George Crabbe

(24 December 1754 - 3 February 1832)
George Crabbe (1754-1832)

© National Portrait Gallery, London

George Crabbe (1754-1832)

Works in ECPA

alphabetical listing / listing in source editions

Source editions

  • Crabbe, George, 1754-1832. The Poetical Works of the Rev. George Crabbe: with his letters and journals, and his life, by his son. In eight volumes. Vol. II. [poems only] London: John Murray, Albemarle Street. MDCCCXXXVIII., 1838. 8 volumes.

Biographical note

George Crabbe was born in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, eldest child of George Crabbe (1733-86), who had been a schoolmaster but was then working as a local customs official, and his wife Mary, née Lodwick (1725-80). Crabbe received his earliest education from his father, and later attended grammar schools at Bungay and Stowmarket. Aged 14, he was apprenticed to a farmer–apothecary, but the apprenticeship was dissolved and Crabbe began to work for a surgeon in Woodbridge. While Crabbe was at Woodbridge, he read novels and poetry, and began contributing pastorals and lyrics to magazines. His first long poem, Inebriety, was published anonymously in 1775. Here he also met his future wife, Sarah Elmy (1751–1813). Crabbe embarked on a medical career, he took over an apothecary shop in Aldeburgh and went to London to study medicine, but after his return, he found his apothecary shop failing, and in late 1779 he decided to give up medicine. He moved to London to become a writer. However, he failed to find a publisher for his poems. His attempts to publish by subscription were also unsuccessful. In a state of mounting desperation, Crabbe approached Edmund Burke who provided accommodation for him and introduced Crabbe to his circle of friends, including Johnson, Reynolds, Goldsmith, and Garrick. Burke persuaded Dodsley to publish Crabbe's The Library, which was well received. Burke also assisted Crabbe with his decision to embark on a career in the church. Crabbe became a curate at Aldeburgh in 1782 before being appointed chaplain to the Duke of Rutland later in the year. An elegy Crabbe wrote for the Duke's deceased brother was incorporated in The Village (1783), his biggest success, which he completed with the help of Samuel Johnson. The poem earned him two Crown livings awarded by the Lord Chancellor. Crabbe married Sarah Elmy in December 1783, the couple lived in and near Belvoir Castle, the seat of the Duke of Rutland, for several years. In 1785 Crabbe published The Newspaper, a verse satire on the popular press. After the death of his patron, the widowed Duchess procured further preferment for Crabbe from the Lord Chancellor. The Crabbes settled in the rectory at Muston, near Belvoir, in 1789. In 1792, following the death of Crabbe's wife's uncle John Tovell at Parham, Suffolk, Crabbe and his family moved to live in Tovell's house, Ducking Hall. Crabbe's next verse production was The Parish Register, which he began in 1802 and completed after his return to Muston in 1805. It was published in a volume entitled Poems (1807) along with Sir Eustace Grey, a revised version of The Library, reprints of The Village and The Newspaper, and some shorter poems. In 1810, Crabbe published The Borough, a series of twenty-four verse letters written to a friend, and in 1812 his Tales. After the death of his wife, Crabbe accepted the livings of Croxton-Kerrial in the Vale of Belvoir and of Trowbridge, to where he moved in 1814. Crabbe met John Murray (1778-1843) on one of his visits to London, who became his publisher. He published Crabbe's new collection of verse stories, Tales of the Hall in 1819 and produced a five-volume edition of Crabbe's Works in 1823 (eight vols., 1838). Crabbe became a member of the Literary Society in 1819 and was admitted to the Athenaeum in 1824. In 1826 he became a magistrate in Trowbridge. Crabbe died in his rectory at Trowbridge in 1832.


ODNB 6552; NCBEL 609-615; DLB 93; DMI 1458


  • Smith, Margaret M. Index of English Literary Manuscripts. Vol. III, 1700-1800 . London: Mansell, 1986-1997. Pt. 1 Addison-Fielding. 293-330. Print. 4 volumes.


  • Dalrymple-Champneys, Norma and Arthur Pollard, eds. George Crabbe: The Complete Poetical Works. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988. Print. 3 volumes.
  • Faulkner, Thomas C., ed. with the assistance of Rhonda L. Blair. Selected Letters and Journals of George Crabbe. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985. Print.


  • Powell, Neil. George Crabbe: an English life, 1754-1832. London: Pimlico, 2004. Print.


  • Bareham, Terence and Simon Gatrell. A bibliography of George Crabbe. Folkestone, Eng: Dawson; Hamden, Conn: Archon Books, 1978. Print.
  • Peterson, Ann. A secondary bibliography of George Crabbe: 1975-1989. Bulletin of Bibliography 51(3) (1994): 269-72. Print.

Reference works


  • Bareham, Terence. George Crabbe. London: Vision Press, 1977. Print.
  • Carnochan, W. B. The Continuity of Eighteenth-Century Poetry: Gray, Cowper, Crabbe, and the Augustans. Eighteenth-Century Life 12 (1988): 119-27. Print.
  • Chaden, Caryn. Oliver Goldsmith, The Deserted Village, and George Crabbe, The Village. Gerrard, Christine, ed. A Companion to Eighteenth-Century Poetry. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006. 303-315. Print.
  • Edgecombe, Rodney Stenning. Theme, embodiment and structure in the poetry of George Crabbe. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg, 1983. Print.
  • Edwards, Gavin. Crabbe's So-Called Realism. Essays in Criticism 37(4) (1987): 303-20. Print.
  • Edwards, Gavin. George Crabbe's Poetry on Border Land. Lewiston, NY; Queenston, Ont.; Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1990. Print.
  • Fogel, Aaron. Wordsworth's 'We Are Seven' and Crabbe's 'The Parish Register': Poetry and Anti-Census. Studies in Romanticism 48(1): 2009. 23-65. Print.
  • Hatch, Ronald B. Crabbe's Arabesque: Social Drama in the Poetry of George Crabbe. Montreal: McGill-Queen's UP, 1976. Print.
  • Jain, B. B. The Poetry of George Crabbe. Romantic Reassessment, 37. Salzburg: Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universität Salzburg, 1976. Print.
  • Lamont, Claire. 'The smallest circumstances of the smallest things': domestic interiors in Crabbe's poems. Romanticism 20(2) (2014): 106-16. Print.
  • Lucas, John. George Crabbe: a critical study. London: Greenwich Exchange, 2015. Print.
  • McGann, Jerome J. The Anachronism of George Crabbe. ELH 48 (1981): 555-72. Print.
  • Nelson, Beth. George Crabbe and the Progress of Eighteenth-Century Narrative Verse. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell UP, 1976. Print.
  • New, Peter. George Crabbe's Poetry. London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1976. Print.
  • Pollard, Arthur, ed. George Crabbe: the critical heritage. London: Routledge, 1995 [1972]. Print.
  • Rossington, Michael. Crabbe's times. Romanticism 20(2) (2014): 117-27. Print.
  • Whitehead, Frank S. George Crabbe a reappraisal. Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press; London: Associated University Presses, 1995. Print.
  • Whitehead, Frank S. Crabbe, 'realism', and poetic truth. Essays in Criticism 39(1) (1989): 29-46. Print.