathos, sparingly introduced, goes to the heart; his pictures of crime and despair not seldom rise to the terrific, and he has a marvellous power of painting natural scenery, and of bringing out in detail the beauty and picturesqueness of scenes at first sight uninteresting, or even uninviting. He is absolutely free from affectation or sentimentality, and may be regarded as one of the greatest masters of the realistic in our literature. With these merits he has certain faults, too great minuteness in his pictures, too frequent dwelling upon the sordid and depraved aspects of character, and some degree of harshness both in matter and manner, and not unfrequently a want of taste.