Authors: George Crabbe

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English poet

Author Works


Inebriety, 1775

The Candidate, 1780

The Library, 1781

The Village, 1783

The News-Paper, 1785

Poems, 1807

The Borough, 1810

Tales in Verse, 1812

Tales of the Hall, 1819

Poetical Works, 1834 (8 volumes)


“The Natural History of the Vale of Belvoir,” 1795

Selected Letters and Journals of George Crabbe, 1985 (Thomas C. Faulkner, editor)


George Crabbe (krab), born at Aldeburgh, Suffolk, in 1754, was the eldest son of a schoolmaster and revenue officer. In his youth, while apprenticed to a surgeon at Woodbridge, he met his future wife, Sarah Elmy, whom he addressed in his poems as “Mira.” After practicing surgery for a time he began to despair of his aptitude for the profession, and in 1780, bearing with him his accumulated poems in manuscript, he went to London in the hope of subsisting by literature. There, Crabbe owed much to patronage. Edmund Burke arranged for him to take holy orders in 1781 and recommended him to the duke of Rutland, who appointed Crabbe as his chaplain and started him on the progress from curate to rector.{$I[AN]9810000598}{$I[A]Crabbe, George}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Crabbe, George}{$I[tim]1754;Crabbe, George}

Marrying in 1783, his financial condition improved gradually through the increasing popularity of his poems and later through an inheritance from his wife’s family. Typical of many eighteenth century Anglican parsons, Crabbe was a pluralist, one deriving income from a number of parishes; at one time Crabbe was rector of thirteen parishes, one in his birthplace. As a member of the minor gentry, his politics were conservative, and as a churchman, his theology was more ethical than mystical. His sermons were popular with his congregations, as were the sessions at home when Crabbe read eighteenth century fiction aloud to his family. Though of humble education–his degree was honorary–Crabbe was well read in the Latin and English classic authors and kept a well-stocked library. The Village was published in 1783, and in 1785, The News-Paper.

Crabbe’s financial circumstances improved little by little, but he brought out no more poems until 1807, when a collected edition was issued. He achieved some popularity with The Borough and Tales in Verse, and he gained the friendship of Sir Walter Scott. His wife’s mind failed in her last years; she died in 1813. He lived until February 3, 1832, dying at Trowbridge, Wiltshire, where he had become rector in 1814.

Crabbe’s literary biography falls into four periods. The earliest is marked by the Augustan style of generalized verse essays such as Inebriety, The Candidate, The Village, and The News-Paper. Later he turned to particularized character sketches as in “The Parish Register” (from Poems) and The Borough. His best work is that of his third period, especially Tales in Verse, narrative poems of remarkable realism. His last period is one of decline in Tales of the Hall and Posthumous Tales, poems that lack the vigor of the earlier work.

As a poet Crabbe was widely read and respected, praised by authors as different as Samuel Johnson, Jane Austen, and Lord Byron. He was a friend of Sir Walter Scott and a frequent guest of the brilliant Holland House circle. Highly popular in the 1800’s, his work nevertheless lagged behind the Romantic poetical fashion despite its own substantial intrinsic merits.

BibliographyBareham, Tony. George Crabbe. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1977. Examines how Crabbe’s poetry reflects contemporary ideas on religion, politics, psychology, and aesthetics. Emphasizes that Crabbe was a “proper spokesman” for mainstream English thought. The 245-page text includes an index and a chronology of major events in Crabbe’s career.Crabbe, George. The Life of George Crabbe by His Son. 1834. Reprint. London: Cresset, 1947. This standard biography, written from the unique perspective of the poet’s son, offers a benign yet candid glimpse into the poet’s personality. An introduction by Edmund Charles Blunden provides further criticism of Crabbe’s poetry, including an interesting discussion on the influence Crabbe’s training as a physician and clergyman had on his writing.Edwards, Gavin. George Crabbe’s Poetry on Border Land. Lewiston, N.Y.: Mellen, 1990. This critical work, organized by subject, takes a social historical approach to Crabbe’s poems, dealing with Crabbe’s ability to reflect his time accurately. It thoroughly discusses the concept of Crabbe as a realist, suggesting his poetry has a more complex relationship to history than just simple realism.Hatch, Ronald B. Crabbe’s Arabesque: Social Drama in the Poetry of George Crabbe. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1976. Attempts to show how Crabbe grew beyond being simply a social critic by focusing on his handling of social issues in his poetry. Suggests that Crabbe’s development can be seen in the way his poems’ dramatic structures handle conflicting questions which either clash or are reconciled. Includes a chronology of Crabbe’s life, a selected bibliography, and index.Pollard, Arthur, ed. Crabbe: The Critical Heritage. The Critical Heritage series. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972. An interesting compilation of criticism of Crabbe’s writings by his contemporaries, including William Hazlitt, William Wordsworth, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, along with later commentary. Arranged by individual works, the book also contains an informative introduction on Crabbe and his writing and indexes to names, works, characteristics, and periodicals.Powell, Neil. George Crabbe: An English Life, 1754-1832. London: Pimlico, 2004. A readable biography of the poet that draws largely on the biography of his son and namesake.Whitehead, Frank S. George Crabbe: A Reappraisal. Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Presses, 1995. A critical assessment of Crabbe’s work with bibliographical references and an index.
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