George Crabbe

George Crabbe
George Crabbe.
Monument in St James Church, Trowbridge[1]

George Crabbe (24 December 1754 – 3 February 1832) was an English poet and naturalist.



He was born in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, the son of a tax collector, and developed his love of poetry as a child. In 1768, he was apprenticed to a local doctor, who taught him little, and in 1771 he changed masters and moved to Woodbridge. There he met his future wife, Sarah Elmy, who accepted his proposal and had the faith and patience not only to wait for Crabbe but to encourage his verse writing. His first major work, a poem entitled "Inebriety", was self-published in 1775. By this time he had completed his medical training, and had decided to take up writing seriously. In 1780, he went to London, where he had little success, but eventually made an impression on Edmund Burke, who helped him have his poem, The Library, published in 1781. In the meantime, Crabbe's religious nature had made itself felt, and he was ordained a clergyman and became chaplain to the Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire.

The two works for which Crabbe became best known were The Village (1783) and The Borough (1810), both lengthy poems dealing with the way of life he had experienced. In 1783, he also married Sarah. In 1814, he became Rector of Trowbridge in Wiltshire, where he remained. By the time of his death, he was well regarded and a friend of William Wordsworth, Sir Walter Scott and other major literary figures of the time.

Benjamin Britten's opera Peter Grimes is based on The Borough. Byron, an avowed admirer of Crabbe's poetry, called him "Nature's sternest painter, yet the best". Crabbe's poetry was predominantly in the form of heroic couplets.[2] His poetry has also been described as unsentimental in its depiction of provincial life and society.[3]

He was also an active and notable coleopterist and recorder of beetles, and is credited for taking the first specimen of Calosoma sycophanta L. to be recorded from Suffolk. He published an essay on the Natural History of the Vale of Belvoir in John Nichols's, Bibliotheca Topographia Britannica, VIII, Antiquities in Leicestershire, 1790. It includes a very extensive list of local coleopterans, and references more than 70 species. This text was later reviewed by the renowned entomologist Horace Donisthorpe (Leics. lit. phil. Soc., 4, 1896, 198–200), who concluded that George Crabbe had both a broad knowledge of national species and was well acquainted with contemporary scientific literature, including works by Linnaeus and Fabricius.


  • Inebriety (published 1775)
  • The Candidate (published 1780)
  • The Library (published 1781)
  • The Village (published 1783)
  • The Newspaper (published 1785)
  • Poems (published 1807)
  • The Borough (published 1810)
  • Tales in Verse (published 1812)
  • Tales of the Hall (published 1819)
  • Posthumous Tales (published 1834)


  1. ^ The inscription reads:
    SACRED to the memory of THE REVd G. CRABBE L.L.B.
    who died on the 3rd of February 1832 in the 78th year of his age
    and the 18th year of his services as rector of this parish.
    Born in humble life, he made himself what he was; breaking through the obscurity of his birth by the force of his genius; yet he never ceased to feel for the less fortunate; entering, as his works can testify, into the sorrows and wants of the poorest of his parishioners, and so discharging the duties of a pastor and a magistrate as to endear himself to all around him, as a writer he cannot be better described than in the words of a great poet, his contemporary, "tho' nature's sternest painter, yet her best".
    This monument was erected by some of his affectionate friends and parishioners
  2. ^ Hollinghurst, Alan (24 April 2004), "Claws out for Crabbe". The Guardian.
  3. ^ Fenton, James (10 September 2005), "Secrets and lives". The Guardian.

External links

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