George Crabbe

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George Crabbe

Portrait of Crabbe by Henry William Pickersgill
Born December 24, 1754(1754-12-24)
Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England
Died February 3, 1832(1832-02-03) (aged 77)
Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England
Nationality English
Period 1770s to 1830s
Genres Poetry
Subjects Rural life

Signature

George Crabbe (born Aldeburgh, Suffolk, 24 December 1754; died Trowbridge, Wiltshire, 3 February 1832) was an English poet and naturalist. His poem The Borough which describes life in a small town in Suffolk, inspired Benjamin Britten to compose his opera Peter Grimes.

Life[change | change source]

George Crabbe was born in Aldeburgh, Suffolk. His father was a tax collector. As a child he loved poetry. In 1768, he was apprenticed to a local doctor, but he did not learn much from him. In 1771 he changed masters and moved to Woodbridge. There he met Sarah Elmy, who was to become his wife. She had the patience to wait until he had finished his medical studies before marrying him. She encouraged him in his verse writing. In 1775 he published his first work: Inebriety. In 1780 he decided to give up being a doctor. He borrowed some money and went to London where he tried to become known as a poet. It took several years, during which time he became a clergyman. He became chaplain to the Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire.

Crabbe became well-known when he wrote a poem called The Village (1783). It was a long poem which described life in the country as he had known it. In 1783, he married Sarah. In 1814, he became Rector of Trowbridge in Wiltshire, where he stayed. Now that he had a family he did not feel any more need to write poetry and so he wrote nothing for 22 years.[1] He then wrote more poems about the village community, including The Borough (1810). By the time of his death, he was well known and a friend of William Wordsworth, Sir Walter Scott and other important literary figures of the time.

Crabbe also knew a lot about insects and made a detailed study of beetles.

Use in 20th century opera[change | change source]

Like George Crabbe, the composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) also came from Aldeburgh. When he was in America during World War II he read Crabbe's poem The Borough. It made him homesick and he decided to return to England. He wrote an opera Peter Grimes which was based on Crabbe's poem. It is one of the greatest operas of the 20th century.

References[change | change source]

  1. The New Encyclopaedia Britannica vol 3 ISBN 0-85229-434-4 (1986)